Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

21 Jan



The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has the most documented number of bird species of all the National Wildlife Refuges in the United States.  It covers a vast area.  It is bordered on one side by a large body of water.  Rather shallow.  There is a 16 mile (26 km), circular, unpaved road that hugs the shoreline for quite some distance before it winds its way back to the main road.  The is called the Bayside Road.  A couple of years ago when I was down here for the Rio Grande Valley Birding, with my friend, Bob Turner, we drove this road.  No other vehicles were encountered.  However, last year the Refuge made the decision to close this road to vehicular traffic.  You can still take a bike around the road.  But there are lots of other trails thru the Refuge.  And there is a tram that can take you out into the more remote areas.

There is a combination of subtropical, coastal and Chihuahua Desert habitats.  This is so very different from anything back home.  Very interesting.

Around and leading out from the Visitor Centre, there are numerous trails.  There are bird blinds set up so you can sit or stand unobserved by the birds.  Lots and lots of feeders are set up, with water features and numerous oranges impaled on nails, and smears of peanut butter.

I visited the Refuge on Monday, January 20th.  Great Kiskadees and Green Jays frequent the feeders and are common.  Here are a few of the Green Jay pics I took yesterday.






Another bird seen down here is the Plain Chachalaca.  It is about the size of a small chicken.  They come to the feeders and are pretty easy to find.  They like to feed on the oranges, too.


Looks a little on the vicious side.

Another south Texas specialty is the Altimira Oriole.  They have brilliant orange feathering.  Their ranges just barely extends up into the lower Rio Grande Valley from Mexico.  It is the only oriole specie that I have seen down here so far this year.  The Altimira is very similar to the Hooded Oriole, but the Hooded is much more widespread, extending thru much of California.

At a feeder cage

At a feeder cage



Another specialty bird specie of the Rio Grande Valley is the Olive Sparrow.  This is the first one I have seen so far this year.  They are around.  But a bit on the secretive side.  They are a sort of dull olive colour (hence the name), but have some striking markings around the head.




And I have to include this next picture.  Sure would be interesting to watch this guy come and go from this pipe.  It is on the side of the visitor centre and evidently this Eastern Screech-Owl has been a resident here for some time.


This wildlife Refuge is not far from the trailer park, about 45 minutes to the east.  The road leading up to the Refuge is long and VERY rough.  Full of potholes and there is no way you speed.  No need for speed bumps.  The stretch of road is probably about 8 miles long.  And the whole area is an excellent spot (and probably the only spot) where it is quite likely possible to see an Aplomado Falcon.  I was looking diligently for one.  But dipped on it.  I will keep trying, though.  Need it for my life list.  I did see an Osprey sitting out in the middle of the a field.

As far as warblers are concerned, the most common warbler down here is the Orange-crowned.  I have seen a fair number this year already.  This is followed closely by the Yellow-rumped.  I have also seen a Wilson’s.  An American Redstart is hanging around the Convention Centre on South Padre Island.  (haven’t gone to the island yet this year).  Black-throated Grays are being seen as are a few Tropical Parulas (another bird I need for my list).  And there was a Painted Redstart hanging around a highway reststop not far north of here and of course, I need that, too.

The two thrashers around here are the Curve-billed (quite common – fairly numerous around the trailer park) and the Long-billed (more secretive – and not as easy too find, although certainly not rare down here).

I could go on and on.  But I think that is enough for today.


Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Bob Zeller

    January 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Great post and great photos, Dave. I am so jealous. 🙂

  2. Bob

    January 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Great photos Dave! …the Green Jay (beautiful!), the Olive Sparrow, the Altimira Oriole, and of course the Screech Owl – so neat!

    Thanks for mentioning me in your description of Laguna Atascosa…and of course I remember that day very well. Interesting that they closed that road to traffic, but I’m sure a good idea – wasn’t there some concern for the safety of the ocelots? Be sure and let me know if you ever see one…

    Like Bob Zeller, and like the Green Jay, I’m green with envy…stuck up here in the Great White North…it’s -23 C…that’s -4F !

  3. Jerry Kuhwald

    January 22, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Dave, Some great photographs of birds I have not seen. Really enjoy your blogs.

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