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.