Social Flycatcher in the Rio Grande Valley!
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What a day here in the Rio Grande Valley! We had an early meet-up to head east toward the coast, and after battling our way through the Starbucks ‘holiday cup’ madness we had coffee in hand and were cruising toward Boca Chica Beach in the pouring rain. Almost immediately after passing the border patrol station a soaking wet Aplomado Falcon was perched right along the road – a lifer for everyone on my Wildside Nature Tours crew. Further down the road we pulled over to scope out a few Franklin’s Gulls and about that time I received a text alert from Mary G saying someone had reported a Social Flycatcher back at the UTRGV Brownsville campus yesterday morning and she was going to update with more details.
This Social Flycatcher – the 4th US record – was initially discovered on the morning of November 11th by a Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival fieldtrip being led by Nathan Pieplow, but the flycatcher quickly disappeared and was not re-found despite extensive searching by dozens of birders over many days. This new sighting seemed legit but we had to finish up at Boca Chica and hope for a positive report from chasers.
Out on the beach, at the mouth of the Rio Grande, we had a nice collection of gulls, terns, and shorebirds plus my first Texas Northern Gannet. Heading back up the beach I swerved to avoid an Atlantic Ghost Crab and promptly got the van stuck in sand. After some pushing and pulling we were free and heading to Brownsville with the gas light on. Turns out those big Ford Transits can go at least another 7.5 miles after it says 0 miles to empty…
At 11:10am we arrived on the campus and my group hustled toward the south end of the resaca to find that Isidro Montemayor and Dan Jones had just recently seen the bird. After some tense minutes of searching the area, one lady in my group spotted the Social Flycatcher hidden back in the tangled brush and we had a short but definitive view. Over the next hour we briefly saw the bird again but a major storm was closing in on us, and we were making our way back to the van when I spotted the flycatcher perched up nicely in dead bamboo stalks. This sighting provided our best moments with the bird and we watched it moving between tall perches and heard it calling loudly before we had to retreat just as strong winds and torrential rain began. Our birding day was cut short by the weather, but will be one I won’t forget anytime soon!