Well, I had a post topic all planned out. Got the images worked up in the digital darkroom and was all ready to sit down and pound out a few accompanying words and hit the publish key for a fitting end of the week. Except that was supposed to happen on Friday. Ended up getting distracted by some projects and next thing I know it is Sunday. In the past, not a problem, what’s a couple more days when the shots were taken well over a year ago. With the new year’s commitment to get fresher material out during the first part of the week.. well, let’s just say the “search” was on to find another topic. Taking that theme to heart, going with Where’s walQue?
Our featured feathered friend today is in the cell phone image above – actually, bringing you TWO specimens today from our recent January trip to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Hit the jump to reveal our well-hidden friends.
Probably not a fair challenge as I purposely took a few steps back before snapping the cell phone image, but wanted to give you feel for what we were dealing with. I walked around that area at least 4 times without suspecting anything. We were there to experience a new +1 and admittedly was locked into getting that in the tin. While waiting for that other bird to grace us with its glorious presence, a fellow birder asked me if I had seen today’s featured bird (note singular) and then proceeded to describe the area in the first photo.. yes, the one I had walked past several times. So, back I went again .. still no luck. Swallowed my pride (would choke on the rinds but the lack thereof would leave me empty inside – sorry, song jumped in my head) and wandered back to the helpful birder and admitted I had seen a mighty fine bunch of sticks.. no bird (sad eyes, Mr. can you help me find my lost puppy and I dropped my ice cream cone expression). Shocked as that NEVER works on Linda, the nice birder gave me better details on the location and assured me it was sleeping there. Back I went and by now Linda had made it out there, so we went looking together.
Sure enough, the sneaky bastard was right there where she told us it (note singular) would be. Now switching over to The Beast, it could be isolated from the natural camouflage. Probably could have told you to find the brown bird on the ground in the first shot and that still would not have helped. If you are not familiar with this camo bird, it is of the Nightjar family and called a Common Pauraque. Perhaps you remember when I played this game with you the first time it was featured back in March 2018 (link here).
Now for the funny part. Linda happens to be in the upper left of the first photo, taking shots of the discovered specimen. Not that it would help you much, but it is laying in the darker ground about 1/3rd of the way over from the left in the gap in the brush. Paying it forward, I had alerted a few other unaware birders to the specimen that happened to be walking past while noting our interest in the tangle. Had a terrible time trying to explain where it was…pointing at distance doesn’t really help with the Pauraque… attempted a clock face reference, then a visual walk using reference queues and even tried vectoring off of Linda without much success. Trust me, it is THAT hard to find these birds in any brown brush environment.
Just about out of ideas, I looked down to count out virtual steps to get them in at least a 3 foot zone. Accidentally laughed out loud to myself which drew curious look from the other struggling birders. A brief thought jumped in my head that they might think I was laughing at them.. NOT THE CASE! Raised my head back up, pointed at the ground 4 feet out from where I was standing and said “Or you can just look at THAT one right there!”
Their weird expression from my unexpected laugh changed to absolute shock. So, yes, there were two specimens in that area. Sometime later, I went back to check on them when the birder who alerted me originally came by. Graciously asked me if I’d spotted it yet. After affirming the sighting she had described, simply pointed to the closer one … another shocked expression.
About this time the rare +1 decided to come out of hiding. Having given the shutter quite a workout with these specimens, offered my thank yous and best wishes and moved on. To give you a little bit more background, this encounter was at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, TX. I’ve talked about this place plenty of times in the past, so skipping site details today. What I did want to mention is this place is a magnet for the Common Pauraque. They love that place and hang out in a number of very accessible places usually right off pathways or trails. Probably laugh quietly to themselves as eager birders pass right by without any clue to the great find mere feet away – that is if they happen to awaken as they are usually sound asleep during the day so they are fresh for the dusk-dawn feeding flights. If you want to see this beautiful species in the US you are going to have to travel down to the southern tip of Texas ‘cuz that is the only excursion they do into the states. Cornell is surprisingly weak on their background on this bird – their life history page is essentially empty with the exception of their nesting behavior (they simply lay their eggs on the ground without any nest structure beyond maybe some leaves). Beyond that nada. From other sources, they are insect eaters and tend to perch close to the ground and fly out to nab their prey if not foraging on the ground itself. Ron and I have had one experience with an active Pauraque at dusk while birding Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park – other than that, tins full of them napping comfortably. Oops, I may have just given away a closely guarded secret there…ignore that.
Hope you enjoyed our substitute topic.