Monday, July 25, 2011

Backtracking: Briefly Back to Texas

Carol speaking with Joan Campbell. Joan was on our 2008 Northern Ecuador trip. We happened upon Joan and her husband as they were birding in Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park where we volunteered.
We spent our next to last day in Ecuador saying goodbye to the staff at Tandayapa, riding back to Quito, and included a swing past the Tropical Birding home office to say thank you for all their help. Later that evening we caught up with two former Tandayapa guests for dinner. They had also left Tandayapa the same morning and, like us, were in dire need of a pizza. Fortunately, there was an old established pizzeria within walking distance of our hotel.
Along with having to amend our airline tickets for our earlier than anticipated return to the U.S. we had also contacted Bentsen Palm Village RV. Our 'regular' site would be occupied through the end of Februrary and unavailable - yet we would still need a place to park. Not only did our BPV neighbors go to bat for us by helping secure a site close to where we normally parked, they also pulled our rig out of storage and reconnected the water and electric. They even went so far as to have fresh flowers and baked goods sitting in our RV when we arrived! All we had to do was open the door, bring in our luggage and tumble into bed!
Back in Texas we lost no time slipping back into birding mode. Before leaving Ecuador we had learned that a Black-vented Oriole, a rare Mexican visitor to the U.S., had somehow made its way into our RV park. We'd hoped it might still be around when we returned. Sure enough. Carol discovered the bird the next morning in nearby trees. Another life ABA bird sighting a mere three hundred yards from our RV! How easy was that!
Over the course of the next weeks we enjoyed many afternoon, evenings and a few day trips socializing with our BPV friends and neighbors. And let's not forget watching the Packers win the Super Bowl!

A group of RVers spent an afternoon cruising the waters off South Padre Island where we joined a pirate crew.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley had suffered another killing frost in our absence which had again set vegetation back a bit. But the severely flooded state park next door was once more mostly open again. Before departing for Ecuador we had signed up to be volunteers in the park (Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park). We checked back in with the office where we picked up our volunteer badges and Texas State Park Volunteer t-shirts. Our volunteer responsibilities would be similar to the ones we had in Ecuador - help people find and ID birds. No busing of tables though. As the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a hot spot for birders we even bumped into many familiar names and folks from Wisconsin and beyond. It is a small birding world after all!

Friends Connie and Chuck enjoying a meal at Dirty Al's. They are work campers at Estero Llano Grande State Park about 30 minutes away from our site at Bentsen.
However, our return to Texas was short-lived. A year earlier we had planned another birding trip to Costa Rica with a group of Wisconsin birding friends. On March 13 our kind and patient neighbors, Gayle and Harvey, once more ferried us to the McAllen Airport. Following a connecting flight in Houston we flew straight on to San Jose, CR where we caught up with our birding group. Fresh out of a nasty Wisconsin winter they were delighted to be back in familiar territory - the warm embrace of the Bougainvillea Hotel. For several in the group this would be their third trip to CR. Billed as a "best of" trip it included several past favorite birding spots and lodges as well as some new ones that our friend and guide, Richard Garrigues had pulled together. It wasn't difficult at all for us to once again slip into tropical birding mode!

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