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All photographs ©2015 by Mary Beth Stowe


May 21, 2015 - Resaca de la Palma SP


The timing was great, as I arrived at the park just a few minutes before dawn, and the chorus was quite deafening!  But after I got all my gear together I heard something in the din that I wrote off as a Botteri's Sparrow at first, but the fact that it really wasn't Botteri's habitat bothered me (and there were so many Olive Sparrows singing, I couldn't tell if it was finishing its song with the "bouncing ball" flurry or if I was just hearing the Olives).  And on top of that, the timbre didn't sound quite right:  the song was delivered in short, clipped phrases, more like a vireo, but I was trying to think what kind of a vireo would match that, and then it clicked:  a Yellow-green!  Unfortunately he wouldn't come out for a look-see (he was deep in one of the big trees), but thankfully I was able to get a barely identifiable recording (was tough with all the competition going on)!  I sent a text message to the Texas RBA Group and went on my way.


Dawn chorus at the parking area:  the bouncing ball song of Olive Sparrows is dominant, along with both a Cardinal and a Carolina Wren, White-winged Doves, and a softer "coke bottle" White-tipped.  Not as obvious but still audible are Great-tailed Grackles, a Mockingbird, and the Yellow-green Vireo.  The interesting clucking noise near the end is a Groove-billed Ani - a vocalization I've never heard before!


A highly-scrubbed recording of the Yellow-green Vireo; listen for the clipped phrases in competition with the sparrows and mockingbirds...


Right-of-way just outside the main entrance; the vireo was singing from the tree on the left.


Started the big hike from there, with the first resting spot at the point where the main road crosses the resaca.  Yellow-billed Cuckoos were all over, which made me think of Pat who was so desperate for one for Hidalgo County this year (although Resaca is in Cameron)!  As my friend Phil would say, someone pushed the Chachalaca Button, and couples were spreading the Morning Report all over the park! ☺  A couple of Common Nighthawks batted around at the resaca (which was dry, which surprised me after all the rain), and the usual South Texas forest birds showed up one by one, like Brown-crested Flycatcher, Green Jay, and Long-billed Thrasher.


I should have used one of the signs as the next resting stop, as it was a lot longer than ten minutes to the next bench, which was the Kiskadee Trail.  It's the same resaca that you see along the tram road, but there was a little bit of water here, with a pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a few Little Blue Herons, a Snowy Egret, and a bunch of young White Ibis!  The other thing there that concerned me a little was a big mama hog and her piglets!  I had heard they could be aggressive, but thankfully there's no way she could have charged me from where she was.


"Teenage" White Ibis hanging out at the watering hole...



Mama hog and her piglets...


Returning to the tram road, I took the Mexican Olive Trail down to that overlook and had some nice things:  a family of four Yellow-crowned Night Herons was a highlight, along with a flyover Green Heron.  One of the park's famous Mexican Bluewings landed on a tree but only showed its cryptic ventral side, and a Common Gallinule called while I was resting.  I'd love to report that the "no-sting" kids' sunscreen actually did what it claimed to do, but I'm sorry to report that I went around with a sore eye (yes, the left one) the rest of the morning, although I confess it wasn't as bad as when the old sunscreen would get in there!


Mexican Bluewing



Three of the four Yellow-crowned Night Herons at the resaca (the fourth was an immature)



Brown-crested Flycatcher along the trail, showing his bushy topknot!


Northern Cardinal


Heading down the tram road I was surprised to see the same resaca cross under there, as the White Ibis gang was now right next to the road!  (So was one of the piglets, so I scurried on...)  The next stop was a bench before you hit the Flycatcher Trail, I believe, and somewhere in here I added Clay-colored Thrush and Couch's Kingbird to the list.  Turning the corner you start getting into savannah-type habitat, and while I didn't bag the White-tailed Kite that usually hangs out here, I did add a singing Eastern Meadowlark that was new for my Resaca list (and seeing I've only visited the park four times, including today, that wasn't a difficult accomplishment).  An Altamira Oriole finally showed up with a big bug, and while resting on a sign a Dickcissel flew over.


Closer view of the White Ibis...

...and one of the piglets...

Another Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew in to where I was resting at the next stop, but that was just before the headquarters, and when the parking lot opened before me and I saw it was packed with cars, I thought, "Boy, news about that vireo got out fast!"  ☺  It was actually some kind of continuing adult educational thing going on according to the ranger behind the desk, and I saw that Sherri Wilson had her hands full with several groups!  I mentioned the Yellow-green Vireo in passing, and she nearly did a victory dance: turns out she thought she had one on the 5th (or thereabouts), but just wasn't sure!  So I was happy to hear that it's been around awhile!

After bringing Diggory in, I started perusing the Ebony Trail and the butterfly gardens; Boisduval's Yellows were out the yin yang, and I may have had a Mexican Yellow as well, as there was a lot of black on the dorsal wingtips and the dorsal in general looked rather washed out.  More Mexican Bluewings showed themselves, and a Fawn-spotted Skipper made an appearance as well.  In the garden, had a nice Mimosa Skipper, a pretty Vesta Crescent, and good numbers of the common stuff (Cloudless, Dainty, and Lyside Sulphurs; Phaon Crescents; Tropical Checkered and Sickle-winged Skippers; and a single Giant Swallowtail). 

Mimosa Skipper

Mexican Bluewing

Fawn-spotted Skipper

Female Tropical Checkered Skipper


Boisduval's Yellow, one of the park's signature butterflies

These two Boisduval's are giving wings to the Turk's Cap!

I was really shot by then, and the skies looked a little more threatening, so decided to call it a day, spotting a Bobwhite on the way out.  They announced on the radio that radar showed heavy rain was in Starr County heading into Hidalgo, but I think they read it wrong, as I hit the wall of water right at the Hidalgo/Cameron County line! ☺  I was so frazzled afterwards that I treated myself to a Pollo Loco (along with half of McAllen by the looks of the drive-thru ☺)!

Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula

  Northern Bobwhite                     Colinus virginianus

  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias

  Great Egret                           Ardea alba

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  Little Blue Heron                     Egretta caerulea

  Green Heron                           Butorides virescens

  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron            Nyctanassa violacea

  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus

  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata

  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla

  White-winged Dove                     Zenaida asiatica

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Common Ground-Dove                    Columbina passerina

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                  Coccyzus americanus

  Groove-billed Ani                     Crotophaga sulcirostris

  Common Nighthawk                      Chordeiles minor

  Chimney Swift                         Chaetura pelagica

  Buff-bellied Hummingbird              Amazilia yucatanensis

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Brown-crested Flycatcher              Myiarchus tyrannulus

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Couch's Kingbird                      Tyrannus couchii

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Yellow-green Vireo                    Vireo flavoviridis

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus

  Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps

  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus

  Bewick's Wren                         Thryomanes bewickii

  Clay-colored Thrush                   Turdus grayi

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  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




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