Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, known as just “Bentsen” to birders is a Mecca for all those with the increasingly common affliction of “binocular face”. If you haven’t gone birding in the Rio Grande Valley, Bentsen is your best bet for variety and abundance, and you’ll easily pull down 20 life birds in an hour during migration, which really kicks up the first week of April. When I say kicks up, I mean, kettles of 500 Red-shouldered Hawks and fields of Mississippi Kites flying over. It’s a magical place.
Every outdoorsy person has a home park, the place they remember from their childhood, where they feel at home. To me, it feels like taking a breath after being under water for too long. Bentsen is my home park. It’s very special to me, in some ways, it saved my lifeand is where I fell in love with birdwatching.
So, my review will not be objective, because this state park rocks my face off and will always be my favorite.
The park abuts the Rio Grande River, and thus, the US-Mexican border. This was not always such an awkward situation, but as racism and isolationism abounds in a country built by illegal immigrants, a battle took place to prevent the raising of a wall (so prevalent in many other parks in the area) which would be a blight on scenery and the habitat. The birders won, and the result is a strange walk from the front entrance, over a canal, past border patrol agents (who aren’t there overnight so really, way to make it all pointless, guys) and then into the park proper.
The area around the front visitor center before you enter the park is quite nice and is often host to thrashers, sparrows, and hummingbirds (my first hummingbird nest spot!).
As you pass the canal, make sure to stop and say hello to the resident Black Phoebe and Northern Rough-wing Swallows.
Walk or bike on the well paved roads, or ride the ever present trolley that runs the entire park loop and stops at every trail and feeder location.
Don’t miss out on the beautiful resaca, home to many a kingfisher (I got all three North American kingfisher species here on my first visit!)