Las Palomas Loop
- San Benito Chamber of Commerce, (956) 399-5321, www.cityofsanbenito.com
Las Palomas WMA - Resaca de la Palma
From US 77/83, exit at Olmito, take FM 1732 and follow for 2.5 miles. Turn left at New Carmen Ave. and follow for 1.5 miles. At the end of the paved road, turn left to enter the park. Resaca de la Palma boasts the largest tract of native habitat in the World Birding Center network. The tract includes mature woodlands as productive as any in the Valley as well as former agricultural land that was revegetated in the 1980s and 1990s. Colorful migrants such as the Summer Tanager, American Redstart, and Yellow-breasted Chat have been noted here often and in high numbers. When resaca levels are controlled for the benefit of wildlife, species like the Least Grebe, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and various herons, as well as migrating waterfowl in their seasons, should also congregate here. The property's dense ground-level vegetation is especially attractive to species like the Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, and White-eyed Vireo, along with all the Valley specialties. Explore the extensive system of trails that wind through the resacas, lomas, and forests that make up the park. There are also four decks that overlook the four miles of resaca, and trails can be reached by a tram that runs several days a week.
(956) 350-2920 www.theworldbirdingcenter.com/Resaca.html
Las Palomas WMA - Ebony Unit
Take FM 1732 west to US 281, and then continue west on US 281 to FM 1479. Go north 2.7 miles on FM 1479 to an unmarked gravel road and then head east to Las Palomas WMA_Ebony Unit. An observation platform adjacent to the resaca dominates this site and offers an excellent vantage point for studying the waterbirds that crowd these waters. Look for Least Grebe, several species of ducks including resident Ruddy Ducks and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, flycatchers such as Couch's and Tropical kingbirds, and Great Kiskadee on snags that border the shore. Walk along the resaca and enjoy the variety of dragonflies and damselflies.
Las Palomas WMA units were purchased with funds from hunters. The Ebony Unit continues to be hunted, so call TPWD at (956) 565-1223 or check the public information booth for access during hunting seasons.
Vieh's B&B is located on FM 675 (0.6 mile north on FM 1479) a short distance from the Ebony Unit. Vieh's offers birding in a 15-acre palm forest, and on a nature trail that borders a 10-acre lake (956) 425-465 (www.vieh.com).
Return to FM 1479, then go south to US 281. Go west on US 281 to Cannon Rd. (marked by a cannon). Travel north on Cannon Rd. (dirt and caliche for most of its distance). USFWS tracts border Cannon Rd. for much of its length and many Valley specialties may be seen along this drive. Toward the end of Cannon Rd. you will reach a power transfer station where Tropical Kingbirds have nested. Be sure to listen for the Tropical Kingbird's characteristic high-pitched trill, as the virtually identical Couch's Kingbirds are here, too.
Tropical Kingbirds have become widely established in Valley cities within the past decade. They can be found year-round (most difficult in winter) in urban areas, most commonly from the coast west to McAllen. Simply listen to all Tropical/Couch's kingbirds, and become familiar with the calls and songs of both. Continue past the power station to where the road ends at a levee and a large reservoir. This reservoir, in season, supports large numbers of puddle ducks, American White Pelicans, and both whistling-ducks. South Cannon Road is lined with large trees and runs along irrigation canals that lead to large reservoirs. Rarities such as Roadside Hawk and Dusky-capped Flycatcher have been seen along this road.
Return to US 281, and continue west approximately 0.7 mile to El Zacatal.
El Zacatal is comprised of a series of resacas that are visible from US 281. These lakes are dependent upon wet season rains, so during long periods of drought they eventually become dry. When wet, look for Neotropic Cormorants, Common Moorhen, Purple Gallinule, Least Grebe, and a variety of waterfowl in these resacas. Kingfishers are often found perched on snags, and migrant shorebirds feed along the exposed shore as the water levels drop during late spring.
TxDOT Relampago Rest Stop
Continue west on US 281 to the TxDOT Relampago Rest Stop. This small rest stop contains a stand of impressively large mesquite trees that often attract spring and fall migrants. The thickets bordering the rest stop offer a chance to see Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, and Green Jay. When most birders visit the Valley, they limit their trip to a few well-known spots; however, birds are not restricted by the habits of birders. They are limited only by the available habitats. These small remnants of Tamaulipan brush and riverine woodland may attract the next new species to wander to the U.S.