La Laja Ranch is located sixteen miles south of Laredo off of Hwy 83 in Zapata County just north of Dolores Creek. It stretches several miles southwest to the banks of the Rio Grande River and Mexico. I liked this place. Relatively undisturbed, bunch grasses dominated the landscape interspersed with Mesquite and Acacia and one ponders what grassland sparrows might winter here? It’s a very birdy place and oh by the way is considered one of the best places in Texas to find White-collared Seedeater.
That was my target for the day. Susan Foster and Glenda Barrera, both Laredo birders had agreed to take me in to the ranch for the morning. I was a little unsettled as my plane left at 1:20 PM and there were almost 200 miles to drive, but this was a special opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. Timing was complicated by a less than steller map, but with phone help from the landowner, Edward. Herps, we finally navigated our way into the riparian forest area. Audubon’s Orioles, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Olive Sparrows, Black-crested Titmice and a first of year Ash-throated Flycatcher all kept us on our toes while we searched for the star attraction. And we were NOT disappointed. We found six White-collared Seedeater and this included at least two males. Having worked the Rio Grande from Brownsville to Laredo multiple times this year let me state a simple fact, La Laja Ranch is the best place in Texas to find seedeaters. The riparian habitat is certainly more appealing than any I’ve seen this year.
If you wish to visit La Laja Ranch, I contact either Susan Fowler 956-337-4011 or Raul Delgado at956-763-7624 to arrange access. Mr. Herps charges $20.00 to come and unlock the gate and as I said the road is a little confusing, but the birding results will make you very happy. I highly recommend it.
On Tuesday Linda and I leave for Florida, here’s a quick analysis of my Big Year to this point. Year totals for birds stands at 390 species. My Quest for a Thousand total is currently at 426 species. There is a troubling trend developing when one compares my list to that of Bob Ake (2010-730 species) and Lynn Barber (2008-723 species). Both of them were at 426 species on todays date. So I’m lagging behind. However if you look at my Category 4 thru 6 birds (Vanderpoel Categories) I’m outpacing them. I’ve got 18 birds versus Bob at 13 and Lynn at 11. I’m also running slightly ahead of both of them on Category 3’s. What this tells me is that I need to work harder to begin catching up on the common birds, but the potential for a really big year is certainly there. By the end of April I intend to catch up to Bob Ake’s year list, Florida here I come. God, I love doing this.