The Rio Grande Valley's Nature Site

Photos of Estero Llano Grande State Park-World Birding Center

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Estero Llano Grande State Park-World Birding Center is located on FM-1015 S. &  Lakeview Dr., in Weslaco, Hidalgo Co., Texas.  It isjust a few miles north of the town of Progresso, Texas, which sits at FM-1015 & US-281.  (FM-1015 runs south from US-83 all the way to the Border crossing into Nuevo Progresso, MX)


As you walk out of the parking lot and turn to your right, you are facing the entrance into the Estero Llano Grande SP-WBC.


Immediately on your left, just before you enter the State Park, is La Paloma State Wildlife Management Area, which borders Estero Llano Grande SP-WBC on the Park's northern side.


On your left as you enter the State Park is the brick-paved walkway that takes you to the Park Headquarters building with its visitor center, offices, observation deck, restrooms, gift shop and the start of all the Park's hiking trails.


Don't be in a hurry but go slowly up the path, watching for birds and butterflies as you meander.


When the brick path makes a sharp right turn, you are facing the Observation Deck.  Watch for butterflies and the numerous hummingbirds on both sides of the path, coming to the feeders and Turks Cap.


The huge, shady Observation Deck faces Ibis Pond as you enter towards the Headquarters building.


Numerous patio tables and chairs and picnic tables are spaced along the deck.  This is a great place to set up your scopes.  Just a few years ago, a Northern Jacana hung around for quite a while, often just a few feet out from the edge of the Deck.


On your right as you stepped out onto the Deck from the brick pathway is the WBC's gift shop.


Pay your entrance fees here; buy a bottle of water and snacks.


After paying your entrance fees and having finished scoping out all the ducks, waders, shorebirds, and other birds from the deck, return back out the brick path towards the Green Jay Nature Trail.


Green Jay Nature Trail is directly across the street from the end of the brick walkway that you took towards the Park Headquarters.  Down the street on your left (north past the brick entranceway) the Park is removing the old trailer slabs and structures, and you will soon be able to enter this now closed area in search of birds.


Green Jay Nature Trail is very shady, and great for birds, butterflies and dragonflies.  It is one of the best places in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to see Mexican Bluewing butterflies and many species of dragonflies, particularly Bar-sided Darners.


The often dark trail makes a short loop, heading back towards the entrance to the Park Headquarters.  You should have seen Olive Sparrows, Clay-colored Robins, Long-billed Thrashers and Black-crested Titmouse on your walk.


When you return to the Observation Deck, the restrooms and the start of the many hiking trails are towards your left and back.


Stepping out past the restrooms and classroom, and you enter the butterfly garden as you head out into the Park.


You have just stepped out onto Wader's Trail, and if you continue east it will take you towards Dowitcher Pond where you can continue the 0.8 mile loop walk.  Or, you can cross over the bridge at the intersection of Wader's Trail & Dowitcher Pond and continue on to the Camino de Aves hiking trail or go towards Grebe Marsh and Alligator Lake.


When on Wader's Trail, you can take the first right onto the boardwalk and head out onto Spoonbill Trail, which takes you towards Spoonbill Pond on the left side of the boardwalk.


Watch for waders, shorebirds and ducks in Avocet Pond on your left as you are walking out onto the boardwalk.


On the right side of the boardwalk is Ibis Pond and all it has to offer.  Walk slowly so as not to scare the birds, and watch for Marine Toads - Bufo marinus that are often seen on this hike.


Southeast on Spoonbill Trail you can face towards the north and have a great view of the Park's Headquarters building.


Numerous species of ducks, waders and shorebirds will be seen as you scan Ibis Pond from the south.


Ibis Pond is huge and always productive.


Fortunately, there is a shade-covered, small pavilion with picnic tables and benches at the end of the trail.  Look for the many sparrows and Vermilion Flycatchers while you are cooling off under the raised, breezy, shaded cover.


Ahead of you, as you face west from the pavilion, is a great view towards the Lakeview area of the Park.  This area will be open to Park visitors, after the old trailer park remnants are removed.  Several rare birds from Mexico were seen in this area, this past year.


Looking west, back towards the pavilion after getting on the Llano Grande Trail, which takes you from the pavilion to the levee overlook on the north side of the Llano Grande.


Walk up onto the levee, and if you turn left, you can continue on towards the Camino de Aves Trail and the Mercedes Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.


Here, you are standing on the northern boundary levee.  In the top, right-hand corner of this photo, you can see the roads over the the far southern boundary levee of the Llano Grande.  The Llano Grande is a major flood channel, from levee to levee, that runs from Weslaco towards Mercedes.  The vast Llano Grande is designed to protect these cities from floods from the Rio Grande River.


The left (northeast) end of Llano Grande Lake.


The middle of Llano Grande Lake.


The middle-right of Llano Grande Lake.  Watch for ducks and shorebirds and waders in the Lake.  In the winter, this is a great place to see American White Pelicans and American Avocets.  Ringed Kingfishers and White-tailed Kites are often found here.


The far right (west) end of Llano Gande Lake.


Off of the left (north) side of the Llano Grande Hiking Trail from the levee is a path that takes you from the levee towards Alligator Lake and Grebe Marsh.  Once you are there, you can turn back to your left at the bridge at Grebe Marsh and Camino de Aves Trail and go back down Wader's Trail to the Park Headquarters, if you want to shorten your hike.


If you continue east on the levee, you will come to a trail that takes you towards the back (east) side of Alligator Pond and onto Camino de Aves Trail.


Having turned north off the levee onto Camino de Aves Trail.  Alligator Pond is on your left, and the start of the Mercedes Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge is on your right.


You are at the intersection trail (on your right) heading towards the Mercedes Tract of the LRGV-NWR.  Note the standpipe.  You have seen many of these pipes while coming to the Park, inside the Park and out in the Llano Grande.  These tall pipes are found throughout the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley, including inside the many cities' subdivisions.  They are ventilation stacks that keep the agriculture irrigation lines from rupturing, when the lines are filling.  And, they have control valves inside the pipes to manipulate the water flows.  Tourists to the Rio Grande Valley almost always ask about their purpose.  When out in the open fields, Burrowing Owls will roost inside the pipes in winter, while standing on the valve wheels.  Valley birders know to always scope out the standpipes in the ag fields for the owls in winter.  Harris' Hawks, White-tailed Hawks, Crested Caracara and Peregrine Falcon will use these standpipes for hunting perches, also.


From the intersection standpipe and heading north on Camino de Aves Trail.


On Camino de Aves Trail and having taken the bend to the left (west).


Still on Camino de Aves Trail and the long walk (west).  ALWAYS carry plenty of water with you when doing even short hikes in the Lower Rio Grande Valley during any season of the year.


Still going west and you will come up onto the overlook of the north side of Grebe Marsh.  Apply named, Least and Pied-billed Grebes are found here.


Just a few feet from the Grebe Marsh's north side overlook and you have 4 choices:  (1) turn to the left towards Grebe Marsh and Alligator Lake; (2) turn to the right and even more of Camino de Aves Trail; (3) go to the bridge and cross over and continue south to Dowitcher Pond or after you crossed the bridge turn right and go back west down Wader's Trail to the Park Headquarters; or (4) continue on the road past the bridge (not crossing the bridge) and you will come out on the maintenance road that leads to the gate at the entrance to La Paloma WMA and the Park's parking lot.


If at the intersection you turned to the left, the deep ditch will normally have water in it and lots of birds working down in the cool vegetaion.  Facing the bridge puts Grebe Marsh to your back.


Grebe Marsh (you are facing east) is great for Green Kingfishers, Vermilion Flycatchers, waders, and of course Least and Pied-billed Grebes.


Continue south past Grebe Marsh towards Alligator Lake.


At this intersection, Grebe Marsh is behind you; Alligator Lake is here at the northeast corner.  Continuing straight (south) and you can go back up onto the levee, where the Llano Grande Trail will (if you turn right) take you back towards the Park Headquarters, via past the pavilion and back onto the Spoonbill Trail boardwalk.  Or, turn left onto Kingfisher Way and as you walk west, Alligator Lake will be on your right.


Walking west on Kingfisher Way, with Alligator Lake on your right, towards the Scenic Overlook.


Alligator Lake on your right does, indeed, have some large 'gators that you can see.  Do NOT feed the alligators.
Watch for waders, ducks, grebes, Ringed and Green Kingfishers as well as flycatchers.


With Alligator Lake on your right as you head towards the Scenic Overlook, a large shaded pavilion with picnic tables and benches will be a welcomed sight on your left.  Finally, a shaded place where you can sit!  On the left side of the pavilion is about a 50 yd. service road.  Where the service road starts at this end, is a good place to listen for the Eastern Screech Owl.


The Scenic Overlook facing west and looking across Alligator Lake.  A fantastic place to see waders, particularly Anhinga.


If you packed a scope along with you, be sure to scan the shoreline for kingfishers, Green Herons, Anhinga, ducks and Alligators.


Your view of Alligator Lake, facing west from the Scenic Overlook.


Heading back with the Scenic Overlook behind you.  Be sure to watch for Parague (please be careful not to disturb them) in the leaf litter, numerous warblers, vireos and flycatchers in the Spring.