Day 1 – Arrival
Our South Texas birding tour begins when we meet to go to dinner together in the hotel lobby at 6:30 p.m. (participants arriving early can enjoy a walk down the beach). Night in Corpus Christi.
Day 2 – North to Rockport
After breakfast, we bird our way north towards Rockport, making a couple of stops along the way for raptors, ducks, shorebirds and wading birds. Both Goose Island State Park and the peninsula on the north side of Copano Bay have a wide diversity of habitats in close proximity, making possible an impressive array of species. We make an effort to locate grassland and marsh sparrows such as Seaside, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed and Le Conte’s, and we will have our first introduction to shorebirds such as American Oystercatcher. Goose Island is also the home of a huge live oak known simply as “the Big Tree" and we have a good chance of finding Whooping Cranes here. Our tally at day’s end will be impressive. Night in Rockport/Fulton.
Day 3 – Boat Trip on Intercoastal Waterway
After breakfast we head for the docks in Rockport where we take a boat trip along the shallow Intracoastal Waterway, encountering a wealth of coastal species, from Brown and White Pelicans and Black Skimmers to Roseate Spoonbills, herons and egrets including Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron and Reddish Egret. Although most Whooping Cranes leave during the first week of April, there should be several family groups present, and we will take our time admiring this impressive bird. After lunch we leave Rockport and take the ferry across to Port Aransas. There are several excellent birding spots in Port Aransas; Paradise Pond, Port Aransas Bird Center and Wetland Park. These freshwater ponds support a diversity of birds, including Mottled Duck, Sora, Least and American Bitterns, Least Grebe, and many shorebirds including Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets, waterfowl that may include Fulvous Whistling-duck, and we should be encountering southern Texas specialties such as Great Kiskadee and Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Heading down Mustang Island we make stops to look for Snowy, Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, Sandwich Terns and whatever else may be on the beach. Night in Kingsville area.
Day 4 – King Ranch and South Padre Island
We set off for the lower Rio Grande valley, passing through the King Ranch and stopping when we spot interesting birds. Arriving in Harlingen, we drive east to Port Isabel and South Padre Island. Our main target species here is Aplomado Falcon, and we have a good chance of finding this exquisite raptor. We should also encounter several species of terns, shorebirds including Stilt Sandpiper and Marbled Godwit, herons and egrets including Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, and perhaps Clapper Rail. We then visit night-time roosts for several species of parrots, including Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets, both AOU “countables”. Night in Harlingen or Brownsville.
Days 5, 6 and 7 – The Lower Rio Grande River
We spend these three days in the Lower Rio Grande valley, visiting a wealth of superb wildlife sites. Sabal Palm Sanctuary, the southernmost point in Texas, is a unique sanctuary in that it is a remnant of the last standing Sabal Palm forest. Here we have a good chance for Buff-bellied Hummingbird, some interesting waterfowl, grebes including Least, and possible rarities such as Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. Weslaco’s Frontera Audubon Thicket and Estero Llano Grande frequently have exciting overwintering species. Santa Ana NWR with its unique blend of habitats always lends itself to exceptional birding. Altamira Oriole and Tropical Parula can usually be found, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet occur here, Ringed and Green Kingfishers are possible, many waterbirds and ducks inhabit Willow Lake, and there is a good chance of Hook-billed Kite or some even rarer species. This will probably be our best chance for seeing Buff-bellied Hummingbird. The famed Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park is an excellent location to see Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Altamira Oriole and many other Rio Grande specialties. Bentsen is well known for the occurrence of rarities like Blue Bunting, Clay-colored Robin and Gray Hawk, and a night-time visit could turn up Common Pauraque. Should we hear of any rare “South Texas Specialties” in the area, then we will adjust our itinerary accordingly. We have an option of visiting the Brownsville dump to look for Tamaulipas Crow, should there be reports that the crows are still present (absent in 2014 and 2015), and sewage lagoons if shorebirds are gathering there. Nights in McAllen/Mission.
Day 8 – Salineno, Chapeno and Falcon Dam area
We leave the McAllen/Mission area and will first try to find dry-country species such as Greater Roadrunner, sparrows and Pyrrhuloxia. We then head for Salineno, where we have an excellent chance at Ringed and Green Kingfishers and Audubon’s Oriole, and then continue to Chapeno for an attempt to find Brown Jay, becoming increasingly uncommon in its restricted U.S. range, along with Muscovy Duck and the elusive Red-billed Pigeon, which could dart along the river at any time. We then drive back to McAllen. Night in McAllen/Mission.
Day 9 – Departure
Our South Texas birding tour concludes in McAllen. Breakfast is available, but you can depart anytime today for flights home.