Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Falcon State Park, Texas

my gosh - where does one begin?

Common Buckeye

Our first morning at Falcon SP we opted to explore the park and have nothing to do with driving anywhere. Our walk to a well-maintained butterfly garden caused us to switch gears from birds to butterflies. Our Ken Kaufmann’s “Butterflies of North America” was given a thorough workout and is now dutifully dogeared and marked. Easily, this could become as addictive as bird watching. We spent hours walking the garden and madly paging through the guide. Jerry Smith had caught the butterfly bug a few years ago and gladly shared his identification tips. Checking the garden became a daily ritual.

Our nomadic travels have taken us through many different environments. While plants that attract birds have been pretty much sorted out what about plants that attract butterflies? Fortunately the garden had several signs that indicated what plants were present. And as with most successful gardens, native species were paramount.

Gulf Fritillary

Rorschach test - why this is called a Southern Dogface?

Over the course of our stay we found American Snout, Bordered Patch, Ceraunus Blue, Gulf Fritillary, Large Orange Sulphur, Mournful Duskywing, Painted Lady, Ruddy Daggerwing, Phaon Crescent, White Peacock, Hackberry Emperor, Queen, Sleepy Orange (Sulphur), Tailed Orange (Sulphur), Theona Checkerspot, Varigated Fritillary, White-patched Skipper, Checkered White, Fiery Skipper, Funereal Duskywing, Great Purple Hairstreak, Gray Hairstreak, Common Buckeye, Giant Swallowtail, Pipevine Swallowtail, Teleus Longtail, Lyside Sulphur, Crimson Patch, Monarch, Sickle-winged Skipper, White-patched Skipper, Empress Leilia, Fatal Metalmark, Reakirt’s Blue, Marine Blue, Mexican Yellow, Dainty Sulphur, Southern Dogface, and Brown Longtail, Black Swallowtail. Whew! Forty species, many numbering in the hundreds.

White Peacock

two groups: one each from New Jersey and Boston keying out a Crimson Patch

Crimson Patch

There were loads of moth species we couldn’t identify including some colorful wasp moths (we need another guide just for moths!). There were also colorful insects – bugs and spiders. All this in a garden roughly a third larger in size to that of our former yard in Appleton!

Great Purple Hairstreak


Birds are typically active first thing in the morning and again in late afternoon. Butterflies, on the other hand like the heat of the day best. This created a very nice balance – birds in the morning and butterflies in the afternoon.

We managed to visit few other locations outside the park that offered public access points to the Rio Grande. Such access points are few and far between but Salineno, while quite limited in size, has been a traditional site for scanning the river for Ringed or Green Kingfisher, Hook-billed Kite, Red-billed Pigeon, Altamira Oriole and Muscovy Ducks. In years past, well-maintained feeders have produced Brown Jays, an ABA rarity for south Texas. Sadly, the birding and research center has fallen on hard times – it looked pretty run down and didn’t even warrant a walk into the overgrown gated area. Brown Jays haven’t been seen in years.

Varigated Fritillary

Tailed Orange

The World Birding Center, headquartered at Bentsen Rio-Grande State Park operates nine WBC-run sites along a 120-mile stretch of the Rio-Grande Valley between South Padre Island to the extreme south and Roma to the north. Roma, or more correctly, Roma Bluffs, was a short drive from Falcon SP. While the visitor center is one of the best we’ve found in the Rio-Grande Valley (surpassing even the one found at Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley) the birds were pretty quiet. On the other hand, the butterflies were very active and once more attracted most of our attention.


We walked a few of the many trails in Falcon SP although one had to be mindful of sandburrs, a BB-sized, multi-spiked burr. Each burr felt like stepping on a tack and were easily tracked into the RV making them even more insidious.

Finally, on Sunday Nov 1 we packed up and headed toward our winter site at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort, a mere 62-mile drive. Although we have enjoyed all of our wanderings, it will be nice to be settled in at one spot for an extended period of time.

Gray Hairstreak

Ruddy Daggerwing


  1. So jealous! And so very beautiful! Keep those posts coming. You and Carol are in my prayers on your adventure!

  2. Oh, and btw, Media Services is a disaster! Not that you are to blame!