RGVBF 2011: 3

Thursday’s morning field trip left the afternoon free, so I followed the advice of the festival brochure/checklist and sauntered over to Hugh Ramsey Nature Park in Harlingen, a “99% guaranteed” spot for Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis). I got good looks at this target bird, both immatures and adults. The park, wedged between Harrison Avenue and the Arroyo Colorado, features numerous plantings of native flora (with interpretive markers) and feeder setups, both of which do a good job of attracting native fauna.

lazy riverMany stretches of the lower arroyo trail are overgrown, and the numerous social trails and occasional trash mark this sector as a party stop. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (Polioptila caerulea) wheeze their songs, providing some competition for the steady drone of traffic on Loop 499.

not a MonarchWildflowers keep the lepidopterans happy, like these two Queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus). Odonates are also active even this late in the year.

in the middle of ithow do you like them apples?On the upper slopes of the park, north of the parking area, sunnier conditions prevail, supporting this impressive patch of prickly pear cactus. This is Cactus Apple (Opuntia engelmannii); some of the plants are in fruit. Rodents skulk beneath the cactus’ protective lobes.

ege of the deckThe hummingbird feeders are positioned in conjunction with plantings of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), the local hibiscus that provides nectar for the hummers. A deck with benches is situated with the blooms at eye-level.

At a platform feeder, a thuggish group of House Sparrows stationed lookouts as they chowed down; they were soon evicted by a Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre).

gathering at sunset As the sun settled toward the horizon, a herd of eight or more Plain Chachalacas (Ortalis vetula) assembled, ready to make their own lumbering run at the feeder. I have never seen a more bovine member of class Aves.

The park is an absolute gem. I regret that I didn’t have more time to return and explore it more.