AT A GLANCE
Most of the neotropic migrants that nest in the eastern half of North America pass through Texas on their way north in Spring. Add to them a dazzling variety of shorebirds, waders, gulls, and terns, plus an assemblage unique to the lower Rio Grande Valley, and you have an amazing collection of species, unparalleled anywhere in North America at that time of year. With such an abundance of birds and largely unobstructed viewing, you will easily see more than 225 species; 250 species or more is certainly possible.
Our trip is planned to maximize the birding experience. Covering 1,600 miles in ten days, you will move from the humid eastern deciduous forest, down the flat coastal plain, and into subtropical South Texas. Following the Rio Grande upstream will take you westward into the Chihuahuan desert, leading right up to the edge of the rugged and lush Texas Hill Country, a crossroads of eastern and western species and the only place in the world where the Golden-cheeked Warbler nests. Not only is the birding incredible, but the scenery is fabulous, boasting vast open spaces and colorful roadside carpets of wild flowers.
DAY 1:Arrival and High Island
Arrive at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to meet your tour leaders. The group will make a fast-food lunch stop if needed. Drive to the town of Winnie, in eastern Texas. Check into hotel. Birding at High Island and its bird sanctuaries in late afternoon, prime time for greeting migrants arriving after almost 24 hours of flying since their departure from Honduras the preceding evening. Welcome dinner at a local eatery, famous for its home cooking and Texas specialties.
Likely birds: Inca Dove, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Great-tailed Grackle, other neotropical migrants.
DAY 2:Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and High Island
Morning birding at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and environs. Afternoon at High Island, with wading bird colony, and in the groves of hackberry and live oak surrounded by marsh that provide migrants a first landfall after crossing the Gulf of Mexico.
Likely birds:Roseate Spoonbill, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Hudsonian Godwit, Blue Grosbeak and many neotropical migrants.
DAY 3:Bolivar Flats and Galveston Island
Early morning birding at Bolivar Flats. Travel south along the coastal plain. Afternoon along the south end of Galveston Island
Likely birds: Purple Gallinule, Snowy Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Western Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern, Prothonotary Warbler.
DAY 4:Aransas NWR and Mustang Island
Morning birding along the edges of Aransas NWR, where we will visit several coastal birding hot spots in search of specialties. Afternoon drive can include 15 miles on the beach at Mustang Island.
Likely birds: Black-crested Titmouse, Eared Grebe, Reddish Egret, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Greater Roadrunner.
DAY 5:King Ranch
Take a private tour through the King Ranch, a privately owned property nearly as large as the state of Rhode Island and considered one of the top birding sites in the country.
Likely birds: White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Green Jay, Cave Swallow, Cactus Wren, Olive Sparrow, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Tropical Parula, Botteri’s Sparrow, Audubon’s Oriole, Ferruginous Pigmy Owl.
DAY 6: Sabal Palm Grove and Santa Ana NWR
Morning birding at National Audubon Society’s Sabal Palm Grove, a sanctuary containing one of the last remaining patches of native subtropical riparian forest along the lower Rio Grande. Santa Ana NWR for lunch and early afternoon birding. Optional evening trip to Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park.
Likely birds: Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Elf Owl, Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Couch’s Kingbird.
DAY 7: Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and Anzalduas County Park
Morning birding at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park and Anzalduas County Park, both good areas for Mexican rarities. Optional afternoon birding north of McAllen. Optional evening birding in Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park.
Likely birds: Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Northern Beardless-Tyrranulet, Altamira Oriole, Clay-colored Robin, Tropical Parula, and possible Hook-billed Kite.
DAY 8: Rio Grande and Uvalde
Early departure for morning birding at several places along the Rio Grande. Lunch north of Falcon County Park. Then travel in the afternoon through the chaparral to Uvalde, gateway to the Texas Hill Country, where clear streams dissect rugged limestone uplands and create a lush green landscape so different from the dry scrub of the last several days.
Likely birds: Harris’s Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bewick’s Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, Bullock’s Oriole, Hook-billed Kite.
DAY 9: Texas Hill Country
Morning birding at area hotspots, where we will look for the elusive Black-capped Vireo, more often heard than seen. Lunch and afternoon birding in the heart of the Hill Country.
Farewell dinner and overnight in Utopia, Texas.
Likely birds: Black Phoebe, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Western Scrub-Jay, Canyon Wren, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Scott’s Oriole.
DAY 10: Departure
Early morning departure for San Antonio and Houston. If you would like to stay on a few extra days in Texas, do let us know in advance.