My Life’s Birds: #162-169
April 1, 1994 – Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, Tx – The birds keep coming in South Texas, and there are places to go birding practically everywhere. The day before my dad and I spent the morning at the phenomenal Santa Ana NWR, on this morning we headed out to another of the area’s spectacular birding areas, Bentsen -Rio Grande Valley State Park, known to birders around the country as simply “Bentsen”.
The birding started early, as we drove the short ten miles from my grandparent’s house to the entrance, the fields along the way were covered with migrating Swainson’s Hawks just sitting on the ground in the early morning, a strange sight. When we arrived at the park we drove in to the guard house where a list of sightings was posted near a feeding station covered in Green Jays, Altamira Orioles and Chachalacas. With a few birds on our minds were drove to the resaca, a lake created by an old bend of the Rio grande where we were greeted by the machine gun rattle of a Ringed Kingfisher. Kingfishers are impressive enough, but one the size of a crow even more so. It’s a truly cool bird.
The park as it existed when we first started visiting was very different from the park as a visitor would see it today. Now, no vehicles are allowed in the park, but back then you could drive everywhere and even camp in the park’s famous trailer loop. Imagine a RV park where every single campsite has, in addition to monster campers, an elaborate feeding station. Before they banned camping in the park a few years back, the trailer loop was famous for attracting some stunning rarities like White-throated Robin, Blue Bunting, and Rose-throated Becard. Scrutiny of the feeding stations provided nothing truly crazy today, but in addition to the Valley regulars we picked up White-winged Dove, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Bronzed Cowbird.
We had another bird targeted though, one we found on that list of rarities. Back in the corner of the park, in a dry chaparral section of the wildlife drive, was a singing Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, a bird, as the joke goes, whose name is longer than it is. The Tyrannulet is truly a birder’s bird, and honestly at that point in our respective birding careers, my dad and I would probably have trouble placing it had we stumbled upon it ourselves. But that’s a problem for another day, on this day, we were one tyrannulet richer.
We were finished birding for the morning, but not for the day. Later that evening we trucked out to Anzalduas County Park, recommended by Jim Lane in his Birder’s Guide to the Rio Grande Valley, a book we leaned on pretty heavily. On that evening the park seemed more popular with picnicking families and mosquitoes than with birds, but we found a Lark Sparrow and over by the dam, looking over into Mexico, a Caspian Tern fishing in the Rio Grande, a bird I could probably count for my Mexican list in addition to my ABA one. As the sun went down I could reflect on a couple of pretty phenomenal birding days.