Late last week, I got a call at the office asking me about my most recent column, a piece in which I’d written about encountering Green Jays in the Rincon Del Diablo.
The person on the other end of the line identified herself as Valerie Marcil and said she and her husband were visiting Del Rio from Columbia, South Carolina, and could I possibly give them some pointers on the best areas along the creek to go birdwatching?
Instead of talking about our birds, I decided the best course of action would be to show them and invited Valerie and her husband, Henry Nechemias, to accompany me into the field on Sunday morning.
We met outside the Casa De La Cultura and prepared to take a short stroll along the creek as it bends around Del Rio Rotary Park.
As we started out, I asked the pair if they were staying with family or friends, and when they said no, I asked how they’d heard about Del Rio.
It turns out they had read the article on Del Rio and the area in the American Airlines magazine that was published last November.
Henry and Valerie said they were staying about a week and were trying to see some of the sights highlighted in the article.
I asked Henry what his impressions were of the area so far.
“We have been very, very pleased. Del Rio is a wonderful little city. We’ve gotten to see a lot of great things. The state parks really were a big attraction, and we’ve done a lot of hiking, and this is a great base to use to travel around. The city itself has been a lot of fun, too,” Henry said.
We saw a Ringed Kingfisher, one of the specialties of south Texas, as we walked along the creek. Valerie spotted him as he perched on a branch above the creek at Rotary Park, and he gave us quite a show, flying by us and letting out the “machine-gun rattle” call these kingfishers are known for.
After our walk, we drove over to the Rincon where we saw male and female Vermilion Flycatchers, male and female Ladder-backed Woodpeckers and male and female Eastern Bluebirds.
We also saw a Lesser Goldfinch and a flock of American Goldfinches.
After our short birdwatching tour, I asked Valerie to reflect on her visit and give me some of her thoughts about Del Rio. She sent me a text later in the day.
She said after spending some time along the creek, she had wandered over to the Whitehead Memorial Museum.
“I went there to look for more birds . . . and realized how very special this area is. To have a year-round, full-bodied creek like the San Felipe flowing through the middle of a city is such a precious resource. It makes for wonderful birding, for one thing, and of course provides natural habitat and unique resources for residents. I applaud the city for respecting it and making it so accessible to residents.
“Protecting floodplains is a win-win for everyone – it buffers people from flood hazards, reduces the risks of extreme flooding, supports the natural ecosystem, while also providing varied recreational opportunities within easy walking, biking or driving distance,” she added.
Karen Gleason is the senior staff writer for the Del Rio News-Herald. She loves nature and the outdoors and has been an avid bird watcher since childhood.