The Rio Grande Valley is home to the World Birding Center and has several locations throughout the Valley. Weslaco features one location, Estero Llano Grande State Park, and a nature center located in the middle of downtown, Frontera Audubon.
Estero Llano Grande State Park is the geographic center of the World Birding Center network. The park attracts a spectacular array of South Texas wildlife with its varied landscape of shallow lake, woodlands and thorn forest. Visitors will enjoy exploring the 230 plus-acre refuge.
Water is the magic ingredient for attracting wildlife and the park offers the largest wetlands environment in the World Birding Center network. A shallow lake, fringed with marsh cane, is actually part of the Arroyo Colorado. Classic Rio Grande woodlands add variety to the park that already boasts a well-deserved birding reputation. A former agriculture field was transformed in wetlands, with an island just right for a secure nesting site.
With a reputation as a can’t miss birding destination, in late summer, when water is at a premium, hundreds of waders and shorebirds flock to the park. Sightings have included the endangered Wood Stork, along with colorful coastal species like the Roseate Spoonbill and Ibis. Migrating waterfowl also make a beeline for the park’s narrow, shallow lake.
Elsewhere in the park, woodland and thorn scrub harbor all the must-see Valley specialties such as the Groove-billed Ani and Altamira Oriole. Adding spice to this mix, visitors may even spot rare Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets.
Call the park, or visit their website, for hours of operation. Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park is located at 3301 S. International Blvd. (FM 1015).
A little unexpected is Frontera Audubon. Frontera Audubon is a 15-acre nature preserve in the heart of the city. It provides a haven for birds, butterflies and other wildlife that thrive among the native habitats of its Tamaulipan Thornscrub forest, orchard butterfly garden, wetlands and ponds.
Frontera Audubon houses a visitors’ center and the Texas Historic Landmark, the Skaggs House, a Spanish Mediterranean style house built in 1917. The house was built for early Weslaco residents, C.L. “Lester” and Florence R. Skaggs who were bankers and citrus growers. Bebe Skaggs James, daughter of Lester and Florence Skaggs, donated the property to Frontera Audubon in 1992 for conservation and preservation. A lot of work has been done in recent years to get the house back to its original form.
The Frontera Audubon has been a non-profit organization since the late 1970s and has been operating from its current location since 2000.
More about Frontera Audubon can be found at their website, https://fronteraaudubon.org/. The park is located at 1101 S. Texas Blvd.
Photo: The Valley Nature Center