Border Watch

Linda is getting some dental work done which means I’m sitting in the car with some free time on my hands. I guess to be truthful, I am really confined to the car due to being in “Bubble Mode” as Linda refers to it. Traditionally, I like to avoid people starting a few days prior to a race – nothing like training your ass off for months only to haul a cold or some other debilitating disease to the starting line. Linda used to call me neurotic, however, in this crazy world I’ve now become the norm – just call it Covid quarantine now ha! Anyway, until she returns to my protective bubble, thought I’d spend the time taking you back to the border.

In a previous post, I took you through the ordeal of getting the immature Vermilion Flycatcher in the tin (link here). If you recall, we were visiting Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park back in January, when I noticed that Flycatcher hanging out on a wire above the border patrol. As luck would have it, another member of the Flycatcher family decided to take its turn on the border watch.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our colorful Flycatcher.

Like the National Guard below them, these two members of the birdwatch were making sure there were no unauthorized crossings – in this case their focus was on intruders equipped with wings. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a shot of the two specimens side by side. The transitioning red of the Vermilion would have looked awesome bookended with the brilliant yellow of this Knautta bird. Every time one would come back from a sortie the other would spot another opportunity and blast off the wire in pursuit.

This continued until the official watch hand-off was made and the Vermilion headed back to camp. At least now I could focus my attention and give the arms a rest – trying to track TWO flycatchers at the same time is an absolute nightmare. About this time the Knautta noticed The Beast pointed at it and gave me the shakedown. The shot of it giving me the Ronnie James Dio “I’m watching you” devil horns came out to blurry to use (probably made me shake in fear causing the shudder to move).

After assessing my danger level, it decided to leave me for the National Guard to watch and instead went back to insect patrol. Good for me – not so good for the Wasp that thought he could sneak by this natural born killer. It didn’t take long once spotted for the Knautta to launch from the wire, execute a perfect Herbst Maneuver to match the insect’s futile escape attempt and return to the wire with prize in bill. It did take the time to make sure I saw the victim – a subtle warning for me not to try anything illegal or the same would happen to me.

Did notice the Knautta had completely neutralized the Wasp’s primary weapon having clamped the back abdomen which houses the stinger. Did some quick checking to see if this was standard operating model for this Flycatcher and was unable to confirm. Did learn they typically start by ripping the wings off. I might have more sympathy for the Wasp if it didn’t have a history of using that weapon on me. Note, I am pretty sure Ron would be double applauding at this point – one less insect to attack him and this would keep the bird preoccupied so it wouldn’t attack him. A win-win as he sees it.

I missed the actual consumption of the victim. Cornell indicated they tend to eat their prey whole, so it might have been simply a toss up and a gulp. Afterwards it was looking rather smug all puffed up with pride.

Just in case you didn’t see my previous post on this/these species (link here), I should probably clarify that Knautta is not its real name. I’ve come to refer to encounters with the two birds that, for all practical reasons are identical, as Knauttas. More specifically, “Not a Western Kingbird”. Therefore, the specimen you are looking at here is either a Couch’s or a Tropical Kingbird. The only real way to tell them apart in the field is through their song which has a slight note difference between them. Like the Western, both are stocky, have an olive wash on their backs, grey heads and the brilliant yellow coloring on the chest.

You can distinguish the Western by the gray coloring on the neck extending down into the breast. There is a chance the region maps can help you out a bit as the Western range is … well.. more west and also farther north as they extend into Canada for the breeding season. Tropicals and Couch’s are strictly based on the southern border – Tropicals come up to the tip of Texas and slightly into southern Arizona where the Couch’s pushes up just a bit further into southern Texas. Being near Mission, TX put all three into play. Thanks to an expert assist, I am able to claim the Tropical (link here). Without better validation, I’ve had to leave the Couch’s unchecked.

Hope you enjoyed the quick trip back to the border. I do enjoy these Kingbirds and always on the lookout for them on our southern Texas travels. Just need to get them to sing for me during our encounters. On that front, Linda is back and trying to mumble something to me – guessing it is time to go, but at the moment she sounds exactly like a Muppet ha!

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