by Mary Beth Stowe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
published February 2017
The Lower Rio Grande Valley boasts many
specialty birds, and we are blessed with many
birders who come from all over the world to
see our special birds! But among the larger
group of "general" birders, there are those who
will make a special effort to come all the way
down to see a "mega-rarity" - an avian visitor
from Mexico that they desire to add to their
North American (aka "ABA") list!
This winter we had a very special "visitor"
- one you might call a "reverse" Winter
Texan! A female Amazon Kingfisher (a bird
that normally ranges from the central coasts
of Mexico down through South America to
northern Argentina) showed up in Laredo the
tail end of October 2016, and stuck around at
least through mid-January 2017, drawing birders
from far and wide, as this was the third US
record of this bird!
During the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival
in November, special vans made the three
hour trip up there just to see this bird (one van
boasted all four kingfisher species on that trip)!
Ironically, I had already gotten the Amazon
Kingfisher for the year during a September trip
to Costa Rica, so I didn't feel the "urge" to go
up there, but we soon got a call from Keith's
friend George who definitely wanted to see the
bird, so we were on our way!
It was a beautiful day: we arrived at Zacate
Creek where the good news was that there was
a group of birders already there, but the bad
news was that they hadn't seen the bird yet!
Several people told us that the bird often moved
over to Tres Laredos Park after 9:00, so we
headed over and again were encouraged by the
same group we had encountered at Zecate, only
to discover that we missed the bird by about
ten minutes! But she had flown upriver and
around the corner, so we hoofed down towards
the bridge, where there was a small tributary
that forked off and we suspected she had gone
down. So we set up watch, enjoying Green
Kingfishers, Great Blue and Black-crowned
Night Herons, and an Osprey in the meantime.
Soon another birder spotted the Amazon deep
in the vegetation on the other side, and eventually
she came out and perched in the open
(but still on the Mexican side), and after what
seemed an eternity she finally went after a fish
and then did a "victory lap" over the river where
(as best as we could determine) she did fly into
American air space!
So George was a
happy camper as this
got him closer to his
goal of 800 ABA
birds! We even had
time to stop at Salineño,
and Lois put out feeders that attract many of
the colorful Valley specialties, including the
sought-after Audubon's Oriole!
Word gets around, and George had shared his
Amazon Kingfisher adventure with his friend
Howard, who in turn made arrangements to
come down and add another hot bird to his
ABA list! My friend Pat tagged along, and
we enjoyed stupendous fly-by looks at Harris'
and White-tailed Hawks and Crested Caracaras
on the way! After parking in the pullout just
under the bridge, we headed over to the little
overlook, and there was lady Amazon, right
where we left her last time! So Howard settled
down to enjoy her while Pat scanned for other
stuff, and we had a pair of
Green Kingfishers and one
female Ringed, in addition
to a few White-faced Ibis,
a couple of herons, some
coots, and a Gadwall.
A side trail produced some flyover Monk
Parakeets before we headed back home (again
with a stop at Salineño).
So after a couple of trip reports on the listserves,
I received an e-mail from yet another
couple who wanted to go chase the Amazon!
Unfortunately, this time she was a no-show;
we tried to salvage the trip with a pair of Black
Phoebes and Green Kingfishers, plus a Ringed
Kingfisher that flew overhead calling, but even
trying to find some
White-collared Seedeaters nearby
came up empty,
with no time left to
even stop at Salineño. However, the
happy ending was
that there were other
targets they had
on their list, and the
next day we bagged all but one! Yes, chasing
birds can be fun, but we all agreed that we can't
let that rob us of the joy of simply enjoying our
more common feathered friends!