The “Best” Place to See Clay-colored Thrush?

The Valley Nature Center thrushes continue to be easy to find.

We have been doing a weekly (almost) bird count at the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco since early this year. On nearly every one of those walks we have seen or heard Clay-colored Thrush; sometimes as many as six of them in one hour of effort! That has to be as near to a slam dunk as you can get for this sought-after Valley rarity.

The first location to check as you enter the park is the area immediately around the native plant nursery. A pair nested in the large palm tree just behind the potting area and produced two fledglings already this year. We have not seen the youngsters lately but the adults continue to sing and call from this area and are likely starting a second brood.

Another good location to search is the area around the main feeding station. In winter, the birds often come to the oranges at the feeder and we have seen them coming to the water dripper in the warmer months.

The final place to check is the area along the south boundary of the park and especially near the water dripper in the southeast corner.

If you dip on all those locations try our neighborhood – the corner of Barclay Avenue and Fifth Street. We have a pair of thrushes in our yard that we hear singing every morning around dawn.

Butterflies Are Heating Up

We recently jumped on the butterfly-watching wagon, but the drought conditions here in the Valley made for slim pickin’s.

Recently, however, we have had plenty of rain. (Thunder rolls around us as we write this.) The rain has sparked a surge in plant growth and along with the new growth has come a new crop of butterflies.

It is shaping up to be an interesting summer.

Anis Return to the RGV

The return of the Groove-billed Ani to the RGV is an eagerly awaited event each spring.

It’s true that some anis do spend the winter here some winters but you aren’t likely to see an ani in the RGV before May of each year. We saw our FOY (first-of-year) anis today at Estero Llano Grande State Park. A pair of birds were found in the “tropical area” of the park at about 2 in the afternoon. They were working their way through the understory of the area and dropping down to the ground among the tall grasses to search for insects.

Estero Llano Grande is among the best places to look for anis every year. Check eBird for other reliable locations.

Spring Migrants Linger in the RGV

Cool (er), wet weather continues in the RGV and the spring migrants remain with it.

After months of severe drought, wetter conditions have prevailed in the RGV for the past month. With each passing cool front rain has occurred and waves of migrants have dropped in to spend some time refueling for their migration north. In one case, while we were away in New Mexico, there was a major fallout event and even now many migrants can be found throughout the valley.

Yesterday, we counted 86 species of birds at Estero Llano Grande State Park and this morning we saw almost 50 in the postage-stamp-sized habitats of the Valley Nature Center (VNC). Included among these totals were dozens of warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and other neotropical migrants.

Local breeding birds are also taking advantage of the spring rains to build nests and raise families. We saw two juvenal-plumaged Clay-colored Thrushes at the VNC and several young Plain Chachalacas were following their parents through the brush there as well.

In just a few days the migrants will have moved on but we’re looking forward to following the local birds as they continue their breeding season, including a pair of Clay-colored Thrushes that have taken up residence in our own back yard.

Apologies For Being Away So Long!

We spent most of the last month working at our place in New Mexico and we don’t have regular internet service there. Sorry that we were out of the loop so long.

The trip was mostly about building a small cabin that will be used to house our solar electric system and support the solar panels, but we did manage to do some birding in New Mexico and Arizona while we were there. Spring migration was in full swing and there was a diverse mix of winter holdovers, returning summer residents, and migrants. Some of the highlights included male Lark Buntings that had completed the spring molt into their striking black-and-white plumage, a simply stunning pair of Elegant Trogons that allowed us extended views from no more than 20 yards away, and a colorful assortment of fully decked out warblers, tanagers, and orioles.

The star of the show, however, was a very cooperative and easily found Crescent-chested Warbler that made an appearance in Cave Creek early in our stay and spent over two weeks delighting birders from far and wide. For those of you who might not know, this is an incredibly rare bird for the U.S. There have only been a handful of confirmed records, mostly in Arizona and a few in Texas, over the years.

Our pictures are not great but we did document our first new species since the conclusion of our Big Year. Michael had seen this species many times in Mexico but this was our first sighting in the U.S.