We visited several beautiful State Parks in the Lower Rio Grande Valley – the part of the Rio Grande in the southernmost part of Texas – close to where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
We stayed just down the road from Bentsen Rio-Grande State Park, so we went there several times. No cars are allowed in the park, but there’s a tram that runs on a regular schedule, and lots of walking paths.
There are birdfeeders set up throughout the park and they attract lots of unusual birds. Many of the birds seen here are commonly seen in Mexico, but nowhere else in the U.S.
A Great Kiskadee – a large, loud, bright colored bird that hangs around the feeders.
A Green Jay – about the same size and temperment as a Blue Jay, but with more striking colors.
The Javalinas like the birdfeeders too.
This is the edge of the park at the Rio Grande. The land across the river is Mexico.
There’s a big overlook so we could see over a wetland and back over the woods we had walked through.
Sandpipers in one of the wetland ponds.
The woods is a mix of deciduous trees and huge cactuses.
We found one lizard – A Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) – watching us from a tree trunk.
Tree Snails were clinging to many of the tree trunks, and we saw piles of shells on the ground where something had eaten them.
Snail on a tree – Striped Rabdotus (Rabdotus alternatus)
Snails are the primary food of the Hook-billed Kite, which is found in the park, but there were so many piles of snail shells that we wondered if other creatures eat them too.
We saw two species of butterflies in the park.
American Snouts are found as far north as Wisconsin, but we rarely see them. I’ve only seen one twice at the farm in the 9 years we’ve been there. In our walks around southern Texas, they were the most common butterfly we saw.
Empress Leilia is not one we have in Wisconsin. We do have Hackberry and Tawny Emperor Butterflies which are closely related. The food plant for all their caterpillars is Hackberry leaves.