South Texas

  1. 2019
    Tuesday, February 12, 2019 to Wednesday, February 20, 2019
    Tour Duration: 
    9 days
    Tour Price:
     $3,125 CAD, $2,350 USD
    Single Supplement:
     $695 CAD, $525 USD
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    Corpus Christi / McAllen
    Number of Persons Limit: 
    12
Reviews
Highlights

• Wonderful, often easy, birding!

• Boat trip for Whooping Cranes and other wading birds

• Lots of Mexican specialties that are located nowhere else in the United States

• Excellent reserves and birding areas

 

Overview

February is a fine time for a birding tour in south Texas. Resident species are starting to nest, and some choice species are here before setting off for the north. Wading birds along the coastal lagoons will include Whooping Cranes alongside stunning Roseate Spoonbills and Reddish Egrets. There are the southern Texas specialties – Tropical Parula, Green Jay, Clay-colored Robin, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles, Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Hook-billed Kite, and we look for Brown Jay and Morelet’s Seedeater up the valley, and Aplomado Falcon towards South Padre Island. Our route will take us from Corpus Christi to Rockport, then down to the Rio Grande Valley where we will explore the sub-tropical preserves of Sable Palms Frontera Audubon Thicket, Bentsen State Park and superb Santa Ana NWR, and then up the valley to the riparian zone sanctuaries of Salineño, Chapeno, and the Chihuahuan Desert habitat of Falcon State Park, the later location being an excellent location for arid country species like Vermillion Flycatcher, Greater Roadrunner and Black-throated Sparrow. 

Itinerary View Short Itinerary

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 will bird around Corpus Christie and will work our way north towards Rockport. We’ll start out at Hazel Bazemore Park, an excellent first taste of south Texas with good numbers of wintering raptors and songbirds, andwe should start seeing our first subtropical Mexican species like Great Kiskadee and Olive Sparrow. Both Goose Island State Park and the peninsula on the north side of Copano Bay have a wide diversity of coastal habitats in close proximity, making possible an impressive array of ducks and waders and we will have our first introduction to shorebirds such as American Oystercatcher, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt and Piping Plover. 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, Port Aransas and south to Brownsville

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. There should be several family groups of Whooping Cranes present, and we will take our time admiring this impressive bird. After lunch we leave Rockport and set off for the lower Rio Grande valley, passing through the King Ranch and keeping an eye out for interesting raptors like Harris Hawk and White-tailed Kite as well as for flocks of Snow and Rosss Geese.  Night in Brownsville. 

Day 4 – South Padre Island

Today 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, egrets and other waterbirds such as Mottled Duck, Least Grebe, and Sora & Clapper Rails. We then visit night-time roosts for several species of parrots, including Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets, both AOU “countables”. Night in 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, Plain Chachalaca, and Least Grebe and possible rarities such as Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. Weslaco’s Frontera Audubon Thicket frequently has exciting overwintering species like Golden-crowned Warbler or even on rare occasions Crimson-collared Grosbeak. We will be spending some time exploring the fabulous Estero Llano State Park, This will probably be our best chance for seeing Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Clay-colored Robin as well as rarities seen in recent years on this tour include great looks at Tropical Parula and Rose-throated Becard! Santa Ana NWR with its unique blend of habitats always lends itself to exceptional birding. Altamira Oriole and 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. The famed Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park is an excellent location to see Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Clay-colored Robin and many other Rio Grande specialties. Bentsen is well known for the occurrence of rarities like Blue Bunting 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). Nights in McAllen/Mission.

Day 8 – Salineno, Chapeno and Falcon Dam area

We leave the McAllen/Mission area early and will first head for Salineno. This small patch of riparian habitat managed by the USFWS is one of the birdiest places we’ll visit on this tour, with great photographic opportunites at the feeding station . Some of the specialties here include Ringed Kingfisher, Zone-tailed Hawk and Audubon’s Oriole and rarities like Morelet’s Seedeater (formerly known as White-collared), Red-billed Pigeon and Muscovy Duck. Some winters Brown Jay will appear, having become incredibly scarce in its restricted U.S. range. After a delightful morning at Salineno, we’ll head up into Falcon State Park try to find dry-country species such as Greater Roadrunner, Cactus Wren, Pyrrhuloxia and various species of desert-loving sparrows.  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.

 

Map
Featured Wildlife
Reviews

"One of our best trips ever! Great variety of habitats and birds. Organized wiht knowledgeable and attentive leaders." - 2017 tour participant

"The trip was beautifully organized with comfortable vans and incredibly knowledgeable guides. The hotels were comfortable, with all the room amenities one would expect, plus business offices and small shops. Breakfasts were, to my appetite, huge -setting us up for the very full birding day ahead. The other guests on the tour were friendly and knowledgeable as well. A few of us were less able than the others, and were accommodated with a stool to get into and out of the vans, guides waiting for us when we fell behind, and guides always trying to ensure that each person saw each bird well. The boat trip was incredible - Guide Skye said that we saw 33 whooping cranes. Two of them were only about 50 feet from the boat. I scored 60 new species and my husband got 74! This was our first trip of this kind and we would dearly love to go again and again. Eagle Eye Tours did a wonderful job which we could never even have dreamed of doing on our own." - 2017 Participant

"The food was good to great. The birds were incredible. The leaders were amazing. The vans were comfortable." - 2017 tour participant

"A great tour of South Texas birding. Expert, enthusiastic guides constantly worked to find new birds." - 2017 tour participant

"Wonderful trip. Saw almost all the birds I wanted. Many new birds. Boat ride was great to see many Whooping Cranes and Mute Swans." - 2017 Tour participant