Laguna Madre Loop
Los Ebanos Preserve
Enjoy a visit to this 82-acre nature preserve 100 yards from US 77 and TX 100 intersection. This special property boasts butterfly-friendly gardens, trails and tropical landscaping, including many varieties of palms. Some of the birds seen year-round are the "Lomita" Carolina Wren, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee, Hooded Oriole, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, and Green Jay. Visit the preserve's lake to view numerous species of waterbirds. Visits are by appointment only; call for permission and directions. Day use only.
From the intersection of US 77/83 and TX 100, go east on TX 100 toward FM 1847 in Los Fresnos. Along TX 100 there are numerous resacas for the first few miles, all worth checking for waterbirds (Masked Duck is a possibility in any of these ponds). Least Grebe, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and a variety of wintering waterfowl should be found in these lakes.
The Inn at Chachalaca Bend
The Inn at Chachalaca Bend is a bed-and-breakfast for birding enthusiasts near Los Fresnos. There are nature trails and resacas within their 40 acres allowing for leisurely birding. The inn maintains numerous hummingbird feeders. Enjoy views of Plain Chachalacas, Altamira Orioles, Green Jays, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Great Kiskadees, Ringed Kingfishers, and Roseate Spoonbills. Located minutes from Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Access by reservation only, so call ahead to make arrangements.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Park
From the intersection of TX 100 and FM 1847, go south on FM 1847 approximately 3.5 miles to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Park. A short nature trail and parking area have been developed at this battlefield. The nature trail crosses a short section of coastal brush and prairie. Birds such as Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Green Jay, Harris's Hawk, and Chihuahuan Raven may be found during a brief walk along the trail. Watch for Botteri's Sparrow where the trail passes near stands of sacahuiste (salt grass) during late spring and summer.
Old Port Isabel Road
From the Palo Alto Battlefield National Park, continue east on FM 511 towards the Brownsville Ship Channel and TX 48. Old Port Isabel Road runs north and south between FM 511 and Hwy 100. This road is not paved (since this printing) and is mostly clay and caliche. Do not attempt to drive road after heavy rains. The habitat is vast open coastal prairie and a reliable spot to see reintroduced Aplomado Falcons year-round. Cassin's Sparrows (year-round) and Botteri's Sparrows (summer) are easily spotted on short grasses and fence lines. There are many wintering Long-billed Curlews, sparrows, Horned Larks, Sprague's Pipit, Meadowlarks and raptors. Check the telephone poles, short trees and yucca plants for nesting Aplomado Falcons and White-tailed Hawks during spring-summer. Continue northward on Old Port Isabel Rd. until it reaches Hwy 100. Head east for Laguna Vista or west for Inn at Chachalaca Bend and/or Los Ebanos Preserve.
Return north on FM 1847 to TX 100, and then continue east to FM 510 in Laguna Vista. As you approach Laguna Vista, notice the seasonal wetlands bordering TX 100. These wetlands attract impressive flocks of waterfowl during winter. Check the telephone poles in this area for Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Harris's Hawk, Chihuahuan Raven (nesting), and White-tailed Hawk. Go northwest on FM 510 approximately 5 miles to Buena Vista Rd. There are numerous opportunities to view the Laguna Madre along this drive, particularly at Roloff Park (0.7 mile from the intersection of TX 100 and FM 510). Check the tower in Laguna Vista during the evening for Great Horned Owl. (For Laguna Atascosa NWR (LTC 024), continue north on Buena Vista Rd. to FM 106, and then continue north on Buena Vista Rd. to Laguna Atascosa NWR.)
Return to TX 100, and continue east to Port Isabel. Parking is available near the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historical Park, and you may walk to the water's edge for a splendid view of the Laguna Madre. Brown Pelicans are ever present; cormorants and various waterfowl may be viewed from this vantage point. While in Port Isabel, cross TX 100 to S. Tarnava St. and the Port Isabel Historical Museum (Champion Building). An impressive collection of historical memorabilia tells the story of the original settling of this once remote area.
Bay cruises may be arranged through Colley's Fins to Feathers. They regularly access the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre and South Bay, where impressive numbers of waterfowl, herons, egrets, and shorebirds may be seen. These cruises are best known for bay birding tours to see the Mangrove Warbler and photograph shore birds up close with just six or less birders. Contact Colley's Fins to Feathers at (956) 299-0629 or visit their web page: www.fin2feather.com.