Thursday, November 19, 2009
Biking and Birding at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park
Ever since our friends Nancy and Jim,(See the blog on our list Runnung Down Our Dream), had written in their blog about the plains chachalacas we had to see one. So when my tooth went bad and we had to plan a trip to Mexico for a new crown, it seemed like a perfect chance to check out the Rio Grande Valley and do some birding at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park.
We pulled into the nicest rv park we have ever stayed at and eagerly awaited the next day for a biking and birding adventure. The next morning it was all of one block to the park's visitor center and we asked the poor ranger the question, "Where can we see chachalacas?"
He looked somewhat bored and said that we would see them at the feeders along the road and the proceeded to highlight other areas of the park that contained feeders and bird blinds. He did seem to gain some enthusiasm and told us of other birds that we should look for.
Climbing on our bikes we peddled past the road block and by the Border patrol, ever present in the area, and reached the first set of feeders. Sure enough there was a flock of chachalacas and several green jays. It was like watching greedy chickens, as the chachalacas would chase the green jays away time after time, as if there wasn't enough food for both!
We discovered that chachalacas is also a term used to describe people that talk too much, a new term for us that I am sure we will use many times! Finally growing bored with the chachalacas we rode to the next set of feeders. There the green jays were the dominant bird and a collared peccary, with her new born piglet fed on the spilled birdseed.
Watching them, the sow finally had had enough of us and barred her teeth, as if to say watch it, so as discretion is the better part of valor we continued on our ride. The next stop was at the kingfisher overlook. There we hoped to see a green kingfisher.
Several neotropic comorants were drying their wings and flocks of coots and shovelers, swam in the resenta,(a spanish word for an oxbow lake). Renita, of course. spotted a larger bird perched in a tree and sure enough we could easily see that it was a Ringed Kingfisher, a new bird for us. She pointed out that it was a male with no white marking on its front and we were both amazed by its size, its the largest kingfisher! We continued to look for a green kingfisher but didn't have any luck so it was time to push on.
The next stop was a blind where we watched several doves and green jays, while a peccary fed nearby. It seems so unusual to us to see bird feeders placed in parks, something you don't see in most other states. It seems like such an unnatural way to observe, but it does make for great closeups.
We continued on riding by turning into the inner loop, which is the old campground loop. Next we rode the roadrunner road where we didn't see any roadrunners. Peddling along hawk drive we were lucky enough to catch a brief but good view of a white-tailed kite. It was another new bird for us and we were having a great morning.
A border USGS marker post shows the official US Mexico border, or at least where it was before the Rio Grande moved its channel. I had to take a picture from Mexico, or at least the southern side of the marker. It seems so artificial, the idea of borders in our internet age,(On my morning walk with Molly we saw two border Patrol agents moving a captured Mexican women from one car to the next. It made me think of my Irish Ancestors immigration).
Finally finishing the loops we decided to call it a day and head home for lunch. It had been a nice ride, we had gotten to see chachalacas, and had the best views we have ever seen of green jays. We talked about returning and hiking the footpaths and spending some time looking at the bird center displays. A highly recommended birding park and an easy bike ride! Clear skies.