The best and cheapest flight we could get was to go in and out of Brownsville, so we needed to head back south.
In our drive down from Corpus Cristi we drove through and made a short stop at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which is the largest piece of protected land in the Rio Grande Valley. We got there a little later in the day, so the heat had already set in and much was quiet. Around the visitors center feeders are set up and there are water sources for the birds, so we saw the most birds in and around those small trails. The refuge offers bus tours for free that fill up fast and go into areas not accessible by car. We did not get on one of those because they were all filled up. There are a ton of bike trails that would likely be wonderful to travel because again, they seemed to have more access to areas than cars. So we took to some short walks because I think we were both ready for some beach time that awaited us at our final destination.
|And you should abide, because not far behind these signs, we spotted a massive American Alligator.|
|One trail led us to a small boardwalk overlooking the remains of a pond, now dried up to a wallow with a gator mom and a few of her babies.|
This one, on her back freaking choked me up. LOOK AT HOW CUTE THIS IS!!!!
|And then they both close their eyes together. SERIOUSLY, STOP IT.|
|There was also a third baby gator, but it dipped below the surface.|
|I was also drawn to it because the pond always had redheads on it. So when my husband went for his beach run, checked out the birds on the pond out front and the beach behind our hotel.|
|The pond had mottled ducks on it and this one reveals the very easy way to tell mottled ducks from mallards - that blue patch on the wing is bordered by black. On a mallard it would be white. We saw zero mallards while here.|
|On the beach side of our hotel, flocks of brown pelicans, flying in perfect formation were a constant sight.|
|Texas also has lots of wintering Laughing Gulls. Many with the pattern baldness look to them, this one was nearly in full hood.|
|Sanderlings ran in and out with the waves and were very forgiving of the foot and dog traffic on the beach.|
|And willets were also running along the shoreline probing the sand for a mollusk treat.|
|I have never seen so many Northern Pintails in my life the way we did here!|
|My husband called the whistling ducks the ducks with mohawks.|
|White ibis scouring the plants and mud they grow from for snacks.|
|I'm not sure what this green heron was doing, but it was very kind to allow me to observe it while screaming children ran by.|
They didn't seem to be bothered by it -- likely because usually those are the ones feeding them.
|It ws real nice to have some long, lingering looks at a green heron. Even though we have them in NY, you have to appreciate those moments.|
|An adorable mottled duck, eyeing us for snacks.|
|A bunch of Caspian terns out on the mudflats, well beyond the boardwalks. Had a few flyover too. Happy to see them!|
|Coots have weird feet but gallinules have oversized feet.|
|Gallinules and coots both have cute faces.|
|Like I said, coots have weird feet.|
|*I can haz snackz?????*|
|Got some lovely looks at tricolored herons here.|
|As well as some odd looks.|
|And some glamorous looks.|
|Some, I match the colors of the water looks too!|
This bird was very busy hunting!
|Toward the end of the boardwalks, there was a small group of roseate spoonbills resting. This was the only one without its face shoved into its back and resting.|
|Their pink color, like flamingoes comes from the food they eat, primarily shrimp that hide in the mud and muck but can be stirred up and procured with that bill.|
|A few black stilts also rested with the spoonbills.|
|There is another trail, next door at the convention center. It is free but we saw far less birds on it for whatever reason. But it did have parking lot ibises!|
World Birding Centers, and the National Wildlife Refuges down there. I also utilized ebird to target specific species and hotspots.
We were hoping to keep our travels low cost, we used Airbnb's that had access to laundry to bring only carryon bags and do some laundry in the evening. We also cooked breakfast each morning, packed most of our lunches, and one night felt like we ate way too much, made light dinners at the place. It does involve devoting time to a grocery store, but I gotta say the HEB groceries themselves are an experience (and I got my first TX cattle egret in a HEB parking lot). I'm happy to say that our flights, lodging, and car rental were the biggest expenses. Everything else was very affordable. Most of the birding centers and wildlife refuges offer free walks, usually early; their fees to get in are small, but worth supporting those places.
So, if you're itching to get out to Texas for some birding, I cannot recommend the RGV enough. t's easy walking and no altitude (being preggers this was a big factor), the birds are plentiful, and in the winter, it is mild and bearable. Hope you enjoyed our adventures, hope you get to make your own!