Friday, July 18, 2014

Spotlight on a Hotspot: Estero Llano Grande State Park

Rob writes: I've decided to start a weekly series here on that will highlight a great birding hotspot. Each week, I'll feature a location that I have birded and will tell you a little bit about why I feel it's an amazing place to go birding.

For my first post in this series, I've selected one of my favorite birding locations in the United States, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas. Anyone that's ever birded in the Rio Grande Valley should know this park quite well as it's a great place to find all of the Valley specialties and has also hosted more than its fair share of rare birds.

I visited this park on my first trip to the Valley in 2010 and have been sure to go back at least once every time I've been in south Texas since. The park offers a fantastic diversity of habitats leading to its list of birds being long and varied. From ducks and wading birds in the impoundments to passerines in the tropical zone, this park offers a little bit of everything.

You can see a large number of species just by spending some time on the covered deck that is attached to the visitor's center. From that spot, you can see many herons, egret, ducks, and shorebirds.

Least Grebes are commonly found just off the large deck at the Visitor's Center.
The impoundments at Estero Llano Grande can be a great place to photography waterfowl like this Northern Shoveler. 
Another wonderful part of this property is the area called the Tropical Zone. This area was a campground  that is now part of the park and is the best place to find more woodland species. It's also a great spot to look for rare birds!

Although the photo might not be great, this was my lifer Rose-throated Becard. This is  a rare bird in the Valley, but the Tropical Zone at Estero Llano Grande State Park is a great place to look for one.
Estero Llano Grande also happens to be one of the best parks in south Texas to find day-roosting Common Paraques. I've never visited this park without one of the park rangers having pointed me in the direction of this species.

This Common Paraque seemed to not even know that we were looking at it!
To me, this park is a can't miss location in the Rio Grande Valley. I can't imagine not stopping here on a trip to the area! You can learn more about visiting this park by reading our location guide to the property on Click here to see our guide.

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