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2021-02-19 Bentsen RGVSP Again

Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
These birds, the first Chipping Sparrows I met in Texas, were in the visitor parking lot. I returned to Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park Friday, three days after my first brief visit last Tuesday, when cold weather had a firm grip on most live forms. With my repaired bicycle under me, I explored all the paths the park would allow and spent a lovely day capturing wildlife images.
Altamira Oriole - Icterus gularis
I lingered with the Altamira Orioles here, getting better acquainted with the species. 

I wanted to wait for my bicycle to finish up in the shop before I attempted more explorations of Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. South Texas has been hard hit with weather related dilemmas of late. The unusual cold we’ve been experiencing has degraded to cold with power outages. We lost power Saturday night, and it stayed off until Wednesday night. Not all areas sustained as lengthy a blackout as we, but gas stations and grocery stores shut down, making it a challenge to carry out normal activities. This affected the bike shop’s ability to complete on time the repairs I needed.

Tuesday morning I broke camp early and drove two miles down the road to the National Butterfly Center, which is next to Bentsen RGVSP, but I found the gates locked. I doubled back to the state park, not sure of my plan for the day. It was still chilly and overcast, and as I prepared to park the van, I noticed Lark and Chipping Sparrows on the grounds. I’d not met the Chippers before in Texas, and the Lark Sparrows I’d seen in here had been very shy. It seemed a good idea to spend my time hanging out with the parking lot birds.

After my time with the sparrows, I contacted the bike shop and learned they were finishing up with the upgrades we agreed to, so I headed off to McAllen to round it up. They were still fitting the last pieces on when I arrived, and I ended up working with them to get the final tweaks taken care of.

The city of McAllen has a nature center I hoped to visit, but I got lost looking for it. I found myself in a neighborhood with 40 or 50 meadowlarks roving expansive lawns. Hoping these were Eastern Meadowlarks, I had to look. But alas, they were all Westerns. I captured a single image before they flew off to parts unknown. I got underway and found the McAllen Nature Reserve, but it too was closed.

With my bike back, I committed to a Wednesday tour of the Bentsen RGVSP, and I broke camp early and headed a mile-and-a-half south to ride into the park, to explore those five miles of trails. The skies were clear, and the sun promised a warmer day ahead. Halfway to the state park I ran across a flock of Roseate Spoonbills foraging in a drainage ditch, and I stopped to try for a few photos, but the wary birds flew away before I could capture anything but images of the retreating birds.

I should explain a bit about my bike. No longer an ordinary bicycle, though it started out as a regular mountain bike, there has been an evolution. My friend Charlie altered it by installing a pedal-assist electric motor. After I took it in a trade, I built a carrier box to hold my camera gear. This allows me to carry my heavy camera equipment much farther than I’m inclined to hike with it. The setup takes some time for me to bring out the gear for photo-ops, so I sometimes see things I’m unable to photograph. And this day was no exception. A Ringed Kingfisher posed next to a trail I was riding, but skedaddled before I could set up the camera <sigh>.

My best opportunities for capturing images come from sitting quietly in a location where the birds will come to me. Fortunately for me, this park has several promising locations where I can execute this approach. When I noticed a water drip set up in an open grassy field, and Altamira Orioles were among the birds visiting, I knew I’d found my spot. By the time I’d finished both days, I’d captured Altamira Orioles, American Goldfinches, American Pipits, Black-Crested Titmouse, Chipping Sparrows, Collared Peccary, Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers, Gray Hawk, Great Kiskadee, Green Jays, Lark Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, Orange-Crowned Warblers, Roseate Spoonbills, Western Meadowlarks, Wild Turkey, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

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