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Rio Grande Valley birds, butterflies, dragonflies through the eyes of an ex-Buckeye

Estero Llano Grande State Park, Weslaco TX

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One of nine World Birding Center sites in South Texas

Excellent advice is to start birding as soon as you open your door in the Parking Lot.  Don't wait to enter the Park itself!  Some things (like Loggerhead Shrike, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, *Tropical Kingbird*, Bronzed Cowbird, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Lesser Goldfinches eating the seeds of the tropical sage) are sometimes easier picked up here than anywhere else in the Park!  At dusk and dawn watch for *Red-Crowned Parrots* (ABA countable!) travelling overhead between Valley Nature Center and Llano Grande RV Park.  Some springs they nest in the Park itself.

baby Pauraque
This Pauraque was hatched in the Parking Lot!

Lesser Goldfinch on Tropical Sage

That corner parking lot Hackberry (Palo Blanco)
Eastern Screech Owl
is perfect for Eastern Screech-owl!

Red-crowned Parrot

As you cross the small yellow bridge from the Parking Lot into the Park, be sure to look over the sides into the irrigation ditch.  Oftentimes on the east side, there sits a *Green Kingfisher*!

Green Kingfisher

Once on the brick entry sidewalk, don't let up your guard-- this is the very best place to see lizards:

Most common is the Texas Spotted Whiptail--
Texas Spotted Whiptail
spots between stripes, nothing on the tail.

Also common is the Rose-bellied Lizard--
Rose-bellied Lizard
note the yellow and the black shoulder spots.

Common in the trees (but sometimes on the bricks)
Texas Spiny Lizard
are the Texas Spiny Lizards (see the spines?!).

Harder to see (because they blend in with leaves)
Green Anole
are the native Green Anoles (sometimes brown).

If you see a Four-lined Skink
Four-lined Skink
count yourself as lucky! They're fast!

Brown Anoles shouldn't be here but...
Brown Anoles
there are plenty nonetheless (introduced).

Another introduced species (as the name implies)
Mediterranean Gecko
are the Mediterranean Geckos.

On your right as you walk up the sidewalk
Eastern Screech-Owl
will be an owl box-- often with the owl sleeping.

As you approach the Headquarters building you will see many feeders, and many opportunities to see wild native birds up close, as if they were domesticated and accustomed to humans being a few feet away!  *Buff-Bellied Hummingbirds*, *Plain Chachalacas*, *Green Jays*, *White-tipped Doves*, *Groove-Billed Anis* (common in summer, but hard-to-see in winter!) join the more common Inca and Mourning Doves, with the inevitable House Sparrows and Red-Winged Blackbirds.  Great-tailed Grackles (the schoolchildren tend to call them "crows" although there are very rarely crows in South Texas) are everywhere, and under-appreciated in spite of their fine glossy plumage, general hugeness, bright yellow eyes, and great long tails.  Especially look for them at Walmarts and HEBs at dusk.

Anywhere there's FOOD look for
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Plain Chachalacas (only found in 4 SoTX counties).

This Groove-billed Ani was caught peeping into the
Groove-Billed Ani
Headquarters building windows.

From inside the Headquarters building again,
Altamira Oriole
the Altamira Oriole, found only in SoTX in the US.

Our most common hummingbird, the Buff-bellied, is
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
found nowhere else in the United States.

The favorite bird of most Park visitors: Green Jay
img_4478.jpg

Usually on the ground and seldom flying
White-Tipped Dove
the White-tipped Dove

The record number of species seen off the Headquarters Deck, by our Park Store?  113!   It's a good place to get pictures, too, as the birds become accustomed to all the deck activity.  You here overlook Ibis Pond and in the back Avocet Pond.

Off the Deck

Roseate Spoonbills
Roseate Spoonbill
Another favorite!

Roseate Spoonbill

Wood Storks are great at any distance, even
Wood Storks
overhead, but off the Deck?!

Many duck species winter here (perhaps 25?) but
Cinnamon Teal
Cinnamon Teal are a favorite!

Both White and White-faced Ibis are expected but
White Ibis
we always watch for the unexpected Glossy.

Sora are common in the Park in winter, this one
img_6572.jpg
bathing off the Deck in front of God and everyone!

There are ALWAYS Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks
Fulvous Whistling-Ducks
all over South Texas, but Fulvous are VERY special

Edging down the path toward Alligator Lake one will come to Dowitcher Pond first.  As the name implies, many Long-Billed Dowitchers, and Stilt Sandpipers (some 20 shorebird species) visit here.  Only three kinds of turtles make their home here (Red-Eared Sliders, Texas Spiny Softshells, Yellow Mud Turtles), but watch for our cherished snakes, all harmless except for the Coral Snake-- count yourself as extremely lucky to see this red-black-yellow venomous friend.  No Rattlesnake has been seen in the Park, probably because we have plenty of the snake-eating threatened-specie Texas Indigo Snakes.

The Great Kiskadee appears everywhere in the Park
Great Kiskadee
but especially near water.

As one crosses the iron bridge, one could turn into our cactus area, the Camino de Aves ,(especially for Bewick's Wrens, Common Ground-Doves, Harris's Hawks, Texas Tortoises and Pack Rats) or come upon tiny Grebe Marsh.  As the name implies, this is a great place to find both the very common Pied-Billed Grebe as well as the found-only-in-South-Texas *Least Grebe*.  Differentiate the Least from the Pied-billed Grebe by its tiny size, its bright yellow eye, and its sharp pointed bill.  Enroute to and around Alligator Lake watch for *Long-Billed Thrashers* and *Olive Sparrows*.

Least Grebe
Least Grebe
Note the yellow eye and sharp bill

Looking for all the world like a Brown Thrasher,
Long-Billed Thrasher
the Long-BIlled Thrasher is found only in SoTX

No Alligator has ever caused a problem
American Alligator
so don't worry, but do treat them with respect.

Alligator Lake is named for its Alligator shape, but it does indeed contain Alligators, along with great birds like *Ringed and Green Kingfishers*, Anhingas, Neotropic Cormorants, and Least Bitterns.

Anhinga
Anhinga
whose scientific name is Anhinga anhinga

All over the Park there are many Common Pauraques
Common Pauraque
but this one has to be the world's most photographed.

Neotropic Cormorant: separate from DoubleCrested
Neotropic Cormorant
by white at bill base, and no orange over the eye.

Leaving Alligator Lake, one could go up on the levee to see herons, egrets, ducks, sandpipers, avocets, shorebirds and (in winter) American White Pelicans by the hundreds!  Almost never does a Brown Pelican show up in the Park.  Sprague's Pipit is possible here, in its season.

American White Pelican

The grasslands by the Levee and behind Dowitcher and Ibis Ponds are full of sparrows in winter, especially Savannah and Lincoln's, but also Grasshopper, sometimes Vesper, Clay-colored, Lark, and a real prize would be LeConte's!  If you're so inclined, Tarantulas and Scorpions can be found here with a search.  It's also great for that splash of color in a brown background, the winter-only Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Armadillos come out at night when days are hot,
Armadillo
and in the daytime when nights are cold

In the Tropical Zone, also known as Lakeview, expect to see Inca Doves and Mockingbirds, Curve-billed Thrashers and Mexican Ground Squirrels, Bobcats and wintering Warblers, *Couch's Kingbird*, Ladderbacked and Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers.  It is also in this special area that rarities like the Tropical Parula, Blue Bunting, the White-throated Thrush, and the Rose-throated Becard.   In Green Jay Trail, at the north end of Lakeview, is an old Taumalipan Thorn Scrub woods, with *Clay-colored Robins*, *White-tipped Doves*, *Plain Chachalacas*, *Green Jays*, as well as the beautiful *Mexican Bluewing* butterfly.

The Barn Owl, uncommon in some states, is
Barn Owl
common in Texas, many times seen hit on the road.

Curve-Billed Thrasher
Curve-Billed Thrasher

Bobcat

Bobcat

Black-throated Magpie-Jay
Black-throated Magpie-Jay

Beaver

This Bobcat jumped into the water, caught a duck,
Bobcat
jumped onto the boardwalk, all viewed from the deck.

Bobcat

This bobcat watched the 20 people on the Butterfly
Bobcat
Walk go by, 10' away, then went back to sleep.

sky

With over 500 bird species in the Valley (over 300 of them seen so far in Estero's short five-year history), 300 butterflies, 100 dragonflies, frogs, toads, huge numbers of insects, plants (both native and non-native), spiders and fish, we're not even touching the natural wealth at the Park in this short blog.  Stop out and visit.  You are welcome to explore on your own, or we do have programs where you can be accompanied by a Park Ranger to help you explore.  956-565-3919 or john.yochum@tpwd.state.tx.us

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To see my history of birding before I moved to Texas just click one of these links: at Oxbow Lake, in Defiance County.
at Independence Dam State Park, in Defiance County.
in Sherwood Ohio, my old hometown, in Defiance County
the rest of Defiance County.
in Paulding County, one county south of Defiance County, in Northwest Ohio
at 16 and C in Williams County, in Northwest Ohio.
the rest of Williams County
in Fulton County, also in Northwest Ohio
around Lake Erie
as well as other various spots in Ohio
and occassionally other states.
I've also researched my genealogy a bit (my other hobby). Click here to learn about the Yochums.
and the Hinsch's
and the Stahls.
and the Jones'
and the Rathbuns.
and the Mattsons
and the Browns
and the Weisers
and the Batdorffs.
Genealogy Tree, Generations 1 through 6
Genealogy Tree, Generations 7 through 12
Genealogy Tree, Generations 13 and up