Definitely Not Another Squirrel!

Bad news for those of you out there hoping for another post from the Squirrel family and good news for those that have been filling my inbox up with comments to the contrary. Truth is, I would have gone with another fur focused series if I had one in the queue. I’m only getting home maybe one or two days a week these days if I’m lucky. When I do, I’m more focused on getting the growing list of upkeep items like mowing taken care of over prepping images for the blog. As a result, I’ve been relying on drafts I worked up to use while we were down in Alabama. Thought it would be good to get back to the main staple here at Intrigued – BIRDS!

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Today’s feature is not a new bird to the blog as it was featured back in November 2018. (link here – but warning, don’t go there). There are few birds that frustrate me more in the field than these here White-Eyed Vireos. Year after year after year I’ve encountered specimens in our many outings and I’ve only managed to feature this vireo that one time back in ’18 and that was ONLY because I wanted to officially get the checkmark. Went with some crappy shots for that post which is why I warned you NOT to go there – if you went there anyway, you might want to go rinse your eyes out – no worries, I’ll wait until you get back.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to learn why this bird was on my nemesis list.

This bird absolutely drives me nuts. It could be the fact they like to hang back in the foliage when they are out or maybe that unique eye acts as Kryptonite to Nikon glass – either way, The Beast struggles mightily to get focused on it. Personally, I think they relish in my tapestry of cuss words spewing out from behind the camera. My luck happened to change during our trip down to Texas back in January 2021 – before you ask, yes, I still need to get to all the shots taken on our trip down there this year ha.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Like always, when we are on the border, we were chasing rarities. One popped up at a place called Quinta Mazaltan in McAllen, TX. The name means “country estate” in Spanish and is an absolutely beautiful setting for birding. Complete with a 10,000 square foot historic Spanish Revival adobe mansion that adorns 15 acres of varying habitats that often lures Central American birds into visiting. Think of it as a wooded oasis in the middle of an urban city. There is a small charge ($3 if I remember correctly) that gives you access to the mansion and all the grounds – an absolute bargain in our opinion.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

We were there to get two rare targets, the Crimson Collard-Grosbeak (female) visiting from Central America and the Pacific-Slope Flycatcher that had likely gone astray migrating from our Pacific coastline to their Central America wintering grounds. We missed the Crimson (dammit), but did manage to get the Slope (link here admittedly, those shots were pretty crappy too). Anytime I can get a California based bird without actually having to go into California, I’m in. Kind of a long about way of saying that we found this White-Eyed Vireo just after tinning the Flycatcher.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

There is a small pond that sits to the left of the mansion. The very helpful volunteer that got us checked in was able to tell us exactly where both of the target birds were usually found. Striking out with the Crimson, we made our way to the indicated pond to try our luck again. Turned out the Slope was a shocking 1-2-1 per my rarity scoring method – One try, 2 minutes to find it and only 1 minute to get it in the tin before it took off. One distraction and we would have been 0 for 2. Now I could focus on filling up the tin with the rest of the locals. On cue, this White-Eyed showed up and landed in a tree less than 20 feet from where we were standing at the edge of the pond.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Think I might have groaned anticipating the disappointment in shot execution. To my surprise, it moved to a fairly open branch and just sat there looking around with that bright white ringed eye. Up, down, left and right – clearly intent on something that was out of sight from our vantage point. Then it launched off the branch only to return seconds later with its prize. I kind of felt bad for the insect as I watched through the glass – the White-Eyed brutalized its victim ripping wings and legs off before downing it. Eventually the Vireo caught site of the bazooka pointed at it and gave me quite the stern look (see above). “Did you really think I’d eat the wings or legs – stupid human, I taunt you a second time and fart in you general direction.”

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Well now, seems these tiny Vireos have quite the attitude! Honestly, I would have taken that abuse all day as long as it allowed me to finally get some decent shots. I can finally discard all those other crap shots I’ve been saving up in case of an emergency. I may have missed the Grosbeak, but I still walked out of there with a giant smile on my face. We went back to Quinta this last January in an attempt to get another Crimson-Collard Grosbeak that had shown up (could even be the same one that visited the year before). Failed then also, so now that rarity is sitting at a 4-500-ZERO.

With this quick offering, I somehow managed to hit my post quota for the month (barely) with everything that’s been going on. Oh, almost forgot – having received the good news on not needing surgery, I officially signed up for the 100K ultra trail in October. Linda gave me a similar stern look this Vireo gave me when she found out hehehe. Obviously a bit behind on my training, but now I have something to keep me focused once things settle down.

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