Friday, 4 March 2016

Rio Grande (Bravo) Birding Cruise

Janet from our birding group, Bay Area Birders, organized a birding cruise on the Rio Grande (Mexicans call it the 'Rio Bravo') about 80 miles up the river at the Riverside Club on Chimney Rd., in Mission, TX.

A beautiful flowering tree in the parking lot:

There were over 35 in our group for our privatecruise on the Riverside Dreamer. The greenery you see over the boat is Mexico.
The river is very narrow in many places - making it easy for people to enter the US illegally. The US Border Patrol is very visible. Here, we observed two boats lashed together. The agents appeared to be conferring on some issue. We also saw Border Patrol helicopters flying overhead.
We first went downriver towards the Anzalduas Dam, the final one before the Gulf of Mexico. Here, I'm looking downriver with the walkway for personnel) of the dam overhead, the dam at the bottom and the view of the area below the dam. Again, Mexico is on the right. There are lots of little, rocky islands, making a very convenient place for people to wade/walk across.

This tower on the left probably has heat detecting sensors and other surveillance equipment to thwart illegal crossings.
At the halfway point on the dam, are the flags of the US and Mexico.
We got close enough to read the 'Anzalduas' inscription on what appears to be a block of granite at the base of the two flagpoles.
One of the birds that frequents this area is the black phoebe - a western bird whose eastern winter habitat appears to only extend this far down the RGV. We saw many of them, but they were very active and difficult for me to capture a good shot, until I got this one as it was perched on a statue of the madonna on an islet in the river.
We saw many of them flycatching around a ladder at the dam and all along the riverside.

There were a couple of pied bill grebes
And the odd Couch's kingbird.
The highlight of our spotting was a green kingfisher - the smallest of the three that we see in the area.
Adult male green kingfisher facing to our right, with bill at a downward angle.
I also caught this belted kingfisher in flight.
Upstream from the dock is this old pumphouse chimney built over 100 years ago. Steam engines used to pump the water from the river for crop irrigation. The pumphouse itself has been demolished but the chimney remains. A mobile home community surrounds it as well as a Border Patrol station, evidenced by the elevated 'box' on the right.
Abreast of the 'box' we can see the launching ramp probably used by both pleasure craft and Border Patrol boats.

A noble osprey on the highest point (stump) in the river.
This bird was very far away on a wire but I believe it is a loggerhead shrike - if not, some type of flycatcher.
Once off the boat, we had lunch in air-conditioned comfort at the Riverside Club. The washroom facilities are clean and bright and there are several dining options - indoors, outdoor patio, and at the riverside patio.
Inset on walkway at Riverside Club
The temperature was 96F (almost 36C) by the time we got off the boat - possibly a record breaking temperature and certainly the hottest we've experienced this winter. By the time we got to back to the island almost at sunset, it had dropped to a very comfortable 23C (73F).

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