South Texas 2012 wrap up

Street entrance to Historic building - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Street entrance to Historic building – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

I had a wonderfully relaxing stay in South Texas last month (a whole month ago already).  I didn’t run around the whole Lower Rio Grande Valley the way I almost always do.  I didn’t go West to Falcon Dam.  I didn’t go out to the coast to South Padre Island or even Laguna Atascosa NWR.  Sometimes it is a good thing just to kick back and relax, explore new sites, enjoy the people and the food, and relish the experience that is South Texas.

A fabulous complement to this sort of travel in the Lower Rio Grande Valley?  How about centrally located Alamo, TX?  Of course I came to The Valley to meet all the 700+-birds-in-a-year birders.  But I also came to catch a breather from Ohio winter and what I like to call Green Jay Therapy.  I enjoy the LRGV for so many reasons.  And now I have a few more reasons to add: butterflies, dragonflies, new places to bird, and new places to eat.

This was my first ever stay at the Alamo Inn in Alamo, TX.  I normally do not stay at Inns/Suites/B&Bs because I’m almost always out birding early and miss the included breakfast.  Plus, many of these places are just too expensive for my liking.  The Alamo Inn is a unique place.  First, the prices are very reasonable.  Breakfast is fix-your-own on a small fee.  So if you skip breakfast, you don’t pay.  Nice.  But if you want breakfast, there are a number of quick options available in the dining area.  No waiting at a restaurant.  A plus for a birder or someone who doesn’t always have a relaxed schedule.  The fee for a meal is currently a fixed $5.  It’s on an honor system, just like our sport of birding.

I stayed in the historic building on the second floor in the Pancho Villa Suite.  The wooden floors were a nice touch.  The room had a small fridge, a microwave, and its own large, filtered water dispenser.  Books and magazines adorn the living area making it feel a bit more like home.  I was most pleased to find out that there were many outlets in both the bedroom and living area even though the building is nearly 100 years old.  I had no problems at all with the air conditioning (I didn’t have to try the heating even though it was “winter”).  The bed was comfortable and the showers worked great.  It may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, but for me, this will be a place I know I can feel like it is a home base as opposed to another cookie cutter motel room.  Speaking of a home base, Alamo, TX is less than 10 miles away from my favorite National Wildlife Refuge, Santa Ana NWR.  It is about equal distance from the western valley (Falcon Dam) and the coast at South Padre Island.  It’s a great place to hang your hat for a while and enjoy the LRGV delights.

Historic building front - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Historic building front – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

The store is well equipped with birder friendly items and the library is a great place to read up on birds and wildlife of the LRGV.  This room is also a centrally located wifi hotspot.  Even my room had wifi.

Store - library - dining - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Store – library – dining – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Make your own meal - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Make your own meal – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Here was my “home” for my relaxing stay in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the Pancho Villa Suite.

Living area in Pancho Villa Suite - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Living area in Pancho Villa Suite – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Bedroom & Bathroom in Pancho Villa Suite - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Bedroom & Bathroom in Pancho Villa Suite – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

For those with needs for larger quarters, the apartment suites are a nice option.  There are even cottages for rent.

Butterfly garden between apartment suite buildings - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Butterfly garden between apartment suite buildings – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Living area in apartment suite - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Living area in apartment suite – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Master bedroom in apartment suite - Alamo Inn - Alamo TX - December 2012

Master bedroom in apartment suite – Alamo Inn – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

You don’t have to go far to find good birds either.  Just outside the historic building, the grassy area in the commons next to the parking lot often had a group of mixed blackbirds containing Bronzed Cowbirds as well as the ubiquitous and noisy Great-tailed Grackles.  I even had a Cattle Egret show up a couple days (a reasonably good bird in the Valley).

Bronzed Cowbirds & Great-tailed Grackles in common area - Alamo, TX - December 2012

Bronzed Cowbirds & Great-tailed Grackles in common area – Alamo, TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

The close proximity of the Alamo Inn to good food was a big plus for me.  There was good Mexican cuisine just across the street at El Dorado Restaurant.

enchilada plate - El Dorado Restaurant - Alamo TX - December 2012

enchilada plate – El Dorado Restaurant – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Flan - El Dorado Restaurant - Alamo TX - December 2012

Flan – El Dorado Restaurant – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

And there is good BBQ within walking distance, too, at Willie’s BBQ.

Pulled pork sandwich - Willies BBQ - Alamo TX - December 2012

Pulled pork sandwich – Willies BBQ – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

giant stuffed baked potato - Willies BBQ - Alamo TX - December 2012

giant stuffed baked potato – Willies BBQ – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

interior of Willies BBQ - Alamo TX - December 2012

interior of Willies BBQ – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

And don’t forget seafood!  The food was delicious at El Marisquero Restaurant.  A note of caution to those who only speak English–there is not much of it spoken here.  Haha.

Avacado stuffed with crab salad - El Marisquero Restaurant - Alamo TX - December 2012

Avacado stuffed with crab salad – El Marisquero Restaurant – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

Shrimp platter in spicy sauce - El Marisquero - Alamo TX - December 2012

Shrimp platter in spicy sauce – El Marisquero – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

The sumptuous food here may come as a surprise to those who look at from the street.  Not to worry.  The food here comes recommended by some guy who is pretty much ruled by his taste buds.  Try this!

street view of El Marisquero Restaurant - Alamo TX - December 2012

street view of El Marisquero Restaurant – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

And speaking of seafood, did I mention sushi?  Well, yes, you can find that, too, at Otto Sushi in Alamo, TX.  Don’t forget to try this fried calamari.  Mmmm!

Fried Calamari - Otto Sushi - Alamo TX - December 2012

Fried Calamari – Otto Sushi – Alamo TX – December 2012 photo by Greg Miller

And so my pleasant experience in South Texas and the Alamo Inn has come to an end.  But stay tuned to this blog for…DUM-DUM-DAAAHHHH…FLORIDA!  I will soon be in sunny Florida to experience the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival 2013.  I hope to see many of you there.  To those that cannot attend, well, I hope you’ll enjoy the experience vicariously through this blog.

4 thoughts on “South Texas 2012 wrap up

  1. I just stumbled on this blog looking for some images. We’re presently staying in
    Apt 1 of the Westmor ( the butterfly unit), our second year down here – two months this time. Minor league birding. Thanks for the seafood cafe recommendation. Good food is hard to come by here.

  2. Hello Greg,
    I stumbled across your blog a few months back when I was hunting for a spotting scope. I found the right one at Time and Optics. Frustrated with the lack of knowledge of some of the employees at several shops up near where I live (Toledo), I found Robert’s expert advice to be just what I needed.

    Anyways, your story inspired me to do a big year. I’m not going to come close to your totals. I unfortunately don’t have the time or cash, but I am really enjoying the experience. My wife and I got back from the Everglades last week. I added 63 birds to bring my total to 111. More exciting for me is that I’ve added 12 life birds this year.

    To keep track of my experience this year I decided to blog about it. I am totally a novice at blogging so if you check it out please don’t laugh. Anyways, I saw your post about Texas. I might have one more big trip in the budget this year (might go with my old man) and Texas is certainly a place I would like to go to. December would be the time of the trip. My question to you is if you had only…say…three days in Texas, where would you go? Thanks for any advice and happy birding.

    Brandon Brywczynski

    • Hi Brandon,

      I am happy the book has inspired you to do more birding! Congratulations on your list and also the new lifers. Sounds like you are having fun doing it, too. That is fantastic. Only 3 days in Texas in December? I am assuming you have never been to Texas and you would like to add lifers, too. I would guess if you are looking for the most lifers and some new unique birds for you personal big year, then head directly to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (South Padre Island west to Falcon Dam–Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen are cities in the area). If you wanted higher species totals (but probably not as many new lifers), then birding the Central Coast of Texas (Corpus Christi area) would be better. 3 days? Go for gold. Spend 1 day in each of 3 counties (1 day on coast in Cameron County, 1 day mid-Valley in Hidalgo County, and 1 day in west Valley in Starr County). If you don’t already have it, you should own The Birder’s Guide to the Rio Grande Valley available from the American Birding Association here: http://www.aba.org/siteguides/

      -greg

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