Going for the trifecta with today’s featured post. If you have been following along, we are all about the big state of Texas here at the headquarters of Intrigued. More specifically, we are laser focused on pushing my bird count up thanks to a number of visits to the Gulf Coast – wiping the sweat from our brows, pounding Alleve to counter the swelling in our fingers from typing and rubbing our eyes from pouring over reference books to properly ID the backlog of images we are trying to get through. Like the last post on the Vermilion Flycatcher, our current focus of attention was pretty easy on the ID front.
Up to this point, I have been able to cover our local Baltimore Oriole (link here). Thanks to a trip to South Dakota I was able to add the Orchard Oriole to the mix (link here). Adding to this growing collection of Orioles, a visit to the Red Rocks Ampitheatre produced a surprising Bullock’s Oriole (link here). Not a bad haul when it comes to the Oriole family. With those, I pretty much had the northern, east and west staples covered. Turns out, I can now add the southern tip of Texas – and I mean the very southern tip.
Hit the jump to read more about this Oriole family member.
The latest addition to the Oriole collection comes to us courtesy of Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. Texas is loaded with unbelievable birding locations. We have had the privilege of visiting many of the wildlife refuges along the Gulf Coast and all of them have produced checks on the birding list. Laguna Atascosa stands out as one of the best of those visits. You will be seeing a number of +1’s in the coming days from that location thanks to our first visit there which happened to be New Year’s Day 2017. Only crazy people choose to stay home and celebrate the new year in the Midwest – we on the other hand choose to seek warmer temps ha! Note, that didn’t work out so hot this year as you will undoubtedly hear as we continue our Texas birding posts. By the way, a pleasant surprise greeted us when we arrived – the first day of the year is free to visitors.
While waiting for Linda to get the dogs situated in the RV, I started scanning the trees for anything interesting. It didn’t take long to see this beautiful orange bundle of feathers staring down from an overhead wire. I wasn’t aware at the time that this Halloween colored bird perched from high above was such a find.
In fact, I inadvertently checked it off as a Bulluck’s assuming it had simply drifted down further south than normal to enjoy the warm weather. Since that time, I have learned that there is one feature that should have triggered my interest more – the top side bar on the wing is white on the Bullock. As you can tell from these shots, these Orioles sport a yellow/orange bar instead. Depending on how good your eyes are and you might also notice that the Bullock has an eye line that extends further back on the eye and a black cap. In the future, I know to look for these difference when trying to distinguish the Bullock’s from this southern specialty. By now you are probably annoyed you have been reading through most of the post and STILL do not know what the hell it is. Well folks, the wait is over – this colorful bird is an Altamira Oriole. This species pretty much hangs out in the Central America regions only venturing up to the bottom tip of Texas. Not a bad find in the first 5 minutes at Atascosa if I say so myself – granted, I didn’t realize how good until scanning some reference books later that night.
It took me a bit of work to finally get the back side covered with this specimen. Every time I managed to get circled around the Altamira trying not to disturb it, the bird would do a 180 on the wire showing off its balance beam moves.
Never did get completely behind it so have to take the best angle I could get. It threw me at first there was so much orange on the back of the wings. Upon further investigations, it is now apparent to me that the wings are bent down a bit – possibly to add more stability to the perch. This left the rump open which carries the same coloring as the head. When those are up, they give the standard dark backing effect I am more used to seeing. Turns out there was another specimen a little further down the wire. This one was more yellow than the first encounter. Females and Males look similar for the Altamira so it wasn’t a gender issue. From what I can tell, the juveniles have the yellower coloring and therefore it is my guess this one was a first year and starting to take on the adult coloring.
Having come to the end of the pictures, time to do a little leg (more accurately, a little finger typing work) and see what I can pass along about this new find in the Oriole family. First off, you might be wondering about the title. This was in direct reference to something learned about the name – Altamira means look high in Spanish. Three years of Spanish and I’ve been able to count on my hands how many times I’ve used it in my travels – although my co-worker is forever grateful I could find him a bano on a Cancun business trip, but I digress. The Altamira is the largest of the Orioles in the US (although, this particular one didn’t seem that large). True to their namesake, they tend to forage for fruit and insects at the top of trees. Their numbers are somewhere in the 2 million range with around 3% living in the deep south of Texas. They appreciate a good siesta in the afternoon and enjoy a good soccer game in the evening. Beyond that, I must say Cornell is weak on facts worth sharing.
Oh well, that officially gives me another check and one more point closer to my brother Ron. He will have to travel to make this one back up ha! Take it easy everyone and come back soon – content is flying out of the queue these days.