It is a new week and you know what that means… yep, time for some LIFO popping off the photography queue. We happen to be in the middle of a March ice storm and keeping one eye on the trees in our forest to see what kind of damage we might be in for. Usually not a problem as the density of the trees usually keeps the swaying to a minimum, but the wind is picking up and I am starting to see some ripples. It is quite beautiful with the shimmer off of the ice covered limbs. Speaking of beautiful, let’s get to today’s very special featured feathered friend.
How about that for a gorgeous bird!?! Even for a female, this aptly named Elegant Trogon has an aura of nobility. Be sure and check out the stunning color sported by the males if you want to see what it looks like to be clothed in splendor. Today, however, we will be focused on this lady in the trees.
Hit the jump to see some additional images taken of this new check on my birding list and learn about what it took to get it in the tin.
First off, the setting for this amazing find. As you would expect being in the “fresh” part of the week, these shots were taken while on our recent January trip to Texas – I know, I know, for the long time readers of this blog it is probably hard to get used to such recent tins. I am trying, really, really trying ha!
This particular find occurred at Ester Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco TX. I have talked about this place several times in the past and for brevity in what will likely be a long post — trust me, just go there and thank me later.
Knowing that we were going to be heading for our annual birding trek down the Gulf Coast and then inland along the Rio Grande Valley, I was keeping an eye on the ebird reports – specifically on the rarities that seemed to be erupting down there. The Elegant Trogon sighting caught my eye immediately.
“What the hell was that doing down there?” The Elegant Trogon has an extremely limited footprint in the United States. Although they spend year-round in Central America, they will push just over the Arizona/New Mexico border during the breeding season. Guessing even the Trogons that do show up there are simply victims of non-updated GPS’s. Yet, there were repeated, almost daily, reports of it being at Estero.
Wondered aloud as to whether it could hold on long enough for us to get down there. We took a more meandering route to get there this year with the added freedom brought by retirement. This allowed us to drop directly down to Louisiana and have more of the coastline to explore – at the cost of getting to Estero at least a week later than usual.
Two days before we were to arrive I didn’t see a sighting report. Ugh, maybe she had finally realized her navigation device was faulty and headed out. The day we arrived I looked on their listing board and noted it had been documented several days prior, but nothing since. Spotted one of their volunteer naturalists standing on the nearby patio and inquired “Assuming the Elegant Trogon is no longer here” … an attempt to dampen the impact of the coming bad news. “No, she is still putting on regular shows” She then offered up the best location, said she was heading over there herself in a bit and would help me find it if I hadn’t seen it by the time she arrived – so appreciative of the incredibly nice and accommodating volunteers they have there. Turned to Linda, “holy crap, I gotta go NOW”
Upon arrival, saw a several people milling about keeping an eye on the thick line of trees at the back of the park area. Ended up asking a fellow birder if the Trogon had been seen yet – “sure has”, and proceed to show me his cell phone picture. Awesome news. Now it was a matter of a waiting game in hopes she would return. Waiting, waiting, waiting. In the meantime I took shots of the previously posted Common Pauraque (link here). Waited, waited, waited, took some Butter shots for B. in the UK (link here). Waited, waited, even took pictures of the bathroom which didn’t please my wife on the reveal (link here).
Just when I was starting to give in to the pull of the rest park, I see a couple of ladies start pointing excitedly to the trees – curtain call! Once the initial euphoria wore off, it was time to get to work. Miss Trogon apparently decided to have some fun of her own at the expense of us photographers. The shots at the beginning of the post are from another appearance later on in the day. The lady opted to hang in the dense trees for most of the morning. Every time I would fight my way to get a straight shot of her through the dense foliage she would smirk at me and move to an even darker position.
Always making sure she kept maximum limbs and leaves in the way and to make it even more frustrating pick a place with horrible backlighting when she did decide to reveal herself.
At one point, pretty sure I heard her emit a loud laugh.
Did check and make sure there was at least one shot that would verify what it was so I could get the official check. Eventually she came a little bit closer so I could get the coloring at least, but still making sure there wasn’t an uncluttered shot to be had.
More ridiculing from the branches. My only saving graces was the cell phone people were having a hell of a time shooting through the thicket and not being able to control the exposure as she flit between the bright backdrop and then darkness
She left for a while, so I went behind the infamous bathrooms in hopes of seeing her there – there was an abandoned court of some kind from the initial trailer/RV days (tennis or basketball), which provided better clearing. Sure enough she shows up back there, got me all excited and then proceeds to land directly behind a spray of leaves… assuredly on purpose.
As you can tell from the initial shots, everything worked out later in the day. Linda and I were standing by a feeder station when Miss Trogon decided to reappear and put on a show for the onlookers. I could have not have asked for a better setting to photograph and I guess to make up for the taunting earlier, she managed to give me several different perspectives. I had went, had seen and battled the conditions.
Need to get to some interesting tidbits as a thank you for making it through the long post. Already mentioned it is rare for these to be seen outside of the far southeastern part of Arizona. They rely on the carpentry ability of Woodpeckers to create their nesting locations. They are omnivores relying on both insects and fruit for sustenance. I forget what kind of fruit she was enjoying in the trees I first saw her in – naturalist mentioned it, but forgot to write it down. One behavior I did get to witness is their foraging practice of sitting on a limb fairly motionless scanning the area before bursting out at whatever insect they spotted. If you look closely at some of the first post shots you will see her head turned looking up at the limbs above her. My initial thoughts is she was worried about other predators in the area until I realized she was just hungry.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my latest encounter of what has quickly become one of my favorite birds! Oh, and DEFINITELY go check out the male (link here).