On the Border

After a wonderful day of Whooping Cranes and armadillos, we decided to get up at the asscrack of dawn and head down to Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge, right at the border between the U.S. and Mexico on the eastern side of Texas. One of our fellow boat passengers, and an avid birder, told us about some fantastic opportunities at Laguna, so we got up at around 4:30 AM and headed out. After grabbing something at a 24-hour McD’s, the three-hour, twenty-minute drive seemed to go by quickly. Before we knew it we were at the NWR Visitor Center, which was closed because we got there so early. We got out our gear and started to explore some of the little trails around the Center though, and came across a wonderful blind. Here we saw an array of birds unlike anything we’ve ever seen before!  Eurasian Collared-Doves, Green Jays, Altamira Orioles, a Long-Billed Thrasher, and a few Plain Chachalaca – a large, somewhat odd looking, primarily ground bird who proved to be a bit of a bully.

The trees around the Center were loaded with loud noisy Great-Tailed Grackles.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Green Jay

Green Jay

Altamira Oriole


Long-Billed Thrasher

Plain Chachalaca

Once the Visitor Center was opened, we went inside and purchased a pin, and got a map. In an open atrium, we saw a pretty Golden-fronted Woodpecker visiting a feeding station.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

We drove out to Osprey Overlook to see what we could see, and kept our eyes pealed for a much hoped-for spotting of an Ocelot. Along one of the trails Alan saw this fellow perched in a tree. I must say, I never think of Roadrunners as tree birds, but that’s where I’ve seen two of them so far. This Greater Roadrunner was a big boy and just sat, frozen, in the tree while we snapped some pictures.

Greater Roadrunner

Further along the trail we saw Catbirds, some cute little Ground Doves, which are about half the size of other doves, a Long-billed Curlew out at the lake, and some Coots and seagulls. We also came across the oddest scat we have ever seen. It was pellet like deer, but much larger, and it was in huge piles, one of these piles was almost a foot tall and three feed in width. When we got back to the truck I made a point of going back into the Visitor Center to ask about this oddity and was told that it was nilgai antelope, a now invasive species that had been brought over from Pakistan years ago for their meat. Turns out they weren’t easy to farm and the farmers gave up and let them lose. They are now a hunted species on the reserve.

Try as we might, we never did see an ocelot. Of course, being nocturnal hunters, we were pretty sure we wouldn’t anyway.

From Laguna Atacosa we drove further south to Port Isabel where we has a very good lunch at a restaurant one of the volunteers at the Visitor Center had recommended to us, Los Cabos. The service was slow but the food was oh-so-good!  Afterward, we drove Hwy. 48 to try and see some other birds that we’d been told we might find along there, but we were out of luck. Along the drive back to our hotel, on Hwy. 69, we had to pull into a border patrol checkpoint – no problemo and we were soon on our way.