Monday, March 18, 2013 set records in the Rio Grande Valley for hottest temperatures since the mid-1930’s. Temperatures topped out at a reported 103 degrees in Donna, Texas, where we are spending our evening.
The day began before sunrise by travelling to San Ygnacio, in search of the White-collared Seedeater. We were taken to a site by John Williams on the Rio Grande River which was overrun with thick vegetation, primarily cane plants. Although we missed the Seedeater, we were able to see “life” birds including Long-billed Thrasher, Plain Chachalaca, and Muscovy Duck. After about 90 minutes we left the site along the river and moved to other Seedeater locations.
At the Zapata library, we ran into other birders from Massachusetts who were great to talk to about their birding history in the Rio Grande Valley. They were making their annual visit to the Rio Grande Valley for birds and I was able to learn quite a bit about the progression of the birding culture.
After Zapata, we headed toward Falcon Dam State Park where we met with Ellen, the resident bird feeding station caretaker. On top of getting great looks at beautiful birds from a covered patio, we were able to talk to Ellen who had been working at Falcon Dam State Park for the last several years. She and others visiting the feeding station were able to answer many questions and broaden my knowledge about the local birding culture. The most interesting bit of knowledge I learned was that last Thursday someone set fire to key bird watching land for reasons which I am still not completely sure of. I hope to find out more in the coming days, but I suspect competing parties are interested in the land for different uses, potentially involving the drug war across the Rio Grande.
We also visited this site in Salineno, but because of the very high temperatures the number of birds was low. Overall, we did well regarding our bird list for the day considering the temperatures, but tomorrow at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge will likely be significantly better. Temperatures should drop to the nineties and we will be attending a guided walk, hopefully resulting in much more species in a shorter amount of time.
Regarding our lodging for the next several nights, we are staying in a Bed and Breakfast specifically for bird watchers. We met another visitor, who was visiting for two weeks from British Colombia. I’m looking forward to meeting more of the visitors and talking to them about why they visit the area and how they feel about bird watching in the Rio Grande Valley. Now, a little after midnight, I will step outside once more in an attempt to locate a Common Paraque which has been seen around here before I go to bed. There’s no doubt birding in the Rio Grande Valley is an all-day affair and requires dedication, commitment, and sunscreen.