2020-05-16: Recounting My Passage From Texas

As I send out this week-old report, I’m staying with my good friend Jerry in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many of the birding venues we’d hoped to explore during my visit remain closed, but we all hope that things open soon.

2020-05-08 Friday
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

I pulled away from my Breeze Lake haven in Brownsville, Texas at about 7:30am with only a vague idea of my destinations, and unsure about how far I’d be travelling each day. Part of me wanted to look for every birding opportunity available, but because of recent missteps that injured my feet and toes, I didn’t want to put my boots on the ground any more than necessary until my blisters and bruises healed. 

My route carried me near the Mexican border until I reached Loredo, then I turned north into the Heart of Texas. South Llano State Park, near Junction Texas, had been suggested as a worthwhile destination, and nearby were two or three other locations I’d read about, so I chose a route that carried me in that direction.

Until I reached Brownsville, I’d been boondocking my way cross country, but Breeze Lake changed that — until now! Boondocking was back! I filled and drained all my holding tanks, except for my propane, and I opted to look for a fill station along my drive north. 

Sit down breakfasts had not been an option for me in about seven weeks, and the absence of entries in my journal reflects this change. The time I had been spending in cafes and restaurants, was my time to write my thoughts and experiences into my journal. On my departure, I made a stop at Denny’s in Brownsville before I rolled away. They were seating customers for the first time in nearly two months. Half of their seating was marked as unavailable, to maintain distance between customers, and all the staff work facial masks. I believe this strategy may be the new normal!

My drive out of Brownsville followed the military highway US-281 until I reached McAllen where I picked up US-83 to Laredo. I would like to spend time on my next trip to Texas, following this route, and make some of the bird stops that I passed up this morning. Many of these locations are part of the World Birding Center series of locations. The entire route I travelled along the Rio Grande is named The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

Forty miles past McAllen, and ninety miles from Loredo, I found my propane at a station in Roma, Texas. With all my boondocking capacity maximized, I pushed on, still uncertain of my destination for the night. I found Loredo a pain to navigate through. It took me almost an hour, so bad was the traffic. The speed limits were oppressively slow, even for me! 

I drove north on I-35/US-83 and left I-35 where US-83 split off towards Carrizo Springs. At the junction of these two roads I found a state rest area where I tried (and failed) to capture swallows taking drinks on the fly, and nesting Western Kingbirds. I watched at length as the kingbird hen fashioned her nest, using some of the most unattractive materials imaginable. Sure, there were twigs and grasses, but she was also using plastic trash, strings of strange colors and even cigarette filters, no doubt cast to the ground by careless tobacco smokers. While the choice of building materials struck me as distasteful, it mattered not a whit to the little nest builder. She used all her skill to weave these items and push the woven mass into a form she determined best for housing her future brood. 

After leaving the kingbirds I drove 33 miles north on US-83, where a few miles south of Catarina I found a picnic area. It was about 5pm when I pulled in, and I felt it was time to stop for the night. As a bonus, I found Chihuahuan Ravens standing guard at one of the picnic tables, so I spent a few minutes capturing their images.

2020-05-09 Saturday

I woke early from my roadside layover and pushed north. I made several roadside rest or picnic area stops on the drive. This would be a recurring theme. North of Crystal springs and still on US-83, I crossed a bridge over the Nueces River and found a rest area where I met Painted Buntings. I spent about an hour photographing these beautiful birds.

When I charted my original course, I planned to stop at South Llano River State Park, but I decided there was too much public roaming the nearby roads, so I opted just to keep driving. I got gas in Junction Texas and picked up the I-10 West. Twenty miles later I found a parking area and spent some time relaxing getting the road buzz out of my head. I continued driving until I was about an hour east of Fort Stockton, where I met some interesting birds. I found three species of oriole: Bullock’s, Hooded and Orchard. I also found three species of flycatchers: Western Kingbird, Vermilion Flycatcher and Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher. As a bonus, I found Cactus Wrens here as well.

2020-05-10 Sunday

My drive this Sunday was uneventful, but it got me off of the I-10 interstate and carried me across the Texas border into New Mexico. I set my sights on Roswell, where the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge held the promise of new bird encounters. I plan to tell that story on my next blog entry.

The gallery below displays the birds I met during these days on the road. You can see Chihuahuan Raven, Western Kingbird, Bullock’s Oriole, Cactus Wren, Great-Tailed Grackle, Hooded Oriole, Northern Mockingbird, Orchard Oriole, Painted Bunting, Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, Vermillion Flycatcher, and White-Winged Dove.

Click map markers to reveal further information