Thursday, November 21, 2013

Amazon Kingfisher!!

In 2010 during my lower 48 big year, the first ever documented amazon kingfisher in the ABA area was found in Laredo, TX in late January.  I was in Arizona at the time and stuck with my plan for a few days of birding there, but then decided to try to see the kingfisher on my way home.  Because I waited, I missed it by 2 days, but did run into Jay Lehman at the site.  This is one of the key lessons of anyone doing a big year--when a rarity shows up, the rule of thumb is to stop whatever you are doing and chase the bird.  When another amazon kingfisher was reported about 2 weeks ago near Harlingen, TX, Neil Hayward and Jay Lehman both immediately flew to TX, and were rewarded with a really rare and beautiful bird for their big year lists.

I thought about going to look for it from Sunday to Tuesday of last week, but had a long road trip planned with my brother and sister that was scheduled to begin last Wednesday, so I chose to hope that the bird might stay around.  When it was reported again 2 days ago, I decided to fly down to the Rio Grande Valley.

I arrived in McAllen about 2:15 yesterday afternoon, and immediately drove the 45 minutes to the site.  When I arrived there were 3 birders there who had patiently been waiting for several hours.  Belted, ringed and green kingfishers had sporadically been seen, but no amazon.  About 4 PM two birders from Oregon stopped by in hopes of seeing it again.  They had had good views of it about 4:30 the day before.  By 6 PM it became too dark to see well, so we all headed off hoping for better luck the next day.

I was the first to arrive at the two resacas at 6:30 this morning.  Other birders began trickling in soon thereafter.  We again saw belted and green kingfishers to keep our hopes up.  Several forster's terns came thru about 8 AM.  Finally just after 9 AM the female amazon flew up the resaca from the east, and landed right in front of 2 of us (click on the photo to enlarge).  Even when enlarged, the bird was far enough way that from my photo you can't fully appreciate its relative size to say the smaller green kingfisher, and particularly its bill, so I also have added the photo below taken by Neil Hayward. 

It gave us about 2 minutes of good viewing before it flew over the small side road, and landed on the far edge of the adjacent resaca which was about 100 yards west of us.  From there for the next 5-10 minutes it slowly worked its way along the edge feeding and perching which gave all the other birders good looks at it before it disappeared.  There were plenty of high fives as everyone climbed back into their cars.  I came back by the site about 10:45, and was able to watch it again briefly before it flew off.

I will be birding here in the Rio Grande Valley for the next few days.  Maybe something else special will be found.  I will probably do another post at the end of my stay.  No matter what, I will soon update how the big year efforts are going, but for now I will give a big hooray to Jay Lehman who has reached the 700 level this past week.  Once he finds time to update his blog, you will be able to read what he did recently to make it to that lofty height.  Neil Hayward has also been quite busy, but he too is a bit behind in his blog, so I will not say anything else for now.  Stay tuned!

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