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TEXAS 3rd - 18th April 2000

LEADERS: STEVE BIRD
  NICK BRAY
   


DAY 1
Monday 3rd April

Everyone met at London Gatwick on time and after a one-hour delay we were soon on our way to Houston. After the long flight we arrived, checked through customs, got our luggage and then sorted out the hire vehicle. While I helped move the back seat from our minibus the rest of the group were watching American Crows, up to fifty Broad-winged Hawks and several Chimney Swifts. We then drove the short distance to Conroe and our motel. On route we saw quite a few Turkey Vultures, flocks of Chimney Swifts and a few Brown-headed Cowbirds and Common Grackles. At our motel there were several Killdeer on a little patch of grass and again more Brown-headed Cowbirds and flocks of Chimney Swifts flying over. After the long day it was time to have an evening meal and catch an early nights sleep.

 



DAY 2 Tuesday 4th April

 
We were all up early at 6.30 am and we went straight to the W.G. Jones state forest. We parked up and went along the track until we came to an area of ponds. Here we waited beside a cluster of trees to see if there were any Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. It was decidedly cold and this may have had a bearing on why they did not show. As the sun came out and warmed the treetops Pine Warblers could be heard giving their trilling song everyone. Blue Jays called, both Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens were heard with the former passing by in small groups. We then found two Brown-headed Nuthatches one of which posed beautifully for the scopes allowing all of us to see it well. There was still no sign of the woodpeckers although a huge Pileated did put in a brief appearance as it flew behind the trees. We then wandered back past a singing White-eyed Vireo and several Northern Cardinals after which we headed off to have some breakfast. After our big breakfast we then picked up our packed lunch and baggage before returning to the wood for another try this time behind the forest headquarters. On the way we did stop for a Loggerhead Shrike that showed well around a small tree beside the road. Once at the headquarters we walked through the wood. Mick found a beautiful male Hooded Warbler that sang from a very close tree giving us all excellent views. Generally though it was very quiet barring a few Black Vultures passing over but Nick then found the bird we were searching for, a Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We got to the spot and could hear it calling and after a few minutes I found it on a half hidden pine. Unfortunately not everyone got to see the bird before it flew away into the wood. A little further along we all watched a lovely Red-bellied Woodpecker, several Northern Cardinals and two Chipping Sparrows. It was mid-day and time we set off towards the coast. The nightmare of Houston's traffic lights and busy roads was soon left behind as we gradually got further out into the country. Apart from our lunch we started to make more and more roadside stops. Broad-winged, Red-tailed and Swainson's Hawks were seen as well as many Northern Mockingbirds and Loggerhead Shrikes. We also saw our first Monarch butterfly. One of our best stops was beside Lake Texicano where we watched both Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants as well as several common heron species such as Great White, Great Blue, Tri-coloured and Snowy Egret. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were now being watched with ease and rightly became many people's favourite bird. A Belted Kingfisher sat on a wire, whilst lots of Cliff Swallows flew around. Joan then came up trumps with an adult Bald Eagle circling high above us. Hundreds of Laughing Gulls flew around and a little further along by the waters edge we were able to compare Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and then watched three Pectoral Sandpipers, several Killdeers and a Solitary Sandpiper. We continued on, stopping to look on telegraph poles where we saw a superb Red-shouldered Hawk, several Swainson's and Red-tailed Hawks. We also found a couple of Northern Harriers, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers seem to be on everywhere. Driving on, along a straight road towards Tivoli, several more stops included, in perfect light, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, three Upland Sandpipers were walking around a ploughed field and then we saw two White-tailed Hawks fighting with a Red-tailed Hawk. The pair of White-tailed Hawks then flew across the field to land in full view on a nest about five feet from the ground — what a sight! Having also seen Black-winged Kite and a flock of Little Blue Herons, we then continued on. We found a Golden-fronted Woodpecker beside the road and then, just before Fulton and the road bridge, we watched two Buffleheads, a group of Shoveler and several Blue-Winged Teals as well as Pied-billed Grebe. Beside the bridge itself there were lots of Brown Pelicans, and a couple of Cave Swallows were seen amongst the Cliff Swallows. We then drove a few miles further to our Hotel.

 



DAY 3 Wednesday 5th April

 
We all took an early breakfast at the Hotel before driving a short distance to the jetty where we were to take Captain Ted's boat out across the Bay and into Aransas National Park. We were soon all aboard and setting off towards a glorious sunrise. With Royal Terns fishing all around us we drifted out to a small island where we could then compare a colony of both Caspian and Royal Terns sat beside each other. Brown Pelicans were everywhere and wading birds included American Oystercatcher, Turnstone and Sanderling. On the sea we found a single White-winged Scoter amongst the more familiar Buffleheads and Goldeneye. A couple of Great Northern Loons were briefly seen and amongst the hundreds of Laughing Gulls we found plenty of Forsters and a few Least Terns as well as two or three Franklin's Gulls. Drifting into one of the channels beside the marsh we were soon watching three huge Whooping Cranes. These endangered birds showing extremely well. Seaside Sparrow were then found and seen by everyone and several Black Skimmers, Blue-winged Teals, Mottled Ducks and Willet s were also easily seen. As we continued drifting down the channel we watched a few Gull-billed Terns amongst the Forsters and over the marshes Northern Harriers hunted. Returning along the channel a Great Horned Owl was seen sat on top of a bush. Finishing off with Ospreys and some of the common waders we then crossed the bay back towards the jetty. We disembarked and then returned to collect our luggage from the Hotel where after watching a Black-crested Titmouse in the garden we drove the short distance to Rattlesnake Point. A stop beside a small pool allowed us to compare many Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Duck, as well as a couple of Purple Martins flying around. Just a bit further up the road we stopped to look at a Curved-billed Thrasher and in a pool there was Reddish Egret, Spotted Sandpiper and Black-necked Stilts. We then drove to Moores Pond where we found several Pied-Billed and then two lovely Least Grebe's which were hiding in the edges of the pool where we also found a single White-faced and an immature White Ibis with several Tri-coloured Herons flying around. Continuing on our way towards Aransas Pass and stopping beside some pools we added Long-billed Dowitcher, Belted King fisher and a Savannah Sparrow. We then crossed over Aransas Pass to Port Aransas on a free ferry. Not far from the other side we stopped beside a saltwater lagoon teeming with waders. Amongst the many yellowlegs and dowitchers were Stilt Sandpipers, a very close American Golden Plover and amongst the smaller waders were lots of Least, several Semi-palmated Sandpipers as well as Western Sandpipers. A Peregrine Falcon was seen to swoop down amongst the birds on two occasions and everything took flight, as soon as they had landed again Geoff managed to find us some Wilson's Phalarope's, while at the back of the pool were a few Pintail and Blue-winged Teal. We then carried on towards Corpus Christi. A couple of roadside stops produced super views of two Long-billed Curlews and then a Marbled Godwit. Our last look of the day was around Packery a small area of scrubby bushes and gardens. Amazingly one of the first birds we found was a female Vermilion Flycatcher that sat around and gave us excellent views. There were a few Bobwhite Quail around as well as a very elusive Grasshopper Sparrow. Around the back of the gardens we found an immature male Orchard Oriole and then a Northern Parula and a Warbling Vireo, as well as female Hooded Warbler. A thrill for everyone here was up to six Ruby-throated Hummingbirds which performed very well as they fed on and sat around some red flowery bushes. Happy with this we then left for our new motel ready for an evening meal.

Glorious sunrise

Whooping Cranes

 



DAY 4 Thursday 6th April


 
We had our breakfast and then left our Hotel in Corpus Christi to head south on Route 77. We stopped by a small bridge to view a colony of Cave Swallows and we also found several Blue-winged Teal on a small pond there. Other roadside stops included a superb Crested Caracara sat on a roadside bush, a Swainson's Hawk flying low overhead and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks. At Sarita rest stop we watched up to twenty Brewers Blackbirds and then eventually, after a bit of a run around, John found us a superb male Hooded Oriole that sat right out in full view. We then continued on to Harlengen and after checking into our Motel, we had our lunch, and then drove to Laguna Atascosa. On route we stopped for a Golden-fronted Woodpecker that eventually showed very well and at the same time we found a Lark Sparrow sat on a wire. Once we arrived at Laguna we got out of the vehicles and then were immediately accosted by a Wildlife TV Cameraman who then interviewed myself and Nick for their programme. At a small waterhole here, we were instantly greeted by a gaudy but beautiful Green Jay bathing with the grackles. A look from the nearby photo blind saw nothing but a Coach Whipsnake enjoying a drink. We then decided to look around the Kiskadee trail. Peering low into the bushes we were all able to watch an Olive Sparrow hopping around and then a little further along we found a Lincoln Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. An Ovenbird proved illusive, as did for some a pair of Great Kiskadees. We then came across a couple of Couch's Kingbirds and a Black-crested Titmouse. Returning back around the trail we had excellent views of the Ladder-backed Woodpecker again and once back by the drinking pools everyone saw the Great Kiskadees superbly well. We then decided to drive along the Bay loop. We hadn't gone far before a Greater Roadrunner was spotted beside the road and then ran off into the bush. Our next stop was for a pair of Vesper Sparrows that showed well, and then a distant Harris Hawk was spotted. Moving on we then found a single sparrow beside the road, this turned out to be a Botteri's Sparrow — a really good find. Several Crested Caracaras flew around and Chihuahuan Ravens were also spotted. Beside the beach three Wilson's Plovers sat quietly while Gull-billed Terns, White Ibis and Caspian Terns were also noted. As we returned back around the loop two Armadillos were seen as well as three Black-winged Kites. We watched a male American Kestrel and then found the Greater Roadrunner again. This time he ran along the road in front of us and then went just inside the bush, eventually coming out beside the van and showing incredibly well. As we left the Park and the sun was setting, we found a close Harris Hawk sat on a telegraph pole and beside it was an American Kestrel, while across the road the beautiful song of a Long-billed Thrasher drew our attention to this bird sat in full view on top of a tree. Add to this several more Couch's Kingbirds and we'd had a good day from which it was now time to return back to our Motel.

 



DAY 5
Friday 7th April

 

Today after breakfast we drove towards Santa Ana reserve. We stopped beside a ploughed field where we counted twenty five Swainson's and ten Red-tailed Hawks sat around. Amongst these birds we spotted a nice dark phased Swainson's Hawk as well as six or more Upland Sandpipers. A little further along beside another field, this time with water held in the furrows, we found three Buff —breasted Sandpipers, several Pectoral Sandpipers, American Golden Plovers, Least Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin and a Horned Lark. Continuing on to Santa Ana we then parked up and walked out to Pintail Lake. Couch's Kingbirds were seen everywhere and Great Kiskadees were also spotted. Olive Sparrows hid in the undergrowth while on the lake we saw a few Pied-billed Grebes, Blue-winged Teals and a Green Heron. A huge Ringed Kingfisher then quickly flew across the lake calling as we also watched Common Yellowthroat and House Wrens. Returning back through the woods we had super views of a pair of Altamira Orioles and John also saw a Black and White Warbler. Back by the visitor's centre and headquarters, we all had a drink and a snack after which we all enjoyed watching several Buff-bellied Hummingbirds as they fed on the blossoming trees. Taking a walk to Willow Lake we saw a very close Green Heron and then a Bronzed Cowbird although a Yellow-breasted Chat and Orange-crowned Warbler proved a bit difficult. Once at Willow Lake from the small hides there we enjoyed excellent views of American Avocet, Stilt Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitcher and several Least Sandpipers. At the edges of the reed bed were several Sora's and a Swamp Sparrow while in the bushes close to us we saw a very nice Nashville Warbler. In this wood there were a lot of butterflies around including Queens, Zebra, Pipevine Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtails. In the heat of the mid-afternoon we decided we would leave and head towards South Padre Island. We took an early evening meal at a nearby diner and then proceeded to a small reedy marsh for the last hour or so of light. On the first pool we looked at we found a white-morph Reddish Egret, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, several Least Sandpipers an American Golden Plover with a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers. As we then got to the boardwalks we watched two Orchard Orioles sat in a small bush and then continuing on we found an area of flattened reeds where we stood and waited. Here we had several extremely close views of Sora Rails, a Virginia Rail, two Clapper Rails and the not so showy but very noisy, King Rail. There were also a couple of Northern Waterthrushes and Swamp Sparrows to be seen. Looking towards the beach we watched as a couple of hundred Black Skimmers took to the air and then as the light started to fade, five Lesser Nighthawks flew around us and two Black-crowned Night Herons appeared. After this exciting spell with very close views of birds we then returned to our Motel.

Altamira Orioles

 

White-morph Reddish Egret



DAY 6 Saturday 8th April

 
We had our breakfast and then headed straight for Anzandulas Country Park. As we drove towards the Park the skies were black and it was raining very hard. By the time we actually arrived at the Park the rain had eased. We all got out and within minutes we were watching a Grey Hawk sat on its nest. Shortly after a Brown-crested Flycatcher was heard and then eventually seen on top of a tree. We looked beside the river and found a Green Kingfisher and then continuing on through the trees we found several Altamira Orioles and then heard and found a superb Rose-throated Becard which showed unbelievably well. We then heard a Tropical Parula singing and after a short while everyone had excellent views of this little gem. There were plenty of White-winged Doves around and at the back of the Park we found a Black Pheobe and several Ospreys. Just as we were about to leave we found the Rose-throated Becard again, two Tropical Parulas, two Nashville Warblers and a Black and White Warbler. We then left and drove towards McAllen calling in at the sewage farm. Here we found amongst the many Black-necked Stilts and dowitchers and immaculate Western Sandpiper stood alongside a couple of Semi-palmated Sandpipers. There were hundreds of Least Sandpipers as well as a Wilson's Phalarope, three Pectoral Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers and a White-faced Ibis. In the skies we watched a Black-winged Kite and a Coopers Hawk after which we then drove to our Motel at McAllen for lunch. Having eaten we decided to drive to Bentsen's State park stopping briefly for a group of six lark Sparrows. We soon arrived at the Park and were greeted by a couple of Plain Chachalacas. As we walked around the trailer park we also saw plenty of Green Jay and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers. We then heard the distinctive call of a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet and after a lot of searching and circling around we eventually pinned it down to a small bush where everyone got to see this tiny difficult flycatcher. After this we then moved on to an area where we were going to wait until dusk. With our telescopes trained on a hole in a dead tree we were then rewarded as the head of an Elf Owl popped out to look at us. A few minutes later and looking in a different direction we saw the head of an Eastern Screech-owl popping his head out of a hole. Both the male and female Elf Owl then flew out and as we watched the Screech-owl it also flew out but landed on a nearby branch where just a few of us managed to get a brief view of it. It was now dark and time to go.

Rose-throated Becard



DAY 7 Sunday 9th April

 

After an early breakfast we drove to Santa Ana for opening time. A brisk walk towards Pintail Lake was halted when we heard a Clay-coloured Robin singing. We soon found the bird and enjoyed excellent scope views of it sat in a tree beside a Scarlet Tanager and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird. Continuing on we to Pintail Lake we soon found the superb male singing Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, a very rare bird for Texas -it then promptly disappeared. After a half hour wait we found it again and this time everyone got absolutely stunning prolonged views down to just ten feet away. After watching a Water Snake swimming across the pond we then walked back. Luck was obviously on our side today as we then found two Hook-billed Kites flying over as well as a Grey Hawk. Heading back towards the headquarters through the wood we stopped for a White-eyed Vireo which we heard singing and whilst looking for this bird we found a Common Parauque which was sat right out in the open on the leaf litter, just a few feet away. Continuing back we then saw a Brown-crested Flycatcher and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird sat on a wire. Geoff then came up trumps with the sighting of a Groove-billed Ani which just dropped off the tree, as we were all about to look at it. After our lunch we returned back to this site where Nick had also heard at least one ani calling. As we waited a White-eyed Vireo showed very well while in the skies up to sixty Upland Sandpipers flew over in several flocks. Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks started to pass over and we also saw another Hook-billed Kite. We then decided to head towards Bentsen where we drove down a levy to look for Raptors. Apart from a few Swainson's Hawks it was fairly quiet so we then decided to try a fairly new reserve called Chihuahua Park. It was very hot here and again fairly quiet. A nice stick-insect was found a then later as we came out into a clearing, we heard a Cactus Wren calling. We also saw a couple of Black-chinned Hummingbirds and a Common Ground Dove was spotted. Everyone was now hot and tired so we decided to call it a day and returned to our Hotel.

Grey-crowned Yellowthroat

Common Parauque

 



DAY 8 Monday 10th April

 

An early start saw us arrive at Chepeno fairly early. We parked up and then walked down beside the river. A Green Kingfisher was spotted and then beside the river clearing, we found two Audubon's Orioles with one bird sitting out on a treetop right beside a Red-billed Pigeon. On the river two huge Ringed Kingfishers flew back and forth and a couple of Bullock's Orioles were seen. A single Ring-necked Duck was spotted on the river and then as I put some apples on a birdfeeder two Brown Jays were spotted briefly flying in, but most of us missed them. A Bewick's Wren was watched and could be heard singing and then two other tour groups arrived at the site. Thankfully we had timed it right as all the birds that we had seen in the previous hour had now vanished and could not be found at all. The day was warming up and we decided to leave. On route we stopped firstly for a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers beside the road and then later for an Ash-throated Flycatcher and a superb Cassin's Sparrow sat on a fence. A Cactus Wren that could be heard singing was soon tracked down and we watched it sat on top of a bush. At Falcon Dam we saw a Peregrine Falcon, Several Crested Caracara's, Swainson's Hawks and Ospreys while Ringed Kingfisher, a Hooded Oriole and a fly over by five White Pelicans was also good. At Falcon State Park most of the trailers had gone but driving around we found two Black-necked Grebes on the Lake, several Pyrrhuloxia, a very obliging Ash-throated Flycatcher and a couple of Greater Roadrunners including a young bird We then continued on to Zapata where we searched the edges of a small pool for White-collared Seedeater. We could hear a single bird calling but the briefest of views meant that we couldn't count it so we then tried San Ygnacio. We didn't find any seedeaters here but at least ten Yellow-headed Blackbirds were a good find! Happy with our view of these birds we then left and continued to our Motel.

Vermillion Flycatchers



DAY 9 Tuesday 11th April

 
After an early breakfast we were soon on our way north along Route 83 heading towards the Edwards Plateau. Birds seen on route included lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, several Swainson's and Harris Hawks plus Crested Caracaras. A stop for petrol produced twenty Brewers Blackbirds walking around the forecourt and then later, a quick stop for a Lesser Goldfinch sat on a fence also produced a Bell's Vireo, White-crowned Sparrows, Bullocks Oriole and House Finch, as well as five Wild Turkeys. Not too much further along the road again we stopped and here we picked up a brief Canyon Towhee then several Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, a lovely male Verdin and several superb Black-throated Sparrows. Next on the list was an Eastern Pheobe sat on a telegraph wire and then just before we got to Neal's Lodge a male Eastern Bluebird, a Spotted Towhee, lots of Chipping Sparrows and a couple of Nashville Warblers were seen. At Neal's Lodge we soon checked into our wooden cabins. Just outside the office Black-chinned Hummingbirds could be seen coming to a feeder while Carolina Chickadee's and two Hermit Thrushes hopped around our cabins. After then looking at several very close House Finches we decided to head across the road for a spot of lunch. With this cafŽ closed we decided to try a roadside cafŽ about a mile down the road. While we sat here ordering our lunch and having a drink we watched a very confiding Western Scrub Jay. There were also Baltimore Oriole and Hooded Oriole, Ash-throated Flycatcher and a few Black-chinned Hummingbirds as well as a nesting Bewick's Wren. After we had eaten we headed back to our cabins. We were soon out again and checking some local areas. Across the road beside the cafŽ that was closed, we watched lots of Black-chinned Hummingbirds very close giving us exceptional views. We also had Eastern Pheobe, and a lovely Summer Tanager as well as a bright green lizard. We then got on our bus and drove across the other side of the river to some other cabins where we checked the feeders beside Cabin 61. Here we had excellent views of White-eyed Vireo, Northern Cardinal, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a Spotted Towhee as well as Olive and Song Sparrows. It was not the best time of day for birds to come down to the feeders so we then drove back to the other side of the river where we then walked along it's edge. This superbly scenic area full of blue water lagoons was actually alive with birds. A Solitary Sandpiper sat on the edge of the river and a little further along we found a beautiful Prothonotary Warbler which showed very well. Patience then paid off as we then found at least three Yellow-throated Warblers, a Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Pheobe and a pair of Bushtits which kept coming back to their little ball shaped nest hanging from a tree. It was now later in the day and we decided to go back and try once again behind Cabin 61. Our timing was perfect, as when we arrived there were two superb Black-capped Vireos showing very well. These birds are often extremely skulky and often very hard to find. We then went across for our evening meal. A few quick arrangements were made and as soon as we had finished our meal we all jumped into the vehicle and drove a few kilometres to some private land and then headed up towards a bat cave. As we approached the area where we were to park, we could see a stream of what looked like smoke pouring out of the ground. It was in fact ‘bats'! We then walked up to within yards of the entrance of this underground cave. Everyone agreed that this was an absolutely magnificent spectacle as millions of Brazilian Free-tailed Bats emerged and just filled the skies. The underground caves here stretch for twenty-three miles and hold some seventeen million bats, so the spectacle of these coming out just went on and on for ages. Occasionally a Merlin or Red-tailed Hawk could be seen snatching an unfortunate bat from the sky. With millions of these little creatures still pouring out of the cave we then left and returned back to our cabins all happy that we had witnessed something never to be forgotten.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

Green lizard

Brazilian Free-tailed Bats

Brazilian Free-tailed Bats

 



DAY 10 Wednesday 12th April

 
A few of us had a pre-breakfast walk along the side of the river where we saw a Prothonotary Warbler and three Yellow-throated Warblers plus several Summer Tanagers and John and I also watched a Canyon Wren singing from the rock face. As we walked back to meet everyone else for breakfast, a group of thirty two Cedar Waxwings flew around and landed in a tree. After our hearty breakfast, we then went across the road to the feeders again behind Cabin 61. Here we saw a Spotted Towhee, Olive Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, a male Wilson's Warbler and then a male Black-capped Vireo. Leaving here we then decided to try once again on the other side of the river where we saw a Black Pheobe while still around the cabins were one or two Hermit Thrush. We packed up all of our luggage, got into the minibus and then drove towards Los Maples. A stop along the side of the road en-route produced a Canyon Towhee and a male Vermilion Flycatcher which showed beautifully as it gave a display flight. Continuing on we eventually arrived at Los Maples Park. Beside the headquarters we saw lots of House Finches, plus a couple of Pine Siskins and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. It was looking a bit drizzly so we decided to quickly drive to the back of the Park and walk towards the distant ponds. Because the weather was a bit dull and cool not many birds were singing, however a Canyon Wren could be heard and in one area of trees, we found lots of Nashville and Orange-crowned Warblers. Once we got to the ponds we found a Green Kingfisher and amongst a big flock of Chipping Sparrows we managed to find a few Clay-coloureds. A Bell's Vireo was seen and then Nick called us back because he had found a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler, the speciality of this area and a bird that breeds nowhere else in the world. As we walked back towards him we found one of our own and eventually we found about four of these stunningly beautiful and rare birds. As we watched these a huge flock of warblers then appeared mostly Nashvilles, Orange-crowned and Black and White as well as Bell's Vireo, Spotted Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrows. We then walked back and returned to our minibus for lunch. Afterwards we drove into the campground where an excellent find was a Porcupine sat in a hole on the rock face. On the ground we found lots of Chipping Sparrows and amongst them were several Clay-coloured and a Rufous-crowned. Two Western Scrub Jays were seen and then our best find was of a superb male Scott's Oriole singing from a bush. Another Golden-cheeked Warbler put in a brief appearance before we decided to leave the campsite and then drove back to the headquarters where we parked up and watched the birds coming down to the feeders. Black-chinned Hummingbirds were common as well as Inca Doves and Chipping Sparrows. As time went on a single male Indigo Bunting was then joined by several more and then just as we were about to leave a stunning male Lazuli Bunting came in and fed. This bird looked superb and made a excellent end to our day. We then left here and headed for our new Motel at Kerrville.  


DAY 11 Thursday 13th April

 
We left Kerrville after breakfast and headed on our long journey towards Houston and the coast. It took about five hours to drive but once we had got to out destination at Winnie we could relax and unpack. Our Motel was ideally based being only a short distance to High Island and the surrounding good areas. Later on we all got in the minbus and drove to High Island arriving at Boy Scouts Wood first. Beside the car park we watched several Blue Jays performing in some small trees and then we walked into the wood. Bright red Summer Tanagers were soon seen and it was not long before we came across a flock of Warblers. At least two male Cerulean Warblers showed well along with plenty of Tennessee, a Yellow-throated Vireo and two Blue-headed Vireos. By the area called the cathedral, which was a huge open area looking up into some trees we saw first a Least Flycatcher and then a Great-crested Flycatcher. Walking slowly amongst the wooded trails we soon found ourselves watching the first of at least six Kentucky Warblers. Geoff then spotted a very close Prothonotary Warbler while nearby in the undergrowth were lots of Wood, and Swainson's Thrushes. We then checked an open area of grass where we had tantalising views of a male Painted Bunting as it hid in the grass. Brown Thrasher's seemed to be everywhere while Yellow-breasted Chat and Ovenbird were only seen briefly. Back by the small drinking pool we all sat down and eagerly awaited the profusion of birds that would be coming down to drink. Firstly brightly coloured Scarlet and Summer Tanagers arrived as well as male Baltimore Orioles and Indigo Buntings. A Northern Waterthrush walked through the back of the pool and then we enjoyed a colourful procession of warblers including male Hooded, Blue-winged and Kentucky all drinking and bathing together. Before we left we decided to have a short walk out onto a grassy area where we saw at least six Green Herons and a few White-throated Sparrows after which we returned back to the vehicle and drove back to our Motel ready for an evening meal.  


DAY 12 Friday 14th April

 
We decided first to visit Boy Scouts Wood at High Island. A quick stop en-route beside a ploughed field found us a stunning adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron, several Little Blue Herons including a few white-phase birds, Snowy Egrets and a small group of Whimbrel. We then continued on to Boy Scout's Wood where birds were plentiful this morning. A male Cerulean Warbler showed well alongside many Tennessee's. A Blue-headed Vireo was spotted as well as Least Flycatcher and then Mick found a very close Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Prothonotary Warblers were extremely confiding as were Kentuckys. We then found another Painted Bunting, Great-crested Flycatcher, and then after a bit of searching through the woods a Worm-eating Warbler was seen by all. Much more difficult to see was a Swainson's Warbler we found, although John who was first on the scene, got to see it very well with me. We then left the wood as it quietened down and headed for Bolivar Flats. Our first stop was on the beach where beside the many Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants and Forster's Terns sat on a pier, we watched lots of Bottle-nosed Dolphins, and amazingly on the horizon, several whales could be seen breeching and spouting water from their blow holes. It was too far away to identify them but exciting all the same. Moving on to Bolivar we first stopped and looked at a group of Surf Scoters only a short distance off the beach. Further on another flock of sea ducks included Greater Scaup, Blue-winged Teal and American Wigeon. We then parked up and walked towards the thousands of shore birds that filled this entire bay. Wilson's Plovers showed very well and a line of roosting Piping Plovers were found. We had views of hundreds of Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Western Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Sandpipers and plovers, Willets, hundreds of American Avocets, Dowitchers, Brown Pelicans, egrets, gulls and terns. There was also Black Skimmer and several Horned Larks to be seen. We left the area and then drove to Bob's Road. We hadn't gone far before we found a group of seven Blue Grosbeaks alongside a Chestnut-sided Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo. In the small ditches there were also several Green Herons. On a nearby pool and amongst the Blue-winged Teals was a single Green-winged Teal and nearby a Solitary Sandpiper showed very well. Further along a good scattering of waders produced a Long-billed Dowitcher amongst hundreds of Laughing Gulls and we also saw both Sora and Clapper Rail. We then decided to go back and try Smith's Oak Woods. Here it was very quiet although we did see a Downy Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black and White Warbler and lots of Orchard Orioles. A quick decision was made and we decided to return to Boy Scout Wood. Once here, we again thrilled at the many warblers, thrushes and tanagers. I then found a skulking Swainson's Warbler which was actually bathing in a little tiny pool. By the time we had all got to it the bird had walked off deeper into the wood although we did get brief glimpses of it as well as Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush. We then returned back towards the Motel making a quick stop beside the road bridge so that everyone could see Boat-tailed Grackle. At the evening meal and the log call incredibly we had amassed a list of 134 species for the day.  


DAY 13 Saturday 15th April

 
After breakfast we headed straight to Anahuac Wildlife Reserve. Lots of Eastern Kingbirds were seen en-route and once we arrive there we drove straight out and around Shovelar Pond. A Purple Gallinule was seen and then from a lookout tower we saw a Marsh Wren, several Least Bitterns, lots of Blue-winged Teals, three Fulvous Whistling Ducks, also Green Heron and Sora Rail. As we continued slowly around the pond we saw a total of fourteen Least Bittern, another Sora, lots of alligators and a few Northern Harriers. Back at the reserve headquarters we enjoyed some hot coffee and watched a Spotted Sandpiper on the pool. We then returned towards High Island stopping at a wet field full of shore birds. Up to seven Pectoral Sandpipers were seen, American Golden Plover, lots of Whimbrels, Yellowlegs and Willets. In the distance hundreds of White-faced and White Ibis were seen and a Coopers Hawk flew through. At High Island it was rather crowded because of the weekend. We had some lunch and then while John and Joan stayed at Boy Scout Wood to look at the birds coming down to drink, the rest of us headed back to Anahuac where we had got invited to an impromptu Yellow Rail walk. While waiting to meet the head ranger, Geoff spotted an American Nighthawk flying over and we all enjoyed good daylight views of this bird. We then had a brief talk by the Ranger about the Park and Yellow Rail management before we headed out to the prairie. Once there, we let George, Geoff and John watch from the edges while the rest of us walked out on an area of wet marsh. No sooner than we had started a Yellow Rail flew out from under our feet in front of us. We then left this bird and walked in a different direction. Quite a few Sedge Wrens were seen and the odd Seaside Sparrow. We then saw another Yellow Rail before returning back to the others who had also seen all the birds. All back into the min-bus we then headed back to High Island to meet Joan and John. Perfectly timed we arrived at Boy Scout's Wood just as a fall of birds had started. A Northern Parula was drinking at the pool alongside Prothonotary, Kentucky, Blue-winged, four Northern Waterthrush's and a Hooded Warbler. Also coming down to drink was Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, a Grey Catbird and a Swainson's Thrush. We then added Chestnut-sided Warbler to our list, but the highlight was a superb Lawrence's Warbler that showed well to everyone. Leaving here we then drove the short distance to Yacht Basin Road and the Bolivar Pennisular. We had good views of Clapper Rail and Marsh Wren, but then decided to go back to Boy Scout's Wood for the final few hours. As ever it was the best time of day, with most people gone we enjoyed unbelievable close views of most species. Only a few feet away from us was a Worm-eating Warbler and Ovenbird, while Kentucky warblers almost walked over our feet. The finale came when I took a look back at the small pool where we had seen the Swainson's Warbler yesterday and found it there bathing again very close. After this we then left and returned to our Motel.  


DAY 14 Sunday 16th April

 
We decided to try something different today so we headed north after an early breakfast to the big thicket country. En-route we passed several Broad-winged Hawks and Eastern Bluebirds sat on telegraph wires. Once at our site, we got out and walked along a dirt track for several hundred metres. Nick heard a Red-headed Woodpecker calling and we soon found a pair of these beautiful birds sat on top of a dead tree. Further along we saw a Yellow-breasted Chat plus several Pine Warblers that were heard singing and then scoped for everyone to see. Our target bird was also heard but try as we may; not seen. As we were about to return another was heard and eventually we found it, a Bachman's Sparrow which was singing from the top of a small tree allowing all of us to watch it. We then left stopping to look at yet another Yellow-breasted Chat and several bluebirds before arriving at Tyrrell Park for our lunch. We stopped beside a picnic table and in a nearby puddle watched an adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron. As we ate, a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers showed well and then after our picnic lunch we headed to the other side of the Park to Cattail Marsh. Here we found two confiding Fish Crows giving their distinctive calls. Alongside the pools here we found up to twenty Sora Rails plus three Least Bitterns. There were White-faced Ibis and a superb Roseate Spoonbill plus two Black-crowned Night Herons and a good selection of waders and ducks. On our return walk we had very close views of a Blue Grosbeak while Geoff had also been watching a Virginia Rail. It was now mid afternoon and the lure of Boy Scout's Wood called so we left the big thicket country and headed back and arrived there about 3.30pm. Once again perfect timing as nothing much had been happening prior to our arrival. We then enjoyed the spectacle of watching the drinking pool in perfect light as firstly a male American Redstart came down followed by a Yellow Warbler and then a Golden-winged Warbler. Up to five Northern Waterthrush's were there as well as a Blue-winged Warbler, Worm-eating, Tennessee, Hooded, Kentucky, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, lots of Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Indigo Bunting and the superb Painted Bunting. Walking around we also found two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds another Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and Warbling Vireos, an Arcadian Flycatcher plus several Brown Thrashers and Wood Thrush's. We then decided to try our luck at Smiths Oaks. It wasn't long before we found hundreds of Indigo Buntings in the grass. Joan then found a lovely Yellow-billed Cuckoo which showed very well and then as we watched, the treetops became alive with birds as a wave of species passed through. There were up to fifty orioles, both Baltimore and Orchard, lots of Eastern Kingbirds, Scarlet Tanagers, Blue Grosbeaks, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, a few vireos and warblers and now over a hundred Indigo Buntings were sat in the bushes making it look like Christmas. We decided to leave here and spend the last hour at Anahuac where we drove slowly around Shovelar Pond. Several views of Least Bitterns were had and from the platform overlooking the lake, we saw two Black-crowned Night Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, lots of Blue-winged Teals, Fulvous Whistling Duck and some Short-billed Dowitchers. Continuing on a male Northern Harrier was seen and then Linda spotted the bird we had been looking for beside the track. We could only see the head of it so we drove just around the corner and looked back and there stood on the bank, was an excellent American Bittern. We got the telescopes out and had wonderful views of it as it hunted along the grassy bank. Content and happy at finding this bird we headed back for an evening meal where tonight John tried out alligator which was on the menu.  


DAY 15 Monday 17th April

 

Up early again this morning we drove straight to Yacht Basin Road. We got out of the minibus and immediately found the birds we were looking for. Up to six Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows. These birds, although very elusive, did come out on to the grass and sat for all of us to see. We also had excellent views of Seaside Sparrow and Clapper Rail before heading for the nearby restaurant for our breakfast. After we had eaten we drove to Boy Scout's Wood for our final look. It was exceptionally quiet and after yesterday's fall the only real bird of note was seen by Linda, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Finishing off here we drove back to our Motel, packed our luggage and then headed for Houston airport and our flight back to the UK. The plane left on time and so ended a spectacular tour of Texas where we saw a total of 293 species of birds!

An excellent tour with some excellent birds seen including everything that we had hoped for. Myself and Nick would just like to thank everyone for making this tour such a pleasure to lead.
Steve Bird 

For a complete Birdlist, Follow this link for the 96K Adobe Acrobat PDF document.

 

 

 
 

birdseekers photos