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Memories of Resaca de la Palma State Park

Groove-Billed Ani - Crotophaga sulcirostris
Resaca de las Palmas in Brownsville, Texas opened to the public a few days before I left Texas on my 2020 expedition. In 2017 I met a single bird on Isla Socorro, 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico. These were the first Groove-Billed Anis I met in a more expected habitat.

A week before the end of April 2020 I made plans to exit Texas at the end of the month. Then I learned of several locations I’d hoped to explore, but were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, were opening. It made sense I should check these places out before I left the region, so I extended my stay for an additional week. Resaca de la Palma State Park was one such location. 

Prior to coming to Texas I was researching places I could visit for bird encounters. I kept reading about The World Birding Center. At first I thought is must be a colossal location, but later I learned it is a network of nine reserves spanning 120 miles of the Lower Rio Grande Valley from Roma to South Padre Island, and includes:

  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
  • Edinburg Scenic Wetlands
  • Estero Llano Grande State Park
  • Harlingen Arroyo Colorado
  • Old Hidalgo Pumphouse Museum
  • Quinta Mazatlan Historical Mansion
  • Resaca de la Palma State Park
  • Roma Bluffs
  • South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

Resaca de la Palma State Park is spread out in the valley on a 2½ mile by 1 mile property, 7½ miles northwest of downtown Brownsville, Texas. I’d hoped to meet Least Grebes here, but I discovered the shortage of water in South Texas meant no water was in the resaca. Scattered throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley are remnant horseshoe shaped oxbow lakes called resacas, leaving winding depressions as evidence that the former great meandering river once ran wild and free, and passed over these grounds. Nowadays the Rio Grande’s 1248 mile path from the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, has been tamed by fifteen dams constructed during the 20th Century (1914-1971). Agricultural demands trump park demands, so many of the resacas here starve for water. Today the river barely trickles into the Gulf of Mexico.

I was informed there may be some water at the far end of the park at a location called Hunter’s Lane, so I loaded my gear onto my bike and rode out to investigate. The water I found was a mere shallow pond with no grebe in sight <sigh>. However, there were cuckoos, anis, kingbirds, buntings, various warblers, flycatchers, cowbirds, doves, thrushes and others to entertain me. When I visited the park again ten days later, I found the puddle was bigger due to agricultural water leaking into the park, yet still the resaca was dry except for the lowest end of the park at Hunter’s Lane.

I managed two visits to this location before my Texas departure, and on both occasions a storm blew in suddenly and chased me away, riding through a tropical wind and rain event. Still, the meetings with birds and other critters such as the Texas Tortoise were ample reward for the time I spent there.

If I’ve misidentified any bird, please feel free to kindly straighten me out.

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