Monday, June 15, 2009

Pintail Lodge Familiarization Trip Report, June 12-14, 2009

We arrived at Harlingen ( a short drive from our Lower Rio Grande Valley homes, at least for three of us) and were met by Romolo, the welcoming committee on the US side. Romolo had already met early-arrival Bob Schutsky whose luggage was off on a grand tour and taken Bob shopping to replace necessities. Romolo packed our luggage into the Pintail Lodge van and we headed off for the lodge. We sailed through customs and immigration and enjoyed the 2.5 hour drive to Pintail Lodge, on the shores of the Laguna Madre de Mexico in Tamaulipas - actually the southern Laguna Madre.

While the timing of the trip wasn't designed for optimized birding (fall, winter and spring will be more productive in number of species), we still saw over 100 species in two days. The lodge is luxurious and picturesqe, and each cabin has a view of the Laguna Madre. Herons, egrets, ibis, and spoonbills flew by morning and evening.

Our first day was our only full day and it was very very full. After a wake-up knock with coffee delivered to the room and eggs made to order with hot cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit, we headed out birding. We split into pairs, with two Huck Hutchens and Bob going out on the Laguna Madre first, and Tom Pendleton and I birding on land. We were met on return to the lodge with mango margaritas on the porch before a fantastic lunch. After a siesta, we swapped itineraries and headed out for the afternoon. After dinner we went out on a night drive and saw coyote, Common Pauraque, flowering night-blooming cereus (a cactus), deer, cottontails, jackrabbits, you name it.

Our last morning we went to another ranch the lodge has leased and saw a large NAWCA (North American Wetland Conservation Act grant) project creating freshwater ponds (soon to be marshes) next to the Laguna Madre in shallow drainage systems. These ponds still had some water even in the extreme drought, and we saw lots of shorebirds and lingering ducks. Juan's sharp eyes spotted many birds, coyote, deer, and jack- (and jill-) rabbits. Back to another lavish lunch and then it was off to Harlingen and the airport.

The lodge had excellent service, food quality and quantity. Desert was offered at lunch and dinner, and it was hard to pick the best desert - but we all worked on getting that stastically significant sample size!

From left to right - Tom Pendleton, Dan Bolek, Mary Gustafson, Bob Schutsky ( (standing), Huck Hutchens.
For more photos from this trip, see