Highlight of the week!! Another Mexican body reported as found floating in the Rio close to our area. Seems, as reported by the locals that this is not a rarety. A couple of times we have seen increased Border Patrol activity at their station beside our park. The boats make regular excursions up and down the river 24/7 and helicopter fly-bys are common. One thing rather unique to the boat patrols during the night is that they patrol without lights, even in complete darkness. I talked to one of them and he said with the aid of night vision goggles and GPS that lights were not required. I would like to see through a set of their goggles, but he never offered! Yesterday, at the height of the acivity a took a couple of pictures. Obviously, fire power is some times required in their operations!
Well another week has passed by without a lot of fanfare. We have basically just hunkered down and enjoyed the leisure time here. We are getting a taste of how long term residents pass the time. Most of the people here are "Long Term." And we see a lot of "Q-Tips" if you know what I mean. For those that are unfamiliar with "Q-Tip," just compare a Q-tip to an aging white haired individual, and you will get the idea. Every Thursday night is "Pot Luck" night, and a bunch of the residents gather in the rec hall for some great dinners and conversation. We have gone twice now, and Denice's dishes have been a favourite both times. The first time she took a big crock pot of her great stew, and the second time her Pistachio Pudding salad. It was Yummee!!! But everybodies dishes were very delicious, and such variety.
Over the last while that we have been here we have visited some of the area points of interest in the area. These include the Benston Wildlife Refuge, The Butterfly Center, Santa Anna Wildlife Refuge, Quinta Mazatlan, and yesterday an all day trip to South Padre Island. Denice has become quite a "Birding " Person, and anything with wings intrigues here. I, on the other hand, like to see unique birds with different coloring, but ordinary drab birds do little for me. Sometimes we lock horns over some of these, but I do try to allow her to get the camera shots she wants. Here is a bit about each of the sites we have visited:
Benston Wildlife Refuge
One of top birding destinations in the country, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in deep, South Texas well deserves its status as headquarters of the World Birding Center. Birders across the nation know Bentsen as a treasure trove of "Valley specialties", tropical birds found nowhere else in the United States. The 760-acre Bentsen - Rio Grande Valley State Park, together with over 1,700 acres of adjoining U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge tracts, promises a year-round nature adventure in the richest birding area north of the Mexican border.
Constructed of layer upon layer of sediments by centuries of Rio Grande flooding, the land at Bensten- Rio Grande Valley State Park is a rich and fertile alluvial plain. Native shrubs and forbs are shaded by Cedar Elm, Sugar Hackberry, Rio Grande Ash, Texas Ebony and Anacua trees. The habitat at Bentsen is especially valuable as very few riparian woodlands remain intact along the Rio Grande.
As one of the larger tracts of Rio Grande floodplain forest remaining in this area, Bentsen is a magnet for the "Valley specialties" that make this park famous. Green Jays & Plain Chachalacas congregate regularly at feeding stations within the park. Other neo-tropical varieties such as Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Clay-colored Thrush, Hook-billed Kite, and Gray Hawk are also likely. Virtual clouds of migrating Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks are a popular spring and fall spectacle.
|Golden-Fronted Wood Pecker|
The National Butterfly Center is dedicated to education, conservation and scientific research on wild butterflies. Its mission is "Growing Connections". The National Butterfly Center connects people to butterflies, which are intimately connected to native plants, which themselves are connected to the earth.
Mission National Butterfly Center
The 100 acre National Butterfly Center is the premier location in the United States to experience the beauty, drama and emotion of wild butterflies. You will see incredible numbers of kaleidoscopically-colored wild butterflies. The clouds of butterflies are at the National Butterfly Center because, by planting thousands of plants that the butterflies need for nectar and for caterpillar growth, we have created a butterfly paradise that sustains large populations of hundreds of species of wild butterflies.
Santa Ana Wildlife Refiuge
Considered the jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge (NWF) system, Santa Ana is also the most popular and best known wildlife refuge in the Valley. It's 2088 acres has nearly 400 species of birds, half of all butterfly species found in North America, and rarities such as the indigo snake and the endangered ocelot. A butterfly garden is next to the Visitor Center. During the winter, a 60-passenger tram traverses the refuge three times a day. A friendly naturalist from the Valley Nature Center leads the hour-long, guided, seven-mile ride. The refuge is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Access is via Alamo Road (FM 907) from Expressway 83 or Business 83.
New Treetop Observation Tower
One of the tallest observation towers in the lower Rio Grande Valley will open to the public on Friday, December 1, 2006 at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, south of Alamo, Texas. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., will showcase the new 43.ft tall tower, after which it will be open to visitors during regular Refuge hours of operation.
This innovative and unique aluminum tower features an open air design and two observation decks. From the upper deck, visitors will be able to experience striking, panoramic, 360 views of the entire 2,088 acre Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and see as far away as the cities of Alamo, McAllen, Mission and Weslaco, and across the border to Reynosa, Mexico.
“The new tower will give visitors an excellent opportunity to see the entire refuge and its different habitats from a unique perspective. Additionally, folks will be able to have the extraordinary experience of viewing birds in flight like nowhere else in the Valley,” says refuge manager Jodi Stroklund. Originally designed as a tool to enable refuge biologists to count migrating raptors and survey plant communities more effectively, managers explored the possibility of making the tower serve multiple functions. Fire management officer Patrick Pearson describes the new tower as “an excellent fire suppression tool, affording firefighters 360 views of the Valley they help protect from wildfires.”
“While the primary purpose of the tower is as a wildlife management tool, we thought that with a little creativity in design and construction materials, we could make it into a great wildlife observation facility as well,” reports Ken Merritt, project leader of the South Texas Refuge Complex.
“I think birders and other visitors will really enjoy seeing and hearing birds they might not see at ground level. I’ve seen hawks, vultures and many different songbirds flying at or below eye level from the top deck, and watched woodpeckers and kingbirds forage in the treetops just a few feet away,” says Merritt. “This new tower will allow the public to understand and appreciate Santa Ana’s forested habitats and diverse bird life”.
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is located on Highway 281 (Old Military Highway), ¼ mile east of FM 907 (Alamo Road), 7 ½ miles south of Alamo, Texas. The Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset, and the visitor center is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fish and wildlife management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Eight-acre estate and one of the largest remaining hacienda adobe homes in the state of Texas which was built in 1935.
La Quinta was purchased in 1968 by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Shultz.
In 1998, the City of McAllen purchased the beautiful historic estate to serve as part of the World Birding Center network. Many special events and gatherings have been hosted at the estate, which has also provided the public an opportunity to enjoy the unique wildlife and vegetation that abound the property. Over 110 species of birds have been identified and over 150 different species of exotic trees, flowers, and plants can be found throughout the eight acres of native thicket.
Quinta Mazatlan is a distinct and unique part of the history of McAllen, Texas.
We always like South Padre!!!!!
Located on the tropical tip of Texas, South Padre Island is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre Bay. Beautiful beaches, warm Gulf waters, fishing, boating, bird watching, shopping, and a diversity of year-round activities await every visitor.
|A Jackup Drilling Rig|
|From the window of Dirty Al's where we had dinner|
|South Padre birding center|
|Here's looking at you|
|South Padre Convention Center|
|A Bird ??????? Ask Denice|
|From the top of the Bird Center facing south|
|Of Course there are lots of Fishermen|
|Enjoy the Beach!!|
|MMMMMM - Very Nice|
|Watched a fisherman pull this one in. Just before he realeased him back into the surf.|
Well now that we are all settled in we are very pleased with the park and surroundings. To get into the park we go over the levee along the Rio Grande and down into the high water risk zone, although I do not think there is much of a risk as there is no high water marks along the banks and we are at least 10 to 15 ft above the river. We were given a prime site right against the river on a concrete pad.
|Border Patrol Base|
|Our Protectors on Patrol|
|Must be a Safety Meeting|
Now I have to tell you that we are going to try something different for us while we are here. After we sat and enjoyed ourselves for a couple of days, the manager came to us with a proposal. She said if we wanted to stay for about 3 months after Christmas, she would be able to reserve a river front site for us. We have always been wanting to spend a week here, a week there, and maybe even a month in one place before moving on, so she kind of caught us off balance, but the more we thought about it the more it appealed to us. Maybe we are getting to that age when less moving around and more stopping to smell the flowers has some merit for us. Anyway, after a short deliberation we dicided to give it a try. We will now spend until Nov 22nd here, then take ELTORO to New Braunfels, to Cousin, Loren and Teresa's acreage where we will leave it while we fly home for December and Christmas. Then Jan 6th we fly back to San Antonio, and on the 8th will drive back here, and will take possession of site 76 for 3 months until April 8th. Then the dash back to Canada for income tax time. Site 76 is not the one we are on at present but two down from us. We will be parking on the grass, but will have a very large ceramic tiled patio pad at the door and a smaller pad behind ELTORO facing the river and under a large native tree. We will be able to just sit in the shade and watch the \Rio Grande roll along. Actually here the Rio Grande is a lake backed up by the Anzalduas Dam.
So now we have a plan! As for the blog: we will be spending a lot of time doing basically nothing, so I will not be putting a lot effort in adding something everyday to the blog. I think an update every week or so should suffice. Agreed???