2022-09-25 Rollin’ on the River

Ringed Kingfisher - Megaceryle torquata
The Ringed Kingfisher is the largest member of the trio of kingfisher species found in south Texas. During our late afternoon boating expedition on the Rio Grande, we met all three members of the kingfisher clan.
Green Heron - Butorides virescens
Green Herons were one of several wading birds we met during our afternoon boating adventure on the Rio Grande.

My friend Luciano told me how much fun it was to explore the Rio Grande aboard our friends Matt and Marianna’s boat. So when I ran into them at the SPI Birding and Nature Center a few days into my two-and-a-half week tenure on the island, and they extended an invitation, I knew I would regret it if I missed out on the opportunity.

Almost a month later, I found my way to Mission Texas, ninety miles up the Rio Grande Valley from South Padre Island. Matt and Marianna made good on their offer to ferry me on their pontoon boat. Joining us on this late afternoon adventure was fellow birder Stephanie Lopez, one of our favorite people. When we launched, I suspected we might see some fun birds. but I was certain I would be in fine company.

We began our adventure at the boat launch at Chimney Park, where the Border Patrol and local Game Wardens put  their boats into and out of the river. and we worked our way up-river past Bentzen-Rio State Park. The straight-line distance was only 4.8 miles, but given the meandering nature of the river, our traveling distance was almost nine miles.

I knew going into this ride, that tack-sharp images would be a challenge. The point of the trip, first of all, was to have fun; and FUN we had! Bird meetings were inevitable, but finding nearby birds in plain view, and in good light was not a sure thing. Given all the dynamics of a moving boat, a shaking camera, and busy subjects, it challenged us all. There wasn’t a lot of boat traffic on the river, but it seemed like those we shared the river with were adrenaline junkies, seeking to break all water speed records. They showed little concern with how their wake-making affected those of us looking for a peaceful interaction with nature. Sometimes we bobbed in the river so violently, we had to abandon our efforts to take pictures of the birds in front of us.

When we finished our tour, I managed to capture images of Baltimore Orioles, Belted Kingfishers, Black-Crowned Night-Herons, Blue Grosbeaks, Crested Caracaras, Gray Hawks, Green Herons, Green Kingfishers, Nashville Warblers, Ospreys, Painted Buntings, Ringed Kingfishers, Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, Spotted Sandpipers, Wilson’s Warblers, and Yellow Warblers. Many of these images are not my best, but the attempt was a heap of fun.

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