7 birds added to a life list of decades
On the days leading up to the trip and through the hours flying to Mcallen, Texas, one question kept tickling my imagination: what would be bird number 500?
I began noticing birds when I was three years old. I began watching birds when I was 5 years old.
I began learning about birds when I was 11 years old. I began looking for birds when I was 17 years old. But I didn’t start listing birds until I was 20 years old.
Life-listing is the record-keeping tally that accompanies the recreational pursuit of finding and identifying live birds in the wild.
When a person finds and identifies a species of bird for the first time, that species becomes a life bird and is tallied on that person’s life-list.
Many enthusiastic birders take life-listing so seriously that they travel extensively to find birds. For many of them achieving 500 life birds happens within a few years.
For me, it’s been a few decades!
Visiting Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in far southern Texas and right on the Rio Grande offered me a chance to achieve that 500 life bird mark.
Finally. If the birds cooperated.
When I landed at the Mcallen airport, I had 492 birds on my life-list.
We got our rental car and were headed to find and settle into our Air B&B place when we passed a golf course where I found one. MUSCOVY DUCK >>
493. Up early the next day, we headed to Santa Ana. We got our entrance permit at the visitor center and walked into the refuge. We were barely a hundred yards in when a large bird swooped across the trail in front of us. GRAY HAWK >>
A very large orange bird with black markings soon become repetitively obvious. ALTAMIRA ORIOLE >>
495. After lunch we visited Bentsen-rio Grande Valley State Park and paused at a birdfeeding station. One new bird whisked by affording little more than a half second look, not very gratifying. Another new bird fed on the ground in plain sight. PLAIN CHACHALACA >>
496 OLIVE SPARROW >>
Park rangers advised me not to worry; the chachalacas would find me. Sure enough, the next morning we arrived at Bentsen about the time park staff were filling the birdfeeders outside the visitor center. Two dozen chachalacas energetically worked the feeders, and we saw them regularly every day after that. A few even followed us on the trail! At the feeders with the chachalacas was another new bird. CLAY-COLORED ROBIN >>
That afternoon, we went back to Santa Ana and walked the nearly two miles around Pintail Lakes then to the hawk-watch tower and a side trail back to the visitor center. We had just turned the bend at Pintail Lake when a large bird fully half again larger than our familiar belted kingfisher swooped across the lake and landed in full sight. RINGED KINGFISHER >>
499. The day was ending and while we stopped to rest out of the 80-degree heat, that niggling question tormented me once more: what would be bird 500?
That will be revealed next week!