Who could have predicted that the
Valley would have developed the way it
has done today? Probably only Francisco
Yturria, the patriarch of the Valley.
It was his astute business acumen that
opened this area to settlement and commerce,
and developed the large ranches
that launched the economy on the back
of cattle ranching.
Francisco Yturria ran the first banking
business, was de facto realtor for land
purchases by the large ranches (Yturria,
King, Kennedy), and was the key backer
bringing the railroad here, all accomplished
over 100 years ago. Today his
legacy is shared by his descendants, and
benefits everyone who lives here.
While he anticipated much of the Valley's
development, could Francisco Yturria
have foreseen the popularity and
value of birding tourism, here? Probably
not. He left that to one of his descendants,
Monica and husband Ray Burdette run El Canelo Ranch, a piece of the original
Yturria Ranch. There, typical of Francisco
Yturria's brand of business, they operate
a diversified conservation ranch,
running cattle, breeding genetically
improved White-tail Deer, offering exclusive
high end hunting, all topped off
with exclusive birding.
In 1989 Monica opened The Inn at
El Canelo on their El Canelo Ranch in
Kenedy County, just North of Raymondville.
Monica is a pioneer. Hers is the first
and oldest Birding Bed and Breakfast in
El Canelo Ranch is known as the home
of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl in South
Texas, when a pair nested year after year
in the garden at the Inn. Birders flocked
to the ranch to see it, and Monica demonstrated
to the world the economic value
to a land owner of caring for a rare
species and sharing it with others who
care. Birding fees of $35 per person are
typical for short stay ranch birding. That
pair of owls was viewed by many thousands
of birders. Do the math and figure
if caring and sharing birds makes financial
sense to land owners.
Not only does El Canelo protect its
birds and bucks, it also protects rare
plants found in the pastures. El Canelo
Ranch was amongst the very first in the
Valley decades ago to invite a birder and
a botanist to catalogue the species on the
ranch and to seek out rare species.
This work resulted in the discovery
on El Canelo Ranch of a new spurge (a
small herb) plant species previously unknown
The El Canelo Ranch bird list and plant
list is available for visitors. It has been
my privilege to visit El Canelo Ranch
and to guide birders there. Here one can
see the birds of South Texas living their
lives as they always have, across the vast
ranchlands of South Texas.
Monica is an amazing gourmet cook,
having studied in France and elsewhere.
She produces delicious sumptuous
spreads for the Inn's guests. This month
she has published her first cookbook,
The Inn at El Canelo Cookbook. It offers
her secrets to her unique brand of South
Texas cooking on its 216 pages, interspersed
with stories and ranch photos
introducing each food section.
Bon apetit. Good birding.