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Rio Grande Valley birds, butterflies, dragonflies through the eyes of an ex-Buckeye

April 2008
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Except for one day in San Antonio, one day at South Padre and a quick stop at Lake Tiocano in Harlingen, this whole month was rather subdued with all birding taking place at Bentsen State Park...

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April 1 Bentsen State Park  The best I can do today is this Giant Millipede, the first I've seen. You can buy them online for $7, and they live for 10 years.  Also called Sonoran Desert Millipede, Sonoran Millipede, Texas Striped Millipede, Ornate Millipede, Giant North American Millipede... Kewl, eh?

April 2 Bentsen State Park Arguably the best birder in all of Great Britain was one of the 13 on the Night Hike-- no pressure there, eh?  We got to the resaca late but the night went okay, just furiously fast, and was over before it started: Barn Owl 1, Eastern Screech-Owl 5, Elf Owl 3, Lesser Nighthawk 1 (my first one of the year), Common Pauraque 6.  What he liked the best?  Raccoon...

April 3 Bentsen State Park  We did get some time on the Hawktower today, Carol, Jose and I, with Joseph Kennedy...  Blue-winged Teal, Least Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret 1, Cattle Egret 14, Turkey Vulture 6, Cooper's Hawk 1, Harris's Hawk 2, Broad-winged Hawk 4, Swainson's Hawk 3, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Belted Kingfisher 1, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 1, Couch's Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 2, House Wren 1, Northern Mockingbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle.

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April 6 Bentsen State Park Scheduled morning bird walk: Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Plain Chachalaca, Least & Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican 80, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga 3, Least Bittern 1, Great Blue Heron 1, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron 2, Tricolored Heron 2, Cattle Egret, Green Heron 1, White Ibis 1, White-faced Ibis 2, Black Vulture 1, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite 3, Mississippi Kite 1, Cooper's Hawk 2, Broad-winged Hawk 800, Gray Hawk 2, Swainson's Hawk 4, Crested Caracara 4, Merlin 1, Peregrine Falcon 1, Sora 1, Common Moorhen, American Coot, American Golden-Plover 6 , Solitary Sandpiper 1 , Franklin's Gull 2, Ring-billed Gull 8, White-winged, Mourning, Inca, Common Ground-, & White-tipped Doves, Chimney Swift, Buff-bellied 2 & Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1, Ringed 1 & Belted Kingfisher 1 , Golden-fronted & Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 2, Brown-crested Flycatcher 1, Great Kiskadee, Couch's Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Green Jay, Tree, Cave, Northern Rough-winged, Bank & Barn Swallow, Black-crested Titmouse, Verdin, House Wren 1, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Clay-colored Robin 3, Northern Mockingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive, Lark, Savannah & Lincoln's Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird 1, Altamira Oriole 5, House Sparrows.

I was assigned to the Hawktower for the afternoon. Before I could go I had to wait on this visitor at my door-- a BOBCAT at my office door, just sitting on the sidewalk! I had about 25 or 30 visitors on the hawktower, all human, since we saw ZERO hawks. This is kinda normal since the hawks fly so very high when it's very hot. We had already seen huge kettles in the morning so we were satisfied until I learned that just 25mi away in Weslaco they had 25,000 Broadwings about 1pm! In the hot afternoon! I did have good company though with Ivan, John and Bill sticking it out the whole time. John was from PA and Bill from CA so they got lots of lifebirds while we waited.

April 8 Bentsen State Park Swainson's Hawk directly overhead during a children's program.

April 9 Bentsen State Park Night Hike The Creatures of the Night program was mostly a Mammal Night: A Bobcat, an Opossum, EIGHT big Raccoons, 8 Javelina, Cottontail, Bats, Armadillo; very windy-- hard to hear owls, but thanks to a lady from Cincinatti we saw TWO FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWLS fly in. Killdeer 2, Elf Owl 3, Lesser Nighthawk 1, Common Pauraque 3, Whip-poor-will 4

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April 10 Bentsen State Park At 6am I heard THREE WHIPPOORWILLS calling as I filled feeders, and the owls were much louder than last night since the wind had died down.  While guiding tours, we found a Mexican Freetail Bat about three feet off the ground. Artemio, Fernie, Jose and I took pictures as it hung there from the tree, but later in the day it was dead. Hmmm... 

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April 11 Bentsen State Park The tram ride full of kids on tour yielded a Bobcat sitting in the middle of the Resaca Vieja looking oh so much like he was saying, "Oh good! More kids!" They were thrilled with the Javelina, with the soaring Gray Hawk, with the Chachalaca, with the Roadrunner alongside the tram, with Green Jays, Broadwings and Swainsons. The tour started with a HUNDRED MISSISSIPPI KITES, and by the end of the day we had over EIGHT HUNDRED MISSISSIPPI KITES. ScissorTailed Flycatchers, ORCHARD ORIOLE and Altamira Oriole perched in treetops to give excellent views. A Coyote in broad daylight stood in the middle of a dirt road looking at all those kids on the Hawktower with the same expression on its face that the Bobcat had, "Oh good. More kids."

April 14 Bentsen State Park Got to work too early, so stopped off at the Mission Home Depot pond: Blue-winged Teal, Neotropic Cormorants, Double-crested Cormorants, Harris's Hawk 2, American Coot 2, Killdeer 2, Rock Pigeons, Mourning Doves, Golden-fronted Woodpecker 1, Couch's Kingbird 2, Purple Martin 4, Cactus Wren 1, Northern Mockingbird 2, Pyrrhuloxia 1, Great-tailed Grackles, House Sparrows.

Back to work at Bentsen, leading the morning bird walk, with folks from WA, OR, NJ... Mottled Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Plain Chachalacas, Least & Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorants, Anhinga 1, Great Blue Heron 1, Little Blue Heron 5, Cattle Egret 18, White Ibis 3, White-faced Ibis 3, Turkey Vultures, Mississippi Kite 1 flying by at eye level at the Hawktower! all in group view even white secondaries, Gray Hawk 1, Swainson's Hawk 2, Sora 1 in the open, viewed by all, at Kingfisher Overlook, Common Moorhens, American Coots, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilts, Spotted Sandpiper 1, Solitary Sandpiper 1, Greater Yellowlegs 2, White-winged, Mourning, Inca, Common Ground-, & White-tipped Doves, Greater Roadrunner 2, Lesser Nighthawk 3 in broad daylight in the parking lot, Chimney Swifts, Buff-bellied, Ruby-throated & Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden-fronted & Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 4, Black Phoebe 2, Brown-crested Flycatcher 1, Great Kiskadee, White-eyed Vireo, Green Jays, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cave Swallows, Black-crested Titmouse, Verdin 1, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1, Clay-colored Robin 1, Northern Mockingbirds, Long-billed Thrashers, Orange-crowned Warbler 1, Lark, Savannah & Lincoln's Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxia 1, Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Meadowlark 1, Great-tailed Grackles, Bronzed Cowbirds, Brown-headed Cowbird 1, Bullock's Oriole 1 at Hawktower, Altamira Orioles, House Sparrows. Also nice was this Texas Spiny Lizard at the Hawktower.

Right after that was the Butterfly Walk. Butterflies have been almost non-existent, and today was no exception: Giant Swallowtail, Lyside & Cloudless Sulphur, Ceraunus & Reakirt's Blue, Queens, Turk's Cap Skipper, 2 Lantana Scrub-Hairstreaks, White Checkered-Skipper, Clouded Skippers, Phaon Crescent, Fatal Metalmark, Tropical Leafwing-- 13 species. Pitiful.

April 16 Bentsen State Park What a refreshing start to the night when 100+ Mississippi Kites and 50 Broadwinged Hawks appeared.  A group from Sweden, a couple from St Petersburg in Russia, and friends from back home in Fort Wayne Indiana made tonight a special Creatures-of-the-Night program. The wind made it very difficult to hear owls, but we caught a Ferruginous at the gate and an Elf at Green Jay Blind. Better was seeing a Screech at Paixtle and two Elf Owls at the Old Gatehouse. A Coyote in the spotlight was the best mammal, but of course the Opossum, and Raccoon, and Javelina and Bats, Armadillo and Cottontails were all nice too. My shotgun was great on the light as we watched one of the Lesser Nighthawks for quite some time as it fluttered all around us. The Pauraque were quiet (or perhaps just impossible to hear in the high winds) but we saw quite a few, including one that flew out over the Resaca at sunset. We had my first Common Nighthawk of the year, too. 

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April 17 Got to work too early, so stopped at Mission's Home Depot's pond: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 14, Blue-winged Teal 2, Green Heron 1, Harris's Hawk 2, American Coot 6, Killdeer 2, Black-necked Stilt 3, Spotted Sandpiper 1, Rock Pigeon 1, White-winged Dove 8, Mourning Dove 2,Green Parakeet 2, Chimney Swift 18, Couch's Kingbird 2, Purple Martin 2, Cactus Wren 2, Northern Mockingbird 2, European Starling 2, Northern Cardinal 1, Great-tailed Grackle 8.  Getting home at midnight and gettting up at 6am is of course just normal, and then starting out with a group of 100 second-graders at Bentsen State Park on top of that... Well, that's just priceless. It was very fun, and then spent the rest of the day basically changing hummingbird feeders. AND THEN I SAW MY FIRST HORNY TOAD EVER!! What a job, eh?

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April 22 Bentsen State Park We rehearsed our roles about 4pm, but our only chance outside was beneficial: BOBCAT at Green Jay Blind was pretty cool, as was CLAY-COLORED ROBIN singing loudly (at 4pm!) at Ebony Woods. Indigo Buntings on the inside loop. This Altamira Oriole constructing his nest.

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April 23 Bentsen State Park Before the Night Hike a teacher brought in a tiny Killdeer her students found. How many times does it have to be said-- LEAVE THE BABY BIRDS WHERE YOU FOUND THEM.

The windy night was not good for the hike-- we barely heard Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Screech Owl and Elf Owl, and then only thanks to Kel. Better were the nightjars (6 each of Lesser Nighthawk, Common Nighthawk and Pauraque), especially when one eager Pauraque TWICE landed on a post right next to the crowd! Mammals were low, just an Armadillo, a Jackrabbit, and a half-grown cute Raccoon.

April 26 San Antonio Saturday morning I slipped out of the hotel room for two hours, to Friedrich Wilderness Park: Black Vulture 8, Turkey Vulture 1, Western Scrub-Jay 1, Carolina Chickadee 3, Black-crested Titmouse 18, Swainson's Thrush 1, Hermit Thrush 2, Northern Mockingbird 2, Nashville Warbler 8, Magnolia Warbler 1, GoLDEN-CHeEKeD WArbLER 1, Black-throated Green Warbler 3, Black-and-white Warbler 1, Field Sparrow 1, Northern Cardinal 26, Red-winged Blackbird 1, Eastern Meadowlark 1, Great-tailed Grackle 1, Brown-headed Cowbird 2. The trail was a level-4 2miles that I rushed through while Bruce waited in the car.

April 28 Of course, I arrived in Mission too early so I stopped by the Home Depot pond. Great birds for just ten minutes! Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 6, Green Heron 2, Harris's Hawk 1, American Coot 1, Killdeer 2, Forster's Tern 2, Rock Pigeon 15, White-winged Dove 4, Mourning Dove 2, Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1, Eastern Wood-Pewee 1, Tropical Kingbird 2, Couch's Kingbird 5, Western Kingbird 1, Eastern Kingbird 1, Tree Swallow 2, Barn Swallow 1, Cactus Wren 2, Northern Mockingbird 6, European Starling 2, Savannah Sparrow 2, Northern Cardinal 1, Pyrrhuloxia 1, Red-winged Blackbird 1, Eastern Meadowlark 2, Great-tailed Grackles, Bronzed Cowbird 1, House Sparrows.

I got to work at Bentsen State Park only to realize that something odd was going on: Javier de Leon and the Dauphins were already there with Josh. Seems last night a lucifer hummingbird had been found. This bird doesn't normally occur in the US! And they got pictures! Lo and behold, we never did re-find it today. We did find some good stuff though. There were so many hummingbirds to sort through-- probably 50 Ruby-Throated, 5 or so Buff-Bellied and a Black-Chinned. I found one that was tailless! Over 1000 Mississippi Kites went overhead! A female Painted Bunting! A pair of Hooded, a pair of Altamira and a pair of Baltimore Orioles in the garden! Ten Western Kingbirds! Lunch at NABA found three Painted Buntings. We got rain today so had some butterflies!: Giant & Pipevine Swallowtails, Queen and Monarch, Funereal Duskywing, Ceraunus and lots of Reakirt's Blues, Little Yellow, Cloudless and Lyside Sulphurs, Snout, Turk's Cap and Laviana White-Skippers, White Checkered-Skippers, Brown and Dorantes Longtails, Fiery and Clouded Skippers and Sachem...added a Zebra at NABA... no lucifer though.

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April 29 Bentsen State Park It was easy to start the day with THREE Jackrabbits at Bentsen.  Mary Beth Stowe called me to say she heard a RED-BILLED PIGEON in the Acacia Loop right here at Bentsen! Jose and I heard it too, comparing it with a CD right afterward. Couldn't find the Lucifer Hummingbird though...

After work I knew I couldn't take it any longer.  Though it would be dark soon I needed to go to South Padre Island! It's migration time and I just couldn't wait any longer. We were racing daylight's end, but I'm glad we made it!: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck 1, Mottled Duck 2, Blue-winged Teal, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Harris's Hawk, Aplomado Falcon 1, Clapper Rail 4, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover 1, American Oystercatcher 2 (with a photographer sitting near them!!! what was he thinking?!), Black-necked Stilt, Willet, Sanderling, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, Gull-billed,Sandwich and Royal Terns, Black Skimmer, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Lesser Nighthawk 1, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike 1, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wrens, Veery 3, Gray-cheeked Thrush 1, Swainson's Thrush 3, Gray Catbird 8 (!!!!) , Northern Mockingbird 5, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula (just one beauty), Yellow Warbler (Northern), Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart (many!), Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler (one gorgeous male!), Wilson's Warbler, Summer Tanager (just a few), Lincoln's Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (many! I counted 10 males and 10 females in one group ont he ground), Indigo Bunting (many, in large groups all over the ground), Painted Bunting (a nice male and many bright green females!), Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole and Baltimore Oriole (oh so many! and so hungry they ignored us totally! eating oranges everywhere!), House Sparrow.

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April 30 Another Horned Lizard showed up on the drive into Bentsen State Park, very nice.  I stopped by Harlingen's Lake Tiocano almost completely dried up, but the birds were concentrated in what water was left: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 12, Neotropic Cormorant 6, Double-crested Cormorant 1, Great Egret 3, Snowy Egret 1, Cattle Egret 1, White-tailed Kite 2, American Coot 6, Black-necked Stilt 10, American Avocet 63, Spotted Sandpiper 2, Black Skimmer 4, Rock Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker 1, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 2, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle. Back at home, the dogs dragged in a baby opossum that played dead and thus survived!

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To see my history of birding before I moved to Texas just click one of these links: at Oxbow Lake, in Defiance County.
at Independence Dam State Park, in Defiance County.
in Sherwood Ohio, my old hometown, in Defiance County
the rest of Defiance County.
in Paulding County, one county south of Defiance County, in Northwest Ohio
at 16 and C in Williams County, in Northwest Ohio.
the rest of Williams County
in Fulton County, also in Northwest Ohio
around Lake Erie
as well as other various spots in Ohio
and occassionally other states.
I've also researched my genealogy a bit (my other hobby). Click here to learn about the Yochums.
and the Hinsch's
and the Stahls.
and the Jones'
and the Rathbuns.
and the Mattsons
and the Browns
and the Weisers
and the Batdorffs.
Genealogy Tree, Generations 1 through 6
Genealogy Tree, Generations 7 through 12
Genealogy Tree, Generations 13 and up