Famous among birders throughout the world, the Mid-Valley's
Frontera Audubon Center in Weslaco, Hidalgo Co., is easy to get to. From US.281 (Military Highway) in the
south, take FM-88 (Texas Blvd.) north to 12th St. in Weslaco and turn right into Frontera's driveway; or, take FM-1015 (at
Progreso and International Bridge) north past Estero Llano Grande State Park-WBC to 18th St. Turn left (west) on
18th St. and go to FM-88/Texas Blvd. Turn right (north) on FM-88/Texas Blvd., and go to 12th St. and turn right into
From the west side of Weslaco,
take Expressway-83 east to the Gateway exit and go south on Gateway past the football stadium and across the RR tracks
and turn left (east) on Bus.-83. Get in the right lane and take Bus.-83 east to Border St., and turn right (south) on
Border St. Go past the Valley Nature Center on Border Ave. to 12th St. and turn left (east) on 12th St. and
go to FM-88/Texas Blvd. Frontera's driveway is across the street. From the east side of Weslaco, take Expressway-83
west to the FM-88/Texas Blvd. exit to the south. Go south on FM-88/Texas Blvd., across the RR tracks and continue to
12th St., and turn left (east) into Frontera's driveway.
Rio Grande River is only about 5 miles south of the 15 acre Frontera Audubon Center/Preserve/Sanctuary/Society/Thicket (depends
on which of their brochures you pick up).
Audubon is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society.
The site is open Wed.-Sat. from 8:00 am - 4:00 pm, and on Sunday from
12 noon to 4:00 pm. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday. You can call the Office at 956-968-3275.
The Skaggs, a Weslaco
banking family, donated their Mediterranean-style home and 15 acres to Frontera Audubon, several years ago. Frontera
Audubon Center has been open to the public for 10 years.
When you arrive, take the north Driveway on the left and
go to the Parking Lot on the east side of the Center. Frontera's formal Butterfly Garden starts at the street, separates
the two driveways and goes east, all the way to the Office Bldg.
Go slowly to the Parking Lot so you don't scare away birds and
butterfllies. The entire Driveway length needs to be searched for birds and butterflies, at some point during your visit.
As soon as you exit your vehicle, you will hear Great Kiskadees,
Chachalacas, White-tipped Doves and other Valley specialty birds calling nearby. Just as you did at the Driveway, be
sure you check the entire Parking Lot perimeter for birds and butterflies. Take the sidewalk, near the handicap parking
on the west side of the Parking Lot, to the Center's Office Bldg.
Apply your insect repellent in the Parking Lot, not on the trails or around the plants. There are several
wet areas at Frontera Audubon Center, so you might find some mosquitoes.
Go slowly as you take the sidewalk towards the back gate
of Frontera, and you will more than likely see a Buff-bellied Hummingbird, the Valley's year-round resident hummer.
Butterflies can be found on the Lantanas that are bordering both sides of the walkway.
Follow the sidewalk around the left side of the Office Bldg.
to the front (here blocked by stones, while the Stream is being cleaned), or go onto the Deck to the back door.
The back Deck is a great place to relax, watch the hummingbird feeders,
and to see what birds are coming into the Stream.
As soon as you start around the south side of the Office Bldg.
towards the front, the back of the former Skaggs Home comes into view. Plans are to, hopefully, renovate this structure
for meetings, socials and other functions.
Looking back towards
the street onto the large Butterfly Garden. Frontera is one of the Valley's leaders, in sticking with using only native
Valley plant species throughout their property. Many of the Lower Rio Grande Valley's (LRGV) 316+ species of butterflies
have been found in this designated Butterfly Garden and throughout Frontera Audubon Center.
Inside the Headquarters are offices, a gift shop, a meeting room,
restrooms, and very cold water fountains.
All visitors to Frontera
Audubon are asked to sign in and pay a nominal entrance fee. Be sure to pick up a map! Think about becoming
a member of Frontera Audubon. At the end of your visit, please consider leaving a donation.
The Gift Shop contains many nature-related items. Cold
water is for sale if you forgot to bring water. This is your last chance to use the restrooms, before starting out.
Be sure to take water with you.
After signing in and paying your entrance fee, you can go out
the back door and start from the Deck. If you are primarily after butterflies and it is early in the morning, go out
the front door and work the Butterfly Garden until it gets a little more sunny inside the Preserve.
There is a very long Stream that parallels the sidewalk
as you head to the Preserve Gate. Numerous species of birds use the Stream. Buff-bellied Hummingbirds should be
Wander around the edge
of the southside lawn, checking in and under all the trees and shrubs.
These benches face
the Stream, where both Water-thrushes, Ovenbirds, and other warbler species are often seen during migration. Clay-colored
Thrushes will come in to bathe.
You will often see
birders lined up, watching the long water feature and Stream that borders the sidewalk. The entire LRGV is dry (average
rainfall is 28"/year in the Eastern Valley to 19"/year in the Western Valley) with rainfall averaging just 24"/year
at Frontera. Small surface water sources, such as this Stream, are very scarce. When you find a bubbling stream
such as this, you will always see birds using the water feature.
While birding at Frontera, don't confine yourself to looking
in the trees. Search on the ground and look under all the shrubs. Several rare species of thrushes, such as White-throated
Robin, have been found at Frontera.
This is without a doubt, the most photographed Standpipe in
the world. Numerous species of birds, many quite rare, have been photographed while they are foraging around this leaking
Standpipe. When there is a rare bird at the Standpipe, many birders will be lined up in chairs or standing in rows watching
the Standpipe. Be very careful to walk by the Standpipe, slowly, so as not to frighten the birds.
Visitors to the LRGV often ask what all the tall (some quite tall) concrete
pipes are for. These are found throughout the Valley--both in the farm fields and within the cities' subdivisions
and business areas. There are hundreds of miles of irrigation canals and underground lines running throughout the LRGV.
These Standpipes contain valves inside them.
The Standpipes are vent stacks that prevent the irrigation lines from rupturing under pressure, when water is sent down the
lines. They control the flow and/or allow air to escape, again so as not to break the irrigation pipes. Many of
these Standpipes and valves are no longer in use, but it would be extemely costly to disconnect and remove them.
Continue along the sidewalk, and the Entrance Gate into the Preserve
is on your left. However, instead of going through the Gate, turn to your right and work the Citrus Orchard.
The Citrus Orchard
can be great for both birds and butterflies.
Early in the morning and late in the evening, Green Parakeets and Red-crowned Parrots can be
seen, and certainly heard, flying overhead and going to the tall palms you can see nearby and in the distance.
Look into and under
the trees and shrubs. When the Anacuas/Sandpaper Tree-Ehretia anacua are in bloom, they can be filled
with butterflies. When the Anacuas are in fruit, the birds will be all over them. One of the largest Anacuas in
the LRGV is near the street, between the Skaggs Home and the Citrus Orchard. The Anacua will be the tree that looks
like many trunks have been glued together to form a circle; if you rub the upperside of a leaf, it will feel like sandpaper.
Many species of flowering plants on the edge of the Citrus Orchard
will have butterflies and hummingbirds all over them.
After you have spent some time in the Citrus Orchard, return
to the Entrance Gate and get ready for what often is an incredible experience.
Did you pick up a map when you signed in? If not, you should go get one, for your visit to
be the most rewarding.
As soon as you enter, you have two choices. Going right
(south) will take you just a short distance, before the trail becomes a "Staff Only-Do Not Enter" area; however,
this short path can be very good for butterflies and birds. Give this one-way trail a try and you will be rewarded,
then you have to return back.
Take the trail to
the left (north), and it will soon turn east and come to a three-way branch in the trail. You can go left towards the northern
edge of the Native Thicket; you can go straight towards the Bird Feeding Station and the southern edge of the Native Thicket
then on to the Sabal Palm Forest; or you can go right towards the wetter areas of the Preserve.
If you take the
trail to the right, you will go through the brush and "tee" into one of Frontera's longest trails that heads east
on the south side of Frontera. The trail will go between two large lakes, through a wetland and marsh, and continue
towards the Sabal Palm Forest at the east boundary of the Preserve.
Many species of birds can be found in this area. A few years ago, an Elegant Trogon stayed in this area
for a couple of weeks.
Unless you are in the darkest parts of the trails, you will see many
species of butterflies on your hike through the Preserve.
This is but a small part of the Southwest Lake that you
pass on your right, just before the trail makes its turn to the east. Numerous bird species can be found around this
very shady Lake.
Directly east on your left and across the trail from the Southwest
Lake is the Southern Lake. The Southern Lake is the largest of the two Lakes and is more open, allowing more distant
There is a Viewing/Photo Blind
that is located on on the north side (mid-left in the photo) of the Lake. You can reach the Blind by going east past
the Bird Feeding Station and then turning to the south. You can also get to the Blind by continuing on this trail and
go west from the Sabal Palm Forest.
The long Bridge goes over the Marsh that is in the southeast
corner of the Preserve. Besides the many birds species that you usually can find associated with a wetland
area, Neo-tropical migrants and Valley specialty birds can be found from the Bridge.
This is one of the best places in Frontera for you to have an unobstructed view of the sky.
Watch for the Gray Hawks that are often seen and heard at Frontera. In spring and fall, huge movements of Broadwing
Hawks can be viewed from the Bridge. Harris's Hawk is very common throughout the LRGV, and they can be seen here at
Although you can always see butterfly
species of all sorts from the Bridge, the fall season can be exceptional. There are vast mats of Twine Vine-Sarcostemma
cynanchoides covering many of the shrubs in the Marsh. When in bloom, these mats of flowering vines will be filled
with butterflies. Since you are in a large, open, sunny area, check all the other blooming plants for butterflies, also.
Fresh-water wetlands are the most endangered habitats in all of Texas.
Very few fresh-water wetlands, no matter how large or small, are still remaining due to draining them for development.
Frontera Audubon is fortunate to have so much fresh-water wetlands--and so are the birders. Least Grebe, Green and Ringed
Kingfisher, Least Bittern and many other waders can be found in the Lakes and Marsh of Frontera. Many birders are
often surprised to see Great Kiskadees catching small minnows and fish, but the Kiskadees are excellent fishers.
The eastern end of the
Bridge brings you to the Sabal Palm Forest. Sabal Palms-Sabal mexicana once were found througout most
of the LRGV. Even small groves, such as this one at Frontera, are unusual.
The Sabals are very important to the birds that use them for nesting
sites. Bats use them, also. When the old, dead fronds drop, they form layers on the ground and become great places
for beetles and other insects to hide. You will often see thrushes and thrashers searching around, below the Sabals.
As is true everywhere, wildlife watchers and hikers should ALWAYS STAY
ON THE TRAILS. This is especially true in the Sabal Palm Forest. Wasps (and the Valley has abundant species of
wasps) like to build their nests beneath the hanging palm fronds, which provide shade and keep the nest cool and protect the
nests from rain and predators. Photographers, especially, have to be careful not to back under a palm frond while taking
photos, as the photographer can easily back into an unseen wasp nest.
As you head west from the Sabal Palm Forest, you will be entering
the Native Thicket. The trail will fork and the right side will take you near the City Cemetery boundary and bring you
the long way around the the Native Thicket and through the tall trees and back west towards the Entrance Gate.
The left side will take you west to the Entrance Gate, after passing
the entrance to the Photo/Viewing Blind and the entrance to the Bird Feeding Station.
As you came through the Sabal Palm Forest, you caught glimpses on
your right of the Weslaco Cemetery. Coming out of the Sabal Palm Forest and taking the trail to the right (north), you
come close to the fence that is the east border of Frontera, where you also see the Cemetery.
The Weslaco Cemetery can be reached from Frontera Audubon Center by turning right (north) on FM-88/Texas
Blvd. and drive one block to 11th St. Turn right (east) on 11th St. and after you pass Kansas Ave., 11th St. will make
a sharp bend to the north and become Illinois Ave. Go a few yards and the entrance to Weslaco Cemetery is on your right.
It is perfectly acceptable to respectfully bird and butterfly in cemeteries.
The Weslaco Cemetery can be especially good for both birds and butterflies. Look for butterflies in the open areas of
the Cemetery. This is one of the best locations in the Valley for checkerspots and crescents, so watch for Elada Checkerspot
on the grounds.
Birding can also be very good
with flycatcher species hunting from perches in the various trees throughout the open area of the Cemetery. The heavily
wooded southwest corner of the Cemetery can be be especially good for all species of birds.
Weslaco Cemetery should not be overlooked as a Weslaco wildlife watching site mainly because it is
open and isolated, just do so respectfully. If a funeral is taking place, come back at a later time.
Valley visitors often comment on the use of plastic flowers in ALL Valley
cemeteries. They are used because it is so hot in the Valley, that cut flower arrangements would last only a few minutes
to a few hours....and no, the butterflies and hummingbirds are not attracted to the colors.
Continuing around the Native Thicket watch and listen for the birds;
butterflying will find many species, especially Malachites and Zebra Heliconians.
As in any woods, when
searching for birds look on the ground, in the lower, middle, and crown of the trees. The large tall trees found in
the northeast section of Frontera can often be fantastic, especially during migration.
You wll appreciate the many benches found in this area, while you overcome "warbler-neck".
If you sit still for a few minutes, you are almost gauranteed to see heliconians flying down the shady trail.
Common Pauraques are a Valley specialty and a very common
goatsucker in the LRGV. Watch for them in the shadier areas of the Preserve, both on the ground and on low limbs.
Always look into the leaf litter in the Valley woods. Frontera has had both White-throated and Rufous-backed Robins,
Blue Mockingbirds, Elegant Trogans, Crimson-collared Grosbeaks, Blue Buntings--the list of bird species rare to the U.S. goes
on and on.
Butterflies, such as Polydamas, Ornythion,
and Ruby-spotted Swallowtails, Tropical Whites, Angled-Sulphurs, numerous hairstreaks, Red-bordered Pixies, Banded Peacock,
Blue-eyed Sailors, various crackers, Blomfild's Beauty, Two-barred Flasher and Evan's Skipper are often seen at Frontera,
along with many other species.
are abundant around the wetter areas. Rubyspots, spreadwing damsels and threadtails can be found. Desert Firetails
are frequently seen. Many species of darners and gomphids are seen. Carmine Skimmers are a specialty here.
Several species of lizards, snakes, frogs and toads are found at Frontera.
Lots of fun insect species can be found.
just hike and walk, pause for a bit and you will note all kinds of critters that may not occur where you live.
Frontera's Bird Feeding Station is well visited by birds and birders.
Take a seat and see what comes in. Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers,
Green Jays, Long-billed Thrasher (Brown Thrashers don't occur in the Valley), Black-crested Titmouse (we don't have Tufted
Titmouse or any chickadees in the LRGV), Great-tailed Grackle (Common and Boat-tailed Grackles are not found in the Lower
Rio Grande Valley), and Clay-colored Thrush are among the common Valley specialty birds that are easily seen at the Bird Feeding
This Anacua-shaded bench is a welcomed respite from the heat, after
searching the blooming Eupatorium species and other flowering plants for butterflies and the open area for dragons.
When you exit the Gate, be sure to check out the Citrus Orchard,
the lawn, the Standpipe, the Stream, the Butterfly Garden, and the Driveway and Parking Lot if you have not already done so.
Go sit on the Deck and cool off a bit and enjoy
Consider leaving a donation.
Want to come back?