Friday, November 9th, John's field trip left at 5 AM again, back to the Upper Rio Grande Valley. No Red-Billed Pigeon or Muscovy Duck, but some nice pictures of birds John has already seen. He is still at 672 for his big year, 706 for his life bird list and 611 plus decent photos of bird species taken this year. Not bad for an old geezer who is blind in one eye and mostly deaf.
I had signed up for Birding by Ear but didn't want to go to Santa Ana two days in a row, so managed to switch to Southmost Preserve in Eastern Brownsville. Anyone can go there if they call ahead to the manager to arrange a visit. We got to go behind the border fence. It is anything but a solid barrier. There are gaps at every road. The smugglers are funneled right past the preserve's headquarters. Not good. The preserve has lots of Sabal Palms and a working grapefruit ranch that brings in revenue. The border fence displaced about three hundred palms during construction. The Southmost Preserve successfully transplanted about half of them. Other preserves got the rest of those palms.
The preserve has a spider web of dirt roads. You definitely will need a map! We didn't see much, but had a wealth of warblers, Yellow-Throated, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-Rumped, Orange-Crowned, Wilson's and Black-and-White, PLUS, a leader spotted a heavier, skulky warbler. I got on it too and we saw a bright split eye ring! MacGillivray's! The other leader, Derek, finally saw it too. That's pretty far east for a western warbler.
Derek has lead field trips during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival for all of it's twenty years. It may be the oldest festival in the USA. It is certainly well run.
We didn't fly to Miami. We decided to stay overnight and try Santa Ana on our own in the morning. We ate at Longhorn Cattle Co BBQ and Steakhouse Friday night. Nice! Saturday, November 10th, we got to Santa Ana at 8 AM. We spent about two hours on the tower, Harris's Hawks, Peregrine Falcon, Red-Tailed, Kestrels, Vultures and Crested Caracaras flew by. One hawk was dipping into the trees for several minutes, flying about 50 feet into the wind, then dipping into the trees again. It had two bright white bars on its tail so I got hopeful it might be the Hook-Billed Kite. Never mind, the book says it has two DULL white bars on its tail. Grump.
We climbed down from the tower to go to Pintail Lakes where the HBK had been seen 5 days before. There was a lot of activity in the bushes around the little parking lot at the tower. I could hear White-Eyed Vireos and drifted right to follow them while John stayed in the corner. Right in front of me, a Blue-Headed Vireo appeared. JOHN! JOHN! I spluttered. He got over to me too late. Argh! Not another glimpse, though we searched the area another hour. John will have to get it elsewhere. I'm so blue! We did get nice looks at a Beardless Tyrannulet. What a drab little bird. Cute call. We never did get over to Pintail Lakes, but the kite wasn't seen there anyway.
We drove to Austin Saturday afternoon. Sunday, John changed his flight so that he would fly out of Austin to Philly, Monday, instead of Miami to Philly, Tuesday. The car rental agency showed that all cars were booked, but at the counter, John did get one. He drove to Connecticut because the Motel 6's in New Jersey were not available. Probably, Sandy, the big storm, is the culprit. I need to verify that John's pelagic on the 17th is still a go.