Arroyo Colorado Loop
- Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce, (956) 423-5440, www.harlingen.com
Return to TX 107, and continue east (road will change names including TX 107, Combes Santa Rosa Rd., Combes Rio Hondo Rd, and FM 508) until FM 508 merges with FM 106 heading east. Continue to Rio Hondo and the Arroyo Colorado. Once across the Arroyo Colorado bridge, park at the picnic area adjacent to City Hall (on the north side of FM 106). Green Kingfishers have nested under this bridge, and the picnic grounds offer an excellent opportunity to see all three species of kingfishers that frequent North America. While in Rio Hondo, return to FM 106 and go to S. Arroyo Dr. Go south on S. Arroyo Dr. to the Rio Hondo Cemetery entrance. The native trees (Texas Ebony, in particular) at this cemetery attract a number of Valley specialties such as Green Jay and Great Kiskadee.
Mont Meta Cemetery
Return to FM 106, and then continue east to TX 345. Go south on TX 345 to the Mont Meta Cemetery. The Texas Ebony is a Tamaulipan Brushlands specialty, and this cemetery contains some of the largest ebony trees left in the Valley. Please be respectful of those whose final resting place this cemetery represents. A quiet walk along the roads that weave through these magnificent trees will not only restore the soul but often produce an impressive selection of Valley birds. A great variety of migrant landbirds may be found here during spring migration.
Las Palomas WMA -Arroyo Colorado
Return to FM 106, then continue east on FM 106 to FM 2925. Travel north on
FM 2925 to the Las Palomas WMA _ Arroyo Colorado Unit. Access to this site (which is hunted) is at present restricted; arrangements may be made to visit through TPWD at (956) 447-2704. Rio Hondo is working with TPWD to offer access to the Arroyo Colorado Unit on a controlled basis as part of the WBC complex. Entrance road is rough and often impassible. This unit is one of the most diverse in the Valley, and its addition to publicly accessible sites will be a significant gift to wildlife viewers in South Texas.
Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park
Continue east on FM 2925 to FM 1847. During migration or winter, watch the telephone poles that line the road along the Arroyo Colorado for perched Osprey or Harris's Hawk. Continue east on FM 2925 to the end of the road at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park. Common Pauraque, Altamira Oriole, and Long-billed Thrasher are among the specialties that may be found in the park. Camping, restroom, picnic, and boating facilities are available at the site. The entry fee is a daily permit that includes Isla Blanca Park (LTC 038) and all other Cameron County parks.
Cactus Creek Ranch
Return on FM 2925 to TX 1847, then go south on FM 1847 to FM 106. Go east on FM 106 2.2 miles to the entrance of Cactus Creek Ranch, a 400-acre prime South Texas native habitat that abuts the Laguna Atascosa NWR. As you enter, note the pond on your right with numerous whistling-duck nest boxes, part of the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project. Continue 0.2 mile to the parking lot.
CCR is a haven for many birds, animals, and insects both resident and migratory. The brushy habitat may be entered on foot via trail, or may be seen during guided tours. A variety of birds are usually present around the clubhouse, and American Alligators are remarkably common in the wetlands. Call ahead for arrangements
as gate is locked.
(817) 201-9697 www.cactuscreekranch.net
Laguna Atascosa NWR
Continue east on FM 106 to Buena Vista Rd., and then travel north on Buena Vista Rd. to its end at the Laguna Atascosa NWR Visitors Center. Before you reach the Visitors Center, however, you will pass the Whitetail Trail, a 5-mile walking loop that is best birded in the early morning. Scrub birds such as Greater Roadrunner and Bewick's Wren are easily seen (and heard) in this area. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes favor this habitat as well, so be cautious.
Laguna Atascosa NWR comprises nearly 50,000 acres of coastal Tamaulipan brush, grasslands, lomas, and tidal flats. Walk the short trails around the Visitors Center which have been enhanced with plantings and watering sites. During migration, warblers, Painted Buntings, Summer Tanagers, orioles, and other colorful species come to the birdbath near the Visitors Center. Common Valley species such as White-tipped Dove, Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Great Kiskadee, Olive Sparrow, and Long-billed Thrasher are often seen during an early morning or late evening walk. Yellow-green Vireos have nested in this general area. The Mesquite Trail (a 1.5-mile loop that begins at the west end of the parking lot) is a worthwhile stroll during early mornings and evenings; watch for Nine-banded Armadillo and Long-tailed Weasel. Recent rarities include Blue Bunting and Rufous-backed Robin.
From the Visitors Center, continue to the 15-mile Bayside Drive that accesses the broad range of habitats within the refuge. The Redhead Ridge Overlook is worth the short hike to the top of the hill. A spotting scope is useful to pick through the myriad of wintering ducks. Most of the world's Redheads winter on the Laguna Madre, and at times tens of thousands can be seen from this location.
Be sure to watch for Aplomado Falcon. There is an introduced (but not yet established and countable) population of this stunning endangered species which was historically common in the Valley. They are often seen along Bayside Dr. and on public roads near the refuge.
Returning to the Visitors Center, continue to Lakeside Dr. (which begins just past the Visitors Center to your left). This drive crosses an old resaca where many species of waterfowl may be seen in the winter. The road leads to the Osprey Overlook on the Laguna Atascosa. The fields surrounding this area host large numbers of Sandhill Cranes and geese in the winter. Always check any large black bird in the refuge; it may be a Groove-billed Ani (particularly in summer). Departing the refuge, be sure to look for Sandhill Cranes (in winter), and grassland shorebirds such as American Golden-Plover and Upland Sandpiper (spring) in the agricultural fields that border the refuge.
(956) 748-3607 www.friendsofsouthtexasrefuges.org