Tropical Texas: Birding the Rio Grande Valley *FULL*
Come visit one of the best places to go birding in North America. The Rio Grande Valley is an ecologically rich area where Chihuahuan desert, subtropical Tamaulipan thorn forest, riparian woodlands, resacas (former channels or oxbows of a river), coastal marshes and prairies all come together, and a system of National Wildlife Refuges and parks create wonderful public access to see the amazing assortment of birds and wildlife.
On this six day trip we’ll visit many of these parks such as the Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park where we will walk through riparian woodlands and thorn forest to visit some feeding stations, looking for Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Long-billed Thrasher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and White-tipped Dove. Sometimes Tropical Parula and Northern Beardless Tyrannulet are found here as well.
At the National Butterfly Center we’ll enjoy large numbers of butterflies and other wildlife, and learn about how this onion-farm-turned-Butterfly Sanctuary found itself at the middle of the dispute over construction of a border wall.
Along the coastal plain we’ll visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. In this open landscape, we could find White-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, and Crested Caracara. It is here that the rare Aplomado Falcon was reintroduced. The birds are doing well, and with a little luck, we’ll see them, as we head to the coast where numerous species of waterfowl overwinter.
We’ll also visit Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge where we will look for marsh birds such as Least Grebes, Mottled Duck, and Anhingas. The riparian woodlands here may host Gray Hawk and Clay-colored Thrush.
No birding trip is complete without a visit to a water treatment facility. The Edinburgh Wetlands World Birding Center has an impressive interpretive center and the adjacent settling ponds is an excellent location to spot Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Green Kingfisher, and Little Grebe, as well as numerous heron and egrets.
Heading West, we encounter the dry scrub where we should find Curve-billed Thrasher and Verdin. Famous birding spots like Salineno and Falcon State park should give us opportunities for Audubon’s Oriole, Scaled Quail, and Pyrrhuloxia, while visiting the historic town of Roma, overlooking the Rio Grande River, will give us perspective on the meaning and impact our southern border has on these communities.