• Good location for migrants in spring and fall
  • Multiple access points to water on a river and creek
  • Has produced rarities such a Golden-crowned Warbler, Flame-colored Tanager, and Greater Pewee

Trail Length:
About .75 miles total

eBird Link

The Location

Lions Shelly Park in Refugio (pronounced “Refurio”) is a somewhat small park, but due to the quality of habitat and year-round water, it packs a punch above its weight class.

When a Greater Pewee was found here in November 2015, and then a Golden-crowned Warbler less than a week later, birders began to flock here. Since then it’s been a popular stopping point for birders traveling to or along the central Texas coast.

The Mission River runs on along the park’s southern boundary. This provides a natural travel pathway for birds, especially migrants. The creek is a second water source and almost always has bird activity. The creek banks are easy to access and walk along, so take advantage.

Because of the park’s location, a mix of eastern, western, and south Texas bird species are seen here. This makes it a potentially very rewarding park for new or out-of-state birders looking to add Texas life species.

Eastern Species: Swallow-tailed Kite, Pileated Woodpecker, American Woodcock
Westen Species: Black-headed Grosbeak, Say’s Phoebe.
Southern Species: Green Kingfisher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, Audubon’s Oriole, Least Grebe, Long-billed Thrasher, Tropical Parula, Common Pauraque.

Time of year and migration is important to consider for many of the species listed above.

Summer Tanager

Birding Recommendations

Because of the vegetation here, this park is both a great place to see birds and a great place for birds to hide just out of sight. A tip for seeing as many species as possible is to make multiple passes around this park, which isn’t too difficult since the park is relatively small. Go slow along the creek and river, this is often where most birds are seen.

After you exit your vehicle, began watching for swallows and birds flying over the park. This location is close enough to the coast that typical flyovers include multiple species of heron and egret, along with Laughing Gull. Hawks and Crested Caracara are also regulars. Chipping and Savanna Sparrow can be seen along the ground in the front open spaces during winter.

Cliff Swallow

The creek is the first big feature you’ll come across. It can be crossed along the small dam behind the large metal pavilion, and by a bridge to the north of the pavilion and left of the grassy sports field.

The creek is an excellent location to see birds. Watch and listen for Green Kingfisher. Common Yellowthroats are often in the Cattails. Flycatchers and warblers will often favor the Willow trees along the creek during migration. Vireos and Tanagers can be heard singing in the more dense vegetation along the creek.

Roughly 2/3 of the park is behind the creek. Habitat is a mixture of dense shrubby vegetation with an open canopy but some taller trees mixed in, and hardwood forest with a closed canopy and healthy understory. The forest along the river is often the more productive area.

Two metal pavilions along the river designate overlook points. Pavillion 2, the one further from the creek, has a short boardwalk that extends over the river. Watch for kingfishers, Great Kiskadee, and flyover hawks. The trail connecting the pavilions can be good if you walk slowly and make multiple passes.

An offshoot from the main trail located between the creek and Pavillion 1 can be birdy. It runs parallel to the creek. About halfway to the trail’s dead end is a huge Live Oak, which in the past has been the favorite daytime sleeping place of a Barred Owl. Even when perched on the larger branches in plain view, its camouflage is effective and is often difficult to find at first.

Overall, Lions Shelly Park is an underbirded park that likely hides many great species just out of sight, just waiting to be found by the more patient and thorough birders.

Other Important Info

If you arrive before 8am the front gate may be shut. One option is to turn left at the gate and drive through the tiny RV park. This will loop you around to the back side of the main parking area, where you can leave your vehicle.