Los Ebanos Loop
- Mission Chamber of Commerce, (956) 585-2727, www.missionchamber.com
Anzalduas Dam and County Park
From the intersection of Spur 115 and FM 1016, go west on FM 1016 to FM 494. Go south on FM 494 (eventually veering west through Granjeno and beneath the International Bridge) to the entrance to Anzalduas Dam and County Park (about 3 miles from the intersection of FM 1016 and FM 494).
Anzalduas County Park is a well manicured multi-use park with one of the most significant stands of mature Rio Grande Ash and Live Oak in the Valley. This park has attracted an incredible array of rarities, including nesting Gray Hawk, Hook-billed Kite, Rose-throated Becard, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Clay-colored Thrush, and Tropical Parula. Zone-tailed Hawk has occurred during recent years (various seasons), and a number of Neotropical migrants (Black-throated Green, Black-throated Gray, Hermit, and Black-and-white warblers) have wintered here in mixed flocks that always seem to have a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. All three kingfishers are expected along the Rio Grande in the winter. The park is also a very reliable place for wintering Eastern Bluebirds and recently, House Finches, still uncommon and quite local in the Valley. There is simply no way to predict what new Texas or U.S. species will appear at Anzalduas, so be sure to check it (even daily!) while you visit the Valley.
National Butterfly Center
Return to FM 494, go northwest to La Lomita Mission then continue to the intersection of FM 494 and FM 1016 (Conway Ave.). Go west on Conway Ave.
(FM 1016) until it veers to the north. Instead of continuing north on Conway, veer west on Military Hwy. (unmarked). Continue on Military Hwy. until one mile before FM 2062, turning (south) into the center. Alternatively, from BUS or US 83 on the west side of Mission, turn south on Bentsen-Palm Drive. When you reach the entrance to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and the headquarters for the World Birding Center, turn left (east) on _old' Military Road (unmarked). Drive one mile and the entrance to the National Butterfly Center will be on the right (south).
The National Butterfly Center (NBC) is the flagship project of the North American Butterfly Association. More than 300 species of butterflies, about 40% of the 700 North American species, have been seen at the NBC in addition to some 240 species of birds. Adjacent to one of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge tracts, the NBC consists of 100 acres of trails, wildscapes, and cultivated native plant gardens that provide year-round habitat for the feeding and breeding of butterflies. Very rare sightings of butterflies in the U.S. include the Orion Cecropian, Isabella's Heliconian, Gold-spotted Aguna and Blue-eyed Sailor; while the Malachite, Guatemalan Cracker and Mexican Bluewing are among those often seen. The NBC also contains feeding stations for birds, and Clay-colored Thrush is considered a regular here. Recent bird rarities include Golden-crowned Warbler, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Rufous-backed Robin. Come explore the Hackberry trail for our resident bobcats and indigoes on patrol, or picnic under the palapa, where our Screech Owls snooze. Texas Tortoise, javelinas, chachalacas, and all sorts of South Texas wildlife make their homes on this small, but special, tract on the banks of the Rio Grande.
(956) 583-5400 www.nationalbutterflycenter.org
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Continue west on Military Hwy. until FM 2062 and turn north (right) to the park's parking lot. If coming from the west side of Mission, head south from BUS or US 83 on Bentsen-Palm Drive to the entrance of the state park. This park has been well known to birders for decades, and a number of species new to the U.S. have first been recorded in or near this park (Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Collared Forest-Falcon, Masked Tityra, Stygian Owl). Virtually all of the Valley specialties may be found within the park, including Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Altamira Oriole, and Hook-billed Kite. Mexican species such as Clay-colored Thrush are seen around feeders. In late spring and summer Elf Owl breeds in these woods (check with the staff for the location of a nesting hole that may be visible to the public). Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl was formerly a regular species in the park, but it disappeared after the floods of 2010.
Ride the tram from the headquarters into the park, getting off and on as you wish. There are several feeding stations in the park, with the most popular at La Familia Nature Center, the bird blinds, and by Kiskadee Trail. Look for Anhinga and waterfowl from the boat ramp, and ride the tram to the Hawk Tower for a view over another resaca and an excellent view point for hawk watching. Join the spring hawk watch from March to May and the fall hawk watch from September to November. Be sure to keep an eye on the sky for Gray Hawk or the rare Hook-billed Kite.
The WBC headquarters, located near the park entrance, offers interpretation and information on the incredible avian diversity of the Valley. This world-class interpretive complex is only part of the whole World Birding Center vision which includes a network of sites extending from Roma to South Padre Island. The headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP acts as an anchor to the WBC complex and provides information about what is being seen in the Valley, how to reach additional birding sites, and facilitates the visits of those traveling to the Valley for the first time. Indian Ridge Bed and Breakfast offers nearby lodging and is located 4 miles north of the park off Orange Grove Road (956) 519-3305 www.indian-ridge-bb.com
(956) 584-9156 www.tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/bentsen-rio-grande-valley
Chihuahua Woods Preserve
Return north on FM 2062 to BUS 83, and then go west on BUS 83 to its intersection with FM 1427. From this intersection, continue west on BUS 83 0.3 mile to where BUS 83 veers to the northwest. At the curve, go straight onto blacktop road parallel to the railroad track for about 0.1 miles. Preserve entrance is on the left, where the blacktop road crosses the railroad track.
This property has been purchased primarily to protect a unique cactus community. Please, restrict your visit to the maintained trails, and do not disturb the native vegetation. Many species of Valley birds reside in this tract. In summer, look (and listen) for Verdin, Groove-billed Ani, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and Cactus Wren. In winter, watch for Hook-billed Kite, a raptor which feeds on the abundant Rabdotus land snails.
USFWS Yturria Tract
Return to US 83, turn west on US 83, go west to FM 2221, and then go north for the first few miles (before the road cuts back east toward Edinburg). Western species such as Varied Bunting (rare), Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (rare), and Cactus and Bewick's wrens may be seen at times along this drive.
Return to US 83, and continue west about 3 miles to the USFWS Yturria Tract. The tract is located on the north side of US 83, and the trail sign marks its entrance. The Yturria Tract has well-developed trails (actually roads) through thick upland thorn-scrub habitat. This tract is a good place to see a mix of Valley specialties and western species. Varied Buntings have been seen in spring and summer, and Green-tailed Towhees winter here on occasion. Verdin, Greater Roadrunner, Long-billed and Curve-billed thrashers, White-tailed Kite and other Valley residents are present throughout the year.