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February 2nd 2013
Published: March 3rd 2013
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Thursday, January 31st. Valley Gateway RV Park, Linn, Texas

Cold last night, but 66 degrees with high clouds this morning at 10:30. Mileage at 36,472.

Continued driving south on US highway 281 passing by/through the town of Edinburg and then on toward McAllen. From all appearances this area of the LowerRio GrandeValley is like many areas of growth in the US where once separate towns grow into each other such that you can't tell where one town leaves off and another begins. Again the idea crosses our minds that if you close your eyes and were dropped into the area, you might not know where you are just looking around, since all you see are the same stores--Sam's club, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buys, fast food restaurants, etc. You might have a better clue to your location if you looked at the small stores that reflect more the closeness to the Mexican border and the Spanish language. I was surprised to find the same type of used tire places and cantinas like I saw in Mexico.

Hit US 83 that looks like a freeway to me, and turned west until we located FM 2082 and turned south again. Wow, the number of RV/mobile home villages, resorts, and parks is staggering along this road. Clustered together are all these "winter Texans." I guess Florida is the only place that has "snowbirds."

Found the BentsenRio GrandeState Park, which is a WorldBirdingCenter and found that you can't drive into the park, but had to park about a block away and walk into it. The park is right on the Rio GrandeRiver and the border patrol was parked in the entrance to the park. You could walk, ride your bike, or like many were doing, you could take their tram that ran every hour. Of course when we arrived, we had just missed the tram, so with the hour wait, we decided to eat some lunch. Since the cafe at the park was closed, I walked back to Rosie in the parking lot to make lunch and bring it back to eat while we waited. Valerie was conserving her "foot" energy expenditure for the walk around inside.

The tram finally arrived and we got off at the first bird blind that was located right on the curve of the La Parida Banco (a lake formed from an old oxbow loop of the Rio GrandeRiver). This is where you might find the kingfishers hanging out. We didn't spot a one, but did watch some other birds at a couple feeders and saw a vermillion flycatcher on the overhead wires.

Walked along the green jay trail to the green jay wooden bird blind and sat with about 8 other birders to watch some really colorful orioles--2 different varieties, some more green jays, and the yellow, black, and white kiskadee at the feeders.

Caught the next tram and then got off near the front of the park by the nature center. There we saw somewhere between 30-40 chicken-like sized plain chachalaca and watched as they climbed up into the trees, chased, and fought with each other. Really funny kind of birds. We talked with someone along this trip about whether they were eaten and they said there was actually a hunting season for them. We have never even heard about this bird, let alone seen one.

At the nature center, we looked at the few exhibits and talked with the volunteer about the blooming trees around the center. She called them Texas olive trees. So after spending about three hours in the park, we walked back to Rosie and drove north on highway 107 through small towns and citrus groves. Grapefruit were being harvested and stands of orange mesh bags of fruit were for sale along the highways. Many dusty looking orange and grapefruit groves heavy with fruit, are for sale. Drove through pretty downtown Edinburg and then back up highway 281 to the RV Park.

Saturday, February 1st. Valley Gateway RV Park, Linn, Texas

Declared it a down day. Checked e-mail and rested. We are now rethinking what we had originally planned as we have seen so many of the birds that we had come south to see, in these last two days. We had expected to spend days hunting for a quick sighting and so we had reservations for 7 nights in this RV park. We got out the maps and brochures and decided to leave here in the morning and take a few days to work our way to South Padre Island and then head back north a bit along the coast and take a boat trip out to see some Whooping Cranes. We heard about the trip from some other birders who said it was really an experience!

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