By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The equivalent of a bird watching home run came in the form of a rare black and red chested wonder known as the slate-thwarted redstart warbler spotted near the of the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. The long-tailed warbler, almost exclusively found in humid highland forests, and had wandered north of the border only a few times on record.
The spotting occurred last Wednesday by avid birders Don Erickson and Fred Welden from Nevada. As two were bird watching in the Nature Center’s butterfly garden the morning of April 29 they came across the specimen and then informed knowledgeable birder Tammy Bulow of the unusual sighting. The Nature Center attempted to call to send an expert to properly identify the red-chested visitor, but those they did contact were hesitant out of disbelief that a bird of that caliber could be sighted so from its expected habitat.
Cristin Howard, SPI Birding and Nature Center Director of Marketing, credits the rapid additions of native vegetation planted in the area which drew the “hidden treasure” to the area.
“An hour later the two that had originally called that refused to come, came, and they could not believe it,” she said. “It’s only going to get better because we are planting more native plants and as we grow the birds will come here. So we’re very fortunate to have this opportunity to be put, as they told me in the birding world, ‘on the map’… so it’s pretty exciting for us here.”
Upon hearing about the remarkable visitor after it was posted online, bird enthusiasts came flocking from all over the country like the very birds they admire to the Island from north Texas, California, and Florida. The warbler has been sporadically spotted since it’s initial discovery.
The Rio Grande Valley has long been considered one of the premier regions for bird watching and this recent discovery will likely only add to it’s habitat notoriety.
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