Refugio County , home of the rare and nearly extinct whooping crane, has several stops on The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: nearly 400 different species of birds have been sighted in Refugio County including the much sought after Green Kingfisher (shown below). The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail encompasses four sites in Refugio County.
Enter Refugio on U.S. Hwy. 77. If heading north at the first light, intersection of FM 774 turn left. After driving about 2 blocks you will enter the park. If heading south, turn right a the last red light. Go two blocks, and the RV park is on the left. Lion's/Shelly Park is situated on the Mission River, where the bottom land forests here often swarm with migrant land birds in spring and fall. Riparian woodlands such as these focus the migrants since the surrounding terrain (coastal prairie, now mainly converted either to agriculture or brush) is generally inhospitable to forest species. Carefully look along the Mission River for the Green Kingfisher, a South Texas specialty that has been seen here in the past.
Site 40: Fennessey Ranch
Season: All Seasons
Leaving Refugio take FM 774 east two miles to the intersection with FM 2678 . Before turning on FM 2678, continue east and search the power poles and brush along the road for raptors. Local birders call FM 774 between Refugio and Tx Hwy. 35 "Hawk Alley". A vast assortment of hawks are usually present. Returning to FM 2678, travel 4.6 miles south to the entrance of the Fennessey Ranch. The Fennessy Ranch is private, and visitation must be arranged through the owner, Mr. Brian O'Connor Dunn.
With an array of habitats (inland marsh, riparian woodland, coastal grassland, thorn-scrub brush), the Fennessey Ranch supports an equally prolific and diverse bird life. In September, the trees may vibrate from the sound of hummingbirds feeding on trumpet creeper and hawking insects. In winter, the sunset skies are choked with tens of thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and waterfowl.
Site 41: Mission River Flats
Season: Winter, migration
Continuing south on FM 2678 toward Bayside. the road crosses the Mission River, and the Mission River Flats, which may be birded (with caution) from the shoulder. In late summer and early fall Wood Storks may be seen here, and waterfowl flocks in the winter may be prodigious. Low water levels in the spring may expose vast expanses of mudflats, where migratory shorebirds will concentrate in the shallow waters.
Site 42: Black Point in Bayside (map)
Season: All seasons, especially migration
Enhancements: Observation platform
Continuing south on FM 2678 (which becomes FM 136 immediately south of the Mission River) to Bayside. The Black Point observation platform is located to the left (east) of FM 136 immediately south of Bayside. Park at the observation platform, and inspect the flats for pelicans, herons, egrets, waterfowl and shore birds. These shallows are especially attractive to Reddish Egret, and at low tide thousands of shorebirds may crowd the exposed flats. Notice that Bayside is perched upon a bluff overlooking Copano Bay, and the Black Point observation tower is located on the edge of this rise. During migration hawks ride the updrafts from the ridge, and the observation platforms is an advantageous spot from which to see many different raptors.
Area map of The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, La Bahia Loop