Winter Escape-Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Visiting the Border – 2019 52 week project #7

We stayed four nights of our trip at a little RV park (Americana The Birding Center RV Park) just north of Bentsen State Park so we would have easy access to the Butterfly Reserve and the park. The campgrounds actually had a small Birding area with trails and feeding stations along it. Before heading out to get our windshield replaced (cracked by a rock on the highway just inside the Texas border), we walked the trail.

  • Kiskadee
  • Some sort of Thrush
  • Green Parakeet

After meeting Omar at a warehouse behind the T-Mobile we had a brand new windshield.

By noon we were at the World Birding Center, where the entry station and gift shop for Bentsen State Park is located. This part of the park will be on the USA side of the wall if it is built. The rest of the park (all of the trails and natural wooded areas) will be stuck behind the wall and visitors will most likely need a passport to visit this Texas land. We visited the park twice, once on Friday and then again Sunday morning for a guided birding trip. On that trip we were able to see and identify 50 different bird species. We also saw rabbits, Havalena, the nest of the Verdin bird (a desert bird related to the titmouse and wrens), and acres of Mesquite, Texas Ebony, Retama and other trees.

Unfortunately during the flood eight years ago, when the park was completely under water, invasive Guinea Grass invaded the park and some animals, like the Pygmy Owl never returned. The park is home to the spotted ocelot, an endangered species, that might not survive another flood event like the one eight years ago if its path is blocked by a border wall. I have included pictures from both days of our visit there.

  • Kiskadee
  • Green Jay
  • Havalena

  • Kiskadee
  • Plain Chachalaca
  • Walkways at the World Birding Center
  • Ringed Kingfisher
  • Border patrol watches as we enter the park.
  • Where the wall is planned.
  • Because the river is always moving, markers set the border
  • Prickly Pear finds a way to compete with the Guinea Grass
  • There is a river out there somewhere!
  • American Snout Nose Butterfly
  • Harris Hawk
Kiskadee and Cardinal coming for food.
Plain Chachalaca feeding time.

In all the time we spent there, we never actually saw the river. Huge expanses of Texas land will be cut off from people and no one knows what the requirements will be for people to visit it. Will there be a border crossing where people will have to have a passport or show papers? Will there be limited hours for entry? No one knows.

The big losers will be the wildlife that lives there as the ones on the North are cut off from water supplies and the ones to the south are unable to escape rising flood waters. Nocturnal animals will most likely have border lighting disrupting their sleep patterns and hunting. Genetic diversity will be lost as species can not intermingle.

Economically there is fear that people will not visit due to the added hassle of crossing the border. In an area where 6000 people depend on tourism for their income that is a scary thought. References here.
Here is the list of species we saw on our Sunday Morning tour of the area:

  1. Pine Siskin
  2. Lesser Goldfinch
  3. House Finch (actually rare in Texas)
  4. Ringed Kingfisher
  5. Kiskadee
  6. Black Phoebe
  7. Golden Fronted Woodpecker
  8. Gray Hawk (immature and adults)
  9. Great tailed Grackles
  10. Curved Billed Thrasher
  11. Northern Mockingbird
  12. Blue Gray Gnat Catcher
  13. Lark Sparrow
  14. Orange Crowned Warbler
  15. Ladder backed Woodpecker
  16. Green Jay
  17. Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker
  18. American Pipit
  19. Ruby crowned Kinglet
  20. Northern Cardinal
  21. Olive Sparrow
  22. Lincoln Sparrow
  23. Zone Tailed Hawk (usually more west)
  24. Black chinned Hummingbird
  25. Ruby throated Hummingbird
  26. Plain Chachalacas
  27. Altimira Oriole
  28. Inca Dove
  29. Turkey Vulture
  30. White tipped Dove
  31. Black crested Titmouse
  32. Hooded Oriole
  33. Red winged Black Bird
  34. Great Egret
  35. Common Yellow throat
  36. Pied Billed Grebe
  37. Belted KingFisher
  38. Vermillion Flycatcher
  39. Anhinga
  40. Blue winged Teal
  41. Red Tailed Hawk
  42. Mourning Dove
  43. White Eyed Vireo
  44. Black Vulture
  45. Harris Hawk
  46. Common Ground Dove
  47. Common Pauraque
  48. Red Shouldered Hawk
  49. Long Billed Thrasher
  50. Buff Bellied Hummingbird
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