Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017
Mission San Juan, December 30, 2017

Friday, June 3, 2016

Chachalacas and Kiskadees - Sunday, May 29, 2016

A blog of birding, exploring, and a trip on the spur of the moment (or "a lark," if you will). Bob wanted to go somewhere different on my two days off during Memorial Day weekend. Since we had never been to the Rio Grande Valley 3-1/2 hours south of San Antonio (along the Rio Grande and the Gulf Coast), this was our destination of choice.

Our initial plan had been to leave our 5er at 5 a.m. and be at at our Volksmarch start point by 9 a.m. Ha! I'm not a morning person. We left at 7 a.m. and were in Alton, Texas by 10:30 a.m. Bob wanted to stop there so he could have his photo taken by a City of Alton sign.

City of Alton City Hall
From there, we headed southwest to Mission, Texas, to see Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, one of the World Birding Centers here in "the Valley." All thoughts of doing a Volksmarch flew out the window when the temperature was 94 degrees (heat index 107 degrees) and mucho mosquitoes vying for our blood. We checked in at the state park Visitor Center and found out a 20-minute tram tour of the park was leaving in about two minutes. Guess what these two birds did? We hitched a ride on the tram. (Still hot, but we had a breeze on the open-air tram, and the mosquitoes apparently aren't that good at hitting a moving target. Those mosquitoes that did find us on the tram were easily slapped or shooed away.)

Mexican Olive Tree
Let me back up just a bit...before we got on the tram, we learned from an informational marker what the structures below are. You see them all over the Valley. These are irrigation standpipes that help regulate pressure in underground water pipelines.

Our bus tour guide wasn't seeing many birds because most have migrated north already, so he was pointing out whatever looked interesting. When we got to a picnic pavilion, he pointed out the blue spiny lizards climbing all over it. Being that I love lizards, I asked if he would mind if I hopped out to get a close-up photo. No problemo.

Blue spiny lizard (Sceloporus serrifer cyanogenys)
After the lizards we did see a couple of roadrunners, but true to their name they weren't standing still for photos!
Looking out the front window of the tram.
After that we did see few other birds of interest. A family on the tram with us noticed a hawk in the top of a tree. We backed up to get photos. Mine didn't turn out well, but I think this is a common black hawk (from what I can tell). The driver wasn't sure. He thought it might be a Harris hawk, but I don't think so. It was very dark all over.

Common black hawk?
A little farther along, I spotted a colorful bird in a tree. Being from the Pacific Northwest, my first quick impression as we drove by was a Cedar waxwing. I asked the driver to back up. Everyone said, "That's a great kiskadee." I now have another new bird on my list (if the hawk above is, indeed, a common black hawk that is a new-to-me bird as wlel).

Great Kiskadee
As the tram returned to the Visitor Center, I saw some ground birds that looked a little prehistoric. Again, I had no clue what they were. Come to find out, they're the chachalacas.

Other wildlife at the Visitor Center included this cute rabbit.

I like the sun behind its ears.
Driving back toward Mission, we stopped at Retama Village to look at RV pad lots with small coach houses at the rear of the site. You can buy your own lot and live on it when you're in the Valley and rent or lease it out if you want when you travel. Interesting concept, not ready to do that yet. As we left Retama Village, we saw lots of butterflies enjoying the flowers.

Butterflies flitting around the flowers.
Bentsen Palm Drive in Mission, Texas
Since we weren't walking, we had time to do our exploring. Our Inn at Chachalaca Bend B&B check-in time was 2-4 p.m. Next stop: Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in north Brownsville (near Los Fresnos where the B&B is located).

At Palo Alto Battlefield Visitor Center we learned about the Mexican-American War which took place ten years after the Alamo. When President Polk was campaigning for the presidency, he pledged to extend the United States to the Pacific Ocean, and the addition of the Republic of Texas as the 28th state represented a major step toward that goal. Mexico, however, did not cotton to that idea, refused to recognize the independence of Texas, and denounced the US move as an attack on Mexico. 

Palo Alto Visitor Center
Map of where the battles took place in the
Mexican-American War

President Polk attempted to force a settlement by sending an envoy to Mexico City to negotiate an agreement. Bad idea. In Mexico, hard-line Gen. Mariano Paredes y Arrillega marched to the capital, seized control of the government, and announced he would discuss nothing but the return of Texas to Mexico. The Mexican-American war began. Long story short, Gen. Zachary Taylor of the US and Gen. Mariano Arista of Mexico lead their respective armies into battle. When the US won, not only was Texas ceded to the US, but we bought New Mexico and California as well, opening the way for US expansion to the West Coast. It was a lot more complicated than that, but we don't have all day here.

The B&B was texting us to ask when we'd be arriving, so we told them 1/2 hour and planned to return to Palo Alto Battlefield tomorrow morning when it might be a little cooler. The B&B was only 15-20 minutes away.

This blog is getting long, it's late, so I'll continue it tomorrow with our impressions of the B&B, our dinner in Port Isabel, and our visit to South Padre Island on Sunday evening. Craziness.  Stay tuned for the next installment.

1 comment:

  1. We have been to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park many many times. The Chachalaca are my favorite.


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