2000 - Rio Grand Valley - Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club of Dutchess County, New York

Twelve intrepid birders, members and honorary members of the Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club of Dutchess County, New York, met in Corpus Christi, Texas on April 14, 2000 to explore the magic of South Texas birding. Total miles – about 1500.

April 14 – After everyone’s arrival at the Corpus Christi airport, the group managed a bit of birding before dinner along Up River Road, Nueces River Park and Hazel Bazemore County Park. This was the first introduction to area birding with Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, White-winged and Inca Doves, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker being new birds to many. Many Brown-headed Cowbirds roosted in the courtyard of the motel that evening. After dinner at the Roadhouse and an introductory meeting, it was off to bed for an early morning. Temperature - 80°.

April 15 – 7:15 am to the Padre Island causeway, Padre Island National Seashore, Port Aransas Birding Center, Flour Bluff Flats, Kingsville by 4:00 pm. Temperature -- 65° - 82°. Birding highlights – Peregrine Falcon (with Blue-winged Teal in talons), Reddish Egret (both color phases), steady stream of migrating Barn Swallows, Western Meadowlark in bright color and full song, Roseate Spoonbills (pink birds), Gull-billed, Caspian, Royal, Forster’s, Sandwich, and Least Terns, Least Bittern, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Al’s Duck), Whimbrel, and numerous other herons and shorebirds. Alligators in the pond at Port Aransas.

April 16 -- Left Kingsville at 6:30 am for El Canelo Ranch where we birded from 7:30 to noon. Lunch in Raymondville. Afternoon birding at Valley International Airport, Harlingen; Hugh Ramsey Nature Park; Fort Brown vicinity; and Los Ebanos in Brownsville. Late dinner at Tony Roma’s. Temperature -- 65° - 90°. Birding highlights – The resident Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls greeted us almost immediately at El Canelo. Other ranch birds included Pyrrhuloxia, Barn Owl, White-tailed Hawk, and a magically appearing Vermilion Flycatcher. The road back to the highway produced Northern Bobwhite and Wild Turkey and a Big Ole Bobcat. The airport area produced our first Upland Sandpipers and a bit of birding along an arroyo gave everyone their first taste of the Coke-bottle sound of the White-tipped Dove. Green Parakeets and a Green Kingfisher at Fort Brown and Red-crowned Parrots at Los Ebanos topped off the day.

April 17 – 6:45 am left for Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Old Port Isabel Road. Bought lunch at Port Isabel and spent the afternoon at Laguna Atascosa. Supper at Joe’s Crab Shack. Temperature -- 68° - 92°. Birding highlights – Good looks at White-tipped Dove, Plain Chachalaca, Sora, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Least Grebe at Sabal Palm. Along Old Port Isabel Road the Boterri’s Sparrow would call but not be seen, but this was offset by fantastic looks at one of the Aplomado Falcons which have been reintroduced to this area. The picnic area at Laguna Atascosa gave everyone a quality experience with Green Jay. The refuge was depressingly dry but sharp-eyed Carol spotted a lone Wilson’s Plover on the dry playa.

April 18 – 6:50 am to Weslaco Cemetery and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Lunch and siesta. Nocturnal birding at Bentsen State Park. Back to motel at 10:30. Temperature -- 72° - 95°. Birding highlights – The day started with a few Red-crowned Parrots leaving their roost. White-eyed Vireo popped into view. Then it was off to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. The rarest bird of the trip, a Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, was most cooperative as it sat in the shrubs along the dike singing its heart out. This vagrant from Mexico is seen only rarely in the Valley. A Ringed Kingfisher flew by but not everyone got good looks at it. A resident Red-shouldered Hawk circled the area and periodically Broad-wings flew over. One Hook-billed Kite was high overhead but the shape was distinctive. Back at the old manager’s residence area the Ruby-throated and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds were out in force, feeding on the shrimp plants. Although the Clay-colored Robin was singing, only a few group members got a good look. At Willow Pond a young Purple Gallinule put in an appearance.

The evening began at Bentsen by watching the Elf Owls feeding. Although a walk along the dump road was unproductive, a return to the “owl corner” produced great looks at Eastern Screech Owl. El Paraque proved to be quite difficult in the wind and although everyone saw at least one, it was definitely a BVD – “better view desired” – moment.

April 19 – 6:15 am departure for Anzalduas County Park which opened at 7:20. Bentsen SP from 10:00 to 12:00. Lunch and siesta with a return to Anzalduas and Bentsen. Temperature - 70° - 88°. Birding highlights – The target bird for the day, Rose-throated Becard, was not to be seen, probably a combination of a late gate opening and high winds. However, a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet was most cooperative as it came close and nearly eye-level for all. Tropical Parulas called and one bird sat still long enough for everyone to have Questar views. Clay-colored Robin sang briefly and then disappeared. A nesting Gray Hawk was a treat. Ken & Carol wandered toward the river and were lucky enough to see a Swallow-tailed Kite. The wind once again made birding tough. The evening found us surrounding a singing Clay-colored Robin which managed to cross the road undetected. That was the essence of the bird. A few kettles of Broad-wings, Swainson’s, and Mississippi Kites moved past and a Swallow-tailed Kite was in one kettle.

April 20 – 5:00 am departure for Salineno and Falcon State Park. Brunch at Rancho Café, Roma. Falcon Dam Spillway and Chapeno. Nocturnal birding at Falcon State Park. Temperature -- 75° - 90°. Birding highlights – Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Red-billed Pigeon, Muscovy, Green-tailed Towhee, Greater Roadrunner, Lesser Nighthawk, Paraque. This was truly a day of birding from dawn to dusk. The first bird was a Ringed Kingfisher that got more color as the light got better and the last were Paraque and Lesser Nighthawks by the light of the Visitor Center at Falcon.

April 21 – Left motel at 6:15 am. Chapeno, El Rio RV Park, Los Arrieros Loop, Salineno Dump Road, lunch at Rancho Café, return to Salineno, dump road. Siesta and dinner with nocturnal birding (and synchronized driving) on the Zapata airport road. Temperature -- 75° - 94°. Birding highlights – Brown Jay, Great Horned and Barn Owls, Muscovy, Black-throated Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Cactus Wren. If anyone has had a better look at a Painted Bunting, I’d like to know how. Jerrie proved once again that one can sit in air-conditioned comfort and see good bird up close and personal. While everyone else was chasing around trying to get a glimpse of a Verdin, it sat a few feet from her window!

April 22 – 6:45 departure. Zapata Library to Lost Maples with stops at the rest area north of San Ygnacio, IBC in Laredo (walking the streets of Laredo), Uvalde, Nueces River. Birded windy Lost Maples in the afternoon. Night in Kerrville. Temperature -- 68° - 88°. Birding highlights – After frustration at the library, a White-collared Seedeater teed up for scope views at the rest area overlook. Chet’s assignment for the long drive to the Hill Country was to get a count of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. We ended the day with 116. A stop along a side road produced elusive Bell’s Vireos that proceeded to let some members of the group brief looks. A Horny Toad was more cooperative although Nature Lady wasn’t sure when he charged her. The wind at Lost Maples made birding very difficult but the Black-chinned Hummingbirds were coming to the feeders at the visitor center.

April 23 – Left at 6:45 am for Johnson Canyon and Dewberry Hollow. 9:00 am breakfast followed by birding at Kerr Wildlife Management Area and Neal’s Lodge. Birded Farm Road 30 and County Road 331 on the way to San Antonio for the night. Temperature -- 63° - 98°. Birding highlights – Golden-cheeked Warbler, Scrub Jay and Common Raven. After breakfast we got great looks at a pumped Black-capped Vireo at Kerr. The Frio River at Concan was full of people on Easter afternoon but most of the group got to see the Black Phoebe. Canyon Wrens called from up on the bluffs. Working our way to San Antonio we found a number of sparrows and had good looks at Clay-colored, Grasshopper, Vesper, Savannah, Lark, and Chipping.

April 24 – Left San Antonio at 7:00 am for the return to Corpus Christi. Birded the north end of Lake Corpus Christi along Farm Road 534. Drove through the grasslands of the Knolle Dairy Farm and stopped briefly at the Wright Ranch pond. Last lunch at Whataburger before flights home. Birding highlights – Two lingering Greater White-fronted Geese, Purple Gallinule for Jerrie, White and White-faced Ibis, and Pectoral Sandpiper at Lake Corpus Christi. A good look at Western Kingbird for Chet. Anhinga at Wright Ranch. We ended our trip with nesting Roseate Spoonbills.


  1. Aplomado Falcons have been released in the Atascosa area. For the last few years released birds have bred along Old Port Isabel Road. The bird we saw is the off-spring of these birds.
  2. Chuckar is not recognized on the official Texas state list. The game farms throughout Texas regularly release Chuckars for hunting. The bird hiding under our vans was almost certainly one of these birds.
  3. Gray-crowned Yellowthroat is an extremely rare vagrant to the Rio Grande Valley. While many of the sightings have been questioned and may be hybrids or immature Common Yellowthroats, the bird at Santa Ana showed no characteristics of Common Yellowthroat and will likely be accepted by the Texas Rare Bird Committee.
  4. The White-crowned Sparrows at Falcon were of the eastern nominate group (Zonatrichia leucophrys leucophrys), similar to the birds that occur in New York State.
  5. The Red-shouldered Hawk seen at Santa Ana was the Texas sub-species (Buteo lineatus texanus).
  6. Titmice seen throughout the trip were Black-crested, recognized as a species by some authorities but not currently on the ABA list.
  7. The Horny Toad that attacked the Nature Lady was Texas Horned Lizard.
  8. Green Parakeet and Red-crowned Parrot, regardless of their origins, are now both recognized as established breeding populations in the Rio Grande Valley.