Memories of Estero Llano Grande

South Texas is about as close to heaven for bird lovers as any place I’ve ever visited. The southmost part of the state is fondly called the Lower Rio Grande Valley, or LRGV. The last lazy 100 miles of the Rio Grande cradles more than a dozen birding oases. Choosing a favorite among the many choices is no easy task, but near midway in the LRGV is one of the crown jewels, Estero Llano Grande State Park.

During my first visit to south Texas in the spring of 2020, I wasn’t able to visit this location because of the pandemic restrictions. When I returned to the region in January 2021, I resolved to visit as many of the previously unavailable LRGV hotspots as I could manage. One visit simply isn’t enough to capture all the potential possibilities that any of these locations provide. I managed two visits to Estero Llano Grande before I had to say goodbye to south Texas for the second time on May-10.

My first visit on 2021-01-22 was limited to travel by foot. Yet my experience was rich in bird meetings. Later, on 2021-03-24, I returned with my bike and explored a much wider area. Again, I enjoyed a lovely day with birds.

There are a variety of habitats to explore at this reserve. Parking is located at the western boundary, and the path into the park enters to the south through a tunnel in a grove of tall trees spanning a few acres. A casual walk into the woodland reveals a series of trails through the grove and beyond. Scattered throughout the forested acreage are several bird-feeding stations with water features and blinds that provide close encounters with the neighborhood bird-life. Near the entry to these woods, a walkway leads east to the Visitor Center, where a viewing deck looks over a shallow wetland called Ibis Pond. Trails east and south from the Visitor Center pass by several more ponds and connect to longer trails leading to some of the more remote areas of the park. All are worth exploring. If you are lucky, you might run into a docent or volunteer who’ll steer you to an encounter with the highly cryptic Common Pauraque or a visiting rarity.

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