Today was an amazing day- the Rio Grande Valley in Texas delivers! Not only did I see my share of birds today, but I also picked up an unexpected visitor, who decided at dinner tonight that I would make a fine meal too. I carefully extracted the arachnid and sent him on his way out the car window. 

I started the day at the Wal-Mart closest to Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park. A large roost of grackles roosted in the palms along the parking lot, and I woke up to violet birdsong. After fixing some peaches n creme oatmeal on the hood of my car, I made a quick dash down the street to the park, hoping to bush wack into the interior of the park away from roads and trails, and try to find the Hook-billed kites others have been seeing in the morning. Before embarking on my off-trail adventure, I checked in with border patrol to see if it was safe to travel alone. The first officer told me I should be fine; there were "only 6 illegals" that crossed during the night, and hadn't been located yet and could be somewhere in the park. I didn't see them, but managed to find many shed layers, empty water bottles, hats, and shelters built to hide/protect illegals from the sun and border patrol. I snaked my way through the dense brush, avoiding cacti, snakes, and border patrol the entire way to the hawk watch platform. 

After less than an hour, one hawk watcher spotted 3 raptors soaring high above the park- I called one a Hook-billed kite after finding it in my scope- all the field marks were present, and on top of that it was a dark-morph male! The distance, and vibration of the wooden platform made getting great shots difficult, but you get the idea: 

Male Hook-billed kite, taken at a distance with my iPhone

Male Hook-billed kite, taken at a distance with my iPhone

Green Jays were everywhere! I had seen this species in Texas last month, but never spent any time photographing them, so the few extra minutes I had this afternoon, I spent trying to digiscope some Green Jays with my iphone and phone skope adapter. Success! 

Green Jay, digiscoped with Phone Skope, iPhone 6 + Swarovski ATX spotting scope

Green Jay, digiscoped with Phone Skope, iPhone 6 + Swarovski ATX spotting scope

A roosting Common Pauraque, which I was lucky to spot and digiscope with my iPhone 6 and Swarovski scope, using a Phone Skope adapter

A roosting Common Pauraque, which I was lucky to spot and digiscope with my iPhone 6 and Swarovski scope, using a Phone Skope adapter

While enjoying the morning's birds from the hawk watch, I visited with some folks and had a great time learning about everyone's experiences as birders. Before long, it was time to press on and keep birding. I finished the day looking for Aplomado Falcons at Laguna Atascosa along the coast. No luck tonight, but I did stop at headquarters and stumbled upon a beautiful female Crimson-collared Grosbeak. This rarity I spent hours searching for last month at Frontera Audubon, and was unable to get any quality photos- this time was different! Definitely a great way to finish the day. Hopefully I'd find Aplomado falcons the next morning, before heading to the panhandle on my way to Colorado. 

Crimson-collared Grosbeak                 Canon 5D and 500mm lens

Crimson-collared Grosbeak                 Canon 5D and 500mm lens