A nice bike/hike trail wound along the arroyo, and birds called from the heavy reeds and underbrush. Large Grackles followed us, but I decided to take a closer look at one group and had a big surprise. They weren't Grackles, but Groove Billed Anis! What appeared to be a Red Tailed Hawk flew before us every time we neared it. I'm still not sure what it was. A bird resembling a tern or other sea bird winged overhead. At a distance it landed on a power line and we took a better look. No, not a sea bird, let's walk closer. It's a raptor... a White Tailed Kite in fact!
The arroyo clogged our boots with mud, still soft from the last time the water rose. The water was an odd gray color, moving swiftly, and we wondered if fish lived in it. A turtle peered up at us from below a bridge and said he lived there and liked it just fine, gracias. If I ever planned to stay here more than a week or so, I'd have to take Spanish lessons just to listen to the radio!
We aren't sure if any other kind of woodpeckers live here or not. The Golden Woodpeckers are all over. Dick thought he saw one with a red head, so we'll keep looking.
Each bird with a yellow belly might be a Kiskadee, but when we did not find the eye stripes on the face, we realized we had a Couch's Kingbird, another lifer. Kiskadees call their own name, which we appreciate. As the rain started to fall in a steadier mist, we drove on to Weslaco, TX, and the Valley Nature Center. Since George Bush is pictured as governor on the Birding Trail brochure, we realize that it may be out of date in parts... (sigh) The Center opens at 11 am on Sunday, or so the brochure says, and we arrived about 12:30 to find that it doesn't really open until 1 pm on Sundays. One man was there filling the feeders to lure in the birds, and he kindly allowed us to enter early. We didn't see large numbers of birds there in the afternoon. Several kinds of Doves walked on the ground, including this nice Inca Dove. Its distinct feathers remind me of an armadillo's scales. By the way, we have yet to see an armadillo on the roadside. A pair of Plain Chacalacas (another lifer) burst across the path squawking loudly at each other. They are large birds, and at first I thought they were Road Runners, until we realized a Road Runner wouldn't be in this dense underbrush. Many birds chirped in the dense foliage, just out of sight. One came right out were we could see it, chipping indignantly that we were in the territory of a Buff Bellied Hummingbird - another lifer! Now we are in the condo on South Padre Island and have groceries for the next few days. The beach called us, despite the lowering skies, so we went for a walk. Somewhere we heard about Black Pelicans, but can't find any mention in the big Sibley book. Brown Pelicans floated over the waves, and Skimmers scooped up dinner in the near darkness. Mist from the waves, combined with blowing sand perhaps, make a snowy appearance over the shore and the condos. Let's walk on the beach in the mornings before breakfast and see how else gets up at sunrise in January...