Rio Grande Valley
No one does birding like the Rio Grande Valley! As a region, they absolutely understand the importance and economic impact of nature tourism to their area and have worked hard to develop nature sites that cater to the huge influx of visitors to their area. Really, the entire place is a birders dream come true! It's about 4 hours from my home so I don't spend as much time there as I like, but everyplace I've visited has been amazing! Here are some of my favorites.
Estero Llano Grande State Park
At the geographic center of the World Birding Center network, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco is a 230 acre refuge with so much to offer nature lovers. It has a varied landscape of shallow lakes, woodlands, and thorn forests all easily accessible with their vast trail system. And as it's a public park, the wildlife is a bit more used to seeing people around and generally not as skittish as other locations offering some great photo opportunities.
Quinta Mazatlán World Birding Center
Another World Birding Center site in the Rio Grande Valley, Quinta Mazatlán is just a cool location to visit. Located in the middle of bustling McAllen, this 20 acre preserve started out as a residence of a McAllen businessman. Eventually it became what it is today, but you can still see evidence of it's past life throughout the property, particularly with the original residence now serving as the park headquarters and visitors center. The property features several ponds and feeding areas. The heavy brush make it a little dark while photographing, but the shear variety of birds and beauty of the location make it definitely worth a visit.
Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park
One thing's for sure, the Rio Grande Valley knows how do to birding and Bentson Rio Grande Valley State Park is another location that does it right! The park offers visitors several bird blinds and feeding stations (with benches) throughout the park making seeing wildlife and capturing amazing photos easy. It's a place I've visited several times and walk away with great photos every time. As a matter of fact it's probably my favorite photography location in the RGV and the Green Jay is the best location I've found to see and photograph the Altimira Orioles.
Laguna Seca Ranch
Laguna Seca Wildlife and Photography Ranch is located in the Texas Rio Grand Valley and is an amazing spot for wildlife photographers! This large ranch features several blinds specifically designed to attract a variety of wildlife. The blinds have water features, perches, and the birds are used to people so not as skittish as in the wild. The day I shot there we were guided by Ruth Hoyt who is absolutely amazing, and with years of photography and guiding experience, she knows how to not only attract the wildlife, but construct beautiful set ups to help the photographers get great photos. If you're planning a trip to the RGV, this is definitely a location worth a stop!
Santa Clara Photography Ranch
Santa Clara is considered by many wildlife photographers as the premier photography ranch in the state and the staff has certainly worked hard to build that reputation. It features two ground level morning blinds and ground level evening blinds, and morning and evening raptor blinds. The location is used exclusively for wildlife photography so the abundant critters that live and visit the ranch are used to coming in to the blind area for food and water. There are several fabulous, award-winning photographers that offer guiding services on the ranch and the resident guide is Hector Astorga. These guides know the ranch and how to arrange attractive settings. The ranch is isolated but an onsite lodge with optional meal service makes early mornings and busy days convenient.
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