Monday, March 1, 2010

Choke Canyon State Park

Millennium Falcon and the Royals made the trip north from Mission with no problem, passing a number of roadside fruit stands like this one. The bags of grapefruit and sweet onions were worth the stop.

We find the ride in the truck smoother with a heavier fifth wheel in tow. We do, however, need to add another air bag to our hitch to provide a little more cushioning over the bumps.

We traveled from Retama to Three Rivers yesterday, and are camped about 12 miles west in Choke Canyon State Park. This is a lovely park with only 39 RV sites (all with shelters and very spacious) so even when it's full you don't feel crowded. Choke Canyon Lake is a 26,000-surface-acre reservoir which is fed by the Frio River. Fishing here is supposed to be very good, but right now the lake is covered with whitecaps from the strong west wind. Earlier we saw several small boats struggling against the wind to return to camp.

The birding here is good, though. On the way in, and again as we left we saw flocks of 15-20 wild turkeys. We stopped for this handsome fellow, who was showing off for the ladies in the middle of the road.

We also understand that several of the "fabulous forty" (birds found nowhere in the U.S. other than Texas) frequent this park, but so far we haven't seen any of them and may not until the spring migration begins. We have, however, seen a number of Caracara, also called "Mexican Eagles," like this one perched in a tree. They're also often seen along the highway competing for road kill with the vultures and redtail hawks.

The South Texas Brush Country has a wild, inhospitable beauty all its own. We saw some of it in Bensen-Rio Grande Valley State Park...huge, gnarly mesquite trees, yelow-flowered huisache and lots of prickly underbrush. The mesquites haven't leafed out yet. As Texans know, folklore says that they never bud until after the last frost (and they're a pretty good predictor from our experience). Once the landscape changes from gray to green, it will be a lovely spot to visit, and should have great birding as well. In addition to birds more common to us, like several species of doves and the noisy grackles, we saw Kiskadee Flycatchers and a Long-billed Thrasher. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera with me at the time.

The brush country continues up to and beyond Choke Canyon SP. The photos of the park are followed by some of the surrounding thickets. They appear impenetrable, but if you stoop down to javelina and coyote level, you'll see a network of trails though the brush.

We returned to Austin today, and tomorrow I'll go to Hamilton to spend some time with Mother.

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