Altimira Oriole At Black Oil Sunflower Feeder

Orioles are not birds that one typically associate with being seed eaters but this Altimira oriole at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park certainly seemed to dig them.  Most of us think of orioles as nectar, fruit and jelly feeder birds but I've seen them sample seed and suet when Baltimore orioles arrive up in Minnesota and Wisconsin in early spring during a cold snap.  This bird had ample access to a suet log (at least until a chachalaca took over the feeder).

I didn't think orioles had a beak strong enough to crack open sunflower shells but I suspect that this bird found a few hulled sunflowers left behind by started red-winged blackbirds.  Interesting feeding behavior to witness.

Speaking of Altimira orioles, does anyone else think their nests resemble a certain anatomical feature on a 70ish year old man?


Bentsen Rio Grande State Park Birds via iPhone

South Texas, as always was SO much fun.  Even if you choose to do some casual birding you can still hit all the specialties.  I took a mini break down there over the weekend to hang with a girlfriend and since we had both been there, each day we slept in and let our bodies wake us rather than our alarm clocks and enjoyed the local Mexican restaurants and headed to our favorite parks.

I always have a soft spot for Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. It's the first south Texas park I ever visited in the Rio Grande Valley and where I got most of my Texas specialties like the above green jay (you can get them at most of the parks, but like actors who portray The Doctor, you never forget your first).  Sitting in the balmy 60 - 70 degree weather with my scope and bins really made the tension melt from my bones.

Though walking and biking are fantastic ways to enjoy this Texas park, the bird feeders really deliver. The birds went crazy for this log filled with peanut butter. There was even a clay-colored thrush (or clay-colored robin as some field guides call it). These sometimes zip over the border from Mexico but I haven't seen one since Panama.  Not that I really note that, but I guess I got a new bird for my US list without even trying.

I really clicked with using my iPhone 4s for digiscoping rather than my Nikon D40.  I'm hopeful that by the time spring arrives, I will no longer go out with that camera and only go out with my iPhone...we'll see.  Hand holding has been okay but not as nice as having an adapter.  But since I was having such luck in Texas, I tried taking video at the feeders...I was hand holding but it turned out okay.  Ignore what the people are saying during the oriole part.  They were sitting next to us and talking about a different bird than what you see in the video.

I loved those great kiskadees.  They were "peanut butter catching" at the feeder like they would for aerial insects.  As a matter of fact, because the kiskadees were so fast, they people next to us thought they were grabbing flies attracted to the feeder.  But check out these stills I grabbed from the video:

That's a beakful of peanut butter!

Even the plain chachalacas got in on the peanut butter action...I don't think I saw a single woodpecker come to that feeder.

Besides all of these there were warblers checking it out as well (warblers in January, what a gift to this Minnesota girl). We didn't see them, but many reported that bobcats come to hunt around the feeders too...needless to say, we didn't see squirrels.

Thank you, Bentsen State Park, for a lovely afternoon.


Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

My goodness, I'm tired and just about birded out (as well as incredibly itchy and somewhat stinky). The Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival should almost be called the Birder Reunion Bird Festival since so many of us show up here and connect. I started my Texas birding adventure with a field trip to Bensten-Rio Grande Valley State Park. This was the first place I birded the first time I came to this festival years ago. I love it because it gives you a good sample of the valley specialties. What makes this area to bird so fun is that for a Midwest Girl, you can find yourself in a tropical and exotic area on the cheap. Look at the water and the palm trees in the above photo--how could you not love that?

And the birds are crazy looking to add to the exotic appeal of this area, like the green jays. I never get tired of green jays. Seeing something like that makes you feel like you're on another planet, especially when your husband calls and tells you that it's snowing at home.

And it's not just the birds. Instead of squirrels under the feeder, Bentsen as javelinas! These guys were under every feeding station we visited and weren't that scared of humans, they must have a sense that we won't hunt them and I would guess they know humans are the ones who replenish the bird feeders.

Feeding javelinas is ill advised, as they can easily mistake a finger for a peanut butter sandwich and no one wants to go home with few fingers.

One of the coolest birds in the park was a roosting eastern screech owl. The bird is perched on the edge of a cavity in the tree trunk. Check out how well the bird's feathers blend in with the bark--incredible. This was a particularly exciting eastern screech owl, park staff told our group that it was a mccallii, and it's quite possible that the American Ornithologists' Union will make it a separate species from eastern screech owl. So, I kind of banked a life bird for another day.

Another specialty of the area is the buff-bellied hummingbird also known on Cornell's Birds of North America as the "least-studied hummingbird that occurs regularly in the United States." It's a Mexican species that breeds along the gulf coast and makes it across the border into the US.

Another part of birding in south Texas that is unique is watching helicopters for the border patrol pass by. This helicopter was really low and kept going down to one particular patch, leading us to wonder if some people illegally crossing the border had been found.

All part of the fun.

Okay, fatigue has hit me, more later.