Super excited to return to the Rio Grande Valley today! A favorite hotspot for Mom’s Big Year, the Valley NEVER disappoints! I’m absolutely thrilled to return to Harlingen for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. https://www.rgvbf.org. If you haven’t experienced this incredible event, go ahead and put it on your calendar for next year!
I’ll be leading trips Thursday and Friday and will present “Mom’s Big Year” Saturday at 2pm, followed by a Big Year panel at 3:30pm. (If you’re in town, talks are FREE with your Kiskadee Pass.)
Looking forward to seeing many of you there and throughout the festival!
These last few weeks I’ve been doing the mom/work thing.. This week alone has been filled with band/orchestra concerts (5 concerts in 7 nights!!!!!), basketball games, Girl & Boy Scout meetings, holiday parties, the usual grocery shopping/meal planning, school projects etc etc.
Because of all the crazy busy days and nights- I owe you blog posts from the second half of my fabulous foray through Texas and my success in ticking Short-eared Owl (#499!) a couple weeks ago here in Maryland. More on those soon… Perhaps I’ll get to write them after I send out LAST year’s Christmas cards I never sent. Lol!
All in a Mom’s Big Year, right?! 🙂
This weekend we had a dusting of snow….our first of the year! After church, Sunday, I headed over to Maryland’s Eastern shore to see if I could tick #500.
Spend almost 3 hours of driving and 3 hours searching for a reliable Northern Shrike.. but missed it.. It was nowhere to be found! Rats! Thanks to John and Meg Harris from the Howard County Bird Club for making the trek with me!
the conciliatory dark chocolate
dipped on the shrike- but still smiling
Now I sit in the airport for my final planned trip for Mom’s Big Year!
Took a moment to look up from my laptop and this is my view. It’s a beaUUUtiful start to what I’m CERTAIN will be an INCREDIBLE trip!
Can you guess where I’m heading?
Hint: I just bought some extra thermals yesterday!
Well, it’s been an AMAZING few days in the Rio Grande Valley and I still have a few more days of hard-core birding left!
I am beyond thrilled with the birds I’ve ticked here so far. I have my “Texas A-team” with me and the plan is to leave No. Bird. Unseen. And with this crew, we’re actually gonna make that happen!
Meet Team Texas:
Gabriel Lugo– fellow Wildside Nature Tours guide, came ALL the way from Puerto Rico, just to lend a hand. NO bird slips by Gabriel.. that’s for SURE. Gabriel chauffeured the team the entire week for hours on end..from Amazon Kingfisher to Aplomado Falcon to Northern Jacana and back, several times!
David Stekoll– Uncle David has joined me once again to ‘tear up’ Texas for Mom’s Big Year. I’m SO super thankful to have another serious birder in the family! He’s the BEST! And fortunately, he’s still talking to this Yankee after driving across Texas for Mom’s Big Year(Austin to Big Bend and back) with me for 7 days in May. Lol! We got 86 birds on that trip… It was EPIC!
Martin Hagne– reigns from the Texas Hill Country and has been an indispensable part of several Mom’s Big Year adventures. He knows the ‘ins and outs’ of Texas birding and birds – especially the entire Rio Grande Valley- like the palm of his hand! Martin joined the Mom’s Big Year – Arizona edition in August and has so kindly spent hours helping to plan the Mom’s Big Year itinerary.
And very special thanks to Greg Miller this week -and beyond- for his constant support, guidance and for serving as a major resource to me throughout the entire year. I certainly could not have done it all without him. Mom’s Big Year was actually his idea! A shout out to Raymond VanBuskirk for his updates on some local targets this week and to Rich Kostecke for re-finding the Amazon Kingfisher on Tuesday while we were there!
Our first day here we drove the 3.5 hours to Laredo to test our luck. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a shot at the Amazon Kingfisher! And…. WE GOT IT!
This is only the 3rd time EVER that this bird has been seen in the US… so it’s considered a MEGA-rarity in ‘birding speak’.
As if things couldn’t get any better, in just two days, I’ve added several new birds to my year list, including Sprague’s Pipit and Northern Jacana.
After lunch today, I was walking out of ‘Fat Daddy’s’ roadside restaurant near Estero Llana Grande and a frail-looking old-timer in a cowboy hat said a polite and chipper “Hello! How are you?!” as I exited. Basking in the successes of the day so far I responded, “FANTASTIC, how are you?!”
He enthusiastically replied, as only a Texan could,
“I’m finer than frog hair!”
Well, the way this week has been going so far…That makes TWO of us!
Just arrived in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas today after a fantastic and VERY fruitful trip to San Diego.
I spent three full days birding, including a pelagic trip out of Mission Bay. Southern California exceeded my expectations for sure! I ticked 46 new species and brought my total to 475 for Mom’s Big Year!
Very special thanks to Steve Ritt for providing me an unbelievable amount of help and expertise to make this such an ‘over-the-top’ successful trip! And thanks to Paul Lehman for meeting up and for providing additional useful info regarding my target birds.
Day 5 provided a fantastic opportunity to soak in breathtaking views high up in the Davis Mountains of West Texas and add some more birds to the list. As always, the pictures don’t do this place justice. You’ve just gotta GO!
We connected with our new friend, Bill Sain, in Alpine the night before, ran over to ‘The Post’ in Marathon for Elf Owl and then headed to the Davis Mountains first thing on Thursday. (A shout out to Martin Hagne for putting us in touch with him!) Special thanks to Bill as he SO very kindly set aside Wednesday night and all day Thursday for us. We share LOTS of mutual friends in the birding world, but hadn’t had the opportunity to bird together until now. Bill’s such a sweet and fascinating person. I’m certain it’s not our last birding adventure together! 🙂
We missed a couple targets, but just enjoying our time high up in the picturesque Davis Mountains MORE than made up for that!
We even got an impromptu tour of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope from a telescope mirror specialist at the McDonald Observatory. (You KNOW that tour was a real treat for all of us, especially this science teacher!) The telescope is currently being updated to perform world-wide collaborative research on……….
****cue background Twilight Zone music now***
Yes, if you’re in the hard sciences.. It’s a thing. VERY cool!
Here are the new year birds we had in the Davis Mountains. # 350 is within reach! :
We ended the day with a lovely dinner of tapas at The Saddle Club in Alpine with Bill’s wife, Marian and mother, Gwen. You can probably tell from the picture above, this Yankee just KNEW she was NOT in Maryland anymore! 🙂 Fun!
As I reflect on our day with Bill, this quote keeps coming to mind.
Yes’m, old friends is always best, ‘less you can catch a new one that’s fit to make an old one out of. ~Sarah Orne Jewett
Those of you who know me, know that BIRDS and FRIENDS are my two favorite things. 🙂 So, if you put good birds and good company together in a great PLACE, then, in my book…. it’s *magic*! Continue reading →
A VERY special and sincere note of thanks to our friends, Jane Tillman and Mark Lyons, for meeting up with us early Monday before we headed west.
Together we hit Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park in Austin to try for Chuck-wills-widow and got ’em! After birding the park for a few hours, we had success adding the following new species for the year.
And thanks to Jane for her enthusiasm and sharp strategizing for Mom’s Big Year and to Mark for all his support! Jane’s recommendations were ‘spot-on’ and produced many more birds throughout the adventure! Thank you, Jane!
We spent the afternoon at Pedernales Fall State Park. A lifer Golden-cheeked Warbler was a REAL treat for me! And we had a chance to watch a male Painted Bunting take a bath.. That’s a bird I was tickled to see for the first time earlier this year after drooling over it in a book when I was 5 years old. I’ve been dreaming about seeing it ever since then! New year birds at Pedernales included the following–although we did hear Bewick’s Wren loud and clear in the morning at Commons Ford too.
Stay tuned for a review of Day 3 tomorrow..
MORE birds AND friends!……My two favorite things! 🙂 ❤
Well, I can’t believe it was just over a week ago that I stood face-to-face with a Colima Warbler in Big Bend. With the long list of end-of-the-year kid activities (picnics, concerts, play-off games etc.) we’ve been running (but enjoying!) this week and it honestly feels like my big Texas adventure was a million miles ago. I’m finally getting a break in the action to start sharing it with you. I’ll recap the highlights over the course of the next week.
Uncle David from Austin was my fabulous travel companion and we wasted no time in getting our big adventure started! We went straight from the Austin airport to Hornsby Bend and some local ponds and picked up several species before packing the car to head west on Monday. It was fun to run into The Nature Conservancy’s Rich Kostecke and Vee Na at Hornsby Bend and add some new birds along the way. Other highlights included photographing a Least Grebe mom and chicks and catching a barn owl at dusk. 🙂
Least Grebe mom and chicks
David awaiting the Barn Owl
Here’s the list of new species we added to MBY (Mom’s Big Year) on day 1: