Sunday, June 14, 2015

Top Fives of Texas

I don't like doing trip reports on this blog, but I do like doing whatever the hell I want to. So here's a trip report.

I went with two friends, Jason and Zach, to South Texas for a few days in early June. We saw a crap-ton of birds, ate a crap-stone of great food, and had a crap-kip of good times. Here are some highlights, recounted in a Top 5 format, for some reason.

Best Meals
3243. Pepe's in Harlingen
3242. being hit by a car
4. Ultimo Taco in Brownsville

3. Ribs at Cowpokes BBQ in Pearsall, TX.

2. Every single meal at Laredo Taco Company in Stripes Gas Stations throughout south Texas. Fresh tortillas made for you in a gas station!
1. Barbacoa tacos with bright red hot chili sauce at Roadside Inn Meat Market, Hidalgo Texas. We were hot and tired and driving around looking for some food. We pulled into the first place we saw that had a sign for Tacos out front (but, like, 90% of stores in Mission have tacos, even muffler repair stores, it seemed). It was about 2pm, though, and the kitchen in Roadside Inn was closed. After looking around for a few minutes to try to piece together a meal, some guy came out from the kitchen holding a styrofoam container saying something to the effect (in Spanish) of: "Oh well we have this barbacoa, you want this?" Yes, we did. Standing out front of the restaurant scooping up the juicy meat with fresh tortillas and dousing it with spicy red sauce ... it was just the kind of surprise moment I love about birding.

Best Dogs
5. The dog that kept barking at us while we were looking for Ringed Kingfishers.
4. The skinny Chihuahua that almost ran in front of our car that time.
3. The yappy white dog in the purse in Leakey.
2. The puppy that Jason pet next to the breakfast taco stand in Sabinal.
1. Tulip, the rescue dog that we met waiting for Red-crowned Parrots in Harlingen.

Weirdest Ladies
3. The butterfly lady who yelled at me at the NBC for walking too fast when she was looking for a Gray Cracker
2. Stripes worker who really wanted to give Zach a fork
1. Paranoid waitress/conspiracy theorist in Leakey, Texas

Best Herps
5. Cane Toad, Sabal Palm Sanctuary. An impressive beast, but receives negative marks because it's a nasty introduced pest in Australia and elsewhere.

4. Whatever snake it was that slithered away from Zach and I at the McAllen Nature Center - it was black
3. Whatever snake it was that slithered across the road in front of us at Falcon SP - it was green
2. Fence Lizard at Lost Maples SNA

1. Texas Spotted Whiptails, everywhere

Favorite Butterflies
5. Fiery Skipper, Lost Maples SNA

4. Texan Crescent, National Butterfly Center

3. Banded Peacock, National Butterfly Center

2. Guava Skipper, Sabal Palm Sanctuary

1. Ruby-spotted Swallowtail, butterfly garden at Falcon SP

Biggest Spiders
5. this one, Falcon SP butterfly garden

4. this other one, Falcon SP butterfly garden

3. The one over the trail at Lost Maples with the two gray stumps on its back
2. The big one under the overhang at the Lost Maples swimming hole
1. Tarantula sp. at Sabal Palm Sanctuary!

Biggest Misses
5. I dunno, uh, Crimson-collared Grosbeak? 
4. Brown Jay. Haven't been seen in years.
3. Hook-billed Kite. I don't think we really even had a chance.
2. Muscovy Duck. These are hard to find along the Rio Grande, apparently, and we didn't see any we were sure were wild. We ran into a white-headed domestic variant at Bentsen SP but didn't realize until later that these guys are part of an uncountable population. It was acting wild and wary, but rules are rules.
1. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. We were too cheap to pay for a full-day trip at King Ranch, and we didn't have a full day to give. Instead we just pulled over on random spots along Highway 77 and made hooting noises into the mesquite. It was pretty pathetic, and, needless to say, didn't turn up any owls. Our mantra was that it's good to save something for next time.

Biggest Hits
5. Weird birds that tripped eBird filters, I guess? Redhead at Old Isabel Rd., Ring-necked Duck at some roadside pond, House Finches in a bunch of places.
4. Tropical Parula, Anzalduas SP. Our first target on our first morning. Was singing right where it was supposed to be.
3. Clay-colored Thrush, Bentsen SP. I don't know what it was about this bird that I liked so much, but I just did. It didn't hurt that it was a) very obliging, and that b) I found it first. Lovely little creature.
Clay-colored Thrush
2. Tropical Parula, Sarita Rest Area. What the hell? Honestly what the hell. We drove up 77 looking for pygmy-owls and stopped to turn around at this little rest area in the middle of the highway. It was a thin patch of trees - probably, what, like 20 trees? - which busy highway on both sides. Jason mentioned that Tropical Parula had been reported here a few weeks or months earlier and went to take a look. Sure enough, the bird was sitting right there, singing its little heart out. Was a weird, weird place.

1. Yellow-green Vireo at Sabal Palm Sanctuary. We almost didn't stop at Sabal Palm, but it turned out to be our favorite spot of the whole trip. It's wild and jungle-y, and there's no one else there. Jason heard a vireo singing almost as soon as we stepped onto the Native Trail, and there was no mistaking: it was a yellow-green. These birds had been reported from Sabal Palm about a month earlier, but the long silence meant that we weren't expecting it. But, there it was. We tromped through the grass to track it down - chiggers be damned! - and found it easily, though it's frequent movements and tendency to stick to the shade meant photos were tough. A great bird. Here's a link to Jason's photo.

Best Mammals
5. A couple jackrabbit sightings.
3. The tick-eared cottontail at the Max Mandel Golf Course.

2. The Collared Peccaries I saw (I was the only one) at Falcon SP.
1. Wild Boar crossing the Rio Grande at Salineno, Texas.  Introduced, yes, but so massive and awesome! Plus, a huge tumor or something on its side!

Saddest Thing Any of Us Had Ever Seen
1. The Rio Grande leopard frog with a red-striped ribbon snake clamped onto its leg at the National Butterfly Center. The frog was doomed, not seriously hurt but being dragged into the bushes by the snake for what was likely a slow, painful death. He was giving the saddest little yelping squeals, plaintive, desperate squawks. Poor little guy, I hope he made it out of it somehow. Here's Jason's photo.

Most Obliging Birds
10. Great Kiskadee at Anzalduas Park
Great Kiskadee
9. Couch's Kingbird at Max Mandel Golf Course. BTW this place was cool. We rolled up and rented golf carts and cranked around the empty course (it was about 100 degrees on a Monday afternoon). There's apparently a nesting Red-billed Pigeon there, but we didn't find it. We did find more seedeaters, and lots of other usuals. Plus, we had a blast driving around.
Couch's Kingbird
8. Long-billed Thrasher at National Butterfly Center
Long-billed Thrasher
7. Green Parakeets in McAllen, TX
Green Parakeets
6. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers at Salineno Shortcut Rd.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
5. Bronzed Cowbirds, Sabal Palm
Bronzed Cowbird
4. The two families of Golden-cheeked Warblers at Lost Maples SNA
Golden-cheeked Warbler fledgling
Golden-cheeked Warbler
3. White-collared Seedeaters at San Ygnacio and Max Mandel Golf Course (well, they actually weren't very obliging at all, but I wanted to get a photo of them in here).
White-collared Seedeater
2. Lesser Nighthawk at Falcon SP
Lesser Nighthawk
1. Northern Bobwhite at Old Port Isabel Rd. 
Northern Bobwhite

A great time was had by all. Special thanks to Teresa Cigarroa Kek and Susan Foster for orientation and support.  Until next time, Texas!


Unknown said...

Enjoyed your pics. Sounds like a fun and delicious adventure. Going to the ACES annual membership dinner tonight. Stop in Rockport the next time you are in Texas.

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