So many of you "MOBIRDERS" helped to make my birding trip with my family to the Lower Rio Grande Valley a "trip of a lifetime" - and it surely was! I decided to send a my big "THANK YOU!" to the list. 

We birded from dawn to dusk everyday for our 11 day trip, hit every area on our itinerary but one (Estero Llano Grande, Santa Ana, South Padre, Laguna Atascosa, Salineno, Falcon State Park, Anzalduas, Quinta Mazatlan, Frontera Audubon, even Bentsen, but we never made it to Boca Chica - bummer) and came back with amazing memories, adventures, a better bird education and 87 Lifers (in my case). 

Learning so many things, I could gush more than my usual novel, but I will refrain and share just few things.  For instance, seeing a Wilson's Warbler in the LRGV, though not a lifer bird for me, was a Lifer in a way.  I was shocked by the stunning brightness of the yellow -  and sleeker shape of the bird.  Upon looking it up, I learned that the Wilson's Warbler has 3 subspecies - and the name given for the subspecies with this "brightness" found in Texas is "Wilsonia pusilla chryseola," - "chryseola" meaning "brightness." 

Another wondrous discovery was the difference between the male and female HOOK-BILLED KITE.  Before I traveled to Texas, I'd studied only a few plates of this bird, focusing on the gray adult male - and not really expecting to see it. It wasn't until the last day there, with one hour to bird before leaving for the airport, that I lucked into seeing one - and it was a stunning female!  

I knew it was the Hook-Billed Kite right away by the outstanding characteristics of her gray head, hooked bill, and white eye, but I didn't expect the large band of rufous around her neck, the strong, evenly spaced red and white stripes down her belly and the dark brown wings (I was thinking the stripes and wings should have been gray, due to studying the adult male) - so I doubted myself until I looked up plates of her later. The match was exact..  

Also, upon seeing her, I had yelled out to those nearby, "It's a Hook-billed Kite!"  One man present who had birded Texas for years verified I was correct, but another small group got there just as she flew away and acted skeptical.  I think that was understandably due to jealousy. She was an amazing bird. So, anyone birding the LRGV, study up!

Yes, the LRGV is bird candyland, as Edge has said.  And for the truly curious, here are my Lifers from Texas, in order of sighting (I am aware that there are a number of birds amongst my 87 Lifers that I might have been able to see in Missouri):

Great Tailed Grackle (first day, right out of the airport - we thought we were so lucky...then we discovered just how prolific these guys are in Texas, tee, hee)

Roseate Spoonbill
Tri-colored Heron
Altimira Oriole
Green Jay
Loggerhead Shrike
Harris Hawk
Black-crested Titmouse
Great Kiskadee

(I thought the Green Jays and Kiskadees were going to be hard to find, except at feeders.  Ha!  They were everywhere!  As well as the Chachalacas, Black-creasted Titmice and Loggerhead Shrikes.  The doves were all easy to find, too. Now, the Rose-throated Becard was a bit harder.  I nicknamed him the Rose "bibbed" Becard.)

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (Does that count as a lifer?  I had only seen the Myrtle up until that point)

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Neotropical Cormorant
White-tipped Dove
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Olive Sparrow
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Shoveler
Common Moorhen
Blue-winged Teal 
Least Grebe
Inca Doves
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Long-billed Curlew
Reddish Egret (both morphs)
Caspian Tern
White Ibis
Spotted Sandpiper
Black-necked Stilt
Marbled Godwit
American Oystercatcher
Least Tern
Royal Tern
Northern Harrier
Pied-billed Grebe
Marsh Wren
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
Crested Caracara
Vermilion Flycatcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Rufous Hummingbird
Cinnamon Teal
White-tailed Kite
Curve-billed Thrasher
Couch's Kingbird
Tropical Kingbird
Cave Swallow
Stilt Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Green Heron
Common Pauraque

Sora  (I was particularly proud of my "Sora" sighting skills.  Finding the Sora a number of times in Texas has me eager to find more rails.  What a fabulous bird that Sora is!  Once, I was surrounded by quite a few folks on a deck at Alligator Lake at Estero Llano Grande when I sighted one - and said so out loud. The long-time birders present couldn't sight him, so no one believed me - 'cause the little guy had gone and hid.  I kept looking for him to come out, but was misled by the movement of a few Common Yellowthroats in the reeds.  In my frantic effort to refind the Sora, I made the mistake of commenting out loud in frustration at one point, "Darn, that's a Common Yellowthroat."  If people didn't believe me before, well, now they thought I'd mistaken a Common Yellowthroat for a Sora!  But patience paid off. The Sora came back out and, voila!  Everyone had a good look through our scope.  Defending the family birding reputation tickled my

Clay-colored Thrush
Eastern Screech Owl
White-tailed Hawk
Yellow-throated Warbler
Black Phoebe
Ringed Kingfisher
American Avocet
Red-shouldered Hawk
White-faced Ibis
Green Kingfisher
White-winged Dove
Common Ground Dove
Audubon's Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Black Vulture
Lark Sparrow
Pine Warbler
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet
Green Parakeet
Rose-throated Becard
Western Meadowlark
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Red-crowned Parrot
Cattle Egret
LeConte's Sparrow
Greater Yellow Legs
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Lesser Goldfinch
Tropical Parula
Hook-Billed Kite

Again, thanks to all who helped make this trip so very very special.  In particular, I want to thank Edge Wade, Leo Galloway, Dave Haenni, John Solodar, Cheryl Delashmit, Bob Fisher, Jennifer Reidy, Jane Allen, Jo Strange, Al Smith, Kathleen Anderson, Marge Lumpe, and Mike Grant.  Without all of you, this trip would not have been the marvelous dream come true it was.  

Thank you all again,
Chris McClarren
St. Louis South City
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