Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail

Day 7: Tamaulipan Brushlands
By Mary-Love Bigony
  |  Gorp.com

On the last day, the trio traveled up the Rio Grande into the South Texas Brush Country, across the river from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The Pineywoods of day one were beginning to seem like another planet. Just about everything in this arid land is short, thorny, and sharp.

The first stop of the morning was the Bordas Escarpment, a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande between Roma and Falcon Dam. Linda, drawing on her botanical background, got busy finding and identifying cacti and other plants. Ted said that there are several cactus species found here whose ranges extend no more than a few miles north of the Rio Grande. "With more than 1,000 species to ponder," he said, "many of which are rare and poorly known, botanists generally are overwhelmed by the plant diversity of the Lower Valley."

Leaving the Bordas Escarpment, they were on the road again. "I love this part of the state," said Ted as they drove up U.S. 83 along the Rio Grande. "It's as if history just happened. The state's Spanish and Mexican culture seem much closer to the surface here."

The next stop was the historical town of Roma, where paddlewheel ships owned by such famous Texans as Mifflin Kenedy once plied the Rio Grande, delivering goods from Mexico's interior to the Port of Brownsville. Roma evolved from the colony of Nuevo Santander, which Josi de Escandsn established in the mid-18th century with permission from Spain. Many of the buildings along Roma's plaza, built by Germans with excellent masonry skills, have been restored. Standing atop Roma Bluffs, they looked across the Rio Grande to Mexico and watched a great kiskadee swoop across the river.

From Roma, they drove to Salineqo, on the banks of the Rio Grande. Willow trees and morning glory-vines line the river, and Ted said this is where many birders get their first look at the ringed kingfisher, muscovy, red-billed pigeon, and Audubon's oriole.

The final stop of the day, the trip, and the GTCBT was the Zapata County Rest Stop. After a final look across the river, where a Chihuahuan raven sailed in for a landing, the group headed home. By the time they reached Austin that evening, they had traveled 2,038 miles. Did the trail live up to expectations?

"The trail has really exceeded our expectations, both in terms of popularity and concept," said Linda. "As it has evolved over time, we have consciously focused on integrating information on butterflies, dragonflies, and other species of interest to wildlife watchers. So it's not just a birding trail; it's become more of a general nature trail that also incorporates some Texas history and culture."

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail lends itself to Texas hyperbole: longest, most extensive, biggest, best. And travelers who have experienced it seem to agree: It is a remarkable trail that spans the culture, history, topography, and wildlife of a most remarkable state.

GORP thanks Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine for permission to use this article.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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