Wednesday, March 24, 2021

This Blog is for the Birds! And Getting Ready to Leave....

Roseate Spoonbill
We've been to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center twice now. We love it. Some people have posted negative reviews, saying that it's too commercial with the alligator ponds, the tortoises in confined spaces, etc., but we love it. Quite a bit to see there....

There are beautiful boardwalks--3300 feet in all, that wind in and out of the Bayfront and marsh areas, five bird blinds, there's an observation tower five stories high, kids and adults can get to hold snakes (EWWWWWW! says Sparky, not for me!) and small baby gators (Sparky has done that) and get their picture taken for 10.00 plus the admission fee. Adults are 8.00, Seniors are 7.00. There is a great nature center as well, plus there are also guided birding tours that are starting to open back up every day at 8:30 AM. Spoonbills, reddish egrets, alligators, shorebirds, songbirds, you never know what you will see on a day that you visit.
Little Green Heron just watching the world go by

Golden Front Woodpecker, a frequent visitor
The Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, part of the World Birding Centers, was 15 minutes from Sunshine RV Park and Sparky walked 3miles a day there almost every day... A park filled with hummingbird feeders, lots of nature paths and trails, although short in length, you can easily walk 3 miles around and around and in and out of the trails. 

At first it was a very dreary and gray area after being hit hard by the frost. But then....spring started its wonderful greening up of the area, and the park became more and more beautiful each day. Sparky watched this Century Agave plant for weeks, as the asparagus looking bloom stalk grew and grew. It's now about 13 feet high! Sparky was hoping to see it bloom, but nope. It's not called the century agave for nothing. Not a hundred years to bloom, but about every 15-20 years it blooms, and it takes its sweet time to do it. Probably will be another month or two before it does bloom. When it does, it could have red blossoms or not, and will look like a little mini forest is perched at the top of the plant.

Buff Bellied Hummingbird
Stop to see the memory gardens people have donated, learn the names of the flowering bushes and trees that attract the birds, hummers, and butterflies, stop in the several bird blinds and bird station feeding areas in the park, and see what birds are passing through. And, it's a wonderful place to just sit and watch the birds and enjoy nature. 

Altamira Oriole duo

 The park has lots of branch debris  and piles and piles of brush, but it's a  nature park, it's not cultivated like some parks up north. Full of cactus, thorny trees and bushes, no wonder the birds love it here. Great cover! And if you look closely all around you, you might see some sleepy owls, too! The nesting boxes were empty for weeks and then all of a sudden one day, Sparky saw a little sleepy head peeking out of one of them.
Screech Owl in a Box

Many volunteers work hard to keep the park orderly, trimming bushes and trees, and watering the many memory gardens people have established in memory of their loved ones.

Black Crested Titmouse
Sparky is just sorry that full blown migration is a couple of weeks away yet (April, apparently is the peak) but she learned about many new species of birds from fellow birders, walkers and workers in the park, some birds which she had never seen before, either up north in Indiana, or down in Florida. The green jay, crested titmouse and the Altamira orioles were new to her. Her favorite was the Indigo Bunting, and she enjoyed seeing the changes in the feathering in the young ones from patchy to almost full sapphire blue coloring as the weeks went by.

We visited several World Birding sites in the area. Harlingen and the surrounding counties and nearby cities are LOADED with places to go see birds. Sparky's favorite state park was the Estero Llano Grande State Park, on of the world birding centers, about a 40 minute drive from the RV park. Here is where she learned of the Pauraque bird, a species of a bird called the nightjars. It's a bird that forages at dusk and at night for insects on the ground. It rests on the ground as well, and it one of THE most camouflaged birds in the wild. Can you see it?

The eyes are down towards the bottom left of the photo, and the tail is pointing to the upper right corner, and the face looks owlish. Here his eyes are just about shut. It took quite awhile for Sparky to pick him out of the leaf debris.

Northern Shoveler Duck-male
This particular state park has nice bird blinds, many hiking trails that you can walk or bike, a big marshy pond, lakes and other ponds nearby, and you could easily spend all day here exploring. Here is where Sparky saw a big alligator, meh...Being recently transplanted from Florida, no big deal, but the SNAKE??? Ewwww.....And that's a baby gator just in front of him.....

Sparky saw northern shoveler ducks, spoonbills, a variety of other ducks, pied-bill grebes (not a duck) and more at this park....Wait for it...Sparky was out walking the trails and here comes a BOBCAT just out for a stroll!!!!.....

It was LESS THAN 50 yards away....he looked at me and looked away. Sparky took a photo. He looked at me again and looked away. Sparky took several photos. Bobcats don't like to mess with humans, so Sparky wasn't worried. He also looked well fed on the natural wildlife found in the park, so Sparky really wasn't worried. (Hmmm, but the photos are a little blurry. Maybe Sparky was just a tad bit nervous? says E.) Nah, just excited. He was so cool! He was BIGGER than the bobcats we have seen in Florida, and had really cool patterning to his fur. 

at the marsh viewing area-blue wing teal ducks?

Ok, enough of all the birds and wildlife. We are going to leave you with a few recommendations for eating in the area. The whole time we were here, the area restaurants were extremely careful and great about spacing and sanitizing. Even with the Texas governor lifting the mask restrictions, EVERYBODY down here in southeastern Texas in Cameron county continued to wear masks indoors and out. It was pretty amazing how thoughtful and careful everybody continues to be with the virus still out there and circulating...SO---we did try a few restaurants in the area and thought these were great...By the way, there are a bazillion Mexican restaurants here in Harlingen, we happened to find a good one right off the get-go, so we stuck with that one! We are sure there are quite a few more....

Lonnie's Down Home Cooking in Harlingen--nice, basic, very reasonably priced breakfasts, great pancakes...

Russo's New York Pizzaria
in Harlingen...OMG...the best pizza ever, (says both Sparky and Eldo) fantastic free appetizer of bread/pizza crust pieces with olive oil dipping sauce while you wait....

Tejano Grill in Harlingen--AMAZING onion ring tower, fabulous Mexican street tacos, and the best melt-in-your-mouth brisket ever, says Eldy. Tejano is Spanish for a Mexican-American inhabitant who lives in southern Texas, just in case you were interested. 

We are ready to leave this VERY windy and getting hotter by the day area of Texas. Time to head north in a couple of days, back towards Houston for a few days, then on to Kentucky......Sparky's focus will shift from birds to something else--(Food, probably, laughs Eldo.) OR, maybe learning Spanish or making some more crafts, who knows? At any rate, hope you enjoyed traveling with us in the Rio Grande Valley area and seeing birds up close and personal.  Bye for now!

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