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Quickie West Texas

Day 1:  McAllen to Alpine

Scene along US 90

Woke up an hour early, so decided to go ahead and get ready, as that’s always the best POA!  I had forgotten to set up my Out-of-office e-mail, so I made a quick stop at the shop to do that, then headed north to follow the route that Google Maps gave me!  After the turnoff at Falfurrias we kinda zigzagged all the way up to Freer by taking SR 285 over to SR 339 and going north, and then once in Freer taking SR 44 west to US 83 and on up.  I hadn’t really planned on reporting anything to Texbirds today, as it was gonna be straight driving (or so I thought), but at the first "100 mile stop" that happened to be along a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere along 285, an Audubon’s Oriole was singing its sad song in the distance!  Then at the second “wilderness” 100-mile stop that happened to be under the overpass about 20 miles south of Del Rio, I spooked what I thought was a hawk but turned out to be a Great Horned Owl!  Of course, all along the drive got the requisite Caracaras, Chihuahuan Ravens (not very many, though), and Harris’ Hawks, along with migrating Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

   

Great Horned Owl along US 277 (the right hand picture is a good "quiz bird" shot...)

Once north of Del Rio (they have a fabulous new bypass around the city, and you are out in the sticks on that thing!) it dawned on me that I could stop at Seminole Canyon State Park after all for an exercise walk (the original plan was to drive to Del Rio on Saturday and bird the park on Sunday, but the Golden-crowned Warbler usurped that… J)!  And it was a fabulous stop:  picked up Rock Wren on the way in, and after the nice ranger showed me where to park at the trailheads, I made my way down to the Rio Grande Trail just to hike in 15 minutes and come right back out.  Well.  A nice half-hour walk turned into about an hour, I think, as despite the wind, that place was hopping!  Right away Pyrrhuloxias were chattering all over, and a for-sure hissing Black-tailed Gnatcatcher came right in!  (I had my doubts about that one along the Dump Road…)  Lots of stuff seeped but didn’t want to venture too far out, but managed Vesper Sparrows on the ground, smacking Lincoln’s Sparrows in the bushes, and several tinkling Black-throated Sparrows!  A few Lark Sparrows zipped across the trail, and at the turnaround point I had a nice little feeding flock consisting of the Blackthroats, along with House Finches, Clay-colored Sparrows, and at least one Orange-crowned Warbler!  On the way back one of the finches morphed into a turning Lark Bunting, and a Scaled Quail did its chung CHUNG! call from the brush.  Added both Cactus and Bewick’s Wrens, and bugs were fighting the wind as well, but a little female Reakirt’s Blue managed to pose, and a female Variegated Meadowhawk sat nicely on a little stone.   A potty stop at the headquarters added a flock of chattering White-throated Swifts to the list!

Scene at the turnaround point along the Rio Grande Trail at Seminole Canyon State Park

   

This female Reakirt's Blue gives her identity away by the string of outlined spots on the underside of the forewing!

Female Variegated Meadowhawk

Another good "quiz bird": even without being able to see the face, the elongated white wing stripe and white tail tip give this bird away as a Lark Bunting, but the odd-looking black patchiness gives it away as a male transitioning into non-breeding plumage!

Continued on through gorgeous limestone cliff country with nary a radio station, and made it into Alpine in good time (and fell off the wagon with some peanut M&Ms…).

Click here to continue to the Davis Mountains

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