Wild Things!

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We spent a very interesting couple of nights at Falcon State Park in Falcon, Texas. The Rio Grande feeds this lake which is popular for bass and catfish fishing. It’s also well-known for the wildlife as the website warns of proper food storage and safety of people and pets, and, boy, did it prove true!

No sooner did we get our campsite set up and sit down to relax at the picnic table when a javelina strolled into our campsite. He looked mildly surprised to see us and we were very to see him! I almost had a stroke getting Tessa into the house. Javelina can be aggressive, especially if they see a dog … coyotes are their #1 predator in this part of Texas, so they may think dogs are coyotes. Tessa, of course, has never seen a Javelina before, but she has such a strong prey drive with other critters that we didn’t want to take a chance that she’d try to chase it.

Javelina are not as docile as they look.

I got Tessa into the house, looked out the windows on the other side and saw two more javelinas heading our way. Bob stayed outside at the picnic table taking pictures while they strolled through. They didn’t seem bothered by his presence at all and even got a little too close to the table for my liking!

Javelina are distant cousins of pigs. They are considered “New World Pigs” while hogs on the farm are “Old World Pigs.” The two branches split from one type of pig about 50,000 years ago. Javelinas are only found in South and Central America and the southwestern US while Old World Pigs are found all over the world. Javelina have poor eyesight, a short fuse and short, straight, sharp tusks. They also have a scent gland on their backs which they use to identify themselves and the members of their herd. The scent is supposedly similar to that of a skunk, which is why they are also known as “skunk pigs.” I’ve read that sometimes you smell them before you see them … that’s pleasant.

The next day, sitting at our picnic table, I was thinking about how common Cardinals are down here … the Cardinal is not the Texas state bird but it should be as they are everywhere. Sitting at the table, I heard cardinals calling all around me. A bird flew in and perched on top of a shrub in front of me. The lighting was such that I could only see it in silhouette, but I took a picture anyway. I was so surprised when I saw the picture! It wasn’t a Cardinal, it was a Pyrrhuloxia, a cousin of the Cardinal. Same shape, different coloring. Even the song is similar to the Cardinal.


Then, Bob spotted something moving at the edge of the brush. It was a Hispid Cotton Rat. It stepped out just long enough for me to snap a picture, then it scooted back into the brush. Good eatin’ for coyotes, bobcats and owls, no doubt. Not long after, a good size doe came to visit.

Hispid Cotton Rat

The weather was warm enough that we slept with the window open, and listened to coyote choruses off and on all night long. They woke me up several times during the night, but I didn’t mind. There was also another critter calling out there, it may have been a fox. Just as we were waking up, we smelled a skunk … or was it a javelina? Just before we left the park Friday morning, Bob spotted a bobcat crossing the road just a little ways down from our site, and then a trio of javelina mosey’d by. It was an awesome two days of “Wild Kingdom” at Falcon State Park!

Tres Javelinas.

After Falcon, we continued following the Rio Grande northwest and stopped just outside Del Rio at Amistad National Recreation Area. Falcon Lake and Amistad Lake are both huge reservoirs built by damming the Rio Grande to provide flood control, irrigation and power to this area. Amistad is supposed to be especially beautiful because of its limestone shoreline and crystal clear blue water, but when we visited the water level was down by 40% and we found few places where you could actually view the lake. It seemed that every road to the lake went into the lake in the form of a boat launch. There are several dry campgrounds surrounding the lake (campsites with picnic tables but no hook-ups), and we settled into the San Pedro campground. There was no view of the lake from the campground. We were surrounded by scrub dessert filled with mesquite, prickly-pear cactus and sagebrush. One would think wildlife would be abundant here, but it wasn’t. This was one of the quietest places we’ve stayed, especially at night.

Amistad Lake.

We had not boondocked in a while, and only expected to stay at Amistad one or two nights. We arrived with about a half tank of water and expected that would be sufficient, but when I had trouble getting a reservation at our next stop, our stay at Amistad turned into a three-night layover. We ran out of water! Then the car wouldn’t start because the battery died. It was an interesting refresher in “how to boondock.” Always go into it with full tanks of water, gasoline and propane, and empty waste tanks, even if you think you’ll only be there one night, because you just might be there longer! We were fine. We had to break camp and drive the motorhome out to get water, so it was an inconvenience but certainly not the end of the world! And it was actually good that we had this refresher, because we have several days of boondocking coming up. Now we’ll be prepared!

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