Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Rare Roadside Hawk

As part of my preparation for our SW trip, I joined birder email groups in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas. One of the big deals for the last ten days has been the roadside hawk, a rare species from Mexico, that showed up at Falcon State Park.

I’m not that serious a birder, but getting more serious, and that sort of locked in our next destination from Goose Island. This place is right on the Mexico border, next to a big international reservoir, and full of birds and birders. People drive here just to try to see the hawk.

Yesterday was our first day here (it’s a nicely laid-out park filled with Canadians and folks from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and elsewhere north. Very few New Englanders.

I was out walking Penny just after dawn (which comes here late so far west in the Central time zone) when a car stopped and asked me if I knew where the roadside hawk was. I passed on some news I’d heard about possible locations and returned for breakfast. Later that morning, they drove slowly by again -- still no hawk.

A little later, I was talking with our Oklahoma neighbors (who have been coming here for 23 years) when the same car stopped, rolled down the window and reported, “He’s down by the recreation area in the top of a tree.”

I grabbed my binoculars and walked down in that direction. Passing the recreation hall, a young man asked me if I had heard of any hawk sightings and soon he and his parents were walking with me down the road, where up ahead, we saw a small group of birders set up. (It turns out that my companions had driven over from Louisiana just to get to see the bird -- every day a bunch more show up.) Sure enough, the young hawk was sitting in full view in a big bare tree, easily visible by binoculars. I could make out the striping and coloration but when I had a chance to look through a spotting scope, it was even more remarkable. He posed for ten minutes or so and then flew off, not to be seen the rest of the day.Later, while watching birds at a feeding location, Penny suddenly bristled and growled and lo and behold, a javelina sauntered out and started eating dropped bird seed. The iPhone picture doesn’t really capture how close he was.

We are seeing some amazing birds -- most of whom never get up our way. Green jays are spectacular as is the vermillion flycatcher. Today we saw all three orioles resident here: altimira oriole, Audobon oriole, and the hooded oriole. Visiting a sanctuary filled with golden-fronted woodpeckers, Great Kiskadoos, and orioles reminded me of the first time I snorkeled in tropical water. It was sensory overload.

So, Mary and I have given up snow for Lent. But we are reveling in the wonders of this part of our country.

Roadside hawk photo by Wagner Machado Carlos Lemes
Green jay photo by JunCTio

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