Sunday, November 3, 2013

Santa Margarita Bluffs - November 3, 2013

I went scouting the Santa Margarita Bluffs birding access today for a trip for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.  Wow, some days I love the volunteer tasks I assign myself!  

I had forgotten how stunning the vista is at the Santa Margarita bluffs.   This access is separate from the old river access and is a short if potentially steep hike from a caliche road (the steep bit can be skirted through some cenizo and thorny brush with caution).  I was last in this area in the early 80's (!).  This is a private ranch with an admission fee and requires pre-arrangement for a visit; contact me for information until I get an email address to share.  The view is spectacular; I'm not sure this iPhone panorama does it justice.
Looking upstream - north - the spillway at Falcon Dam is in the distance, and Salineno and Chapeno are in between. The riparian corridor is intact on both sides of the river, and easily birded with a good scope. 
 The view downstream is still in good light even early in the morning; the river runs nearly north/south at this point. Lots of birds were following the river, including Sandhill Crane, White-fronted Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, and more.  Waterbirds are still arriving in the area. 
I was pleased to see two flyby Yellow-headed Blackbirds - new for my Tamaulipas list - and the stunning find, an adult Bald Eagle that perched out of view in Tamaulipas.  Twice it chased the Osprey upstream from Salineno (I think) and tried to steal a fish from it; there were at least nine Osprey in the area along with many Gray Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and a few Red-tailed Hawks.  One Zone-tailed Hawk got up with the vultures. 

I didn't see any Red-billed Pigeon, but this vista is perfect for watching for them - and seeing the White-winged Doves that sometimes fool unwary birders that only see them from below.  Muscovy Duck fly low to the water, so you'd have to concentrate on the river to catch a view of them before they are past you.