The first trip of the festival for me was to Zapata and San Ignacio. Mike was an excellent seat mate for this long journey. We made a brief stop in Zapata to find the White Collared Seedeater and then spent the rest of the trip in San Ignacio area. New birds on this trip included Greater-tailed Grackles, Harris's Hawk, Lesser Goldfinch, Green Jay, Inca Dove, White-collared Seedeater, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater White-fronted Goose, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca, Long-billed Thrasher, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Bewick's Wren, and Chihuahuan Raven.
Here's my first view of the Rio Grande (Spanish for "Big River") or the Río Bravo if you're from Mexico. This river is 1885 miles long and serves as a natural boundary between Texas and Mexico.
I thought San Ignacio was really beautiful. We spent some time hiking a small trail and roaming about the community. San Ignacio was originally a Mexican pueblo founded in 1830. Due to recent rainfall we couldn't hike all the normal trails since some of them were flooded. So we wandered around the old buildings in search of birds. Half of our group saw a Zone-tailed Hawk, which I missed but I did see a Black Phoebe which was a new ABA bird for me. After San Ignacio we headed out of town to a lovely picnic spot that overlooked the river.
Our picnic spot gave us great views of Mexico and we even saw the border patrol come roaring through on their big boats. In the marshy area seen below we found some waders and a few Northern Harriers were soaring low to the west.
After a full day of birding I still wasn't done. I had about an hour before the welcome reception to stop by a Harlingen local park for a few more lifers. In the butterfly garden I found my first Buff-bellied Hummingbird and a Golden-fronted Woodpecker. I didn't spend much time there but it was nice seeing the afternoon colors on the Prickly Pear Cactus.
The day came to an end at the Welcome Reception where I met the Birdchick and a few more familiar faces. Even after only one day at the RGV birding fest I knew that this trip would be more than just for the birding, it was going to be a great time with some new and old friends. One of the things I really love about the birding community is how sincere people can be and how great relationships can be formed from our shared interests. I won't just remember how great it was to see my life birds on this trip but I'll also remember the conversations with Jim about herps or the stories that Mike and I shared on the bus ride. Sometimes I think it's a little crazy to go chasing species all over the country (or world for that matter) but it's also about the people we meet and the times we share.