Sunday, April 7, 2024

Fences, Jays, and things that go Hoot in the Night


So, if you build a fence around your house, yet one without a gate, they would call it a decorative fence.  If you built a pasture and put a fence around it on three sides, you would be chasing cattle all over the countryside and the other ranchers would laugh at you.  Here near Roma, Texas, they are building a wall (Texas is paying for it), billions of dollars' worth of wall, yet the wall has a door, (many doors) a door for Olaf to go through as well as anybody trying to get in or in my case...out.  Is it decorative, is anyone laughing?

My wife and I went out to the Santa Margarita Ranch north of Roma, Texas it was a guided trip with Cameron Cox, who does many of the day treks.  We sat and watched the Rio Grande for a while, hoping for something interesting to fly by.  The tiger heron that had been here and seen by many had disappeared two weeks back so I would not tally that lifer bird.  We saw local specialties post up and some fun ducks on the river.

A Mexican duck on the US side of the river

Silja had tripped over our cat Snoball and was injured, having hurt her calf muscle but was game with a game leg and came with and was able to keep up slowly.  After nothing exciting was going on, we went walking to the brown jay area.  Many butterflies were in flight, so I took the time to identify two lifer butterflies, both very small ones.  I snapped some photos.

Elada Checkerspot

Texas crescent

We did not see the jay and Silja kept on the bench and the rest of us went exploring.  One man wanted to see a seedeater, and I just wanted the brown jay.  I returned to the bench and Silja proudly showed me pictures of the jays she had seen in my absence on her cell phone.  That begat an uneasy 45 minutes as I hoped they would return and my wife would not have a lifer bird up on me.  All that came were noisy golden fronted woodpeckers.

But as the guide and the other birder returned so did the brown jays and I had tallied my lifer bird for the day, second for the trip.

That was about all to say about this day.  We ate at Stripes, we avoided the Starr county and state troopers, We paid the $140 per person fee, I guess a bargain for lifer bird 829 and drove back to camp.  Camp was having an "Olympics" Silja won woman's cornhole, and then there was an event called Charmin-Plunge (what can be done with two people, male and female, a plunger and a roll of toilet paper).  We participated in it, and set the best time so far on our first run, then on our second run, Olaf went for broke, blew away the competition but on crossing the finish line in 7.4 seconds, wiped out backwards and injured his wrist and other body parts.  That was it for our "Olympics" but a gold medal and bragging rights for people we did not know was (almost) worth it.

Now both of us were injured so, we took it easy for a few days until our second outing at the Santa Marguerita Ranch.

Mottled owls have 2 documented ABA appearances.  On Feb 23, 1983 a road killed specimen was found near where we are camping in Hidalgo County.  It was a suspected find, with many thinking it had fallen off of a truck.  The bird does live about 60 miles from the US-Mexico border, however.  In 2006, for five days over July, another one was seen here.  As such, it was a bird on few people's bird lists and few thought they would ever see,

Then, they found one on the ranch north of Roma in Starr County while calling for tawny-collared nightjar, a bird never seen in the ABA area but lives even closer.  This mottled owl has stayed put in the few trees on the US side of the border.  The night outings are once or twice a week and last night twenty-one of us went out and we were not disappointed.  It was like they knew exactly where it hangs out.

  The mottled owl is a species I never ever thought I would hear let alone see (unless I was in Mexico or in Central America, but I have now seen it.  It sang once, we looked at it for a minute and then it flew away silently into the night, and we looked for other night creatures.

Western screech owl

  We found a screech owl and saw no illegals, one border guard, heard a coyote, and lots of frogs and common pauraque's.  There was a poorwill way out in the distance and a lesser night hawk and a couple of great horned owls near or on the border wall. 

We saw a blind snake (one of two species) which was better than the six foot diamondback seen brown jay hunting by the other two birders.

All of this fun for just $100 seems the tow guides doing this have a little business venture , but for an owl of this magnitude, again, a bargain.

Tomorrow through the haze and clouds we will look for the eclipse near Eagle Pass, what will we see, if anything, I shall report to you....

Home at 2 am from owling and up tomorrow before dawn to drive to a celestial event wears on an older I am hitting the hot tub...the wrist is sore but hopefully on the mend....campground games....we need to pass on them in the future.  Cats...well we love the cats...Snoball is doing fine.

A three lifer trip! far



  1. The RGV has been very good to you. -Dave

  2. Greetings from the windy city...... near 50 mph in Milbank, yesterday.


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