Monday, January 26, 2015

Rio Grande River, Butterflies and Javelinas

Location: Falcon State Park; Falcon Heights, Texas

(click pictures to enlarge)

I saw the Rio Grande River in two different places yesterday. One was in a little town just down the road for the campground named, Salineno. You drive through the little town to get to the river. A small piece of land by the river has been set aside as a bird sanctuary and volunteers take care of bird feeders to entice lots of different birds. It is a popular place for "birders". I saw a lot of birds, most of which I didn't know the name. I thought I saw a bald eagle but a more experienced birding couple told me it was an Osprey. I was more excited when I thought it was an eagle (they busted my bubble). One of the main reason I went, besides to see the birds, was it is one of the few places to get to the Rio Grande in a semi-safe location. There are lots of roads, mostly dirt, that lead to the river but I don't think I'll wander down them like I would in other parts of the country. The river at this location is narrow enough that you could throw a rock across.
I took this picture because of the sign on the right side. Any guesses as to what it means? I found out on down the road.

The Rio Grande River at Salineno, Texas. This spot is about 5 miles downstream of the Falcon Lake Dam. 

I was the only one at the banks of the river until the welcoming committee of one, the dog, showed up. You could tell he was an older dog and that he belonged to someone by the collar he wore. He didn't bark at all. I assume he had been trained not to bark so as to not scare the birds. 

The river was smooth enough to provide this mirror image of the Mexican shoreline. That is the Osprey sitting on the bare limb in the middle of the picture. I got a good look at him through my binoculars but the pictures taken by the fancy camera were not as crisp as I had hoped. I guess I need to read the owners manual to find out the secrets. 

After I left Salineno, I drove on to Roma about 25 miles south. My plan was to check out a place that I saw a sign of the last time I was there. It said, Bird Watching from the Bluffs of Roma. I could take or leave the birds, but I was interested in seeing the bluffs. Sure enough, the bluff was a good 200 feet high, above the river. It is a good place to stand and look down on the Rio Grande and also to see the bridge that crosses into Mexico. When I parked, there were two cops, one a state trooper and the other a border patrol agent standing on the bluff. As I walked up to them, I made a hand gesture to indicate if it was OK for me to come take a picture. They waved me on. I took a few pictures and struck up a conversation with them. They were standing there scouring the river for any illegal activities. Both said it should start around noon, as soon as church let out. Apparently, there are people here that illegally cross the border to attend church and visit with relatives on Sunday. This happens in both directions. The cops are not interested in those people, but the ones they are interested in are the smugglers that use the church crossing activity to cover their bad activity. I mentioned I was staying in the Falcon State Park. They both offered me some words of wisdom about this location that got me to thinking. For several reasons, I won't mention them here. As I was about to leave, their radios started crackling and both ran to their cars and laid rubber leaving the place. I looked around a little bit and noticed I was the only one there so I left too (I didn't lay rubber when I left :)).
That is the International Bridge leading to Old Mexico. 

This is looking north from the bluffs. The river is narrow and shallow enough to walk across at this point. This is the place where many cross the river, some good people and some bad people.
I got back to the campground around 2:00 pm and the weather was great for a walk. The temperature was warm enough for shorts but I wore blue jeans since I was going to be on one of the trails. I took the fancy camera along and attached it to the mono-pole. I figured I could use it as a walking stick or to beat wild animals off. It would probably do better at either of those instead of taking pictures. I really need to read the manual, but it has so many pages. 
This is what the fancy camera and mono-pole looks like. I took this picture with a good camera (Nokia Lumia 929 Cell Phone)

This trail leds in and out of the picnic areas. Set-ups like this with a table, shade shelter, grill and water are scattered everywhere. You have to park several hundred feet away but it is a semi-private location and good to spend a lazy summer day. They aren't used much this time of year.

I decided to snap another selfie so Olivia and Tucker will know what I looked like back in 2015 when they read this blog in the future. I figure they may read it when they are in the late 20's or early 30's so that will be about 2040. 

My earlier concerns about backing down such a long and steep boat ramp were answered when this truck and boat drove headfirst down it, then U-turned before hitting the water. They made it look easy but the truck struggled a little coming out even with an empty trailer. 

A pre-sunset picture. Too cloudy for a good one. Maybe another day.

I liked the combination of the sky, lake and land in this one.

There is a Butterfly Garden in the campground. The park people have taken great pains to put in the plants that will attract the most butterflies of different species. Texas holds the record for the largest number of butterfly species in the U.S. with more than 300 located in the Rio Grande Valley alone. There were no butterflies when I visited, due to the season, but my imagination saw hundreds. :)

This picture is for Mrs Mc's 3rd grade class. This is the healthy late lunch I made and ate at my picnic table. You can see a bite is gone. It is bologna, cheese and lettuce. Class,,,,do you approve?

I snapped this one as I went in for the evening. It was darker than this picture represents. It was a good day.
I wrote this blog post this morning which was the day after the exploring. As I was writing, I paused to take a sip of coffee and glanced out the window. Javelinas were coming out of the brush by my picnic table. I grabbed the best camera (cell phone) and started taking pictures from the small window at the top of my stairs. I can open it quietly and slide the screen to take an unobstructed picture. The window is so small, animals don't notice me when I take their picture through it. The javelinas came out and turned along the brush-line. The first to come out was the biggest one followed by several slightly smaller ones (females ?) and a few babies. The last ones were big ones again. All in all, I would guess there were maybe a dozen or so. I was lucky they choice my "backyard" to come out of the brush and that I was sipping coffee and saw them. 

The one on the left above the picnic table seemed to stare at me as the others came out and wandered off. They are suppose to have bad eyesight so I'm not sure he saw me or heard me. 

A broadside view of two of them with another one just coming out of the brush. The beginning of hopefully a good day.  
My plan is to drive into the town of Zapata about 25 miles north of here. I'll hit the car wash again in hopes of getting the last of the Three Rivers grime off of Freedom. I'll also stop at the grocery store to see if they have any decent fruit before fueling up for my moving day on Wednesday. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.


  1. Sure am enjoying your blog. Your photography is make that rough country look picturesque and your sky photos are awesome. Hope you're enjoying the nice weather now.

    1. Thanks for the comment Andy. I'm glad you like the blog. As I've said before, 99% of the pictures are taken with my cell phone. It has a 20 megapixel camera. It is easy to carry in my shirt pocket and ready when needed. This is rough country around here for sure but I expect it to get rougher as I head in the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Thanks again for the comment. Cya

  2. Yes, we do approve! :)