Sunday, March 31, 2024

A Fan of Warblers


It was old-time birding. Drive, drive, drive, crawl into a hole in the brush, wait patiently, slap mosquitoes and then see nothing consequential.   Crawl out, decide to pack it in, see a couple birders about a block away and wonder what they are looking for, and drive back to camp without asking them.

The fan-tailed warbler has vexed me before.  I dipped in Arizona before Covid, missing it by half a day and when I saw one in Brownsville show up, I had just been there and knew we would be coming this way in the spring, and figured it would be gone by the time we showed up or, just before I flew in, so I stayed in Florida and wrote.  I just could not justify a chase.

We drove this week to the Lower Rio Grande Valley for the eclipse and some birding.  It was somewhat uneventful on the 1400-mile journey.

I saw the first (apparently) documented limpkin in Orange County Texas

We camped near Rockport, Texas on the beach at Goose island State Park, missing the whooping cranes by a day.  Then arrived in Edinburg on Friday.  Silja promptly stepped on our cat and tripped significantly hurting herself, but Snowball is just fine.  Now she has a limp and has not birded with me.

Seeing that the fan-tailed warbler (seen much earlier this winter in Texas) had been refound, I could not resist going after it. This species is actually a bird from the other side of the Sierra Madre in Mexico, and how and why one got on this side of the mountains, it a story no one knows. With the potential of a rare lifer, I drove down to UT-LRGV campus to see it, but as it turned out, the only bird I found that I had never seen in the US, was a red-lored parrot.

The problem being, that this species of exotic is not on the official list, so all I got was a photo of a bird I had seen in Costa Rica in 2019.
As noted, I was looking for the warbler in the wrong spot and saw nothing, meanwhile 200 yards away, it was seen by four birders, one even got a photo.  This bird is not that easy to photo since this bird likes living in the shadows deep in the undergrowth and does not sit still.  I needed some more luck.

So, with Silja still hobbled, I returned to the scene of the crime.  I stopped at Stripes and had the usual birder breakfast today for an Easter morning, that is, a breakfast taco and bug spray, I usually try to not spray the bug-spray on the taco, but that is not absolute.  Finding where some crazy birder had trapsed into the underbrush (or maybe it was a wild pig?) I followed.  It was wet with dew, full of thorns, ruts, brush, and it was very buggy.  I kept thinking that I needed some luck, since this bird was about to reach "NEMESIS" status, that is, three dips.  I wondered, maybe I should take my clothes off for luck?  No one was on campus, and I was in the middle of the brush anyhow, but then not watching where I was stepping, as I found an opening, I slipped and landed on my bum. A bird landed on my hat.  I saw the yellow belly of the fan-tailed warbler on the brim looking at me like it was mocking me, OR maybe just sparring the world from naked Olaf, who knows with birds.  The birding Gods were being kind, that was certain.   

It was even too close to photo, too close to do anything, and it wandered off and then luckily in the murky hole I was in, it showed up again. It hesitated just enough to get a few somewhat focused shots.   I had the iso at 2000 and it was not high enough, but I got the bird!  And a photo...

I crawled out of my hole after seeing it feed with some olive sparrows and I found a couple of German birding tourists.  I gave them the quick skinny and somewhat reluctantly they followed my game trail back into the brush, hopefully as lucky as I was, and hopefully they had bug spray.

ABA Continental 829 (including the cattle tyrant probably will be added to the list), as I try to clean up some long-lasting missing birds I need.  World lifer 1909.  

Tomorrow, hopefully, another bird and another story.


Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...