Estero Llano Grande Loop
- Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, (956) 968-2102, www.weslaco.com
- Mercedes Area Chamber of Commerce, (956) 565-2221, www.mercedeschamber.com
Estero Llano Grande
From the intersection of US 281 and FM 1015, go north on FM 1015 approximately 2 miles to Estero Llano Grande State Park World Birding Center and the adjacent Llano Grande, the headwaters of the Arroyo Colorado. The state park has a variety of habitats and species from wetlands and marshes to grasslands and the exotic trees of the tropical zone. The ponds and marshes attract a wide variety of ducks, wading birds and shorebirds in season. In winter, the flocks of woodland birds in the tropical zone can have rare warblers including Black-throated Gray and Tropical Parula, and rarer visitors including Rose-throated Becard, White-throated Thrush, and Blue Bunting. Estero Llano Grande is perhaps best known for its accommodating and knowledgeable staff who often know where a Common Pauraque can be seen on its day roost. Join a bird walk (call (956) 565-3919 for days and times) to get to know this park, which is rapidly becoming a favorite among birders, butterfliers, and dragonfliers. The Llano Grande's expanse of shallow water is one of the better spots in the Valley to see a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl.
(956) 565-3919 www.tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/estero-llano-grande
Mercedes Civic Center
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.
The Valley Nature Center
Return to BUS 83, and then continue west on BUS 83 to Border Avenue. Go south on Border Ave for about 2 blocks to Gibson Park on the left. The Valley Nature Center is at rear of Gibson Park. The center offers a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with the unique plants of the Tamaulipan brushland and has butterfly gardens, a wetland with board walk, and easy to walk trails. Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and (migrating) Ruby-throated and Black-chinned hummingbirds are easy to see at the feeders. The short trails offer close looks at most Valley specialty birds including Green Jay and Clay-colored Thrush. Recent rarities include Crimson-collared Grosbeak. During the evening Red-crowned Parrots often roost in the area.
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 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. Red-crowned Parrots roost in Dean Porter Park (LTC 046) and in the palms around the UTB student dormitories (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 and Zinnia St.) in McAllen.
(956) 969-2475 www.valleynaturecenter.org
Frontera Audubon Thicket
Return to FM 88 (Texas Blvd.), then go south about 0.5 mile on FM 88 to Frontera Audubon (1019 S. Texas Blvd.). 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 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. 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.
(956) 968-3275 www.fronteraaudubon.org