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All photographs ©2015 by Mary Beth Stowe

 

May 26, 2015 - Old Military Highway & Anzalduas Co. Park

 

Started the route at the corner of Old Military Highway and Bentsen Palm Drive with the normal morning chorus, including Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Olive Sparrows, Green Jays, and lots of doves and grackles!  Chachalacas were chorusing in the distance and Dickcissels sang in the fields, and up at the canal added the requisite Black Phoebe and mob of Cave Swallows.  I was really shocked at the amount of traffic on "New" Military Highway (but then again, I usually do this on the weekend)!  I'm discovering that whether you can drive the caliche portion of the levee or not is at the discretion of the BP agent you happen to run into, but today I decided to play it safe and take the "original" Military Highway at the bottom of the levee.

 

Yikes!!  What a mess that road was (and overgrown as well)!  I wouldn't be surprised if the powers that be just decide to let it go, as you now have the nice new paved road, but what an adventure; I had to go through a couple of lakes to get to Conway!  I happened to get my first Roadrunner of the route down there, but I didn't linger as Jim Booker's old property was looking kinda creepy (and an aggressive dog "escorted" me down the road).  I think I'll stick to the levee from now on!

 

The original Old Military Highway covered in debris and water

 

Got up on the paved levee as soon as I could and made another stop near Chimney Park, the best bird being a preening female House Finch!  On a whim I decided to drive down into Chimney Park where the manager gave me permission to check the river next to the boat ramp, where a Groove-billed Ani was sitting across the way!  I decided to head straight on the levee towards Anzalduas (this time the BP guys waved me on through), and at the stop along there I heard a Pied-billed Grebe and Carolina Wren singing, both new for my OMH list!  Just before the entrance to Anzalduas a beautiful Yellow-crowned Night Heron flew across the road.

 

       

Female House Finch trying to beautify herself...

View of the Rio Grande from Chimney Park

Headed down to the overlook opposite the real entrance road, and as Tim Brush had reported earlier, there was quite a bit of flooding in the field.  But also in the field were nesting Black-necked Stilts and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks with babies!  Another Black Phoebe flopped around, and further afield were two Caracaras walking around.  After crossing the floodway and passing the entrance kiosk, I pulled over for the first stop and noticed a blob on the side of one of the palm trees that turned out to be a Yellow-headed Parrot!  It's been awhile since I've had those puppies here!

Floodway going into Anzalduas Park

Yellow-headed Parrot, one of a feral population that's been hanging around for a few years

I didn't see anything in the river, but I did hear a Clay-colored Thrush giving his querulous little call (and I had to listen for awhile because a Mockingbird was doing a pretty good rendition on the way in), and from that corner I could actually hear the Tropical Parula singing, so that was good to know he was still around!  Around by the "government" area was a family of Rough-winged Swallows on the barbed wire that occasionally gave their nasal beep, getting much more excited when Mom or Dad came in with food!  A nice Cliff Swallow came in and sat underneath the family as well!

       

 

Baby Rough-winged Swallows   (in the recording you can tell when Momma comes in! ☺)

Cliff Swallow

 

Continued on the route picking up more of the usual stuff (including some Tropical Kingbirds); I tried Bob Becker's "secret" trail by the dam in the hopes of late migrants, but the mosquitoes wouldn't let me get very far!  Finished the perimeter and checked the middle road, surprisingly not picking up any House Finches at all!  I swung back to the boat ramp area with plans to park and try for a visual on the parula, when I spotted Pat's maroon sedan crawling in from the opposite direction, so I hailed her and we ended up parking near the fishing deck to check for water birds.  As before, there really wasn't anything (except a Green Kingfisher that went shooting by before Pat could see it), so from there we tracked down the parula as Rex Stanford pulled in and caught up with us!  I only got a fleeting view, but I think both Pat and Rex got good looks; the little guy was singing up a storm!

I had mentioned to Pat that I had a Yellow-headed Parrot coming in, and sure enough, they started calling a little ways away!  So we went chasing after them and got marvelous looks at a group of at least five that were "ralph"ing and making their funny parrot warbles!  We figured there were at least two adults with the fully yellow head, and the rest were youngsters that were acquiring more yellow bit by bit.  One flew over to where a group of BP agents were resting, and they waved us over to get a great look!  (I was dying to sneak a shot of the one agent pointing out the parrot to Pat and Rex, but sadly these days you can put their lives in danger by posting pictures like that...)  Afterwards I told them that I appreciated their presence there, and after the guy thanked me said, "We don't hear enough of that."  That saddened me; their job is hard enough as it is without being appreciated!

 

Pat tries to figure out how best to point the Tropical Parula out to Rex!

One of the Yellow-headed Parrots   

 

I was getting ready to head to the Butterfly Center, but Pat wanted to show me the Gray Hawk nest, so we tootled over there and got great looks at the babies!  So after kissing them goodbye (Pat and Rex, not the babies) I headed back down FM 494 and got back up on the levee at my first opportunity, but not before stopping for a Dickcissel that was singing a really weird song!

 

Baby Gray Hawks

 

Strange Dickcissel song (you can hear a more normal one in the background)

 

Coming back down Old Military Highway there was a BP helicopter hovering over the NABA area and a couple of patrol vehicles where the Walking Trail connects with the main road, and when I pulled in to the center, the staff said they were keeping everyone inside until the BP was finished rounding up a whole slew of illegals they had been chasing since earlier that morning (one of the gals said she witnessed some of them jumping the property fence while she was down in the old garden)!  I just poked around the gardens there by the building where I had a swallowtail bat by that looked suspiciously like a Polydamus, but it just wouldn't stop for a look.  When things quieted down, I drove down to the old garden where I had the whole place to myself!  (That was kinda spooky considering what was going on...)  Sat at the feeders for awhile adding Altamira Oriole to the list, then proceeded to look for these rare butters that had been reported.  Walking the trail next to the gorge I found a very striking pied damselfly, and lots of Tawny Emperors hogged the bait logs.  Bordered Patches were also in high numbers along with a few Great Southern Whites, and a Zebra Heliconian was a delight as always, but there was nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Pretty damselfly that Dan ID'd as a Dusky Dancer

 

Dan and Honey Jones shortly showed up (their Subaru kept my Subaru company ☺) and we continued poking; I told him about my damsel and from the description he said it was probably a Dusky Dancer.  I found an amberwing that he ID'd as an Eastern, and Honey found the beat-up Banded Peacock that had been hanging around!  By shadowing Dan he did manage to find me some of the more uncommon stuff, like a Red-bordered Metalmark and a Pale-banded Crescent, along with good comparisons of Pearl and Vesta Crescents.  Now I'm wishing I had been able to shoot this little brown skipper that I had written off as a female Common Mellana, but the fact that it was dull brown with a dull set of spots making a C on the ventral made Dan wonder if I could have had a Liris Skipper.

 

       

Beat-up Banded Peacock

 

Red-bordered Metalmark 

 

Female Eastern Amberwing

 

Pale-banded Crescent

 

Vesta Crescent

 

Around noon I had to take off, so I admonished Dan that if he found anything good not to tell me about it! ☺  He admitted that he usually finds these things only after spending at least four hours perusing the plants, and that's true - the longer you look, the more you're apt to find!

 

Bird List:

 

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula

  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula

  Northern Bobwhite                     Colinus virginianus

  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps

  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  Cattle Egret                          Bubulcus ibis

  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron            Nyctanassa violacea

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  Gray Hawk                             Buteo plagiatus

  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla

  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto

  White-winged Dove                     Zenaida asiatica

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                  Coccyzus americanus

  Greater Roadrunner                    Geococcyx californianus

  Groove-billed Ani                     Crotophaga sulcirostris

  Chimney Swift                         Chaetura pelagica

  Green Kingfisher                      Chloroceryle americana

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway

  Yellow-headed Parrot                  Amazona oratrix

  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet         Camptostoma imberbe

  Black Phoebe                          Sayornis nigricans

  Brown-crested Flycatcher              Myiarchus tyrannulus

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Tropical Kingbird                     Tyrannus melancholicus

  Couch's Kingbird                      Tyrannus couchii

  Western Kingbird                      Tyrannus verticalis

  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher             Tyrannus forficatus

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  Northern Rough-winged Swallow         Stelgidopteryx serripennis

  Purple Martin                         Progne subis

  Cliff Swallow                         Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

  Cave Swallow                          Petrochelidon fulva

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus

  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus

  Clay-colored Thrush                   Turdus grayi

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris

  Tropical Parula                       Setophaga pitiayumi

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Lark Sparrow                          Chondestes grammacus

  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis

  Dickcissel                            Spiza americana

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  Bronzed Cowbird                       Molothrus aeneus

  Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater

  Altamira Oriole                       Icterus gularis

  House Finch                           Haemorhous mexicanus

  Lesser Goldfinch                      Spinus psaltria

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus

 

61 SPECIES

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