Birds, Butterflies & Winter Texans Love Mission

A haven for birders and butterfly enthusiasts, Mission is located about 250 miles south of San Antonio in the Rio Grande Valley.

Altamira Oriole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Altamira Oriole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located on the southernmost tip of Texas, this semi-tropical paradise is not really a valley but a delta or floodplain containing many oxbow lakes or resacas formed from pinched-off meanders in earlier courses of the Rio Grande.

This unique region encompasses no fewer than 11 different types of habitat, from tidal wetlands to riparian forest, brushland scrub to prairie savanna, and is home to more than 1,200 different species of plants, 500 species of birds, 200 vertebrate species, roughly 300 species of butterflies, and over 90 species of dragonflies.

Mostly sunny skies, warm weather averaging 72 degrees, and zero chance of snow also attract thousands of Winter Texans to the numerous campgrounds and RV parks.

Founded in 1908, the City of Mission was named after the La Lomita Mission. It was in this area that citrus was first planted in the Rio Grande Valley. The citrus industry is now a multimillion-dollar business, which is celebrated annually with a gala Citrus Fiesta.

Green Jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green Jay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission is home to the World Birding Center. Known as one of the top birding destinations in the country, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park well deserves its status as headquarters of the World Birding Center. Birders across the nation know Bentsen as a treasure trove of unique Valley specialties, tropical birds found nowhere else in the US.

The Rio Grande Valley area is a major bird migration corridor; the convergence of two major flyways (the Central and Mississippi) affords the birder an abundance of Northern species migrating to avoid the winter cold and to take advantage of northern breeding habitats.

Striking Green Jays with bright green backs, purple-blue heads, and yellowish-green under parts; radiant orange Altamira Orioles; Great Kiskadee, an eye-catching mix of black, white, yellow, and reddish-brown; and raucous Plain Chachalacas are just a few of the very common birds you can find congregating at feeding stations placed throughout the park.

Plain Chachalacas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plain Chachalacas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other neo-tropical varieties such as Ferruginous Pygmy-owl, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Clay-colored Thrush, Hook-billed Kite, and Gray Hawk are also likely. Virtual clouds of migrating Swainson’s and Broad-winged Hawks are a popular spring and fall spectacle.

And just as the Rio Grande Valley is the number one birding destination in the United States, it’s also among the best places to view butterflies, including several species not seen anywhere else

Local favorites include the diminutive blue metalmark and the Mexican blue wing. Both are drop-dead gorgeous. Other Valley beauties include the border patch, Gulf fritillary, queen, silver-banded hairstreak, orange julia, white peacock and, well, the list goes on and on.

The Valley has the distinction of being one of the better places to find the world’s smallest butterfly, the pygmy blue, which has a wingspan of half an inch

Great Kiskadee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Kiskadee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike various butterfly conservatories that have been built across the United States, the National Butterfly Center provides extensive outdoor gardens of native nectar plants and specific caterpillar host plants as well as natural habitat to attract large numbers of wild butterflies and to conserve rare native butterflies.

More than 300 species of butterflies have been found in the Rio Grande Valley and over 200 of these have been seen at the National Butterfly Center including a number of rarities and U.S. Records.

The National Butterfly Center hosts the 20th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival from October 31 to November 3, 2015. Attendees will spend three days exploring renowned public lands and private properties with world-class trip leaders and expert guides. The Festival is taking place during prime butterfly season, when you may reasonably expect to see more than 60 species in a day.

This nature event is followed by the 22nd Annual Rio Grande Birding Festival from November 4-8, 2015 in Harlingen.

Bentsen Palm Village RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bentsen Palm Village RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning a visit? Stay at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort. Bentsen Palm Village is one of the most unique RV Resorts in South Texas and is part of the 2,600-acre Master Planned Community of Bentsen Palm Development.

Bentsen Palm Village is located in South Mission at the entrance to World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Bentsen Palm Village is only minutes from shopping, medical facilities, and easy access to Expressway 83.

Bentsen Palm Village offers over 250 large pull-through and back-in sites, full hookups, rental cabins and casitas, and native landscaping. Super Sites offer a 10×12 storage building that can be locked and secured when necessary. Resort amenities include a Club house, pool and spa, fitness center, dog agility course, woodshop, craft room, and miles and miles of hike and bike trails.

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