We at South Texas Nature could not be happier after reading Boston Globe Correspondent Eve LaPlante’s story on our beautiful birds and birding in the Rio Grande Valley. Enjoy the story below
Four miles north of the Mexican border, on a wide deck overlooking a shallow lake surrounded by wetlands teeming with winged creatures, Ray Brown is taping a live segment of “Talkin’ Birds,” his Boston-based, Sunday-morning radio show. The silver-haired host, whose resonant voice is familiar to listeners of WBZ, WGBH, and WCRB, is talking with a Texas Park Ranger about the birds of the Rio Grande Valley.
“In this state park alone, you can see 300 kinds of butterflies and 326 species of birds,” Ranger John Yochum says into Brown’s microphone. This state park is Estero Llano Grande, in the town of Weslaco, one of many stops along the Texas Birding Trail. And in the wider Rio Grande Valley, which extends 120 miles along the Rio Grande River, “you can see 520 species of birds” — more than half of the total number of birds in all of the United States and Canada. These numbers make South Texas the most productive place for birdwatching in North America.
Bird watching is one of our nation’s fastest-growing pasttimes, pursued, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, by 48 million Americans. That’s nearly one in six of us. Serious birders follow birds, traveling south in the fall or winter to observe their migratory flyways, two of which pass through South Texas. “Lots of people will hop on a plane just to see one bird,” according to naturalist Marisa Oliva, manager of the nearby Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, another one of the federal, state, or locally-run nature preserves on the Texas Birding Trail. “And they’ll go to the Brownsville dump if that’s where the bird they want to see is.”
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