Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nature! Nature! Wonderful Nature!

We have quickly established a habit of leaving the RV park each morning, and heading to one of the many areas that are hotspots for birds, and that have trails or boardwalks to explore.  We have visited several new places as well as returned to some we visited our first week.  I want to share the pictures of some of what we saw.

Bentsen Rio Grande SP

Green Jay

Altamira Oriole

Nest of the Altamira Oriole
Great Kiskadee getting fresh drops at a water station. As a kid I can remember drinking from a hose too.

White-tipped Dove - such lovely colours.

Great Kiskadee and Cardinals sharing the water.

Hugh Ramsey Nature Park

Bobcat shared her trail with us. She had two babies with her, and we enjoyed her company for several minutes.

Oriole and Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Santa Ana NWR

Always a good sighting!

Harris Hawk. We learned they hunt in a "pack" like wolves and is the only hawk known for this behaviour. We actually saw group of three in the morning, and then four sitting high in this dead tree together in the afternoon.

Queen Butterfly

One of the bird blinds at Santa Ana.

One view of the Rio Grande with Mexico in the background.  Hi Neighbors!

A field of cabbages was being harvested across the road from the entrance to the NWR.

South Padre Island

Least Bittern

Love the bad hair day this Reddish Egret is having.

Looks like it is tip-toeing on the surface.

There are some big gators here and this large male was peeking through the rushes.  We were on the boardwalk 😉

Roseate having a nap with a Tricolored and surrounded by (mostly) American Widgeons.
American Wigeons

Laguna Atascosa NWR

Snow geese and the darker one second on the right I was told is a Ross's Goose.

We saw several Aplamodo Falcons but this picture is taken from one in a showcase in the Visitor Center. 

Kestrel on the way into the refuge. See about a dozen a day on our travels.

Caracara known as the Mexican Eagle although it is not in that family.

Some of the very endangered Ocelots of the USA live in this refuge. It is believed that around 50 still exist in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Estero Llano Grande State Park

Vermillion Flycatcher. This was a very windy day and you can al out see the effect in the following pictures.  We have had a lot of wind this past week, sometimes gusting to 30-40 mph.

Tropical Kingbird  This bird was identified, by the expert leading the birding group, by its call. It is identical in looks to the Couch's Kingbird.

Green Kingfisher

Back at the RV park, our site is coming along.  We should be in our official home in a few days😍.

There really is more to share than I can fit into this post, but hopefully you will enjoy the bird sightings
and get a small snapshot of this lovely area. I am keeping a bird list each day and sometimes I have seen 60-70 birds on one day.  I will include an abbreviated list in next post.

We are enjoying the friendly people and the delicious Tex-Mex food. 

And we are gathering pictures of some special aspects of the Lower Rio Grande Valley as well.

Our television/DVD player works well for programs after it gets dark, so we are quite content! 
Sending love and hugs, L and L

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 - She slows me down, and that's good!

Correction on last post: I misnamed a bird a "Dowitcher" that really is a Common Snipe. Thanks to Stan and Alida for helping me make the correct ID.  


New Years Eve was going to be a very special day! It was our day to arrive in Texas and make our first visit the capital, Austin. And perhaps most important, it was our second Willie Nelson concert. I had gotten the tickets in August for a surprise birthday gift for Latona and since we were headed to Texas for the winter it seemed like a great idea.

The concert was to be at the Moody Theater on Willie Nelson Boulevard complete with a statue of him in the front of the Theater.

As you may know Latona is a BIG Willie Nelson fan so it seemed like a great idea to be in Austin for the concert on New Years Eve.

One problem remained however!  Where would we stay, and where could we leave the van if we had to stay in the city somewhere.  I started checking Walmart parking lots close to the Theater with no luck and then I started to look for RV parks anywhere in Austin.  I called and called, again with absolutely no luck.  It was still only November so I thought something might show up.  We were visiting Carrie, and she and I were doing some errands when I got a call from someone in a RV park called Pecan Grove, four blocks from the Theater.  He said he had a site for us.  Wow! I was so happy.   And when he asked my name to hold the site, I told him,  "Ives, like Burl" , he sang me part of an old Burl Ives song. 

So, happily, the GPS helped us find Pecan Grove in the middle of the city and that night we walked to the area of the Theater for dinner.  The concert started around 9 pm and we thought we would be out of the place by 11 or so, with plenty of time to get back to the van before all the midnight celebrations.
Well, guess what?  The concert started at 9 but Willie didn't take the stage until a few minutes before midnight.

We rang in the New Year with him and THEN he started his part of the concert.  Long story short, the wonderful concert ended at 2 in the morning and then we walked the four blocks to the van.  Our host assured us we would be safe and we were.  Sleep came around 3 am, and the next day was our five hour trip to our winter home, Twin Palm RV park in Rio Hondo, Texas. What a great way to start the new year.

The park is fitting this site to meet our needs and soon it will be defined by railroad ties and the grass replaced with white rocks.

In 2010, we had visited this area and stayed in this park.  In 2017, we decided to slow down on the miles and stay longer in one spot, so we decided to return to Rio Hondo.  The managers have been wonderful to us, and we feel very welcome and comfortable here.  Slowing down...

The big bonus of this area of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is that a strip of lane about 120 miles long surrounds us and is identified as the World Birding Center. There are nine sites recognized with this distinction and many of them are within 20-30 miles of where we are staying.  So far we have visited three of these areas.  I will highlight them below.  

You will be hearing more about them and viewing some pictures from these areas throughout the winter.  It will be exciting to share the new arrivals of various species with you.  Also, each area is filled with trails and boardwalks where we hike and have a good time looking at and for the birds. 

Estero Llana Grande State Park 
This is one of my favorite spots to visit but like often happens, I am rushing out ahead. Then Latona says "hey look at this" or "did you see that?" She slows me down to see what I would  miss without her. I am so grateful for her.

Alligator Pond is a rookery for Night Herons. Here are only a few of those we saw.

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron

In another area, we found this napping Common Pauroque (the camo is unbelievable).

Great Kiskadee in a tree along one of the paths.

And the Couch's Kingbird (could be Tropical)

Laguna Atascosa NWR
It was a very windy day and the birds seemed to be laying low in the trees and bushes but always something of interest.
Small alligator peering through the algae.

Great Tailed Grackle at the feeding station.

South Padre Island Birding Center
Great Blue Heron on rail of Boardwalk with Birding Center in background.

Roseate Spoonbills.  We also saw Long-billed Curlew and several duck species here in this pool.

Redheaded Ducks. There were hundreds of these ducks resting in large groups in the bay.

White Pelicans with Coot in foreground

From the boardwalk we spotted this Little Blue Heron...

And the White Ibis with Coot

We have enjoyed our first week here in Texas! Today it is cold and windy, so we are staying put and making a lovely, lazy day of it. Slowing down. 😍 Chili on the stove and our little heater keeping us very comfortable.  We hope you are staying warm and safe wherever you may be.  God bless you, with love and hugs from Latona, the die-hard Willie Nelson fan, and me.