Gulf Coast and Rio Grande Valley (October 1996)

I had business in Mississippi the first week of October, during which I had limited time for birding. I saw BLACK SKIMMER, TRICOLORED HERON, and MOTTLED DUCK at Bayou Sauvage east of New Orleans. I saw COMMON NIGHTHAWK over the parking lot at my hotel in Slidell. I saw a WHITE IBIS at a small park on Rte. 90 east of Slidell. Thanks to a tip from Dan Purrington, I saw RED-COCKADED and RED-HEADED WOODPECKER across the highway from Fontainebleau State Park. I drove about an hour east of Stennis Space Center and saw SANDHILL CRANE, BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH, and YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER in the vicinity of a wildlife refuge. Unfortunately, I arrived too late to do any birding inside the refuge. I unsuccessfully searched this area for Bachman’s Sparrow. On the way back, I stopped along the Gulf Coast and saw PIPING PLOVER and ROYAL TERN. Following another tip from Dan, I tried again for Bachman’s Sparrow in some fields in Louisiana but had no luck. Following a tip from Richard Keiffer, I heard an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL in a park near Tulane University one evening.

After completing my business, I drove down to the Rio Grande Valley. It was raining hard when I arrived and was supposed to continue raining for 48 hours. The trails at Santa Anna NWR and Bentsen SP were covered with a thick mud that kept forming huge cakes on my shoes. At Santa Anna, I saw LEAST BITTERN, ANHINGA (a flock flying over), BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK, PLAIN CHACHALACA, GREEN KINGFISHER, GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, GREAT KISKADEE, COUCH’S KINGBIRD, GREEN JAY, TUFTED TITMOUSE (black-crested form), LONG-BILLED THRASHER, OLIVE SPARROW, and WILSON’S WARBLER. This was not bad considering the conditions. It was a thrill to be birding in such an exotic place for the first time despite the weather. I saw a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK capture a dove near Pintail Lake. At Bentsen SP, I saw INCA DOVE, WHITE-TIPPED DOVE, PAURAQUE, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, NASHVILLE WARBLER, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, SWAINSON’S HAWK, and ALTAMIRA ORIOLE. I was at Bentsen as the storm front began to break up and saw a huge flock of warblers that had been grounded. It took half an hour for this flock to work its way past me. A huge flock of swallows flew over. It took about 15 minutes for them all to pass. It was quite a sight. My binoculars became soaked when I looked up at an ALTAMIRA ORIOLE in the rain. I took them apart and dried them with the AC in the car.

At Laguna Atascosa NWR, I saw WHITE-TAILED HAWK, WHITE-TAILED KITE, LONG-BILLED CURLEW, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, VERDIN, CURVE-BILLED THRASHER, PAINTED BUNTING, GREATER ROADRUNNER, and a female SUMMER TANAGER. I almost missed the PAINTED BUNTING. I heard a call from a small bird that I almost didn’t bother to check. I was quite impressed by this bird and glad I didn’t miss it. I drove out to South Padre Island and saw ROSEATE SPOONBILL and SANDWHICH TERN. I stopped by the Brownsville Dump, where I met a birder from Germany and saw MEXICAN CROW and CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN. Along the road, I saw many GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES and several HARRIS’ HAWKS and SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS. I spent my last day in Texas at Falcon State Park, where I saw CACTUS WREN, ROCK WREN, and PYRRHULOXIA. I spent most of the afternoon unsuccessfully searching for Black-throated Sparrow, which is supposed to be abundant at Falcon SP. Late in the afternoon, I decided to start back to New Orleans. Along the road, I saw CRESTED CARACARA and, just as the sun was about to set, finally located a BLACK-THROATED SPARROW, which sang for me. This was a great way to end the trip.

The list below was prepared for an international bird count. It includes birds seen between Sept. 28 and Oct. 13. Most of these birds were seen on the trip to the Gulf Coast and Texas. Some of them were seen in the Washington area.

Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga*, Least Bittern*, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron*, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis*, White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill*, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck*, Canada Goose, Mottled Duck*, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Harris’ Hawk*, Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk*, White-tailed Hawk*, Crested Caracara*, American Kestrel, Plain Chachalaca*, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill Crane*, Piping Plover*, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew*, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern*, Sandwich Tern*, Forster’s Tern, Black Skimmer*, Rock Dove, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove*, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove*, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Greater Roadrunner*, Eastern Screech-Owl*, Great Horned Owl, Common Nighthawk, Pauraque*, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher*, Red-headed Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker*, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker*, Downy Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker*, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet*, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Brown-crested Flycatcher*, Great Kiskadee*, Couch’s Kingbird*, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher*, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Green Jay*, American Crow, Fish Crow, Mexican Crow*, Chihuahuan Raven*, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Verdin, Brown-headed Nuthatch*, Cactus Wren, Rock Wren, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Veery, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Long-billed Thrasher*, Curve-billed Thrasher*, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler*, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-Throated Blue Warbler, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Summer Tanager*, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia*, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting*, Olive Sparrow*, Eastern Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow*, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle*, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Altamira Oriole*, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow