Friday, March 30, 2018

Park Life

Volunteering this year has been very enjoyable and very busy.  When we arrived in January, the staff had a list of projects that they wanted completed, most of them required Marlin's skills.   Our co-host Tom, was his companion worker for the majority of the work.

The grounds surrounding the visitor's center includes an area with a water feature, and multiple feeding stations.  Water flows over several rocks, into a small pool, along a shallow stream, then on to a circular collecting area, where it is pumped underground back to the beginning.

Since birds are attracted to splashing water, most water features include some type of drip intended to encourage them into the area. Usually this means having a water source drip from above a pool.  The plastic tubing that was originally installed here needed to be replaced with a more durable material.

Marlin choose an overhanging branch, installed copper tubing to the tree and put a valve at the end of the line so the water created a drip, drip, drip onto the rocks below.

The drip of water hits the large flat rock, then splashes into the pool, creating the sound and action needed to attract birds.

Next he tackled the loose fishing pole problem.  How can one person get all the poles and additional equipment out to the yard where the children's fishing activity takes place?   A five gallon bucket, some plywood, a little PVC pipe, and four casters made the problem disappear.

On to archery.  Again, the Ranger in charge of the activity, which occurs on a monthly basis, needs to move all the equipment from the storage room to the grass area.  The bows and arrows also need to be convenient for participants during the lesson.

The tall post holds two bows and the pvc at the front is used for arrows.  They are light weight and can be moved quickly and easily.

During the lesson the students have easy access to both bow and arrow.

 One of my favorite jobs this year was leading the Junior Ranger Program.  The Park provides an activity booklet, and loans each child a backpack full of materials for outdoor exploration.  Since I had kids ranging from five years old, up to fourteen, the instruction was variable, to say the least.

During most of the programs offered here at Resaca, parents, and sometimes grandparents, are active participants.  Moms, Dads, Grandparents would all come along the trail, asking questions, pointing out interesting plants or animals, and encouraging their kids to find a picture on one of the field guides of flowers, plants, butterflies, or animals.  The kids were either intrigued by, or frustrated by the binoculars that are included in the pack.  The 4 year old to the left of the picture insisted on using them backwards.  He was happy, so what difference did it make!

Driving the Tram was also high on my list of jobs this season.  There are four trips on each of the days that we are open.  The paved three mile loop circles the central part of the park with eight miles of dirt hiking trails that branch off this main road.

Volunteer Margarita driving one of the three electric trams in the park.

Although Resaca de la Palma is only 10 years old and one of the newest Texas State Parks, it is also one of the largest.  A unique feature of this Park is that about 40 percent of the 1200 hundred acre habitat is natural growth, not re-vegetated after crop use.  That fact is important because there is approximately 2 percent of natural habitat remaining in the Rio Grande Valley area.  I enjoyed sharing information about native Texas trees and plants to Park visitors.

Can't help myself from including a few of the bird picture taken this winter.  Still working on improving my technique using the new camera.  Much more complicated than my last one.  Focus is still not quite right.

A golden fronted woodpecker outside our camper

This years cardinal submission

The Couch's Kingbirds have just arrived.

The Altamira Oriole only seen in this tip of Texas

Yellow-crowned night heron nesting at Valley Nature Center in Weslaco, TX

Inca Dove, also at Valley Nature Center.

Unfortunately, we will miss the  inauguration,  on May 5th, of the observatory that is now on the grounds of Resaca de la Palma State Park.

Marlin with Pablo, the Park Superintendent, heading for a tour of the observatory

This observatory belongs to the University of Texas.  It was located in downtown Brownsville until light pollution overcame the usefulness of the telescope.  It was moved to the Park several years ago, and the process of establishing infrastructure has been on-going since then.  Plans are currently being developed for public astronomy programs.

We were treated to demonstrations of how the telescope and dome are positioned for viewing specific areas of the night sky.

Graduate students demonstrated and explained some of their past work with asteroids on a computer.

Did a fair share of this over the winter!

In about 10 days we will begin our journey back to Maine.  We will truly miss the people we worked with this season, it has been a fun experience.

Last - The infamous "Wall".  This is less than two miles from Resaca de la Palma entrance.

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