A postcard from south Texas

2009 May 3
by David J. Ringer

MCALLEN, TEXAS — I’m still giddy from tonight’s encounter with Pauraque, and I’ve got to get up early to keep on birding, but I’m thinking of you, dear reader, and wanted to share a couple of today’s spectacular birds. I’ll post more when Charley, Lisa, and I return from our south Texas tour.


Altamira Oriole


Plain Chachalaca

Related posts:

  1. Nest-building Altamira Oriole
  2. Long-lost South Florida photos
  3. Picking up again in Texas
  4. Boat-tailed Grackle: Iris color in Texas
  5. A postcard from Timor
10 Responses
  1. May 3, 2009

    Are you at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge? My parents lived in Alamo for 20+ years so we went south for many, many Christmases. Have fun–you’re missing lots of bad weather up here.

  2. May 3, 2009

    Sorry you missed all the thunderstorms. Well, ‘jealous’ would be the right way to put that—as opposed to ‘sorry’… This looks like a great trip for you: the photos are most excellent! Beautiful birds. Looking forward to later reports–and pictures.

  3. May 3, 2009

    A bunch of my friends just got back from the RGV. They saw some great stuff. I went once in 2005. It was amazing.

  4. May 5, 2009

    Hi folks,

    I’m a novice birder in SE Texas, but would like to bird in South Texas within the next week.

    Which parks / locations do you recommend?

    Also, what’s the “yield” of birding in S. TX for, say, 1-2 days? I’ve noticed that even in SE TX during spring migration, if I go to, say, High Island, I won’t see too many species (maybe a max of 30).

    How do you see 100 or more species in a day?

    Finally, is Corpus Christi very different from the High Island or Rio Grande Valley area, in terms of species seen? Is it worth spending a day there if I’m from Houston and don’t have time to go to the RGV?


  5. May 5, 2009

    My main question is this: On an average birding day in early May, is the RGV an order of magnitude better than, say, High Island?

    If not, then I’d rather conserve my limited time and head over to High Island.

    Don’t get me wrong: I love to bird!! It’s just that I hate wasting huge amounts of time on the road, or hiking about in the heat with the intent to bird but not really seeing or hearing any birds.

  6. David J. Ringer permalink*
    May 5, 2009


    In terms of migrants (warblers, vireos, orioles, flycatchers, tanagers, buntings, shorebirds, etc.), there is not necessarily a significant difference between the upper coast and points farther south. The number and location of migrants along the coast depends on weather conditions, and with the strong south winds that we’ve been having, the trans-Gulf migrants tend to keep right on going once they reach the coast, resulting in low numbers even at famous places like High Island. If weather conditions are similar elsewhere on the coast (and they are right now), then the birds will be about the same as well.

    Down in Corpus Christi, you can start to pick up permanent residents like Green Jay and Buff-bellied Hummingbird that you don’t (usually) get in the Houston area. These specialty birds increase in abundance as you head south from Corpus and are joined by other characteristic birds of the RGV like Plain Chachalaca and Altamira Oriole.

    To get 100 species or more in a day, you have to have 1. luck and good timing (a hot day with winds from the south isn’t helpful) 2. a diversity of birding locations (you aren’t going to get 100 species standing in the forest), and 3. sufficient skill in identifying all groups of birds by sight and by call.

    I doubt you’re any more likely to get a high number of species by traveling to the RGV than by birding a variety of sites near home, but you will get many spectacular species that don’t occur in Houston.

    Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary are all outstanding spots in the Valley, but even there, you can go through hot, birdless periods. But the birds of the Valley are very, very special.

    Hope this helps.

  7. May 5, 2009

    Thanks very much for your excellent reply, David! Answered all my questions.

  8. Debbie Hatfield permalink
    May 6, 2009

    Great pics, David! Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

  9. May 22, 2009

    Beautiful Plain Chachalaca, and best presented in the matural habitat.

  10. May 30, 2009

    Brilliant chachalaca shot, David. El Valle is incredible.

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