Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rio Grande Valley Birding Day Three, (Part 3)

Posted by Kirk
This is part a series of posts on the 2013 Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

It must have been a good day of birding if I have to break it up into three posts. Here's links to part one and part two if you are just joining us.

There's still daylight left as we finish up birding South Padre Island and so we have this crazy idea to try for a falcon. I'm all for this idea. I want very badly to see an Aplomado Falcon. It would be a lifer for me. We'd just seen a Peregrine Falcon hanging out on the water tower at the Sewage plant/Nature Center and a two falcon day is almost never a bad idea. I say almost never because I'm sure if I say "never" I will live to regret it on some future birding trip where truing to get a two (or three) falcon day results in someone losing an arm or a car bursting into flames.

With all of our limbs intact and our cars not in flames, we set off for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Aplomado Falcons are known to be there and Curt and Erik had seen them there last year.  Good enough for me. We retraced our travels and soon we were slow rolling down nearly deserted roads look for the falcon. 

We came across another White-tailed Kite hunting on the side of the road first. They are beautiful birds. This one was indeed "kiting."

Interestingly, the "kites" we fly on strings are named after these birds.  The toy kites seem to hover in midair much like their avian counterparts.  

Kites, the birds, hover in midair while they look for prey. They can quickly stoop down and catch any food they happen to spot. 

This behavior is exhibited in this short video I shot. 

Kites are cool but we were still looking for falcons so we drove on. Just before the entrance to Laguna Atascosa I spotted a bird on a fence post and we quickly pulled over. It was the Aplomado Falcon! Using the car as a blind we were able to shoot some photos. The bird had just caught a good-sized mammal (a gopher?) and was busy pulling it apart.

Aplomado Falcon

What a thrill! This has got to be my new favorite bird. It is just gorgeous. The Aplomato Falcon has benefitted from a lot of reintroduction help from humans. You can see this bird is banded if you look closely.

Harris's Hawks
Also on that same road we encountered a pair of Harris's Hawks and an Osprey.


It was a great day with great people. Here's Erik shooting a few photos at the end of the day.

As the sun went down we were treated to another site. A coyote ran across the road down at the now closed entrance to the refuge.

Okay, so a little hard to see but Paula in the foreground and the coyote in the distance. Click to enlarge if you are terribly interested in poor photos. 
Thanks for stopping by, there's a few more days of Texas birding to go!