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Photos in the May 2016 issue
The Year of state parks
Welcome to our 2016 series: The Year of State Parks. Each month’s cover and lead story will feature one of Texas’ iconic state parks. An accompanying State Parks List will focus on parks across the state that offer similar attractions and activities. This month, we feature the World Birding Center and a list of state parks for viewing wildlife.
This Month's Features
Rio Grande Valley parks offer the ultimate brider's paradise.
By Melissa Gaskill
The lower Rio Grande Valley — the ancient delta of the river from Falcon Lake to the Gulf of Mexico — contains resacas or oxbow lakes, Tamaulipan thorn woodlands, marshes, wetlands and forest. Thanks to these diverse habitats and the Valley’s location in the Central Flyway of migrating birds, more than 500 bird species have been recorded in this area, an astounding avian array.
Less than 5 percent of the area’s natural habitat remains, however. In the late 1990s, that alarming fact spurred the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, six local communities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to launch the creation of the World Birding Center. Today, the WBC consists of nine individual sites, including three state parks: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley, Estero Llano Grande and Resaca de la Palma. Together, the parks safeguard nearly 2,200 acres that are home to hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife — places for visitors to experience nature and the landscape of the Valley very close to its original state.
I walk into Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park early one morning to a cacophony of calls from trees lining the road — the boisterous clatter of chachalacas, squawks of woodpeckers and cooing of doves. These 798 acres once resembled the patchwork of many of our state parks, with tent and RV campers and day-trippers driving in and out. But its transformation to a WBC site in 2004 included elimination of all traffic except bicycles and a park tram. That was an intentional, and monumental, decision, says Russell Fishbeck, former regional parks director over the Rio Grande Valley area and now deputy director of state parks.
The pleasure of passing along a passion for birds.
By Cliff Shackelford
Last year, my wife and I led a bird walk at an outdoor event at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Up walked a young girl to join our group, sporting not only the usual binoculars but also a unique green jacket covered in a birdy print.
That began my introduction to sixth-grader Hadley Watts (and her mother). I don’t meet a large number of “fledgling” birders, and this young lady’s extraordinary jacket hinted at real passion. After introductions, Hadley’s mom asked her to tell us what she wants to be when she grows up.
“An ornithologist!” Hadley answered firmly and swiftly. I couldn’t believe my ears — here was someone else who had gotten the birding “bug” early in life.
Veteran wildlife photographer Wyman Meinzer shares images of his rarest finds.
By Wyman Meinzer
For half a century, my wanderings throughout the vast state of Texas have offered many opportunities to encounter subjects of intrigue, whether they be skies, landscapes, cultures or wild creatures indigenous to the land. With a camera in tow, I have tried my best to document these interesting features and have collected hundreds of thousands of images that define much of what I have seen.
Perhaps the most unusual subjects are found within the diverse menagerie of our natural fauna — specifically, genetic anomalies of coloration that occur periodically in all species. In this photo essay are examples of a few that I’ve encountered during the 4O-odd years of my time with camera in hand.