South to the El Canelo Ranch, afternoon of 5/18/15

All photos are © Marshall Faintich

We had made reservations for the night at the El Canelo Ranch about 10 miles north of Raymondville on Hwy 77. After going back through San Antonio, we left I-37 as soon as we got to Hwy 281 and headed due south. Along the way we saw another life bird, Cave Swallows flying from under almost every overpass. We stopped for a quick lunch where I saw a Western Kingbird.

Western Kingbird

When we got to Hwy 141, we turned due east, and stopped the car so I could get some photos of Cave Swallows that were nesting under the Hwy 281 overpass.

Cave Swallows

Cave Swallow

A short distance after that, Walt stopped the car and pulled over when he saw a hawk flying low to the north side of the highway. By the time he pulled over and I jumped out of the car from the passenger side, all I saw was the trailing half of its wings and its spread tail, as it dove almost head first behind some tall vegetation and landed. We waited for a few minutes, but never saw it re-appear.

I wasn’t able to get a good look at its wings, but with bright sunlight shining on the hawk, its wings looked gray or possibly mixed black and white – not enough time for me to tell, but I got a great look at its spread tail. It had multiple, high contrast, black and white tail bands that were all narrow and of equal width. We checked our copy of Sibley’s book that we had with us, and thought that the best match was a Gray Hawk. But upon my return to Virginia, I looked at hawk specialty books, and the tail pattern looks to be more like that of a juvenile Zone-tailed Hawk, or possibly a juvenile Gray Hawk. The tail bands were more numerous and thinner than that of an adult Gray Hawk. But the juvenile Gray Hawk tail pattern is pictured as brown and white, not black and white, and the small scale range maps seem to show that where we saw this hawk was a bit out of range for a Gray Hawk, but possibly in range for a Zone-tailed. Either one of these hawks would have been another life bird for me, but since we could not confirm what kind of hawk it was, we didn't count it.

A short distance later, we saw our first of many Crested Caracaras on this trip, and then our first Swainson's Hawk of the trip.

Crested Caracara

Swainson's Hawk

When we were close to reaching Hwy 77, we stopped when I saw another hawk sitting on a power line. It was the palest Red-tailed Hawk that I have ever seen, and was probably either a partially albino hawk, or it had some Krider's sub-species Red-tailed Hawk genes.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

When we approached Hwy 77 to head south again, there was a short access road before entering the highway. Between the access road and Hwy 77, there was either a small pond, or a depression where water from previous rains had collected. We saw a Laughing Gull overhead, and in the water were a couple of Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals, several Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, and another life bird: a small flock of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks.

Black-necked Stilt and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Fulvous Whistling-Ducks

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

We turned south on Hwy 77, and saw a few Harris's Hawks on the power lines.

Harris's Hawks

Farther south, we stopped at a picnic area where we saw a few birds and my sixth life bird of this trip: a beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

It was getting late, but we stopped again at a rest area before turning off of Hwy 77 for the El Canelo Ranch. There were several Great-tailed Grackles, and a male and a female Hooded Oriole.

Female Hooded Oriole

Male Hooded Oriole

Click here to continue on the trip to the El Canelo Ranch

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