Ruth and I revisited a few spots during our 2nd journey to the Rio Grande Valley within a year, and the award for “most improved” goes to the McAllen Nature Center. I was amazed at the list of 232 bird species that have been recently seen there. I can see why the people of McAllen who, despite the border crisis in their backyards, give glowing reviews to this former botanical garden with lots of birding opportunities. They also rave about how safe their town of 140,000 is.
This center’s staff is young and enthusiastic. As I entered a McAllen Nature Center’s path through native Tamaulipan thornscrub forest, 2 of them approached to greet and inform me that they had just seen a roseate spoonbill, a stunning wading bird of the ibis family, on the nature center’s oxbow lake called a resaca.
This is not a major nature center yet, but it has lots of potential. There is no pristine visitor center. In fact, the staff hangs out in an old trailer where visitors sign in on a clipboard. It’s young caretakers told me that meetings about the McAllen Nature Center’s fate and funding are being held. It deserves to continue.
The past year saw noticeable improvements. Lantana Hill, for example, was introduced in 2018. An entire hill with a trail up to its palm-treed top has been added to McAllen Nature Center’s attractions. It also has a small but well-kept cactus garden that was there on my first visit. Some vivid wildflowers were in bloom this time, but I didn’t see any of the 300 species of animals that might be visible on its 1.6 miles of walkable trails.
The staff is dedicated to cleaning up and restoring this local, non-profit institution. They need and deserve the support of travelers. The girl who checked me in proudly pointed to the names of a couple from Taiwan who had just visited before me.