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Christmas 2006

Part 2:  Bentsen Rio Grande State Park & Anzalduas County Park

Despite promises of it being sunny the next day, it sure started out gloomy!  Headed over to Bentsen State Park (aka the World Birding Center); this was the first time I had visited it since the Big Change (the last time I was here they had discontinued camping but were still allowing cars in), and the only annoyance was that there was a five-minutes' walk from the parking lot to where I discovered you had to pay!  (Which meant that I had to walk all the way back to the car to put the thing in the windshield...)  I was also surprised that, despite the fact that the volunteers had just filled the feeders, there wasn't as much activity as last time (which was also in the winter); the first feeder was fairly active with Chachalacas and an Altamira Oriole chowing down, but there were others that had no activity at all.  The set of feeders at the fork seemed rather quiet except for Green Jays and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, but then there was suddenly a family of Peccaries that came in; the little baby was precious!


 Peccary fleeing the feeders

Actually, it was nice to walk the loop, and I had the whole place practically to myself except for a wintering couple who had come in pre-dawn looking for Pauraques and Ferruginous Pygmy Owls (neither of which they said they had seen for the past week). Stopped at the resaca and picked up several new birds for the trip, including Ring-necked Duck, Least Grebe, and Anhinga.  I heard a slow whistled song and thought for sure I had an Audubon’s Oriole, and when a bird moved in the tree, it turned out to be a Clay-colored Robin!  That’s the second time I went chasing an Audubon’s and found a Clay-colored! That's not what was making the sound, however, and I soon found the culprit: an "Altibon" Oriole!  (Interestingly, a second one also showed up...)  So no counting Audubon's by ear around here!  The blind there had a concoction of peanut butter and other stuff that the Kiskadees liked; they would hover in front of it and pick off a mouthful in true flycatcher fashion!  The day's only White-winged Dove sat on a wire there as well, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker worked the tree the orioles were in.




Great Kiskadees at the feeders

  The next blind down had a couple of Fox Squirrels hogging the feeders, along with a White-tipped Dove and several more Chachalacas and Green Jays.  Around the corner I headed into the old campground where there were several flocks of Indigo Buntings; I remember having them here the last time I was here in the winter, but interestingly according to the book they're not supposed to be here now.  (Later I noticed that they’re "uncommon" in winter at Laguna Atascosa…) In one such flock I heard what sounded like Hermit Thrushes thooking but a little different, and the bird that popped up looked for all the world like a Veery, as he was totally rusty!  Unfortunately I only got a brief look, so I let that one go seeing as even the idea of it was so far-fetched...  More expected things like Black-crested Titmice, Blue-headed Vireos, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets came in to the pishing.  


Old campground and one of the trails


Feeder birds included White-tipped Dove and a fuzzy Green Jay


Plain Chachalacas

Around the loop...


L-R:  Indigo Bunting, Orange-crowned Warbler, and fuzzy Blue-headed Vireo

Finished up the loop, hearing several Gray Hawks along the way (saw one fly by who had apparently just eaten), and also an Olive Sparrow that was actually singing (I usually only hear them in spring)!  Back at the entrance kiosk kicked up a little Vesta Crescent according to the butterfly lady who was there!  It was still cool and gloomy (quite pleasant, actually, but terrible for butterflies), but went over to the visitor's center to check the plantings out anyway, picking up several Inca Doves on the way out.  Was pretty quiet in the garden, but every once in awhile a Buff-bellied Hummer (I’m presuming; they were rattling like them) would go tearing through!  Did manage to corner what I'm pretty sure was a Violet-patched Skipper, so it wasn't a total loss!


L-R:  Owlet moths, Common Mestra, and Inca Dove (token bird)

More butterflies in the garden...


L-R:  Vesta Crescent, Queen, and Tawny Emperor


I thought maybe these were Violet-patched Skippers, but the white dashes on the edge of the forewing prove them to be Clouded Skippers...


L-R:  Female Roseate Skimmer, Leaf-footed Bug, and grasshopper sp.


L-R:  Crab Spider, Texas Wasp Moth, and pretty petal (Turk's Cap?)

About that time the school bus showed up, so I headed over to Anzalduas County Park, seeing as I had never been there and it was supposed to be good for butterflies.  I didn't realize that you were right on the border here, and across the Rio Grande was a "sister" park in Mexico!  As I was cruising the picnic area a phoebe peeped, only it wasn't the expected one: it was a Black sitting on a trash can!  They're definitely not supposed to be here! [Ed. note:  now they are...]


Window into Mexico at Anzalduas County Park


Great-tailed Grackle and Black Phoebe, on the eastern-most edge of its range here

I was advised to drive up and over the dike to a "back area" that most people don't go to, and this was really a terrific area: behind the dam the river is shallow and had all sorts of birds: both Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants, several puddle ducks and sandpipers, a Great Egret across the way, a snoozing Laughing Gull, and even a White Pelican!  An Osprey flew over as well. 


Dam area along the Rio Grande had both Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants; the Neotropics are the smaller ones.

About this time the sun came out, and so did the butterflies!  Had the usual Little Yellows, Dainty Sulphurs, Snouts, and a Southern Dogface, but heading back out had yet another knockout Mexican Bluewing!  Also had a Pipevine Swallowtail and Goatweed Leafwing (and my "lepper" friends informed me that the Powers that Be have lumped Goatweed and Tropical Leafwings…) The rangers were very nice: they kept warning me about the hive of bees I was getting dangerously close to in my pursuit of the Pipevine!


L-R:  Southern Dogface, Hackberry Emperor, and Little Yellow


Mexican Bluewings


L-R:  Pipevine Swallowtail on the move, Goatweed Leafwing, and Pyralid Moth sp.

The McAllen Nature Center was actually next on my list, but with the sun out I couldn't resist running back over to the Butterfly Garden since it was right next door practically!  Much of the same was there, so I got a review, but after downloading the pictures I discovered I had several new ones, including a little Mallow Scrub Hairstreak (which I misidentified as Clytie Ministreak at first, but saw a real one later…)!  But the star of the show for me was a White-striped Longtail!  That was worth the trip back; he was awesome!  Afterwards I did make a brief stop at the Nature Center since it was near the motel, but there wasn't much there except kiskadees and woodpeckers.


We make a return visit to the Butterfly Garden since it’s sunny!


L-R:  Strongly marked Tawny Emperor, Empress Leila, Reakirt's Blue, Marine Blue, Dainty Sulphur, and Mallow Scrub Hairstreak


L-R:  Southern Dogface, Phaon Crescent, White-striped Longtails, and White Checkered Skipper


L-R:  Queen party, Gulf Fritillary, and Horse Fly


Trail at the McAllen Nature Center, with Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Great Kiskadee

Click here to continue to Santa Ana NWR, here to return to the LRGV NWR

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