Estero Llano Grande State Park

The highlight of this post is a family of gnatcatchers. The adults were feeding young!

No species of gnatcatcher is expected to be breeding in the lower RGV. At first we thought they must have been Black-tailed since they were in mesquite brush and that would be more likely. But we were never able to put a black tail on any of them so we called them Blue-gray. They sounded like Blue-gray, too. Unfortunately, we had no camera with us.

Species list:

X    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
X    Mottled Duck
X    Plain Chachalaca
X    Neotropic Cormorant
X    Great Egret
X    Snowy Egret
X    Little Blue Heron
X    Tricolored Heron
X    Green Heron
X    White Ibis
X    Roseate Spoonbill
X    Common Gallinule
X    American Coot
X    Killdeer
X    Black-necked Stilt
X    Laughing Gull
X    Least Tern
X    Forster’s Tern
X    White-winged Dove
X    Mourning Dove
X    Common Ground-Dove
X    White-tipped Dove
X    Yellow-billed Cuckoo
X    Groove-billed Ani
X    Lesser Nighthawk
X    Black-chinned Hummingbird
X    Buff-bellied Hummingbird
X    Green Kingfisher
X    Golden-fronted Woodpecker
X    Ladder-backed Woodpecker
X    Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
X    Brown-crested Flycatcher
X    Great Kiskadee
X    Couch’s Kingbird
X    White-eyed Vireo
X    Purple Martin
X    Cave Swallow
X    Verdin
X    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
X    Northern Mockingbird
X    Long-billed Thrasher
X    Curve-billed Thrasher
X    European Starling
X    Olive Sparrow
X    Northern Cardinal
X    Painted Bunting
X    Red-winged Blackbird
X    Great-tailed Grackle
X    Bronzed Cowbird
X    Lesser Goldfinch
X    House Sparrow

Enjoy your summer out there!

Scaling Back

We have noticed that there are very few page hits on this blog since our “official” Big Year ended.

We have not decided to resume our nature tour business either … at least not yet. Those two things lead us the decision that we will be scaling back our posts here even more than we have already done.

We’ll still report on the highlights of our birding and butterfly watching, those things that are truly rare or especially interesting to us, but we won’t be posting regularly. Check back every so often for that news.

We thank everyone who has been reading our drivel and hope it was interesting drivel sometimes!

Santa Ana NWR

Butterflies are abundant at Santa Ana right now. Get out and go!

The recent rains have been good for Valley habitats and no place shows that better than Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. A couple of months ago much of the refuge was bone dry and almost no birds or butterflies could be found. (The exception was around Pintail Lake which held some water throughout the winter and into spring migration.) Now, the refuge is green and thousands or butterflies of dozens of species abound. The birds are good too.

We visited yesterday for the guided butterfly walk led by volunteers Mike and Ginny Rickard. We spent three hours walking the roads and trails from the visitor center to and from Willow Lake. The transformation in the butterflies since our last visit in early April was amazing. There was scarcely a time when we didn’t have something to look at. Blues, sulphurs, and crescents dominated but we also saw lots of skippers, some hairstreaks, and others. We’re still novices when it comes to bugs so we won’t try to list everything we saw. Suffice it to say that we were impressed by the sheer numbers of individuals we had the chance to see.

It made studying butterflies so much more interesting than some of our earlier attempts during the drought.

Delta Lake and the Ranch Country

Hot and windy weather greeted us this morning but we still had a good day in the ranch country of Hidalgo and Willacy Counties.

The Valley is settling in to the long, hot days of summer and the breeding birds and butterflies take center stage. The list of Valley specials wasn’t all that special today but we did have a decent species list to show for our three hours or so of birding and butterflying time at Delta Lake and Brushline Road.

As is often the case, doves seemed to represent the bulk of the breeding birds. Every clump of trees had its share of White-winged, Mourning, Inca, or ground-doves. Joining them were all the other usual suspects; mockingbirds, grackles, kingbirds and the rest. In the dryer spots, Pyrrhuloxia, Bewick’s Wren, and Verdin made an appearance while stilts, Killdeer, and ducks graced the puddles and ponds. There were even some Painted Buntings splashing their colors around for all to see.

The rains of a few weeks past have helped the butterflies as well. Especially abundant were Lyside Sulphurs; not surprising considering the abundance of guayacan, in full leaf and lush with fruit, along Brushline Road. Other bugs of note were the usual selection of blues, whites, and sulphurs and a splendid look at Mexican Fritillary.

Make sure you make some time to get out and have a look at what the Valley has to offer this summer.