Valley Bound! 

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! 

Mom’s Big Year hit the Valley at this time last year. Here I dipped on Vesper’s Sparrow, but I’m still smiling!

Ready to tear up Texas with me?!?

Xo, Nancy 

Next trip?

Hi everyone!

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.

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Taking a break from work and birding to celebrate the holidays with dear friends!

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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!

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!

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Can you guess where I’m heading?

Hint: I just bought some extra thermals yesterday!

 

 

Finer than frog hair!

Wednesday, 11/2/2016

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!

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Mom’s Big Year – Team Texas:  Gabriel, David and Martin… Day 1 – Salineno
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Seedeater hunting- Nancy, Martin, David and Gabriel

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.
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Nancy, Martin & Gabriel (taking the pic) setting the game plan for Wednesday

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!

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Post Northern Jacana SMILES!

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!

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Martin, David, Rich & Nancy a minute after seeing the Amazon Kingfisher- MEGACHECK!  Thank you, Rich!

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’.

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The star of the week-  Amazon Kingfisher.  Photo courtesy of Mary Gustafson

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.

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Birding Estero Llana Grande (my FAVE spot in the Valley) for Vesper Sparrow and Groove-billed Ani- target birds

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!”

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Well, the way this week has been going so far…That makes TWO of us!

Down to business…

 

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!

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SoCal Pelagic!
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Burrowing owl
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Olaf and Nancy- Big Year fusion!
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Point Loma

 

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.

Stay tuned!!

I’ve got the 500 mark on the horizon.

Look out Texas!

I’m here…

and I’m READY!

xoxo, Nancy

Alpine & the Davis Mountains ~ Texas Day 5

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! 🙂

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Bill and David, birding in the Davis Mountains
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Always FUN to run into fellow guides!  Simon and Emilie (left) with their tour from NC.
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My son might be disappointed fishing in this river 😛 , Madera Canyon
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Madera Canyon Trail
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Wild Turkey
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McDonald Observatory
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Impromptu tour of the inside of the Hobby-Eberly telescope from one of its mirror specialists
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The Hobby-Eberly Telescope

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***

Dark Energy.

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! :

325 Say’s Phoebe – Sayornis saya
326 Cactus Wren – Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
327 Curve-billed Thrasher – Toxostoma curvirostre
328 Cassin’s Kingbird – Tyrannus vociferans
329 Acorn Woodpecker – Melanerpes formicivorus
330 Hepatic Tanager – Piranga flava
331 Black-headed Grosbeak – Pheucticus melanocephalus
332 Western Wood-Pewee – Contopus sordidulus
333 Plumbeous Vireo – Vireo plumbeus
334 Western Bluebird – Sialia mexicana
335 Phainopepla – Phainopepla nitens

 

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The Saddle Club in Alpine, TX

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 JewettIMG_7093

Marian, Bill, Gwen and Nancy

 

Texas Day 3 ~ Love Creek Preserve

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