Birding Without Borders

Day 138: Heading Home

Noah departs Latin America for two weeks in the U.S.

May 18, 2015, Houston, Texas — For my last morning in Mexico, and in Latin America, Rene mapped out a route around Monterrey to hit as many remaining targets as possible before my flight to Texas this afternoon. We were joined by two friends from Monterrey, Fernanda and Viviana, and the four of us headed out early.

Just after dawn, we were in position in an open, dry valley to try for a bird called the Worthen’s Sparrow. This particular sparrow, which looks a bit like North America’s Field Sparrow, is super-endemic to northeast Mexico with a range estimated at just 25 square kilometers and a total population around 1,000-2,000 individuals. (Oddly, the type specimen, from 1884, was collected near Silver City, New Mexico; either the specimen was mislabeled or the Worthen’s formerly occurred across the U.S. border). As it turned out, the sparrows were easy to find: Within a couple of minutes I had one in the scope. The surrounding field held Western Meadowlarks, Burrowing Owls, Cassin’s Sparrows, a Greater Roadrunner, and a lot of prairie dogs.

Noah's view of the Worthen's Sparrow. Photo: Noah Strycker

Rene, Fernanda, Viviana, and I made a long loop back to Monterrey to incorporate a nesting colony of Maroon-fronted Parrots, a Colima Warbler, and a Hooded Yellowthroat before the clock ran out. They dropped me at the airport, hugged goodbye, and I headed for Texas. I ended these two weeks in Mexico with 482 birds, of which 172 were new for my year list. (If you ever get the chance to go birding in northern Mexico, Rene Valdes is the guy to contact—he can be reached through mexico-birding.com).

On the border-crossing flight, I could feel parts of me relaxing that haven’t unclenched for nearly five months of hard travel in Latin America. This has been an incredible leg—but it was nice, just one time this year, to pass through immigration and be told “Welcome home!” I’ll spend the next two weeks in the U.S. (Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, and New York) before crossing the pond to Europe, and then won’t be back in the New World until 2016.

A birder named Michael Retter picked me up in Houston and, as the sun set, we drove about ten minutes from the airport just in time to catch a Red-cockaded Woodpecker at its nesting tree. The next two days in Texas should be quite productive!

New birds today: 20

Year list: 2538

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