PAINTED REDSTART WAS A GREAT WELCOME TO THE VALLEY! Well just north of it actually at the Brook County rest area on US281 south of Falfurrias. A world as well as an ABA area lifer for me it is one of several birds from south of the border in the valley at the moment that I will hopefully catch up with over the next few days. The redstart was hyper-active, hardly pausing for a moment and it was quite shy as well. However, it also has a contact call very similar to Yellow-browed Warbler, which made it easy to follow in the oaks of the rest area, between the toilet blocks and the 'watch for snakes' sign. That is when I could actually hear it above the noise of semis thundering past on both sides. The rest area appeared silent at first but was quite full of birds, with Green Jays, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Black-crested Titmice, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Lesser Goldfinches.
I had been trying to get into the mood for the Latino-flavoured Rio Grande Birding Festival by reading Cormac McCarthy's 'The Counselor' on the plane yesterday, set in the Texas/Mexican borderland about a guy who decides to do a one-off drug deal to set himself up for life, with disastrous consequences and I had Pitbull's 'Don't stop the party' blaring on the radio on the way down from Austin today, passing Crested Caracaras and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. I also seem to have caught up with the TVs again, still making their way south. After setting up the booth I had an hour or so with Robert Kirk and Erik Bruhnke at the Frontera Audubon thicket at Weslaco. There were some more valley specialties here like: Clay-coloured Thrush (at least three); White-tipped Dove; Ladder-backed Woodpecker; Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher but no Golden-crowned Warbler....yet. There were a few other warblers feeding quietly in the dense thicket, like Orange-crowned, Tennessee, Black-and-White, Ovenbird and Black-throated Green. The streets of Harlingen were full of Great-tailed Grackles as usual this evening at their pre-roost gatherings, draped over the telegraph wires with dark storm clouds behind them. The weather over the next few days could get interesting too.