Definitely Not Another Squirrel

Bad news for those of you out there hoping for another post from the Squirrel family and good news for those that have been filling my inbox up with comments to the contrary. Truth is, I would have gone with another fur focused series if I had one in the queue. I’m only getting home maybe one or two days a week these days if I’m lucky. When I do, I’m more focused on getting the growing list of upkeep items like mowing taken care of over prepping images for the blog. As a result, I’ve been relying on drafts I worked up to use while we were down in Alabama. Thought it would be good to get back to the main staple here at Intrigued – BIRDS!

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Today’s feature is not a new bird to the blog as it was featured back in November 2018. (link here – but warning, don’t go there). There are few birds that frustrate me more in the field than these here White-Eyed Vireos. Year after year after year I’ve encountered specimens in our many outings and I’ve only managed to feature this vireo that one time back in ’18 and that was ONLY because I wanted to officially get the checkmark. Went with some crappy shots for that post which is why I warned you NOT to go there – if you went there anyway, you might want to go rinse your eyes out – no worries, I’ll wait until you get back.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to learn why this bird was on my nemesis list.

This bird absolutely drives me nuts. It could be the fact they like to hang back in the foliage when they are out or maybe that unique eye acts as Kryptonite to Nikon glass – either way, The Beast struggles mightily to get focused on it. Personally, I think they relish in my tapestry of cuss words spewing out from behind the camera. My luck happened to change during our trip down to Texas back in January 2021 – before you ask, yes, I still need to get to all the shots taken on our trip down there this year ha.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Like always, when we are on the border, we were chasing rarities. One popped up at a place called Quinta Mazaltan in McAllen, TX. The name means “country estate” in Spanish and is an absolutely beautiful setting for birding. Complete with a 10,000 square foot historic Spanish Revival adobe mansion that adorns 15 acres of varying habitats that often lures Central American birds into visiting. Think of it as a wooded oasis in the middle of an urban city. There is a small charge ($3 if I remember correctly) that gives you access to the mansion and all the grounds – an absolute bargain in our opinion.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

We were there to get two rare targets, the Crimson Collard-Grosbeak (female) visiting from Central America and the Pacific-Slope Flycatcher that had likely gone astray migrating from our Pacific coastline to their Central America wintering grounds. We missed the Crimson (dammit), but did manage to get the Slope (link here admittedly, those shots were pretty crappy too). Anytime I can get a California based bird without actually having to go into California, I’m in. Kind of a long about way of saying that we found this White-Eyed Vireo just after tinning the Flycatcher.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

There is a small pond that sits to the left of the mansion. The very helpful volunteer that got us checked in was able to tell us exactly where both of the target birds were usually found. Striking out with the Crimson, we made our way to the indicated pond to try our luck again. Turned out the Slope was a shocking 1-2-1 per my rarity scoring method – One try, 2 minutes to find it and only 1 minute to get it in the tin before it took off. One distraction and we would have been 0 for 2. Now I could focus on filling up the tin with the rest of the locals. On cue, this White-Eyed showed up and landed in a tree less than 20 feet from where we were standing at the edge of the pond.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Think I might have groaned anticipating the disappointment in shot execution. To my surprise, it moved to a fairly open branch and just sat there looking around with that bright white ringed eye. Up, down, left and right – clearly intent on something that was out of sight from our vantage point. Then it launched off the branch only to return seconds later with its prize. I kind of felt bad for the insect as I watched through the glass – the White-Eyed brutalized its victim ripping wings and legs off before downing it. Eventually the Vireo caught site of the bazooka pointed at it and gave me quite the stern look (see above). “Did you really think I’d eat the wings or legs – stupid human, I taunt you a second time and fart in you general direction.”

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Well now, seems these tiny Vireos have quite the attitude! Honestly, I would have taken that abuse all day as long as it allowed me to finally get some decent shots. I can finally discard all those other crap shots I’ve been saving up in case of an emergency. I may have missed the Grosbeak, but I still walked out of there with a giant smile on my face. We went back to Quinta this last January in an attempt to get another Crimson-Collard Grosbeak that had shown up (could even be the same one that visited the year before). Failed then also, so now that rarity is sitting at a 4-500-ZERO.

With this quick offering, I somehow managed to hit my post quota for the month (barely) with everything that’s been going on. Oh, almost forgot – having received the good news on not needing surgery, I officially signed up for the 100K ultra trail in October. Linda gave me a similar stern look this Vireo gave me when she found out hehehe. Obviously a bit behind on my training, but now I have something to keep me focused once things settle down.

34 thoughts on “Definitely Not Another Squirrel”

      1. Slowly at the moment, just one damselfly sighting as our spring is back on hold (grey, cool, northerly winds 😞) Several newts swimming about and the plants are doing ok so it’s back to more renos!

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        1. Like us, seems like Old Man Winter is hanging on as long as possible. Temps were unseasonably low all April (still getting snow middle of April). I think we are going to start warming up now although yesterday we had tornado warnings – can’t win. Good luck on the pond, looking forward to more great Dragon photos.

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  1. Great Monty Python quote. Jan and I both appreciate an appropriately dropped movie line. But no discussion of airspeed or coconut carrying capacity?
    Excellent news on not requiring surgery. Though I would have given a quizzical look too for the 100k.

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    1. I tend to abuse that particular Python quote – frankly it fits in so many different situations owing to how great that whole scene was. Love those other references as well – might just try to work those in for a future post. Honestly, I think it just sounds worse because it has three digits in it. That K is really important in this context – should have just said 1 more lap beyond last years distance. See, doesn’t that sound a WHOLE lot better!?! Time to start getting the body prepared.

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      1. To mis-quote a famous from ad campaign from a very large Boston event in April that shows pairs of running shoes obviously in motion and says: “Some people won’t even drive 100K today”.
        Oh, and the head-on shot is a bit creepy with this one. Tough to be a bug.

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    1. Definitely! After ripping the appendages off, I have expected it to pull out out a meat tenderizer and start whacking the hell out of it ha! Appreciate you dropping in Timothy – are things still dry out there?

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        1. Not good. A tornado watch just expired here – looked pretty nasty for a bit, but mostly got rain – sounds like you could use some of that your way – the rain, not the tornados of course – not even sure if you get those in your parts – pretty much our biggest fear here in the Midwest – they have a habit of popping up out of nowhere and everyone has seen the results.

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          1. Tornadoes are rare in the valley. Instead of people running for cover, everyone has gone out to look at the few tornadoes we’ve had. They are more common in the eastern part of the state. I’d take a few tornadoes if they brought rain with them.

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    1. Thank you Reed! So glad I was finally get a set of images I wasn’t embarrassed to show people. Appreciate you coming by and have a great weekend.

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  2. What fun! You got beautiful color balance on this Vireo – I’ve been struggling with that in under-story photos. Love the fact you got him with prey – that should be worth extra points in your competition.

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    1. Thank you Sam! I like the way you think on the extra points, will have to float that by Ron and see if I can get some buy in. It might be a wash as he’ll point out his Loggerhead Shrike with a Lizard that it had impaled on a nearby stick – he might also have another shrike with a mouse impaled on a thorn bush.. can’t remember for regardless, green with envy. Have a great weekend Sam.

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  3. Lovely to see this white-eyed vireo, Brian. We don’t see this beauty in Calif. so it’s a treat to see here in so many awesome poses. I enjoyed your narrative too. Your bird chase had me smiling, as I have been through many of the same antics to get a peek at some elusive and rare birds. Texas is an excellent place to bird for all the migrants, I’m glad you had success with this handsome vireo. Fun post and great photos.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Jet. I have no doubt you’ve gotten yourself in similar situations on all your exciting adventures. I can’t wait to get back to Texas and see what new birds are showing up down there – chased a number of rarities when we were down there at the beginning of the year. Thanks to you I’m keeping a better eye out for those intriguing ants ha! Have a great weekend.

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  4. What a beautiful unique bird, I am loving all these new species on your blog. Now I have heard people say things like, ” I am running a 5k”, mostly I hear small numbers like that. I have never heard the term 100k, very impressive. 🙂

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    1. Glad I could introduce you to a new bird Sandra. Surprised you haven’t come upon this species in your Texas travels. By you recent posts you are doing quite well in getting your counts up – I had a big smile when I saw your post on my totem animal (Greater Roadrunner). With my switch to ultra-trails I need a new bird to be named Greater Trailrunner hehehe. So you’ll hear “normal” people say 5k – it’s the “batshit crazy” ones (wife’s term) that put three digits ahead of the K. Thanks for dropping by Sandra.

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  5. Amazing and unique moments you were able to capture! I have never seen this bird before and tried to memorize how it looks. Perhaps, one day I would be able to meet a White-eyed Vireo.

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    1. Glad I was able to introduce you to a new bird! The main thing is just to look for the unique white eye and the yellow tinting. Get those two things checked off and you should be good to go in the field. I m sure you will see one now that you know what to look for. Thanks for dropping in Kaya and fingers crossed you will get to see one (might want to look away when it starts ripping appendages off its dinner)

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    1. Thank you Cheryl. Cardinals are a wonderful bird and really brighten the place up (at least the males). Definitely happy with the second consultation – we’ll see how therapy goes, but definitely better than getting sliced open. Have a great weekend Cheryl.

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  6. Beautiful shots! Always love the action photos with my early coffee. Luckily this morning I am still in a sleeping bag listening to the hundreds of geese and the occasional distinctive sounds of swans flying over. More to come on TCJ. Continued thoughts for your current struggle.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed CJ – jealous that you are out in the wild – nothing like sleeping under the stars. Appreciate the thoughts. I think things will be coming to closure soon.

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