The Rio Grande River winds through mountains and deserts of the Southwest, bringing life to the arid landscapes before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. From its Colorado headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, the river flows through New Mexico and into Texas, forming an international boundary between the United States & Mexico. The Rio Grande makes its final stretch to the sea in southernmost Texas, nourishing plant and animal life on both sides of the river.
Over 95 percent of the Lower Rio Grande Valley lands have been converted to agriculture and other developments. As a result, the birds are dependent on state and federal wildlife refuges such as Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in addition to private ranches, Audubon centers, local wildlife sanctuaries, and urban parks.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service got the ball rolling in 1979 by working closely with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to initiate a Wildlife Corridor project along the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Through the joint efforts of both public and private groups, approximately 90,000 acres have been acquired along the river. The project goal is 132,000 acres.
We were lucky enough to spend 2 weeks in the area during the middle of May & yes it was very hot and humid. We visited State and local parks in addition to National Wildlife Refuges. We are splitting the blog into 2 parts: first part will cover the wildlife seen at the State and local parks and the second part will cover the wildlife seen at the National Wildlife Refuges.
We had the opportunity to spend time in Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Estero Llano Grande State Park, the Anzalduas County Park and the Sabal Palm Sanctuary near Brownsville Texas.
We hope you enjoy a few of the wildlife photos we captured on our visits to these special places:
The Altamira Oriole is the largest oriole occurring in the United States. One of the key characteristics of the Altamira is an orange shoulder bar.
Male Altamira Oriole
The Altamira Oriole makes the longest nest of any North American bird: it can reach up to 25 inches long.
Couch's Kingbirds in the throws of territorial battle and getting ready to nest.....
Maybe a Smoky Rubyspot damselfly
Maybe a Painted Lady....
Golden-fronted Woodpecker reaches the U. S. only in the brush lands and open woodlands of Texas and Oklahoma.
The Curve-billed Thrasher is a common bird of the arid Southwest.
We saw our first Stilt Sandpiper on Dauphin Island, Alabama a few weeks before this sighting. Our first bird was not in breeding plumage. We were lucky enough to see a flock of 20-30 Stilt Sandpipers in breeding plumage with Wilson's Phalaropes when we were visiting Estero Llano State Park.
Wilson's Phalarope coming into breeding plumage
Obviously there is a lot of competition going on during breeding season. We caught the following territorial battle going on between Stilt Sandpipers....
Immature Swainson's Hawk
We were lucky enough to see this singing Tropical Parula at one of the local county parks that lies on the Rio Grande. This bird is a Mexican rarity. Coincidentally, we were told by the local authorities present in the park a major gun battle had occurred only hours before on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
We were surprised to see this immature Woodstork with Roseate Spoonbills at the Sabal Palm Sanctuary.
Our first Desert Tortoise in the wild: We were fortunate to see three separate Desert Tortoise while visiting the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
One of the Park Rangers was a reptile specialist and said this juvenile (estimated to be 2 years old) was the first young tortoise he had seen in years.
The World is Full of Beauty & Wonder,
Turtle & Hawk