Birding tours and walks are in full swing at the nearby Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge through the month of December.
Bird tours are conducted Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Experienced birders guide the tours on a shuttle bus to birding hot-spots, traveling on areas that private vehicles are not allowed.
The tours alternate between Laguna Atascosa and the Bahia Grande units of the refuge.
Reservations are required and may be made by calling 956-748-3607 Ext. 111.Cost is $4 for adults aged 16 and older, $3 for seniors 62 years of age or older and admission is free for those under the age of 16.
Admission to the refuge is $3 per vehicle.
Bird walks are conducted on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 2-3 p.m. The area is wheelchair accessible. The walks are free with a paid entry fee of $3 per vehicle.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is reportedly the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
The refuge was established in 1946 to provide habitat for wintering waterfowl and other migratory birds, principally redhead ducks.
Sources say there is an expanded emphasis on endangered species conservation and management for shorebirds.
The refuge is a premiere bird-watching destination with more recorded species of birds than any other refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System, according to the refuge’s website. The largest population in the United States of ocelots call the refuge home, making it the center for conservation and recovery efforts, for this endangered cat.
Laguna National Wildlife Refuge encompasses more than 97,000 acres, a portion of which are open to the public for wildlife related activities like wildlife watching, hunting, fishing, photography, and environmental education. It is a part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a national network of lands and waters set aside for the benefit of wildlife and the public.

By Martha McClain