Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Resaca de la Palma State Park

The first stop on Bugguide’s “Texas Mini-Gathering” in early June was Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, Cameron County. The park is only three years old, but at 1200 acres it is the largest park in the World Birding Center contingent of south Texas parks.

Resaca is Spanish for an “oxbow lake,” a wetland cut off from a river that now takes a different path. The wetlands are being restored at Resaca de la Palma, but during the hot, dry season of late spring and summer, water is still scarce. What little water remains does attract a number of water birds such as the Least Grebe shown below.

Our party of three was given the royal treatment from naturalist Katherine Miller and her interns Cynthia and Ryan. We were taken on a tram ride (visualize an electric golf cart built for 8-10 passengers and no clubs) that covers 3.2 miles within the park, stopping anytime we spied something interesting. Cynthia found this spectacular, albeit deceased Beautiful Mesquite Borer, Callona rimosa as we went whizzing by at…about 2 mph.

The visitor center is surrounded by a garden that attracts a dazzling array of butterflies and other insects. One could easily just relax and stake out the bird feeders, too. In the heat and humidity it is a tempting option. Those who do wander the trails will find shade in most places, and be treated to wildlife such as armadillo, lizards, and toads. The trails are certainly used by nocturnal mammals, too, and they leave their, um, calling cards along the way. A pile of scat can be as attractive as a bouquet of flowers, though, as this pair of Mexican Bluewing butterflies attests.

Despite our arrival during the “off season,” the park had no shortage of things to offer and I encourage folks to pay a visit whenever they can. Amenities include eight miles of walking trails, and four wood platforms that each overlook a section of the four-mile Resaca. Watch for active oriole nests (in June at least). Keep an eye out for the large but shy Plain Chachalaca.

You’re likely to hear them more often than you see them. You might also be treated to a display from a Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.

Many thanks again to Katherine for going out of her way for us (she even escorted us on a night hike). You will never get so much out of a $4.00 admission to anything. Note that your comfort will hinge a great deal on keeping well hydrated, tolerating annoying insects like eye gnats, and repelling chiggers with sulphur or another treatment.


  1. Amazing display from that Night-Heron, and great job getting such a neat shot!
    Resaca de la Palma is definitely on my list of places to go next time I'm in south Texas.

  2. Ah ha! Now I know why you were able to spout off the scientific names to almost all the insects we saw on that walk without blinking. I'm pretty sure I had my Kaufman guide with me on that walk too, too bad I didn't put two and two together before you guys left. I could have gotten my book signed. Next time you are in S. Texas you have to autograph my book.

    Since Alex came through and dumped 8 inches of rain on us, we've gotten quite a burst of life. Toad tadpoles are everywhere, we've goten more egrets, and the ribbonsnakes are prowling more openly. I am sure there are more waterfowl along Hunter's Lane, where you captured the night-heron displaying, but since it's flooded we can't get down there to see. The mosquitoes are enjoying the water too, but some bug spray keeps them at bay.

    (Resaca de la Palma 2010 summer intern)

  3. Cynthia! I'd LOVE to sign your book:-) Are you on Facebook by chance? Would be honored to have you as a friend there, too. Thank you for the update on the park, glad that there was minimal damage (I had coffee with Katherine here in Tucson the other day).

  4. Nice! I know she was really excited about that trip home. I am on Facebook:: Cynthia Kaminski with the network UNC Asheville showing.