Saturday, February 2nd. Valley Gateway RV Park, Linn, Texas
Cloudy and 68 degrees this morning at 9:00. Decided to follow one of the Texas Bird Trail loops that starts just north from the RV Park on FM 186 that intersects US 281. We headed east to the La Sal del Rey tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We turned north on Bushline road that is a dirt road that runs along the outside eastern boundary of the reserve. Valerie crept along the road as we checked the brush and trees on both sides, as well as the overhead lines, and the middle of the road in front of us, for birds.
We didn't find any of the Lark Buntings that were supposed to be in this habitat, but in some yellow blooming shrubs, we spotted what we ID'ed as a small flock of verdin . Other birds were flying here and there in the brush and trees, but the sun was such that getting pictures or looking at them through our binoculars was problematic, so we traveled back to 186 and then moved south on FM 88 toward
the town of Weslaco where we understood wild parrots and parakeets hung out in the neighborhoods.
On the way, we stopped at the very nice Delta Lake County Park and looked at the wetlands and in the trees throughout the picnic area. We saw, common now to us, lots of herons and other shore birds, but then saw both the golden-fronted woodpecker (found only in a small area of south TX) and the ladder-backed woodpecker (found in the southwestern US).
As we neared Weslaco, we spotted a Wal-mart and pulled in and Valerie bought groceries while I got my toenails cut. After putting everything away, we drove through the heart of town and several side streets without seeing a single parrot or anything else except blackbirds. Turned east and had lunch at a nice Chinese Buffet along business 83.
After a fairly good lunch, we found the signs for the airport and turned north on Airport Drive to the Weslaco Wetlands, which are part of the wastewater treatment ponds that have willow and other vegetation along their banks. Currently, the area is not really developed as a birding site, but did see spoonbills, ducks, herons
and other shorebirds in one end of a good size pond. The location and position of the sun was not adequate for taking pictures. Drove back the few miles to business 83 and continued on east.
We came to the MercedesCivicCenter and adjacent park, which is listed as part of this loop, and pulled in to see what we could see. Out in a large puddle of rain water stood a long-billed curlew paying no attention to the kids and people playing around him as he concentrated on eating his lunch. After remaining on business 83 for a bit, we came to the town of La Feria where we turned north on FM 506 and cross under 83 to the Kenwood Resort RV park for the night. Lots of spaces empty here, as I guess, it is not on the best side of town or something.
Sunday, February 3rd---Super Bowl Sunday! La Feria, TX
Left the Kenwood Resort RV Park and drove across the road to put 10 gals of gas at $3.29 per gal, in Rosie.
Took 83 back west to FM 1015 and then drove south to EsteroLlanoGrandeState Park, the center of
the World Birding network. Again, all along the route was RV park after RV park, aimed at and for the "winter Texans."
Parked Rosie and paid our $5.00 day use fee at the fabulous visitor's center complex that is situated on a shallow lake full of ducks and water birds. We sat and ate our lunch while watching the birds from the shaded deck with other birders.
At 2:00 we took a very worthwhile free guided tram tour of the park’s environments and habitats--wetlands, shallow lake, woodlands, and thorn forest. The guide knew about birds, native plants, grasses, and other wildlife found in the park. It was absolutely our cup of tea!!!
The most exciting "birding find" was seeing two sleeping nocturnal pauraque on the ground. There is absolutely no way we would have seen these pigeon size birds without the guide showing us where they hang out on the forest floor. Even then, their feathers provide such excellent camouflage that standing right on top of them, we could only spot them when the guide pointed them out with a "green laser light." They were one of the highlights of this
trip! Returned to the parking lot at about 4:30.
We spoke to the guide about our interest in seeing the parrots and he told us to go to a park across the street from PaceHigh School to be certain to see a flock return at dusk to their roosting site. Since we had some time before dusk, we inserted Rosie's Tom-Tom and drove right along the Mexican border (sometimes right along the fence) on highway 281 to the outskirts of Brownsville and followed the Tom-Tom’s directions to the park. I am glad we used it because it was well hidden within a residential area and we had no maps that were that detailed.
When we arrived, we knew that "this must be a place" as other birders started showing up as we waited. Suddenly, about 6:00, the air was filled with noisy parrots--100 or more. Of course, the light was fading fast now, but Valerie was able to get some clear shots as the parrots gathered on some telephone wires before they headed into the eucalyptus trees for the night. An experience hard to describe and hard to forget!!
We left the park when we could no
longer see the birds in the trees and drove back to and along 281 until we intersected with highway 48 and then continued northeast toward South Padre Island. The distance didn't look that far to drive on the map, but the drive was very long in the dark. When we finally arrived at the CountyPark we had expected to stay at, we found the gates closed at 6, and it was way past that. Not having a lot of options to park Rosie at this point, we decided to find a cheap motel and spend the night. Checked into the Motel 6 for $39 a night and went next door to eat and observe the Super bowl party in progress. We were able to watch most of the game, during our meal, on the huge screen TV's. Note:
When I figure out how to upload a video to YouTube, a video of the parrots flying around will be posted. Meanwhile you might try Valerie's facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/docmock
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