2020-03-19 Adios Corpus Christi

Monk Parakeet - Myiopsitta monachus
As I was preparing to leave Corpus Christi, and getting the RV ready for the road, I visited an RV park intent on dumping my holding tanks and replenishing my fresh water supply; I found many dozens of Monk Parakeets. I later discovered their nest tree, where the birds monitored closely all activity in the neighborhood. These birds are the only member of the parrot family to build communal stick nests. I watched them as they collected small branches and carried them to nearby palm trees where they were nesting.

By Thursday I knew it was time to explore my way south into the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I’d had three days to explore Aransas NWR, and a couple of delightful afternoons in Rockport. The Central Texas Coast had been generous with her gifts, but every knowledgeable person I’d communicated with prior to embarking on this expedition told me that “The Valley” was the place to be if I wanted to see the best birding that Texas offers. So I set out for my trip south.

I’d been dry-camping in the RV and I needed groceries, fuel, propane, and freshwater. I also needed to clear my holding tanks. For this last step I found the Greyhound RV Park in Corpus Christi, which provided me with the facilities to execute this final stage of preparation. When I pulled into the park, I saw dozens of Monk Parakeets grazing on a patch of lawn near the driveway.

By the time I finished my RV chores the birds were no longer grazing in the grass. However, I could hear them in a nearby tree, so I got permission to get my camera gear out and chase these birds. At first I could only glimpse them on their high, shady perches, but eventually they came out into better views. As I studied them, I could see they were cutting new growth branches, perhaps ¼” in diameter and 12” to 18” long, then carrying them to fan palm trees across the road. I captured images as best I could when the birds came from behind the veil of leaves and branches, then I walked across the road to meet them under their nest trees. Curiosity brought them out to investigate me and I found I could catch them in a better light.

I later learned that Monk Parakeets are the only parrot to build communal stick nests, which allows these descendants of escaped pets to survive cold climates as far north as New York. By crowding their nest space into compact areas and close to each other, it is believed they can trap heat and stay warm even in cold winters.

When I said goodbye to the parakeets, I began my trek south with Brownsville and South Padre in my sights. Things changed rapidly after I departed from Corpus Christi, when Covid-19 measures became more restrictive. South Padre Island was no longer considered an option for my explorations, so I slogged my way south, with Brownsville as my target destination. Not being in a mad rush to get anywhere, I stopped at a couple of destinations on my drive south. (Stay tuned neighbors!)

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