At 9:10 AM this morning, I was sitting on the front porch of Benton Basham’s trailer. Benton spends his winters in the “Tropical Zone” of Estero Grande State Park. Please remember that this is THE Benton Basham-first birder ever to reach over 700 species in the ABA Area in one year. This was now my third day wandering the five acres unsuccessfully searching for the Rose-throated Becard. Monday’s wind had kept the birds down and I rationalized that the becard would stay low as well, but yesterday had been disappointing indeed. The perfect weather conditions and increased bird activity were causes for early enthusiasm, but after eight hours of walking that enthusiasm had morphed into disappointment. There was a Tropical Parula and even a life Indigo Snake,
but the Rose-throated Becard was a no show. Normally when a becard does settle in to a spot in The Valley it remains there for the winter, but I was quickly running out of time on this trip. I needed to catch the 6:00 PM Southwest Airlines flight out of San Antonio, which would require me to hit the road north by around 12:00 PM. I was resigned to the realization that it may have vanished and I would either miss it or be forced to return on another trip.
This morning began in a promising fashion. Maybe it was the good night sleep or the perfect weather, but good things were happening. In a page out of the theatre of the absurd – four Bobcats (a mother and three kits) walked down one of the asphalt roads.
I mean I realize that this year has seen me in the field a whole lot, but these were my eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh Bobcats of the year!
Two Spotted Towhees, unusual in the Valley where feeding in one of the Texas Ebony trees and there were multiple mixed flocks of foraging birds, but I still couldn’t find the becard. I’d walked all of the roads in the entire loop and frankly was a little tired so I plopped down on one of Benton’s chairs to watch his hummingbird feeder. I was pretty bummed out. A chaseable Graylag Goose had turned up in the Montreal area, but what was the point of missing the becard to chase after that goose? Anyway I focused on the hummingbirds, things would sort themselves out. For the next ten minutes I watched several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a female Black-chinned Hummingbird and at least two Buff-bellied Hummingbirds visit Benton’s hummingbird feeder. For some reason I looked up, and there before me, bathed in the morning light was the cinnamon-rufous color of what could only be the upper parts of a female Rose-throated Becard. I swiveled my camera and snapped off these two awarding winning (rumor has it they will soon to be published in National Geographic Magazine) photos.
Then I rushed out to one of the asphalt roads and began waving to Mike Delasantros and his wife to come quick. Mike ran up in time to see it fly back into the private in holding behind the locked gate. Disappointment suddenly turned to utter ecstasy! Number 734! A save at the eleventh hour! Texas had come through once again! Thanks, Father Tom! This was my fifth year bird for November and there are still two weeks till December 1st.
Anyway, I still had a couple of hours before I needed to hit the road so I drove over to Quinta Mazatlan, a historic adobe hacienda in McAllen, TX. It’s an urban sanctuary that I had been invited to visit for some birding. I didn’t think I’d be able to with the difficulty of finding the becard Imagine how surprised I was when I walked up and noticed this sign next to the front door! Thanks so much Nora Leos for the warm welcome.
Anyway a brief hour visit turned up some interesting birds including White-eyed Vireo and Paraque as well as a Red-bordered Pixie Butterfly.
As I write this I’m once again in the air headed home. Tomorrow I’ll update all of you on my immediate plans. Stay tuned, I’m headed east once again.