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Frank Aguirre DSCF2171 Bat Falcon December 2021 WEBThe Texas corridor is a huge birding spot for many and is a huge migration area for thousands of birds as they escape the colder climates for warmer weather, and then come back through in the spring and summer searching for cooler weather. This year, while we have been finding new ways to entertain ourselves, the birds still continue on their patterns.

The Valley is a hotspot to several migrating patterns and the Lower Rio Grande Valley has had a huge fallout this season. In the fall months, South Padre Island was full of color as Buntings and other birds passed through the area. Birders were flocking the area getting once in a lifetime photos to add to their collections.

Birders at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge made a huge discovery in December – spotting the first Bat Falcon to be seen in the United States. On December 8, the bird was photographed by a visiting birder, Rebecca Gerlernter (according to Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival Facebook page). It was identified as a USA and ABA first sighting of the Bat Falcon. Ten days after that first sighting, it was sighted during the Christmas Bird Count by Troy Hibbitts.

Laura Cantu DSCN0415 Green Jay Cardinal Quinta Mazatlan WEBEven after the cold weather we have had, the Bat Falcon has continued to be spotted all across the 2,000-acre refuge.

According to the Birding Festival’s Facebook page, A first finding of a new bird species for Texas, or the USA, needs to have permanent reviewable documentation in the form of photos, videos, recordings and more. The Bat Falcon has been well photographed and videoed by dozens of people and seems unconcerned about all the birders and cameras.

Bat Falcons are small falcons with a dark helmet, white chest, black cummerbund, and rusty pantaloons. They are typically found within 150 miles of the US in the mountains near Monterrey, Mexico, at Mayan ruins, and northern Central America. The falcon normally likes tropical lowlands and foothills, preferring the forest edge, and adjacent semi-open areas with tall tress and buildings. They eat a variety of prey from bats and birds to dragonflies.

The Facebook page says that birders have been guessing what species would be found next and the highly mobile Bat Falcon was on a lot of people’s minds.

To keep up with sightings at Santa Ana, and other areas, visit this link https://ebird.org/hotspot/L129085. According to the ebird website, there have been 396 sightings of the falcon.

The falcon is not the only thing, or bird, that can be seen in the Rio Grande Valley. The RGV hosts sightings of many birds and is a reason why there are so many birding and nature sites in the Valley. Another rarity that was spotted last month was a rare Fork-tailed Flycatcher at San Benito Wetlands. Someone also posted their lifer, a Great Scaup, they saw at La Feria Nature Center.

M. Elia Smily Flore 137397050 Pauraque at Estero llano Grande State Park WEBSo be on the lookout wherever you decide to go to bird watch in the Valley.

Birders have had great success this year in photographing their favorites at the parks in the area. It is a great way to get out there and learn about nature and the other visitors that visit the great climate of the Rio Grande Valley.

We invite you to share your photos with us at news@wintertexantimes.com. You can also find pages on Facebook to see what others have seen around the Valley including the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival page and Rio Grande Valley Birds.

For more sites to visit, look at our Rio Grande Valley Visitors Guide online (www.wintertexantimes.com, online editions) where we have a section of Birding and Nature sites that include Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, The World Birding Center network and other parks.