On Tuesday morning (February 6th) we traveled to the extreme tip of southern Texas, and I got my first look at the border.
Very near the tip of Texas is the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, which was originally a late nineteenth century plantation.
We spent just over two and a half hours here, and I picked up three new lifers: White-tipped Dove, Olive Sparrow, and Altamira Oriole. We waited for a Buff-bellied Hummingbird to visit the feeder for some time, until we realized that there was no nectar in it. We did eventually see a hummingbird come by, but didn’t get good enough looks to identify it. We also got good looks at a Least Grebe, a bunch of duck species, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and a bunch of other common Texas species like Green Jay and Black-crested Titmouse. As it turned out, we would see all these species again later in the trip, but this was still a very fun and interesting spot to visit.
The terrain had definitely changed now, and the Gulf Coast part of our birding trip was at an end.
In an extreme change of scenery, we next went to the Brownsville Landfill.
I am not in the habit of visiting landfills for birding, but a Tamaulipas Crow had been visiting here recently, and this very rare visitor (to the U.S.) would be a life bird for all of us besides our leader. Unfortunately, we were skunked at this location.
After a quick lunch at an interesting burger joint, we went to a location marked in ebird as Aplomado Viewing Area.
The Aplomado Falcon is a very rare bird in the U.S. and this was probably our only chance to get a look. We waited and waited, but unfortunately we had no luck again. These misses are what make the finds exciting in birding!
We had a quick stop at Resaca de la Palma State Park, but it was getting late in the day and there was nothing particularly exciting around. Besides, we had one more stake-out: in Brownsville there was a growing population of parrots to look for.
Oliveira Park is a community park with soccer and baseball fields and basketball courts. Only our leader knew what we were here for, and with all the misses this day, there was some skepticism that we would actually see anything. I busied myself with taking photos of a cooperative Loggerhead Shrike.
After some time passed, the group was suddenly amazed by the appearance of Parrots! To me, this is an extremely exotic bird to see in the wild, and I was excited to see a few of these birds. But after another fifteen minutes, I was absolutely blown away by hundreds of these guys flying in. By now, larger groups of people had appeared in the park as this was a known roost location for the parrots, and we followed the large flocks around as they made a loud racket and showed off their colorful plumage.
The majority of the birds were Red-crowned Parrots. They have established a stable population which may have started as some escaped birds – although they are really not that far from their native range. There were also several other species which were most likely escapees, although their numbers were such that it seems they must be breeding in the wild now.
This was an amazing site to see, and if you are ever in the Brownsville area in the evening, I highly recommend it.