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Old 10-30-2011, 11:07 AM
 
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There is a birding festival in Harlingen TX starting the 9th of Nov. I am hoping to go although I won't be using the various trips/coaches to state parks/birding areas. I'll go to the main event area in Harlingen once, maybe twice to check out vendors, pick up info then I'll be birding on my own.
I'm trying to figure out where to stay, when, to maximize birding and minimize driving. Its hard for me to judge distances, maybe its not necessary but then again everything in Harlingen at least is probably all ready booked (primo procrastinator here).

Harlingen seems to be central to the area but also about 45 minutes from most of the birding areas?
They are, as mentioned in the Festival Pamphlet

Laguna Atascosa, South Padre island (general area I guess)
Sabal Palms, Bentsen-Rio Grande, Santa Anna NWR,
Estero Llano State Park, Edinburg Wetlands, Weslaco, Upper Rio Grande

So, I was wondering should I stay west of Harlingen towards the Gulf for the first night or two?
Then maybe the next few nights east in Wesalco or McAllen?
Thoughts, specific suggestions?

Oh, and flying in from Ohio. San Antonia is about half the price but about 5 hours. There is an airport in Harlingen but I guess since its twice the price its somewhat small and I'm not sure I'd get a rental car at this point - other possibilities?

Thanks,

G
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Old 10-30-2011, 11:32 AM
 
Location: League City, Texas
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You will need a rental car, which shouldn't be hard to find. Southwest flies into Harlingen, with American & Continental/United flying into McAllen. With the birding areas extending from Mission to the island, you're looking at about an hour and a half or so to drive that area. I would advise checking the schedule & staying half in McAllen then half in Harlingen. It's about 40-45 minutes between those cities. I'd reconsider flying into San AntoniO, unless you want to sightsee there. Enjoy your trip to the Valley. Please resist any desire to enter Mexico.
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Old 10-30-2011, 12:08 PM
 
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Thank you for the suggestions! Don't worry, I'm not crossing into Mexico

So....don't stay at South Padre or closer to Laguna Atacsoca? How far is it from Harlingen?
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Old 10-30-2011, 12:26 PM
 
Location: League City, Texas
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Harlingen's about 40-45 minutes from the island--there aren't a lot of lodging choices very close to Laguna Atascosa. You shouldn't have any trouble finding anything available--since it's not spring break--it's just not that crowded on the island. Maybe you could post on some birding forums? Here's a link to a good site in McAllen. OQuinta Mazatlan
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Old 10-31-2011, 10:09 AM
 
Location: McAllen, TX
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Port Isabel is closest to Laguna Atascosa and cheaper to stay that South Padre. Brownsville is even cheaper but 20 miles south of Port Isabel. I would stay in Brownsville, drive to the Sabal Palms and Laguna Atascosa from there, then move over to McAllen where you can access some of the other sites easily... Weslaco is 12 miles from McAllen, Santa Ana is even closer, Bensten is over south of Mission (about 10 miles), Edinburg about 10 miles, so you get the idea.
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Old 11-02-2011, 08:34 PM
 
Location: la hacienda
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Try this place, in Los Fresnos, midway between Harlingen and South Padre.

Los Fresnos, Texas lodging - Inn at Chachalaca Bend Bed and Breakfast - a B&B getaway for bird-watchers
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Old 11-04-2011, 01:48 PM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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When we bird down there, we just stay at a motel around Donna or Weslaco, which is a 60-90 minute drive from most anywhere, and plan to get up early enough in the morning to get to our target area for that day. However, there is not much birding between Pharr and Brownsville/Laguna Atascoas, so changing motels is also a practical ideal.

Be sure to check the RBA before you leave home, and plan which birding locations you want to go to.
11/4/2011 Texas RBA
The report is updated every day.

If it's your first time in the valley, you'll be looking for about 50 lifers and you'll be getting exciting new birds wherever you go. You'll love the Great Tailed Grackles, which are noisy everywhere that junk food gets dropped on the ground. You'll meet up with people at the festival, that you can double up with for birding days, saving on gas.

If it turns out that you consider Progreso, Mexico, don't be afraid. It is perfectly safe, but is not very Mexican. So don't be alarmed if your birding companions want to go over there, but don't expect it to be very exciting, either. Passport required.

Last edited by jtur88; 11-04-2011 at 01:58 PM..
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Old 11-06-2011, 05:21 AM
 
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Thank you for the inputs. I started late so even though I thought the idea of switching hotels every third night would mean less driving/better birding I ended up booking 4 nights at the Alamo Inn BB in Alamo (very close to Mission), the owner is a birder, very nice on the phone and the prices seemed reasonable. After that I have to find another place to stay a night or two and then 1 or 2 nights maybe on South Padre.
I will look into the Los Fresnos place, thanks for that.

jtur88 - what are your favorite places? And, Laguna Atascosa.....I was trying to figure out geo coords for places to put in my GPS (which never seems to know where anything is by street no matter how often I update the maps) and couldn't figure that place out. It seems to have two big areas that are almost separate. Is one 'better' than the other? Are there places in it that people typically go? Observation decks?
Also, do you bird So Padre Island?



As for Mexico, I have a passport but I think there will be enough driving to and fro just within TX, no need to add in Mexico unless there is a good likelihood to get good looks at something fun. So I doubt I'll go but will take my passport just in case.

I wish you could rent smartphones. The festival is going to have a RBA like twitter. I just don't need one and they are expensive monthly so don't have one.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Tejas
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Laguna Atascosa has a visitor's center, go there and get info. They'll explain the layout to you there.

Sabal Palm sanctuary is a MUST.

If you want to see raptors check out Palo Alto Battlefield NHP. But you'll definitely see a lot around Laguna Atascosa.

You may want to check out Resaca de la Palma state park.

South Padre has a whole other world of birds compared to inland areas. So definitely check out the beach and bays, as well as the world birding center out there.


But really nothing beats spending a LONG time down there to realllllyyy see the birds.

Stuff like hundreds upon hundreds of sandhill cranes and snow geese hanging out in a field.
This picture is from Feb 26, 2011. Off of the Sabal Palm Sanctuary facebook page.

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Old 11-06-2011, 10:54 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giesela View Post

jtur88 - what are your favorite places? .
They keep changing. I believe that Sabol Palm and the trailer park at Salineno have both ceased to exist, crushed under the border fence.

I've never birded Padre, and it is not a popular place for birding. The same shore birds can be found at Boca Chica, at the end of the highway east from Brownsville, which is one of my favorite places in the world, without needing to endure the tourism infrastructure at Padre. Santa Ana NWR is not as nice as it used to be.

Last edited by jtur88; 11-06-2011 at 11:17 AM..
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