phil jeffrey:: Texas, April 2008 trip report


Texas Birding Trip, April 2008

Original plans called for a visit to TX in late May or early June to pick up the remaining RGV specialties that I hadn't seen before the Federal government eviscerated the native habitat along the lower Rio Grande River in the name of border security. The presence of some RGV specialties in late March made me inclined to do a week-long early spring trip to TX in April 2008 as well. Since I saw Muscovy Duck in November 2007 the major river targets were Red-billed Pigeon and White-collared Seedeater. Other species of interest were Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Groove-billed Ani, Hook-billed Kite and Aplomado Falcon as well as all of the RGV regulars that I'd seen before. Additionally I wanted to find Black-capped Vireo in the hill country. The short version of this trip report is that I found all of these targets, in a trip of unusual luck.

Trip planning content here is basically the same as the 2007 trip.

The ABA/Lane Guide to the RGV is rather out of date, although apparently a new version is imminent. The the ABA/Lane Guide for the Upper Texas Coast (UTC) appears to be even further out of date. As a result I didn't even consult either of them and relied on memory, the directions in this page and on the Texas Birding Trail maps - hard copy they are a modest $3.15 each, and you can also download the information via the web (see below) or view it online. In terms of finding sites, this is probably a better bet than the Lane Guides although of course species frequency etc is not represented. In 2006 Bentsen State Park only stocked the one for the lower Texas coast (not that smart), but Aransas NWR visitor center had all three coastal ones. Those were the only birding guides that I brought with me on this trip, but then I've been to most of these places before. For the hill country sites a good map is very useful indeed.

Travel Details

TX Birding Site Internet Resources

(RGV = lower Rio Grande Valley)

Trip Report

Sunrise ~7am Sunset ~8pm
(Year birds are underlined, life birds are in bold, as are place names).

Day 0: Thurs April 10th 2008: Philadelphia PA to Kerrville TX

I left Philadelphia at the ungodly hour of 5:35am on Continental and arrived in San Antonio a little after 10:20am via a change of planes in Houston. The flights were a little bumpy due to a storm system pushing through from the west, but apparently it skipped San Antonio where the day was mostly clear and hot after heavy overcast at Houston and some menacing-looking clouds. Continental were relatively efficient (I prefer this airline), I chose Philadelphia (PHL) rather than Newark (EWR) because the prices were lower. Bizarrely it was cheaper to get a ticket to San Antonio (SAT) than it was to Houston (IAH) despite the fact that it was exactly the same flight for the Houston leg.

The San Antonio Dollar rent-a-car was a little small, and the PT Cruiser I was given had no cruise control, but after that there was an uneventful drive to Kerrville - seeing some Common Ravens en route - and then via US-41 and FM-1340 to Kerr WMA for scouting and to look for target birds. I got to Kerr WMA at 1:30pm - not your most auspicious birding time. Stopping at the first picnic shelter to check out some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers singing, I also heard and then saw a male Golden-cheeked Warbler. This was the shelter at the "Axe" interpretive display. At the check-in station there's a specific Black-capped Vireo map and birder sign-in sheet, so I went further on to the second shelter (the "Fire" interpretive display) which was supposed to be a good location for them. And by some miracle there were two male Black-capped Vireos having a little territorial dispute and singing out in the open within 10 minutes. This was in the afternoon, so the odds against that sort of thing were high. I spent another two hours at Kerr, mostly at this second location, and I also picked up Common Raven, Myiarchus sp. (best guess: Ash-throated), Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lark Sparrow (singing) and White-eyed Vireo. The Gnatcatchers were just about the most numerous bird. I only saw one Golden-cheeked and two Black-capped Vireos but these were the targets for the first and second day of the trip. Black-capped Vireo was US#601.

Owing to the very early start and the lack of other target birds, I just did a little scenic driving in the later afternoon down FM-1340 and TX-39 before checking into the Motel 6 in Kerrville for the night - I was feeling pretty tired. [update 2018: Motel 6 disclaimer: I had largely stopped usingthis chain because of their high average ineptitude, but the final straw is their overt racism] Both river valleys are very scenic, but if anything FM-1340 is more so since the valley is narrower and less developed and hews close to the Guadalupe River. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and probable Western Kingbird were hunting from wires in northern Kerrville at dusk.

Day 1: Fri April 11th 2008: Kerrville to McAllen

Leaving Kerrville at 6:20am I headed in twilight down scenic 39 and FM-1340 back to Kerr WMA. Getting there at 7am it still seemed a little dark, aided by the overcast - sunrise was probably closer to 7:30am. I heard Golden-cheeked Warbler at the first picnic shelter, and after a little while at the second shelter saw a pair of Black-capped Vireos moving quietly through the brush. Also there were Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows, Lark Sparrow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, I discovered the Wild Turkeys were fed either by design or by scavenging deer feed. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were everywhere just as the previous day. After some patience at this location I got a good look at a singing Black-capped Vireo and a singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler popped up not 20 yards away. I saw the other Golden-cheeked Warbler on the way out of the park.

Heading south I dropped in at Lost Maples SP ($5) for an all-too-brief visit. House Finch, Chipping, Clay-colored, and Lincoln's Sparrows, singing Summer Tanager, various heard-only warblers (Golden-cheeked, Black-and-white, Black-throated Green, Blue-headed Vireo), singing Nashville Warbler, a few cooperative Yellow-throated Vireos, White-eyed Vireo, Carolina and House Wrens. An Eastern Phoebe was hunting along the trail which seemed a little late for this location.

I headed south to Sabinal down a rapidly widening and pastoral river valley, seeing Chimney Swifts near Hondo. In the increasingly southern vegetation mix there were several Ravens around, probably Chihuahuan. I saw a variety of raptors en route south via local roads: Swainson's, Harris's, White-tailed Hawks and Crested Caracara. Many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were on roadside wires, together with presumed Western Kingbirds. I had my first Green Jays roadside near Falfurrias.

I had planned to get to Quinta Mazatlan at McAllen by 5pm but this turned out to be a farce with none of the registration information available at that site at 4:30pm - it was a waste of time to bail out of the north so early in the day and I could have spent more time at Lost Maples.

However the early arrival let me spend the late afternoon at Alan William's yard in Pharr, superficially a most unlikely spot but the plantings do seem to pull in quite a variety of RGV specialty birds: Clay-colored and White-throated Robin (US #602), Great Kiskadee, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lincoln's Sparrow, Great/Brown-crested Flycatcher (probably the latter), Black-bellied Whistling Duck flyover, possible Red-eyed Vireo, Inca, White-winged and Mourning Doves, Ruby-throated and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds. A pretty good yard list and there had been a nighthawk flying around the property before I arrived.

Quite a brisk start to the trip with two life birds in two days. I spent the next 3 nights at a Super8 in McAllen.

Day 2: Sat April 12th 2008: McAllen and the Rio Grande

If days 0 and 1 were pretty good, this next morning was truly outstanding. As part of the McAllen Birding Festival I met at 5:30am at Quinta Mazatlan to make the trek upstream to kayak the Rio Grande. As it turned out the Rio Grande was running fast since they were releasing water from the dam (Roy referring to it as more of an irrigation canal than a river, but it was certainly in full river mode). The put-in was at Chapeno down the hill from the old feeder station that was the location of my life Brown Jay several years previously. The feeders appeared to not be in operation and Brown Jays have become very elusive. Given the current kayaking was destined to be an adventure, fulfilled by ending up in rather than on the river at the first difficult stretch. After taking a while to get back into the kayak, a little scratched and thoroughly wet, paddling downstream turned up some very nice birds indeed: Chihuahuan Raven, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Couch's Kingbird, flyby Barn, Cliff and Bank Swallows, Double-creasted Cormorant, Gadwall. Then things started to get interesting: the first Muscovy Duck headed upstream, seen well from the kayaks. A Gray Hawk popped up from the canopy (seen only on the Mexican side). Because of the swift current the overall trip was fairly short but provided a unique look at the river. We landed at Salineno where things got very interesting indeed, first with Altamira and Bullock's Oriole, then a second Muscovy Duck, then two Red-billed Pigeons (US #603), a Red-shouldered Hawk, a female Hook-billed Kite (US #604) that flew right over our heads and finally a third Muscovy Duck (!). I saw a singing Olive Sparrow in the scrub along the NWR trail.

After the river we went via the Salineno dump road to Falcon County Park in the heat of the day for lunch. Nevertheless we saw Western Kingbird, Pyrruloxia, White-crowned Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Verdin, and many Mockingbirds. Vesper Sparrow was on the wire on way back to 83. A stop at the Roma bluffs overlook didn't add anything new but was my first visit to the site and highlighted that the square was full of partially renovated old border town architecture.

I Returned to McAllen and a brief nap at the hotel. I tried Hidalgo Pumphouse but sign said that *park* closed at 5pm - a useless arrangement for the average birder. Instead I went to Chihuahua Woods Preserve where the cacti were in bloom but the bird activity was low in the late afternoon. Chihuahua Woods is destined to be on the other side of the border fence so this was probably my last visit there. After a quick circumnavigation of the trails I went to Bentsen Rio Grande SP. On the walk in a Mississippi Kite flock dropped out over the path. At Bentsen I saw Couch's Kingbird, Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole. At hawk tower there were more Mississippi Kites. The resaca was full with Least and Pied-billed Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, Ringed and Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, White-faced Ibis, Neotropic Cormorant, American Coot. There was a huge roosting blackbird flock at this location. At dusk Lesser Nighthawks flew over the hawk tower. At the entrance to the hawk tower trail a male Common Pauraque sang from the road but despite hearing other ones this was the only one I saw. I heard Eastern Screech-Owl and Elf Owl on the walk back to the car. Passerine activity was low in the late afternoon, and there was rather a dearth of birders.

Overnight at the McAllen Super8 for the second night

Day 3: Sun April 13th 2008

Up early again and an early morning sprint to Salineno, getting there about 20 minutes after sunrise. The river was even higher than on Saturday, so I walked upstream along the riverside dirt road. Closer to the island I stopped and scanned. Within a few minutes I found Red-billed Pigeon perched up on the island with good scope views. Another one flew by later. Vermilion Flycatcher flew over as did a Clay-colored Robin which perched in the trees nearby. A Bewick's Wren was along the trail and a male Mexican Mallard at the island on the river. After a fairly brief time at Salineno I left for San Ygnacio, finding Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Chihuahuan Raven, Crested Caracara, Harris's Hawk and Hooded Oriole en route.

I arrived later than intended at San Ygnacio (9:40am) I walked into the main area on the refuge to find a couple who told me that they'd seen a male White-collared Seedeater just 10 mins before by the boat ramp. Almost immediately the male White-collared Seedeater (US #605) showed itself well, but for less than a minute, at the cane at the main feeder area. I waited around for another hour and a half but it did not show again. There was a cacophany of blackbird and grackle songs and calls and a great deal of both at the feeders. Also present were White-tipped Dove, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Couch's Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Lincoln's Sparrow. A pair of flyby Green Kingfishers on the river were seen from the upstream river access.

After San Ygnacio I Stopped at Zapata city park and saw nothing of interest. On the bridge south of town where all the swallows seemed to be Cliff not Cave - by the end of the trip it was almost tempting to think that Cave Swallows preferred the smaller culverts while the Cliff Swallows were happier on the larger bridge spans. A second visit to Salineno gave Altamira Oriole and Green Jay but activity was low. Roma had Chimney Swift again but I was mainly taking photos of the historic square.

A late Sunday afternoon visit to Sparrow Road in La Hoya was fairly slow but turned up some nice birds - Pyrrhuloxia, a singing Cassin's Sparrow, an immature White-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Verdin. At least on a Sunday there was no tanker traffic and not much traffic overall. The urban park in Edinburg that held the WBC wetlands was swarming with humanity so I left without stopping there and instead spent the time before sunset at Violet and 10th in McAllen where there were 100+ Green parakeets staging before dark and harassing a passing Cooper's Hawk.

Overnight at the McAllen Super8 for the third and last night.

Day 4: Mon April 14th 2008

I reached El Canelo, a little north of Raymondsville, shortly after 8am and within 10 minutes I was watching a female Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (US #606) hunting in the back yard. A surreal experience but El Canelo's back yard is a special place: Green Jay, Archilochus hummingbird sp., Curve-billed Thrasher, a Northern Bobwhite covey, Hooded Oriole, possible Audubon's Oriole, European Starling, Bronzed Cowbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker were all present. A Barn Owl was roosting nearby. Along the ranch roads near the house I saw Cooper's Hawk, Lark Sparrow, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Blue Heron, Neotropic Cormorant, and a singing Bewick's Wren beyond the fence. Crested Caracara and White-tailed Hawk were seen along the entrance roads. There were some silhouetted shorebirds on one of the ponds but there was little chance of IDing them.

After El Canelo I went toward South Padre Island. I drove slowly down Old Port Isabel Rd - finding Cassin's Sparrow, Gull-billed Tern, White-tailed Hawk, and Crested Caracara. There was a Peregrine along TX-100 at a nest, but I didn't find Aplomado Falcons anywhere. At the South Padre Island convention center I saw Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, three female Prothonotary and one Hooded Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Sora, Caspian, Royal, Least and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmer, Marbled Godwit and fly-by American Golden Plover. I didn't see any Ani at the nearby residential site despite checking it twice.

I decided to skip off SPI and check Laguna Atascosa NWR for Ani and Aplomado Falcon. At Laguna Atascosa I saw Greater Roadrunner near the visitor center, a mutant azure-colored Green Jay at the feeders along its greener brethren with Long-billed Thrasher and White-tipped Dove and the usual mass of blackbirds. I returned to SPI and saw basically the same species again, along with a molting male Indigo Bunting as the sun set. I stayed overnight at the Super8 in Harlingen but motel prices on SPI were cheaper, if anything.

Day 5: Tues April 15th 2008

I started again at South Padre Island convention center at dawn, finding fewer passerines than the previous day: Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting and Yellow Warbler were all that were present. Along the boardwalk it was more productive: Sora, Clapper Rail, Marbled Godwit, Greater Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, Short-billed Dowitcher, Caspian, Royal, Least Terns, Black Skimmer, Redhead, Mottled Duck, Mallard, Pectoral Sandpiper and Reddish Egret. A first pass at the residential Ani site netted nothing, but a second pass as I was leaving SPI for the last time found the Groove-billed Ani (US#607) foraging next to the road. It was skulking and not overly forthcoming I nevertheless got good looks. In that neighborhood I also saw a fly-by Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a female Summer Tanager.

Exiting South Padre Island and going east on TX-100 out of Laguna Vista I noticed birders pulled over at the side of the road and discovered that they were watching two falcons at a nest site - one U-turn later I watched two Aplomado Falcons (US#608) at the nest from the far side of the road. I watched them at a distance for a while, before leaving and headed down old Port Isabel Road again: Cassin's Sparrow in song flight, Eastern Meadowlark were all that I found.

Then to Sabal Palm Preserve for perhaps the last time: Least and Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, American Coot, calling Waterthrush sp. and the usual suspects at the resaca, remnants of a recent grass fire along the entrance road, Black-throated Green, Blue-winged and Tennessee Warblers in the butterfly garden along with Brown-crested Flycatcher, and the Border Patrol on dirt bikes at the Rio Grande overlook - a lot narrower here than at Salineno. Most of the action was in the butterfly garden. The rather quiet feeders had Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove and Bronzed Cowbird. No hummingbirds on this visit as with the last several ones.

After chugging through congested central Brownsville I headed eastbound along US-281 toward Estero Llano Grande SP. En route I made a diversion and from a recent trip report I followed Rangerville Road into Rangerville, turned left (west) onto Jimenez Rd which after it turned to dirt crossed an irrigation canal. Parking here, and exactly as advertized a group of Cave Swallows were nesting under the culvert, giving eye-level looks. (On Mapquest, this is where Hackberry Rd meets Jimenez Road; Rangerville Road connects Harlingen with US-281). At Estero Llando there was no Tropical Kingbird, but Black-bellied Whistling- and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper and Green Kingfisher. Several Lincoln's and probable Savannah Sparrows were in the developing scrub along the trails.

After checking in at the McAllen Motel6 I went to Santa Ana NWR toward dusk. At Pintail Lakes: Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Scaup sp, Forster's Tern, various herons and fly-over Anhinga. Ani had been reported from this location but I did not find them. At the hawk tower there were a few hawk kettles: mostly Mississippi Kite, and some Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks with a fly-by local immature Gray Hawk. A Harris's Hawk up perched right next to the hawk tower.

Failed at a sunset sprint to the edges of the golf course near Quinta Mazatlan looking for Tropical Kingbird, where all that was calling was a Kiskadee.

Day 6: Weds April 16th 2008

A pre-dawn sprint upriver got me to Salineno a little after sunrise, after a delay due to a road accident in Roma. Walking upriver to the viewing spot, the Red-billed Pigeons were once again reliable, with Bewick's Wren and a Clay-colored Robin present as with the previous trip. The river was high and fast again.

Further up-river at San Ygnacio, I met the caretaker Joel who said that the seedeater had not been seen in a couple of days, and not at the feeders since that Sunday sighting - judging from subsequent posts on TXBIRDS the male had become rather elusive and the female at best unreliable near the presumed nesting spot. The feeders held the usual suspects including Olive Sparrow and Long-billed Thrasher. The River was fairly quiet. I left at 10:30am and checked out the Zapata road stop 3 mi north of San Ygnacio with good overlook over the Rio Grande, swaths of native habitat (arid upland and riparian). There was a singing Long-billed Thrasher, Couch's Kingbird down by river (no access) and Pyrrhuloxia, Lark Sparrow in the scrubbier patches. This place certainly has potential.

Then back via Zapata, Hebronville, Alice - to Corpus Christi with a few Swainson's Hawk en route in the high wind that was present all day.

In western Corpus Christi I stopped at Polliwog Pond - finding Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Tennessee Warbler, Indigo Bunting, but not all that much of interest on the ponds except White Ibis. At what was my first visit to Blucher Park - I saw Long-billed Thrasher, Yellow-breasted Chat (2+), Black-throated Green Warbler, calling waterthrush, Chimney Swift, Bronzed Cowbird, Myiarchus flycatcher (Brown-crested?), Indigo Bunting and what may have been a nervous Chuck-will's-widow that flushed twice from the trees as I walked along. I never saw it perched however.

Then onto Mustang Island. At Paradise Pond I saw Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Blue-winged Teal along with a few herons. At the water treatment plant boardwalk: Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, Roseate Spoonbill, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Coot, Common Moorhen, various herons and egrets. It was relatively quiet so I gave up early in windy conditions and stayed overnight at the Motel6 in eastern Corpus Christi just off the Padre Island expressway.

Day 7: Thurs April 17th 2008

I left for Mustang Island early but found few/no passerines at Paradise Pond, probably because of the strong wind out of the SSE would make it easy for them to fly over to the mainland. I went to the water treatment plant ponds and this was more productive for non-passerines. Caspidan, Forsters and Least Terns, Franklin's Gull, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's Phalarope, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mottled Duck, Roseate Spoonbill and Neotropic Cormorant.

I left Mustang Island via the Port Aransas ferry and headed north-west via Sinton, Jourdantown and Hondo into the hill country. After some road construction near Vanderpool I finally got to Lost Maples SP. I was tired from the driving and not highly motivated so various vocal species were not always pursued. However I did find Nashville and Golden-cheeked Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, Vesper,Chipping, Clay-colored and Field Sparrows. Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. A Black Phoebe was at the ponds but yet again no Green Kingfisher. I have more luck with Green Kingfisher these days, but still not here.

Later in the afternoon I returned once again to Kerr WMA: and found 2 pairs of Black-capped Vireo, heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw Clay-colored and Chipping Sparrows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Wild Turkey.

Overnight San Antonio. Flew out early the following morning and spent most of Friday traveling back to PHL.

Trip List

The surprising haul of eight life birds (US list 601-608) are shown in bold. The ABA/AOU have changed the names of Clay-colored Robin and White-throated Robin to Clay-colored Thrush and White-throated Thrush, but this text was written at the time that they had the older names so I've lefted it as that. Those "Robins" are clearly Turdus thrushes so I'm fully on board with that name change. I'm not holding my breath for the American Robin name change, which should still be made.

Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus RGV
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps RGV
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus RGV, Port Aransas
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus RGV
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga Santa Ana NWR
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias various
Great Egret Ardea alba RGV
Snowy Egret Egretta thula RGV
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea RGV
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor RGV
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis RGV
Green Heron Butorides virescens Port Aransas
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax Port Aransas
White Ibis Eudocimus albus South Padre Island
White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi Bentsen SP
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja Port Aransas
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus widespread
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura widespread
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis RGV, Corpus Christi
Fulvous Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor Estero Llano Grande SP
Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata Salineno and Rio Grande
Wood Duck Aix sponsa Guadalupe River
Gadwall Anas strepera RGV
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos South Padre Island, Salineno (Mexican Duck)
Mottled Duck Anas fulvigula South Padre Island
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors various
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Bentsen SP
Redhead Aythya americana South Padre Island
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis Port Aransas
Osprey Pandion haliaetus various
Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus Salineno (US #604)
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus Bentsen SP, Santa Ana NWR
Mississippi Kite Ictinia mississippiensis Bentsen SP, Santa Ana NWR
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus Port Aransas
Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii El Canelo etc
Gray Hawk Asturina nitida Rio Grande river, Santa Ana NWR
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus various
Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus Salineno
Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus Santa Ana NWR
Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni various
White-tailed Hawk Buteo albicaudatus several locations s.TX
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis a few, mainly hill country
Crested Caracara Caracara plancus various
American Kestrel Falco sparverius mainly northern agricultural
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus TX-100 at Laguna Vista
Aplomado Falcon Falco femoralis TX-100 near Laguna Vista, US #608
Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula various RGV
Northern Bobwhite Colinus virginianus El Canelo
Clapper Rail Rallus longirostris South Padre Island
Sora Porzana carolina South Padre Island, Estero Llano Grande SP
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus various
American Coot Fulica americana various
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola Corpus Christi
American Golden-Plover Pluvialis dominica RGV, South Padre Island
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus South Padre Island
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus various
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus various
American Avocet Recurvirostra americana Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca various
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes various
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria Port Aransas
Willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus various
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia various
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus coastal grassland
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Corpus Christi
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla various
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos South Padre Island
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus Estero Llano Grande SP
Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor Port Aransas
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla widespread coastal
Franklin's Gull Larus pipixcan Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis Port Aransas
Herring Gull Larus argentatus Corpus Christi
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica various coastal
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Royal Tern Sterna maxima Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis South Padre Island
Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Least Tern Sterna antillarum Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger Port Aransas, South Padre Island
Rock Pigeon Columba livia widespread urban
Red-billed Pigeon Columba flavirostris Salineno, US #603
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto widespread
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica widespread
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura widespread
Inca Dove Columbina inca RGV
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina RGV
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi RGV
Green Parakeet Aratinga holochlora McAllen (Violet/10th)
Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus Kerr Co, Laguna Atascosa NWR
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris South Padre Island, US #607
Barn Owl Tyto alba El Canelo
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium brasilianum El Canelo, US #606
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis Bentsen SP
Common Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis Bentsen SP
Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica Roma, etc
Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis RGV
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris RGV, Lost Maples SP
Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri RGV, Lost Maples SP
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata RGV
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon Bentsen SP
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana Rio Grande, San Ygnacio, Estero Llano SP
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons southern TX
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Picoides scalaris RGV
Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens Lost Maples SP, Santa Ana NWR
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans Lost Maples SP
Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe Lost Maples SP
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus Salineno, Falcon Co Park
Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens Kerr WMA
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus RGV
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus RGV
Couch's Kingbird Tyrannus couchii RGV widespread
Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis various
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus South Padre Island
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus widespread outside hill country
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus nr Laguna Atascosa NWR
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus various
Black-capped Vireo Vireo atricapillus Kerr WMA, US #601
Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons South Padre Island, Lost Maples SP
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus South Padre Island
Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas RGV
Western (Woodhouse's) Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica Lost Maples SP, now A. woodhouseii
Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus southern TX
Common Raven Corvus corax hill country
Purple Martin Progne subis widespread
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor Santa Ana NWR
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis RGV
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia RGV
Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota widespread
Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva RGV
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica widespread
Carolina Chickadee Poecile carolinensis Lost Maples SP
Black-crested Titmouse Baeolophus atricristatus widespread
Verdin Auriparus flaviceps Falcon Co Park, La Hoya sparrow road
Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus Falcon Co Park
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus Lost Maples SP
Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii Salineno
House Wren Troglodytes aedon Lost Maples SP
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula Kerr WMA
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea widespread, especially Kerr WMA
Clay-colored Robin Turdus grayi Allan Williams' in Pharr, Salineno
White-throated Robin Turdus assimilis Allan Williams' in Pharr, US #602
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis South Padre Island
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos widespread
Long-billed Thrasher Toxostoma longirostre RGV
Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre RGV
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris widespread (sub)urban
Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora cyanoptera Sabal Palm
Tennessee Warbler Oreothlypis peregrina Sabal Palm, Corpus Christi
Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata Kerr WMA
Nashville Warbler Oreothlypis ruficapilla Lost Maples SP
Northern Parula Parula americana South Padre Island
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia South Padre Island
Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata South Padre Island
Golden-cheeked Warbler Dendroica chrysoparia Kerr WMA, Lost Maples SP
Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens Sabal Palm, South Padre Island, Lost Maples SP
Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea South Padre Island
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas RGV
Hooded Warbler Wilsonia citrina South Padre Island
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens Alan William's at Pharr, Corpus Christi
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra various
Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea South Padre Island
Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus RGV
White-collared Seedeater Sporophila torqueola San Ygnacio, US #605
Cassin's Sparrow Aimophila cassinii La Hoya sparrow road, coastal RGV prairie
Rufous-crowned Sparrow Aimophila ruficeps Kerr WMA
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina various
Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida Kerr WMA, Lost Maples SP
Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla Kerr WMA, Lost Maples SP
Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus Salineno, Lost Maples SP
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus widespread
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis South Padre Island, Port Aransas
Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii widespread
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys Falcon Co Park
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis widespread
Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus Falcon Co Park, La Hoya sparrow road, San Ygnacio
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus South Padre Island
Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea South Padre Island, Corpus Christi
Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena Lost Maples SP
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea various RGV
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus widespread
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna RGV coastal prairie
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus South Padre Island
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus widespread abundant
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus El Canelo
Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater various
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius South Padre Island, Corpus Christi
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus El Canelo, San Ygnacio
Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis Bentsen SP, Salineno
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula South Padre Island
Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii Salineno, Falcon Co Park
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus Lost Maples SP
House Sparrow Passer domesticus widespread (sub) urban
Total   195 species, 8 life birds
heard only: Canyon Wren, Elf Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl (not counted)
probables: Dunlin, Long-billed Curlew

TX Locations (non-RGV)

Arranged roughly north to south. Where given [CTC-xx] is the birding trail site number (CTC=Central Texas Coast, UTC=Upper Texas Coast). Note: I've farmed off the trip-planning part to it's own web page now, and that's marginally more likely to be up to date than the more static entries below.

Sabine Woods [UTC-26] has been recommended to me as a better option than High Island for migratory birds, but the road connecting this location to the High Island area is closed, forcing some backtracking.

Anahuac NWR with a series of impoundments and also some trees for migrating land-birds [[UTC-49]. The East Bayou tract, a series of old rice fields, is often useful for shorebirds [UTC-50]. Mixed goose flocks gather nearby but aren't always easy to see from the road. Anahuac seems to be a little better in migration (e.g. April) than in winter. Anahuac was hit hard by hurricane Ike in late summer 2008.

High Island/Smith Woods has the reputation as a major migrant trap. The area suffered a direct hit from a hurricane in fall 2007, but is recovering. [UTC-52, UTC-55]. I've been to High Island a few times, found that in general it wasn't much better than your average East Coast migrant trap, but clearly I haven't been there under major fallout conditions. Some of the sites have cranky limitations on bird photography (e.g. no flash photography from the trails) so generally I don't think of it as a good option for passerine photography.

Rollover Pass - good for herons and gulls/terns which can flock in the parking lot at high tide, or be dispersed amongst the flats at low tide. [UTC-56]

Bolivar Flats - extensive shorebird habitat, now requiring a day permit for access. [UTC-58]

Brazos Bend State Park usually most noteworthy for herons and perhaps Prothonotary Warbler, also allegedly has sparrows along the entrance rd (but pulloffs are difficult and this is a popular park). Least Grebe was reported from here in late 2006. [UTC-117]

Brazoria NWR, formerly with very restricted access, has more liberal access these days and the Big Slough auto trail appears to be open daily from dawn to dusk with somewhat similar species and habitat to Anahuac NWR but possibly even better - so far my two visits have been either in rain or right at the end of the day, so I've not been doing it justice. [UTC-108].

Aransas NWR for Whooping Cranes and abundant mosquitos. The Rockport Skimmer out of Rockport and Port Aransas does water-based tours which often make it easier to see the Cranes although you can usually see two adults from the observation tower at the southernmost extent of the two-way auto tour route section. There are other companies offering such tours. Mosquitos have been bad for me at Aransas, and apart from the Whooping Cranes I've often felt that time was better served exploring other locations (but of course all the typical species are present here). It takes a little while to get around the full auto tour loop so I tend to just drive down to the observation tower and back. The entrance roads can be good for migrating shorebirds like Upland Sandpipers. [CTC-37].

Two sites in Port Aransas that I favor - arriving from the ferry and make the right at the first intersection (Valero station on corner) onto a road that is called Cutoff Rd (badly signed). About 1/3 of a mile on this road turn right down a small road between the "Shark Valley Resort" and the San Juan restaurant. This is Paradise Pond, a small pond with a partial boardwalk that may be good for migrating passerines and some water birds. The "resort" is the former Paradise Motel, hence the naming of this site. A short distance further on turn right onto Ross Rd (a sharp turn) and go to the "Port Aransas Birding Center" [CTC-57] which is the outflow from the water treatment plant with a large pond with many herons and ducks in season and a boardwalk with an observation tower. See the Central TX Coast birding trail for Mustang Island for more sites. The small roadside "parks" either side of TX-361 on the road from Aransas Pass toward the Port Aransas ferry have potential for shorebirds (and I saw a White-tailed Hawk there in 2006) [CTC-56].

Kickapoo Cavern State Park (limited access) for Black-capped Vireo - Kerr WMA seems a better option. Or Balcones Canyonlands NWR that has an observation deck (the Shin Oak Observation Deck).

Kerr WMA for Black-capped Vireo. The Kerr WMA is located about 80 miles northwest of San Antonio, in Kerr County at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Guadalupe River. Take IH 10 to Kerrville and turn west (south) on SH 16 and connect with SH 27 on the south side of Kerrville. Turn right on SH 27 heading toward Ingram about seven miles. In Ingram connect to SH 39 going west another seven miles to Hunt. Go through Hunt on RR 1340 heading northwest for 12 miles to the Kerr WMA entrance. Looks to be ~20 miles due north of Lost Maples. Black-capped Vireo (look at this population trend data) was found on all three visits to this site - a pretty good record considering two of the visits were in the afternoon. From the website: "Black-capped Vireos are located throughout most of the WMA, however the best viewing opportunities are in the Doe and Fawn Pastures. From the headquarters, go north on the main paved road approximately 1.2 miles. You will intersect another paved road to the left which is closed to the public ; however, you may park at this location and walk into the pasture a short distance. Another ideal location is down the main road another 0.3 mile where you will notice a tour shelter on your right. All birders need to register at the bulletin board located at the Area office. Additional information can be obtained from our courteous staff during office hours (M-F, 8am-5pm). The Area will be closed to the general public when hunts are conducted. The management area is open during daylight hours everyday of the week."

Lost Maples State Park, notably a good site for Golden-cheeked Warbler and allegedly Green Kingfisher and hosts a number of migrant passerines. Can be a little difficult to see them because of the extensive cover. The park is located 5 miles north of Vanderpool on Ranch Road 187. Open 7 days, no gate, but modest fee ($5). Closes at 10pm.

RGV Locations

Arranged roughly east to west, the text [LTC-xxx] refers to site numbers on the Lower Texas Coast birding trails.

10 miles north of Raymondville is El Canelo Ranch turn west down the dusty entrance road and then north again into the ranch itself. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl largely guaranteed. $150/night single occupancy, but then again there's that owl..... Also $35 per half-day of birding, by appointment only. 956-689-5042. There are other sources for Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl - see the Rio Grande Valley RBA.

South Padre Island Convention Center. Nature trails open 7 days, presumably dawn-dusk, free. various Rails, Franklin's Gull, and has a small patch of habitat that can host quite a variety of tired and hungry passerines - this was probably damaged in 2008's hurricanes. The south bay section has breeding Mangrove subspecies of the Yellow Warbler but is accessible via boat only, apparently.

Laguna Atascosa NWR Sunrise-sunset/7 days. An Aplomado Falcon reintroduction site but hasn't been memorable for anything else when I've been there in previous years at least in part due to drought. However good birds are seen there - its just that you have to work harder for them. From Harlingen, go east on Highway 106 14 miles past Rio Hondo. Take a left at the T and drive 3 miles to the visitor center. From South Padre Island, take Highway 100 out of Port Isabel and exit right on Farm Road 510 at Laguna Vista. Continue 5.4 miles to the Cameron County Airport road. Take a right and continue approximately 7 miles to the visitor center. From Brownsville, go north on Paredes Line Road (1847) through Los Fresnos to Highway 106. Take a right and go approximately 10 miles to the T. Take a left and drive 3 miles to the visitor center.

Sabal Palm refuge for the usual suspects including Buff-breasted Hummingbird, White-tipped Dove, Long-billed Thrasher, Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe and more. Visitor Center open 9am-5pm daily, trails NOT open year-round (see below) 7am to 5pm. $5. Link to trail map. From US 77/83 go east on Boca Chica past the airport. Turn right (south) on FM 511. At the four way stop continue straight on FM 3068 until it ends at Southmost and turn right. Go 1/2 mile to the entrance on the left. The visitor center feeders were very quiet in Nov 2006 when I was there, but the resaca was still productive. THIS SITE WILL BE BLOCKED OFF BY THE BORDER WALL IN 2008 - apparently not so far (as of March 2009). REDUCED HOURS: May 15 Oct. 15 CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC; Oct. 15 Dec. 15 OPEN WEEKENDS ONLY (Saturday & Sunday); Dec. 15 May 15 OPEN Tues Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..

Brownsville's Fort Brown for Green Parakeet. The parrots appear to be more of a neighborhood Brownsville location rather than the fort itself - and I was unable to find good Red-crowned Parrot locations on this trip.

Old Port Isabel Rd for Aplomado Falcon, Cassin's Sparrow - recent Aplomado Falcon reports from there, but it's hit and miss, and there are also sightings from the vicinity of Laguna Atascosa NWR.

Los Ebanos Preserve in San Benito. 6 days a week from 8AM to 5PM closed Thursdays. $5. Private and not part of the World Birding Center cluster. On State Hwy 100 between Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas. From Expressway 77/83, take the South Padre Island exit and go east 100 yards to our entrance on the left.

Harlingen Arroyo Colorado Sunrise-sunset 7 days. Free. Take Expressway 83 to Ed Carey Dr. Exit on to Ed Carey Dr. Travel North on Ed Carey Dr. until you come to Arroyo Colorado site on the east side of the road. May be a good site for Green and Ringed Kingfisher but few reports seen from there.

Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. 8am-5pm during Nov-Apr, closed Mondays ($3). May-Oct also closed Tues. Green Kingfisher has been reliable, Red-crowned Parrot reported, Northern Jacana was there Aug-Oct 2006. Groove-billed Ani reported sporadically. Better for shorebirds. Take Expressway 83 to FM 1015. Travel South on FM 1015 crossing Business 83 and Mile 6 North. Look for the World Birding Center entrance on the east side of FM 1015 before reaching Mile 5 North (at the point where the road curves right if you are headed south from US-83). It should be possible to navigate back roads between Estero Llano and Frontera Audubon if you have a better map than I did - E 18th St looks like a good bet. [LTC-54].

Weslaco Valley Nature Center ($3). Closed Mon. Tue-Fri: 9am-5pm, Sat: 8am-5pm, Sun: 1pm-5pm. In Gibson Park - 1 block south of Business 83 on Border Street in Weslaco. Road construction: from west take Milano St/Westgate temp exit and then frontage road; from east take Airport Dr/Texas Blvd then south on Texas Blvd to Business-83 west. Either way take Border Ave south of Bus-83 for 1.5 blocks. This seems to be of marginal interest since it is very urban and lacks much habitat. [LTC-57].

Frontera Audubon site in Weslaco. Green Kingfisher on 2/18. 1101 South Texas Blvd, Weslaco several blocks south of 83 near 12th St. S Texas Blvd is "Mile 5 Rd W" coming from US-281. Open 7 days (Sat best). Sun-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 7am-7pm. Weslaco is about 17 miles west of the US-83/US-77 junction in Harlingen. This is a relatively small site in suburban Weslaco, nevertheless has a good selection of species and some rarities. [LTC-58]. I saw my life Crimson-collared Grosbeak here in December 2008.

Edinburg Wetlands World Birding Center in Edinburg (WBC site), also now have their own web site as of Dec 2006. Trails Sunset-sunrise/7 days. $2. Take Rt-83 to North Highway 281. Travel north on Highway 281 to the University Dr. exit (Rt-107). Travel east on University Dr. until Raul Longoria St (Rt 1426). Turn south on Raul Longoria to Sprague St. Travel east on Sprague St. until you reach Edinburg Scenic Wetlands on your left. It's attached to an urban park so be prepared for quite a few people. [LTC-61]

Santa Ana NWR (also Wiki link here). Refuge headquarters is located 7 miles south of Alamo, Texas, on FM 907 about 1/4 mile east on U.S. Highway 281. Trails open 7 days sunrise-sunset. This is a little east of McAllen. Clay-colored Robin and Tropical Parula have been my main finds here, historically, plus there's a new hawk watch tower. It's still a must-visit on any RGV trip. [LTC-59]

Alan Williams' residence in Pharr (Williams Wildlife Sanctuary) is a remarkable little suburban oasis where I saw my life White-throated Thrush and seems to be a magnet for all sorts of valley birds. To quote the website a "testament to the avian desires & needs of water features and a diversified habitat of plants, shrubs and trees". This is a private residence but the birder access is well-signed - walk up the left side of the yard and house, remember to sign in and donate.

Quinta Mazatlan in downtown McAllen - Weds-Sat 8-5pm, Tues 8-8pm, Sun/Mon closed. $2. Take Expressway 83 to 10th Street exit. Travel South on 10th St. Turn East on Sunset (Wyndham Garden Hotel on corner). Proceed along Sunset to Quinta Mazatlan with parking lot out in front of the big brown gates. [LTC-61]

McAllen sewage ponds: shorebirds, waders, ducks. From McAllen go south on 115 towards Hidalgo. Turn right (west) on Idela Drive and follow it until it ends. This is just a little south of the airport and on the west side of 115 - it was CLOSED ON SUNDAY when I went there and in fact the birding access wasn't clearly marked so it's status is uncertain even if it is on the birding trail maps. I haven't tried it in recent years and don't see reports on it.

McAllen Green Parakeets as of 12/05 they are staging at 10th and Dove which is several blocks north of the previous Hastings Bookstore location. Supposedly they are still in this general area - looks to be perhaps 5 miles north of US-83, with alternative (faster?) access via US-281 exiting at Owassa Rd (which seems to be what Dove becomes). More recently I've heard reference of 10th/Violet. Head to this general area, park in a strip mall lot, and listen. Green Parakket flocks are not subtle.

Anzalduas County Park. Mission. Fee on weekends. Opens 8am-sunset. From US 83 west of Mission follow FM 1016 south about 5 miles, then right on FM 494 (look for sign to park). (Alternative: exit S Shary Rd/494 from US-83). Near Granejo. Historically - Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Parula have been my main finds here. Also good for Gray Hawk, Spragues Pipit (2/18/06), NB Tyrranulet. I did not visit it in 2006 or 2007, for pressure of time. It gets very busy on weekends. Flooding along the Rio Grande led to extensive period of closure in 2010. It's supposedly destined to be behind the border wall. [LTC-68]

Bentsen-RGV is open 6am-10pm/7 days. $5. This site is radically changed since they banned RV camping, so it's a question how good it remains - I've spoken to some birders who are fairly negative about the "revisions", although doubtless this is not the only viewpoint. Activity was fairly low there in Nov 2006, but this may have been seasonal and the fact that it is a wet year. Either way, the experience there will no longer be as distinctive as it was on my 2000-2002 visits. Having said that, few could argue with Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Gray Hawk and Clay-colored Robin unless they were familiar with the old Bentsen (which was often even more productive, with better views). It was very quiet indeed in Nov 2007 but it still has its moments. [LTC-69]

Nature Conservancy's Chihuahua Woods - in 2006 the web page listed it as closed due to fire danger, but it no longer says so. Open sunrise-sunset. 956/580-4241. US-83 west of Mission to Goodwin Road/FM 492 exit (at H.E.B. Food Store). Turn left (south) onto FM 492 and go about 1 mile to Business 83 (at blinking light). Turn right (west) onto Business 83 and go about 0.8 miles toward where the road curves northwestward. 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. [LTC-70]. THIS SITE WILL BE BLOCKED OFF BY THE BORDER WALL - not sure of current status however it was open at least part of 2010.

La Sal de Rey tract: North on US 281 to the intersection of TX 186. Go east on TX 186 to USFWS La Sal del Rey tract of LRGVNWR. In winter, Lark Buntings along the shoulders of TX 186. A public information map of this tract is posted 2.3 miles west of Brushline Rd. on TX 186 near the GTCBT site sign. Entry points are off of TX 186, Chapa Rd., Brushline Rd., and an unnamed dirt road that T's into Brushline Rd. An extensive network of trails east of Brushline Rd. A map indicating access points may be obtained from the Santa Ana NWR HQ. In winter, pre-dawn at the public information spot on TX 186 - early morning exodus of roosting Sandhill Cranes (4-10K), Snow Geese (100-10K), up to 3K Long-billed Curlews (they leave while it is still dark). At dusk, at the northernmost entry site on Brushline Rd. and hike to the lake where you'll be able to see curlews, cranes and geese return, silhouetted against the sunset over the lake. Also good for wintering Say's Phoebes. White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara etc year-round.

Roma Bluffs is on the south-west side of Roma and appears to just be an overlook rather than a walk-into site (although there are a lot of birds on the checklist, which may be more "theoretical"). Take US-83 Business to downtown Roma. At the intersection of US-83 Business and Lincoln Ave. turn West onto Lincoln Ave. Travel West to the intersection of Lincoln Ave. and Portscheller. Take Portscheller South to Convent. The World Birding Center is located on the Southeast corner of the intersection of Portscheller and Convent. There are brown signs along US-83 pointing to the turn off in the older western part of Roma. This has proven to be a decent area to look for Red-billed Pigeon, and the elusive Muscovy Duck, both of which are better in spring. Winter is less productive, but there are no longer regular reports from here to the TEXBIRDS list, so hard to tell. The town square has a old Western feel to it. [LTC-77].

Santa Margarita Ranch - not found specific online info on this site, but is on the river access to the south of Salineno - TX birding trails maps contain the relevant info. [LTC-79]

Salineno - DeWind's are no longer making the trip to Salineno each winter, but as of winters 2007/8-2009/10 there was some occupancy of the site by another couple. In Nov 2006 there were Audbon's and Altamira Orioles. I hardly ever get to this site when there's occupancy anyway, so my first visit to the DeWind's trailer was my last. [LTC-80] Salineno was very productive on the April 2008 trip with the best bird being Hook-billed Kite.

El Rio RV Park at Chapeno - no recent sightings of Brown Jay, formerly regular here at the feeding station (most recently near Salineno). ACCESS HERE HAS CHANGED because the property has changed hands. Access is now far more restrictive - with potentially no river access. The LRGV RBA sometimes gives details - probably not worth turning up here w/o confirmation of the current situation. [LTC-81]

San Ygnacio Bird Sanctuary: At end of Washington street in San Ygnacio - this is a rather small and unobtrusive street. TX Lower Coast Birding Trail # 87, P.O. Box 100; San Ygnacio, TX 78067 Tel. 956-765-8468. White-collared Seedeater can sometimes be seen here, but tends to be rather elusive (I've seen it once out of 6 visits). San Ygnacio is about 2 hours from McAllen. [LTC-87]