This is my first bird festival where I am attending field trips. During the 5 day festival, I attended morning field trips from 6am – 1pm, afternoon speakers and interacted with many other birders day and night. It was wonderful to walk and see birds with people of all abilities. For me, the guides and fellow birders provide support in locating and identifying birds seen or pointing out birds I would have missed if on my own. My goal in coming to the festival is to see different birds. We are not far from the Mexican border and the Gulf of Mexico; there will be different birds than from landlocked Arizona!
Here are the trip locations and number of new birds seen by me at each location:
South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center , SPI Convention Center & Valley Land Fund lots – this was actually my second visit to the Birding & Nature Center since I went on my own a couple of days prior. With my festival group and guide, I added 10 new birds to my list at the listed above locations: buff-bellied hummingbird, clapper rail, Magnolia warbler, bronzed cowbird, short-billed dowitcher, dunlin, red knot, white-eyed vireo, golden-fronted woodpecker and groove-billed ani.
Kings Ranch – Norias
The next morning we drove to a section of Kings Ranch and I had 3 new birds: Couch’s kingbird, Sprague’s pipit, and after three hours of searching we finally saw a ferruginous pygmy-owl!
The next day I birded on my own at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and found 2 new birds: plain chachalaca and long-billed thrasher. I actually had a better photograph of the plain chachalaca in upcoming days but I am including it here.
The next day was many degrees colder, damp and overcast. I found myself wearing a pair of pants and fiberfill jacket, winter hat and gloves. The birds seemed to have hidden deep in the shrubs. At Sabal Palm Sanctuary on the Rio Grande River, I saw an olive sparrow and black-crested titmouse. We were not having that much success here. Our hiking boots had tons of clay on them. We were walking on trails muddy from the previous night’s rain. So we went to the RGV- University of Texas campus. It’s a beautiful campus, we saw a number of birds and my new ones were: greater scaup and social flycatcher.
The next day, our last day of the festival, was a park I liked best: Estero Llano River Grand Park. We saw many birds and 2 birds I would never have seen unless the guides pointed them out. They were a common pauraque and a McCalls Eastern Screech owl.
San Benito Wetlands
That afternoon a few of us birded at San Benito Wetlands. My new birds were a white-tailed kite, least grebe and a fork-tailed flycatcher. We had a fun time trying to identify birds as we saw them. At one point we saw 4 birds high in a tree. We identified them as 3 scissor-tailed flycatchers and 1 fork-tailed flycatcher, yet we were unsure of our identifications. If correct, this would be the first fork-tailed flycatcher any of us had seen. We were thrilled when another group yelled up to us and asked if we saw the 3 scissor-tailed and 1 fork-tailed flycatcher … yeah, yes!
Afternoons I attended the various speakers, the trade show and checked out the silent auction. The festival was very well organized. It is wonderful having such a positive experience at a festival … not only for the birds, but the many nice people who also attended. It was a joy to be in such a positive experience. I look forward to more opportunities. I suspect I will see some of these people again at other festivals. Come to the Southeast Arizona Festival each August in Tucson, Arizona.
Final tally: I saw 140 different bird species. Thirty-five bird species were new to me! WOW!