2020-03-09 A Whirlwind Tour Of Del Rio Texas

Pecos River - Scenery
Despite the rain, I had to stop to take a few bad pictures of this amazing place.

I pulled away from Marathon early Sunday morning and headed towards Del Rio Texas on US-90 under gray and cloudy skies. It is a wide, flat valley where Marathon resides. There is hardly a bump on the landscape for dozens of miles in all directions. A century and a half of grazing has taken its toll on this land. Very little native flora has survived the blades of progress here.

After 16 miles of driving I reached my first ridge and for the remainder of the day I would cross through rocky canyons. Even though the constant climbing and descents were killing my fuel economy, I could not help but enjoy the beauty of this area. But the gray skies began delivering on their implied threat of rain, and my windshield wipers got a workout for the rest of the drive.

Langtry Texas is the town where the infamous and colorful Judge Roy Bean settled and declared himself the “Law West Of The Pecos”. I stopped here to satisfy my curiosity about the town I’d heard stories about for so many years. I’d read of the fine cactus garden behind the visitor center, where birds of several kinds might be met, but the rain and wind changed my mind about walking into the garden with my camera gear. Instead I used the time to work on images from the Big Bend expedition and drain some of the droning highway noise from my head.

Before hitting the road again I found a dirt road leading south to the Rio Grande and followed it into the canyon where the Eagle’s Nest Creek converged with the grand river. I found several historical marker signs describing events that transpired here, including a world championship prize fight that Roy Bean organized in 1896, and took place on a sandbar on the Mexico side of the border to avoid the ban of prize fighting in Texas at the time.

A little later and further south, the highway crossed the Pecos River on a bridge spanning 2180 feet, 321 feet above the river. Here the canyon was remarkably beautiful and despite the rain, I had to stop for pictures. 

After arriving in Del Rio I resupplied my groceries and continued working on my Big Bend story while listening to the continuing rain on the van the rest of the night. At breakfast, when the sky got brighter and I could see my surroundings better, I could tell it would be another gray day with threats of sprinkles.

White-Eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus
I rode my bike in town along the San Felipe Creek to find these birds. My day in Del Rio was spent chasing birds at four different locations around Del Rio Texas.

I’ve started using the Texas Birding Trail Maps to discover birding locations along my route. There are five nearby locations mentioned. My attempts to find the locations identified as San Felipe Creek and Paseo de Los Niños Nature Trail both seemed bogus or outdated. Each were identified by GPS coordinates, but were inaccessible due to locked gates. The search for these places yielded casual meetings with Great Kiskadees, and Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers. Both of these were first encounters for me, but I didn’t attempt pictures at the time due to rain and cloudy skies.

I drove across town to Laguna de Plata and found the ball fields mentioned in the literature, but the bird sanctuary did not seem to have any good access. There was a thick overgrown woods behind the ball fields where I was able to find Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Northern Cardinals and Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers. Black Vultures were perched on the ball field lights when I arrived, and Great-Tailed Grackles sallied across the ball field grass. While I was there, puddle ducks (mostly Gadwall) worked the waters of the treatment plant across the road.

The next location was Duck Pond Road. The coordinates published on the Birding Trail Map were imprecise, but they led me to a thick-with-thorns habitat where I found Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers, Northern Cardinals and Northern Mockingbirds. After I finished here and was heading out, a deputy Sheriff followed and I pulled over to see what he wanted. He was very intrigued with my RV, so I gave him a tour of the additions I’d MacGyvered, and we had an enjoyable conversation. Seeing that I was interested in birds, he gave me some tips on places to go. I could only follow up on one of his instructions (San Felipe Creek at Bridge Road), and I finished my tour there.

Tuesday I will head south from Del Rio and explore more of South Texas.

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