Foam Lake Birding No. 80

No. 80
The weather has finally gotten hot with temperatures in the 30sC. To that end my wife and I decided to take advantage of the summer-like conditions and go to the Onion Festival right here in Weslaco. It was well attended. Overall, it is comparable to the fairs or exhibitions that are held in smaller centres in Saskatchewan. However, there are two food items that are not served back home that I just have to mention – roasted turkey drumsticks and deep fried onion flowers. The drumsticks do not need any further description, except that I found it amusing to see 110 lb. teenage girls gnawing on these giant delicacies. The drumsticks were popular but the onions were a very hot item, indeed. Three booths were selling them and each booth had a double line about 30 metres long. This continued all day long. An onion about the size of a softball is sliced cross wise from the stem side down to the rootlets, but not all the way through. This causes the onion to open up like a large round brush or a “flower”. It is then dipped in batter and deep fried. The locals love it. To top off an idyllic day, the mockingbirds were singing all over the fair grounds. Down here they take the place of the robins back home.
No, this week’s featured bird is not the mockingbird but the Great Tailed Grackle. As mentioned in Article No. 5, this bird of the American southwest and most of Mexico is one of three species of grackles that occur in North America. In a nutshell, it is very similar to the Common (Bronzed) Grackle back home but with some significant differences.
First, at close range the Great Tailed is much larger. Second, as its name implies, it has a very long tail. In flight, it looks like an all black magpie. Third, when a big male flies by his wings make a loud flapping noise. Fourth, during courting season (now) the male picks a conspicuous perch and performs for the ladies by fanning out his tail feathers, spreading his wings and making all sorts of weird sounds. The songs are so variable that at times it is hard to determine what bird is making the sound until it is actually seen. Fifth, during the non breeding season they congregate in large flocks to roost for the night. One of their favourite roosting spots is overhead power lines. It is interesting to be stopped at a red light only to be serenaded by a flock of roosting grackles twittering. It is even more interesting to unwittingly park under such a line. The next morning finds one at the car wash. Been there; done that.
This week’s picture was taken at a water feature at the Frontera Audubon Preserve in Weslaco. There is not much more that can be said because a grackle is a grackle is a grackle.