What's been going on in Laredo, Texas, for the past couple of weeks is both amazing and encouraging. Several days ago birders found a female Amazon Kingfisher at the mouth of a creek entering the Rio Grande River at Laredo. This was a first record for North America, a big deal for those birders who list their sightings. Word went out. Hundreds of people from at least a dozen states and Canada went to Laredo to see this rarity. The City of Laredo and the local visitors' and convention bureau caught on quickly. As birders lined creekside elbow to elbow, the mayor announced that several things were being done to make certain that the visitors left town happy about more than this extraordinary bird. Crews were dispatched to pick up trash along the river and creek in and near the viewing area. Police were sent to the area so visitors would feel safe along a border that has known significant violence. Portable toilets were provided, as was parking space. Birders got free bottled water. Lists of motels and restaurants were made available. A welcoming committee was formed. Restrictions were posted on use of cell phones and two-way radios, to keep disturbance at a minimum. Concern was expressed about birders trampling the plant growth in the area. The best site for watching the bird was marked with tape to keep over-eager birders from spooking the kingfisher, suddenly recognized as a valuable ($$$) natural resource. In announcing these amenities, Raul Salinas, mayor of Laredo, understated himself when he said he was a strong supporter of local tourism. I guess he is, with special thanks

to the kingfisher. The thin slice of natural vegetation that borders the river on the U.S. side offers some of the country's most exciting birdwatching. This undeveloped land, however, is always under threat of some kind. Even parks and refuges are not untouchable; the border fence we're building to supposedly curtail illegal entry from Mexico cuts right through some of the best birding habitat. So, hooray for Laredo and Mayor Salinas. May the lesson of the Amazon

Kingfisher be remembered near and far along the river. Long live the king...fisher. One caveat: Laredo has an annual birding festival in March. That’s not the best time to go birding in Texas. Late April or May would give you more birds for your buck. (Unless, of course, the kingfisher is still there.) Here’s a photo by Paul Baicich (Maryland) of happy birders who saw the kingfisher. The fellow second from the left, smiling there in the background, is former Minnesotan Keith Camburn, now living in North Carolina.

 

 

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Lots of robins around

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How many Pileateds make a flock?