Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 6: Texas birding Springbreak Trip: Falcon State Park and Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park


OLD LADIES RULE AT ROMA BLUFFS; BUTTERFLIES RULE OVER BIRDS AT FALCON STATE PARK; BUT FINALLY BIRDS RULE AT BENTSEN RIO GRANDE VALLEY STATE PARK

Gulf Fritillary, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.
4/18/2013: On my last full day of birding (my last day 4/19, I was hoping for at least a 1/2 day before driving back to Houston) during my springbreak trip to Texas, I planned on 3 sites that were a couple of hours drive away from my base town, Los Fresnos: Roma Bluffs, Falcon State Park and Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.
ROMA BLUFFS BIRDING CENTER
My first stop was Roma Bluffs, a touted Birding Center along the Rio Grande. After arriving in Roma and driving around for a few minutes, I located the Observation deck overlooking the Rio Grande. The bluffs were as high as the tree tops which would make for getting good views of tree top birds, but I didn't see anything worth mentioning; futhermore, the view of the river was very far below the bluffs, and even with zooming in with my 500mm Sigma lens, I could not see anything on the river or along the banks. When I reached the Roma Bluffs Visitor Center, a small building just a block and a half away, I inquired about getting down to the river to do some birding along the river's edge. I was told that the trail was closed and inaccessable. I asked where do I go to observe birds, and the nice young lady volunteer said, "Oh, you want to see birds," showing some disappointment that I didn't want to just look at pictures and books that were displayed in the building.
     "Yes, see birds," I reported.
     "Follow me around back," she said hopefully. I was very puzzled.
     "Around back?" I thought. We were in the middle of a town, albeit very small, but didn't seem like this neighborhood had much to offer for serious birding. I was hoping I was wrong with that assessment, and followed her with expectant optimism. Well, she led me behind the building and opened up a solid doubled door gate and said,
     "Sometimes we get birds back here, usually early in the morning." Behind the building were a few feeding stations set up, but the only birds that seemed to be hanging around were House Sparrows, Great-tailed Grackles and Mourning Doves. After a few minutes, a couple of older women were ushered in by the same volunteer. They drove from San Antonio to visit as well. They told me their goal was to locate all the different species of Orioles (Altamira, Baltimore, Bullocks, Orchard, Hooded, and Audubon's) that were present in the area. When asked what particular birds I was looking for, I said,
     "Anything but House Sparrows, Mourning Doves, and Great-tailed Grackles."  And as it turned out, that was all I saw there during the half hour I stayed. The two ladies set up their tripods and cameras, aimed them in no particular direction that I could fathom and they waited patiently. Every time there was a movement in a tree or brush, they got very excited and said, "There is one, there," or "an oriole!" "Which kind?" "I am not sure," and this went on for the next 20 minutes. I decided that was not the place I hoped it would be and made my farewells and said I was going to try my luck at Falcon State Park a few more miles up the highway. I've heard this is also a potentially good place to find White-tailed Kites, that I struck out on a couple of days ago at Resaca De La Palma State Park.

FALCON STATE PARK My luck at Falcon State Park was not much better. When I asked at the registration / fee building about any information that would be helpful to birders, especially Kites. I was given a quite quizzical look by the woman behind the counter,
     "Don't know much about no birds round here."
     "Oh," I managed. Seeing my disappontment, she then added,
     "The hostess who lives in the camper down the road, she likes birds. She has all kinds of feeders set out. I bet she can help you out. I payed my day-use fee, thanked her and took off down the road.  I found the hostess, introduced myself and asked for any kind of advice about what kinds of birds and where the best places to look might be. She was a very frustrated birding woman. She said that there,
      "weren't any good birds left, here no more. They all left. All we have now are those darn blackbirds and sparrows. And damned if I'm going to spend any more money on that expensive birdseed, if only those darn blackbirds are going to eat it all up."
     I thanked her and told her that I would take to the trails and see what I could find. It was a very dusty dry place, but near the Rio Grand, so there was a variety of hbitat that might yield some interesting birds, such as Sage or Curve-billed Thrashers. After meandering about and seeing a few birds, but I did manage to see a few butterflies that I was able to photograph, a Gulf Fritillary (Top of Page), a Soldier Milkweed (Below), and a Pipevine Swallowtail (I think) (Below)
Soldier Milkweed, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.

Pipevine Swallowtail, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.
But I did manage to get a few photos of birds, before I realized that I wasn't capitalizing on my day very well. I decided to abort my Falcon State Park birding adventure and start my drive back to Los Fresnos. As I made my way back to the parking lot, I saw the same two ladies who I met at Roma Bluffs questioning the hostess of the park, and hearing her say to them,
     "Those damn blackbirds are eating up all my expensive birdseed..."  It was still early afternoon and I decided to stop in Bentsen Rio Grande State Park on the way back.
FALCON STATE PARK BIRD LIST
Total Species: 13
Lifers: 0
Birds Identified: Bullock's Oriole, Couch's Kingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher,  Great-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow, Inca Dove, Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Savannah Sparrow, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, White-winged Doves.

Some of my few bird photos from Falcon State Park below...
A nice view of the long scissor tails of the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.

Tropical Kingbird, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.

Bullocks Oriole, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.
On my way out of Falcon State Park, I saw a flash of orange fly over the road in front of my car. Thinking it was probably another Altamira Oriole, I almost kept driving, but decided to pull over and investigate. After a minute I located it on a power line and zoomed in to discover it was a Bullock's Oriole. So I followed it a bit further and it landed even closer to me in a tree (Above). The only other time I have seen a Bullock's was a over a year ago in Crystal Cove State Park, California. I hoped that the oriole-seeking ladies from Roma Bluffs find this guy on their way out.

BENSON RIO GRANDE VALLEY STATE PARK

A Black-crested Titmouse, my only Lifer of the day, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.
I reached Bentsen Rio Grande State Park by mid afternoon and was glad I arrived here no later. it was a much more pleasant than my first two stops - good hiking and decent birding. I easily could have spent the day here, and bypassed Roma and Falcon altogether. Plus I got my only lifer of the day - a Black-crested Titmouse (Above). I probably hiked over 8 miles at this park, and eventhough my total species of 36 birds was not great compared to other days, it was much better than my first two outings so it seemed satisfactory to me.

BENSON RIO GRANDE VALLEY STATE PARK BIRD LIST
Total Species: 36
Lifers: 1 (Black-crested Titmouse)
Birds Identified: Altamira Oriole, American Coots, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Black Vulture, Black-crested Titmouse, Blue-winged Teals, Bronzed Cowbirds,  Brown-crested Flycatcher, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Couch's Kingbird, Eurasian Collared Doves, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Gray Hawk, Great Blue Heron,  Great Egrets, Great Kiskadee, Great-tailed Grackles, Green Jays, Killdeer, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Long-billed Thrasher,  Mexican Mallard, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Harrier, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Shovelers, Plain Chachalacas, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Swainson's Hawk, Tropical Kingbird, Turkey Vultures, White-tipped Doves, White-winged Doves, Yellow-rumped Myrtle Warbler.

Some photos below...

Buff-bellied Hummer, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

Green Jay, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

Plain Chachalaca, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

Tropical Kingbird, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

White-tipped Dove, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

White-winged Dove, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.
I had another chance to find a Northern beardless Tyrannulet, but again could not locate it, even after I was able to find the specific location of its nest and heard it calling.
My 42 species and 1 Lifer for the day didn't seem like much compared to yesterday's 100 specie day, for some reason ending the day on a more positive note than the way it started, didn't make the day seem so bad. One more partial day to go before heading back to Houston and the airport.



1 comment:

www.thisoldhouseinnewliberty.blogspot.com said...

I am enjoying looking at all of your pictures!!! Nancy