Mary Beth Stowe's Website

Home    Trip Reports    Christmas 2006 Index

Christmas 2006

Part 4: Sabal Palm Grove & South Padre Island

Fought the construction down to Brownsville the next morning and was almost the first one at the Sabal Palm Preserve!  (A couple of Hispanics in a beat-up car had just pulled in before me; since it was apparently a man and his wife I didn't worry about it too much, but he looked at me rather worriedly before they both took off down the Native Trail, and they weren't birding...)

  Anyway, had the usual suspects heading out along the Resaca Trail, and once at the boardwalk added a few ducks and the real prize, a couple of Least Grebes!  A large shape in a tree turned out to be yet another Ringed Kingfisher, and while I was enjoying him I almost ignored what I thought at first were Great-tailed Grackles flopping around in the vegetation, but that little warning bell told me to double-check, and sure enough, it was a small group of Groove-billed Anis!  They shortly flew up into a nearby dead tree to "sun" (even though it was overcast...).  Resting at a bench had a totally incongruous Lark Sparrow fly in!  Another little mesquite woodland had a nice feeding flock, including titmice, kinglets, Blue-headed Vireos (appropriate as that section of the loop was called the Vireo Trail), Butterbutts, a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, a Wilson's, and a Nashville!  Another bush later on had a pair of Olive Sparrows and a stripy Lincoln's.


Resaca Trail at the Sabal Palm Grove preserve near Brownsville had a Ringed Kingfisher!


 Groove-billed Anis were certainly a nice surprise, as they’re usually a summertime bird!


L-R:  Carolina Satyr, odd mushrooms, and Great Kiskadees

Again, the sun was trying to break out, so I headed back to their butterfly garden via the feeders, where White-tipped Doves were at your feet and the Green Jays did acrobatics on the seed feeders!  The chachalacas came boldly in as well, like chickens at chow time!  Over at the garden I lost the sun once again, but it wasn't a total loss: one bush was full of skippers, and a little yellow turned out to be a Boisduval's!  A Mexican Yellow was in their smaller garden (although some of the guys think it’s another Boisduval’s), but my favorite was a Pale-banded Crescent; just a stunning little thing!  Also had what I thought was a mystery metalmark that wasn't quite a Fatal but didn't look just like Red-bordered, either, but was thoroughly embarrassed when I showed it to the Bug Club guys and they with great mirth pointed out that it wasn’t even a metalmark: it was a Common Sootywing, which is a skipper! J (That’s where I learned that a good clue is that skippers’ antennae are always hooked, not clubbed…) Hiked the Native Trail mainly to "do" it and give the sun time to come out, but it didn't work; just picked up an Eastern Phoebe at the Rio Grande and a Tree Swallow for the trip flying overhead.  Back at the Garden spooked a Cooper's Hawk.


Green Jays (the one on the left doing it the hard way...) and White-tipped Dove


Plain Chachalacas


Skipper ID can be maddening, if not downright impossible sometimes; these are probably all Fawn-spotted Skippers.


L-R:  Pale-banded Crescent, Zebra Heliconian, and Boisduval's Yellow, a rare stray from Mexico


Mexican Yellow (although some of the guys think it’s another Boisduval’s…)


Note the straight line on the Large Orange Sulphur (left) compared to the broken line on the Cloudless Sulphur (right)   


Common Sootywing and Gulf Fritillary

Other bugs...


L-R:  Parasitic Wasp, Stink Bug, possible Cotton Stainer, and Tortricid Moth sp.


Native Trail

Decided to head on over to South Padre Island after that, which was a pretty easy drive from there.  Was still a little dreary when I got to the Convention Center, but there were a few things bouncing around their butterfly garden as well, the best of which was a knockout Common Buckeye!  About that time a lady who worked (or volunteered) there got my attention and said there were "about 100 butterflies" back at the gazebo, so I thanked her and tootled over there, but in the meantime evidently her "hundreds" had morphed into about a half-dozen Queens!  I meandered around the edge back towards the mudflats anyway, where I thought I might have had some real different Blues, but after looking at the pictures they were evidently all Ceraunus, from very pale ones to very dark ones (and very tiny ones to boot).  Later at Laguna Atascosa I got to talking to Katherine, one of the volunteers there, about that, and she too had come across Ceraunus Blues so small that she thought they were the rarer Cyna, which is what I thought I had as well! The one definite new one was a Great Southern White, and sorting through all those skippers finally hit pay dirt when I discovered I had shot a new one (albeit not a fancy one): Obscure Skipper!

Laguna Madre Trail, South Padre Island


Obscure Skipper and Common Buckeye


Worn butterflies can be very deceptive; these are all Ceraunus Blues (the bugs on the right are more typical).


Male Fiery Skippers


Great Southern Whites; female (right) is more strongly marked underneath


Saw Flies and Tiger Moth caterpillars

While I was at the mudflats I added a slough of new birds for the trip: mostly Laughing Gulls but a few Ringbills and a single Herring was in there, along with a smattering of Skimmers.  Terns were well-represented with Caspian, Royal, Forster's, and a single Gull-billed that came sailing in!  In the shorebird department picked up several Dunlin, Sanderlings, Leasts, and single Semipalmated and Snowy Plovers, plus a Long-billed Curlew, Ruddy Turnstone, and a couple of Willets.

  Headed onto the boardwalk after that, where I scared a couple of Tricolored Herons out of hiding!  Near the end were several Pintail and wigeon, plus a small pod of Lesser Scaup, along with several Laughing Gulls partaking in a communal bath!  A Marbled Godwit flew past, and out in the bay was a huge raft of Redheads, along with a few White Pelicans.  A Reddish Egret and Little Blue Heron shared a piling, and further down the shore was a group of lovely Roseate Spoonbills!  Along the other leg of the boardwalk were several cooperative Moorhens, some turtles, and a skulky Marsh Wren.  No rails this time, except for a calling Sora.  Was chatting with a birding couple from Juneau who was making a big birding trip when an incoming storm threatened to catch us, so I headed back to the Convention Center and just made it to the car before it started spitting!


Convention Center from the Laguna Madre Trail

Birds along the boardwalk...


L-R:  Tricolored Heron, American Wigeons, and Pied-billed Grebe


Northern Pintails and Laughing Gulls in a communal bath...


Common Gallinule


A Reddish Egret (bigger one) and Little Blue Heron share a pier


Red-eared Sliders and Northern Mockingbird

Decided to call it a day early and headed into Port Isabel for the night.  I noticed they had a Church’s Fried Chicken in town, so I splurged and had that for dinner instead of something healthy… Bringing the Cappuchino mix was a good idea, too, because this place didn’t have any coffee makers in the room! (Their wireless Internet didn’t work, either, so I was without e-mail for two days…)

Click here to continue to Laguna Atascosa NWR, here to return to Santa Ana NWR

Go to top