Exploring Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

After my first day at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival I could hardly wait to get up the next morning and do more birding. The morning was cloudy and windy as a front was moving through the area. Nevertheless I was excited to set off for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

On the way to the refuge I saw two Aplomado Falcons, but both of them had flown by the time that I was able to stop my rental car. I certainly wish I had taken this photo. They are truly lovely birds!

Aplomado Falcon photo taken from cummah.blogspot.com

When I arrived at the Visitor’s Center I was delighted to see many residents at the feeding stations and the water feature. These are birds seen only in South Texas.

Green Jay, Laguna Atascosa NWR

Green Jay

Plain Chachalaca, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Plain Chachalaca

White-tipped Dove, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

White-tipped Dove

These are birds that you will not see unless you travel to South Texas. If you would like to see them without traveling to Texas, Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary has a very nice webcam so that people can see these beautiful birds.

I am including this next bird because although it is a common bird for people in the Eastern half of the U.S., New Mexicans and most Westerners do not see this beautiful bird.

Northern Cardinal, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Northern Cardinal


The birds suddenly fled, and I looked for the cause of their disturbance. I finally spotted a small coyote in the underbrush, as wary of me as the birds had been of it. The coyote was quite small compared to the ones that I am accustomed to seeing in New Mexico.

Coyote, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Coyote

I drove the fifteen mile Bayside Drive loop, which runs for a significant distance along Laguna Madre, the bay between the mainland and South Padre Island. The scenery was interesting as desert scrub-type vegetation grows right to the water’s edge.

Laguna Madre Bay and desert scrub vegetation.

Laguna Madre Bay and desert scrub vegetation.

As I looked out over the bay, a Caspian Tern hunted overhead.

Caspian Tern, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Caspian Tern hunting above Laguna Madre Bay.

A Great Blue Heron fished in the shallow water near the shore.

Great Blue Heron Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Great Blue Heron fishing in the shallows of Laguna Madre Bay.

I looked up and saw an Osprey with a fish, flying overhead. It was almost beyond the range of my lens …

Osprey, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Osprey with fish, flying over Laguna Madre Bay.

… but I was able to get a much better look when it landed on the shore.

Osprey, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Osprey on the shore with fish.

Several Semipalmated Sandpipers watched from a distance, hopeful of fish scraps.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

I continued along Bayside Drive and watched Egrets fishing in the shallow water of Laguna Madre Bay.

Reddish Egret, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret (white morph), Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Reddish Egret (white morph)

Great Egret, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Great Egret

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Here is a short video of shorebirds feeding along the edge of Laguna Madre Bay:

When I came to the end of Bayside Drive I saw a gorgeous Harris Hawk sitting on a post. It was kind enough to post for several photos.

Harris Hawk, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Harris Hawk, another view.

As I left Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a Crested Caracara flying toward me. I was quicker than I had been with the Aplomado Falcon, and I was able to get a photograph.

Crested Caracara, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Crested Caracara

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Laguna Atascosa. The next day would bring new challenges involving shorebird and sparrow identification, two of my weaknesses.

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16 Comments

Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

16 responses to “Exploring Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Oh Linda….it must have been such a wonderful time! You captured some FABULOUS birds …. the in flight shots amaze!!
    Great post!

  2. Linda, I agree with Kerri. What an amazing time you must have had. I simply must get to South Texas as soon as I can.

    • You absolutely do have to get down there! The birds, the people, the food are all fantastic! I’m already longing to go back. Let me know when you plan to go, and I’ll give you as much information as I can.

  3. Pat

    You had a birdwatcher’s dream day! What a fantastic post, and I love the caracara BIF. Of course, you’re killing me with your Texas posts…

  4. Great Birding day! We missed the Falcon when we were there.

  5. So many wonderful birds, I would love to see the caracara. Lovely photos Linda

    dan

  6. Wonderful post Linda, such gorgeous birds, lovely photographs :-)

  7. Wonderful post Linda, such gorgeous birds, lovely photographs

  8. I really enjoyed scrolling through this wonderful post viewing all your terrific images. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge sounds and looks like a fabulous place to see wildlife. All of your photographs are fantastic but I was especially taken with the Crested Caracara, Harris Hawk and Osprey with fish. Great post, as always!

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