Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Estero Llano Grande Loop

Estero Llano Grande Loop map

Estero Llano Grande Loop mapEstero Llano GrandeMercedes Civic CenterThe Weslaco WetlandsThe Valley Nature CenterFrontera Audubon Thicket

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More information:

  • Weslaco Chamber of Commerce
    Phone: (956) 968-2102
  • Mercedes Area Chamber of Commerce
    (956) 565-2221

054.gif LTC 054 Estero Llano Grande

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only. World Birding Center site.

From the intersection of US 281 and FM 1015, go north on FM 1015 approximately 2 miles to Estero (lake) Llano Grande, the headwaters of the Arroyo Colorado. This expanse of shallow water is one of the better spots in the Valley to see a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. This lake (as well as woodlands to the immediate north) is being developed as a major interpretive component of the WBC. At this time, access is limited to viewing the lake. Traveling north on FM 1015, go east on the dirt road that begins immediately before the bridge crossing Estero Llano Grande. This dirt road borders the southern edge of the Estero Llano Grande, and offers excellent views of the lake. Wood Storks often crowd these waters in the late summer, and shorebirds, waterfowl, American White Pelicans, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and Neotropic Cormorants are often abundant in these rich waters.

The lake also extends to the west side of the FM 1015 bridge. To view this portion of the lake, park on the shoulder of the road located at the northwestern corner of the bridge. You may scope the lake from this high point, or walk down to the lake beside the bridge. Black Phoebes have wintered here; in summer Cave Swallows nest under the bridge.

As the WBC develops, access to woodlands north of the Estero Llano Grande will become available. These woodlands host many of the Valley specialties, so the Estero Llano Grande WBC interpretive center will offer birders a chance to view both water and land birds within the same property.

055.gif LTC 055 Mercedes Civic Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue north on FM 1015 to BUS 83. Go east on BUS 83 about 5 miles to Mercedes and the Mercedes Civic Center. This site is presently being enhanced for wildlife, including the planting of butterfly and hummingbird gardens. There are plans to develop a nature trail that will extend west toward Weslaco.

056.gif LTC 056 The Weslaco Wetlands

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return west on BUS 83 about 4 miles to Airport Dr. in Weslaco. Go north on Airport Dr. to US 83; continue north on Airport Dr. (veering west) to its end at the MidValley Airport and the Weslaco Wetlands. This series of water polishing ponds for the Weslaco wastewater treatment plant offers a splendid opportunity to view waterbirds (Least Grebe, Anhinga, Black-bellied and Fulvous whistling-ducks, migrant ducks, herons, and egrets) in this portion of the Valley. The levees of these ponds have become vegetated with willows and mesquites, so landbirds such as Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, and Couch’s Kingbird are fairly easy to see. The combination of willows and freshwater makes this site one of the Valley’s best locations for migrating neotropical landbirds.

Weslaco is in the process of developing this site for wildlife watching. Parking is available at the end of Airport Drive (please, do not block the gate) and plans include construction of a bridge and observation platform that will allow viewing access to the easternmost ponds. As this site develops, it should become one of the better spots in the Valley for viewing waterbirds and migrants.

057.gif LTC 057 The Valley Nature Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to BUS 83, and then continue west on BUS 83 to FM 88. Go south on FM 88 (Texas Blvd.) to W. 6th Street. Go west on W. 6th Street to S. Border Ave., then north on S. Border Ave. to Gibson Park and the Valley Nature Center. The Visitor Center is open Thursday through Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. The Nature Park is open Monday though Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Contact the Valley Nature Center at (956) 969-2475, and for information about access and the programs they offer regularly. The Valley Nature Center offers a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with the unique plants of the Tamaulipan brushland.The Center has developed extensive butterfly gardens that attract an incredible array of butterflies, as well as Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and (migrating) Ruby-throated and Black-chinned hummingbirds.

The Valley Nature Center is located at the rear of Gibson Park, a multi-use city park, that is well vegetated with oaks (fairly unusual in the Valley) and ash. During the evening, both Green Parakeets and Red-crowned Parrots roost in these trees.

Addressing the issue of parrots, two species have become well established in the Valley: Red-crowned Parrot and Green Parakeet. Flocks of Green Parakeets are quite easy to see and hear in most of the larger communities such as Harlingen, Brownsville, Weslaco, McAllen, and Mission. You should have no difficulty seeing this raucous species while visiting the Valley. The Red-crowned Parrot, rather boisterous as well, is far less common and therefore more difficult to find. The best way to see Red-crowned Parrot is to visit a roost site in late afternoon, listening for its loud CLEE-o . . . CLEE-o calls. Red-crowned Parrots roost in Dean Porter Park (LTC 046) and around Fort Brown Hotel (east of the International Bridge) in Brownsville, around the Valley Nature Center and Frontera Audubon Thicket (LTC 058) in Weslaco, and near Bill Schupp Park (TX 336 & Zinnia St.) in McAllen. For current information about where to find roosting parrots, try contacting the Valley Rare Bird Alert tape at (956) 969-2731.

058.gif LTC 058 Frontera Audubon Thicket

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. Call ahead. Fee charged.

Return to FM 88 (Texas Blvd.), then go south about 0.5 mile on FM 88 to the Frontera Audubon Thicket (1019 S. Texas Blvd.). Access to this remarkable site is restricted, call Frontera Audubon Society at (956) 968-3275 to request permission to visit the sanctuary. Volunteers have landscaped the property with a rich variety of native Valley plants, including many rare and endangered species. Lesser Goldfinches breed in the sunflowers behind the headquarters, and a wetland that has been developed on the property attracts large numbers of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and shorebirds. Green Parakeets have nested in cavities in the dead trees bordering the pond, and Red-crowned Parrots roost in old trees in the immediate neighborhood. Few places in the Valley are more populated with Plain Chachalacas, with birds calling from the roofs of neighborhood homes each morning. In migration this thicket is among the better spots to see neotropical migrants away from the coast. Continue south on FM 88 to US 281.

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