April 18 - Group arrival in Houston.
April 19 - Today we'll visit the pineywoods region north of Houston. Amongst the Loblolly and Longleaf pines we will look for a number of species that we won't see elsewhere on this tour. Woodpeckers are of real interest here, and we will give special attention to locating the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, in addition to other species like Pileated, Red-headed, Red-bellied and Downy woodpeckers. Another target species here is the Brown-headed Nuthatch, a resident of pine forests of the southeastern U.S. Warblers, such as Prothonotary, Pine, Hooded, Kentucky and Black-and-white are possible today, as are Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, White-eyed Vireo and gorgeous Summer Tanagers. If the weather cooperates we may see migrating raptors such as Mississippi Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite and Broad-winged Hawk. Night in Houston.
April 20 - This morning we'll leave Houston and travel towards the Gulf Coast, beginning with a visit to the famous Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. As we make our way towards the refuge, we'll watch roadside fence lines for stunning Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Dickcissels, Eastern Meadowlarks and Northern Bobwhite. Flooded rice fields in this area can produce a great assortment of shorebirds with the likes of Hudsonian Godwit, Willet, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Wilson's Phalarope all possible. At Anahuac we'll explore freshwater wetlands home to colorful Purple Gallinules, cryptic Least Bitterns, and boisterous Boat-tailed Grackles. In amongst the flocks of White-faced Ibis, we'll search for the locally uncommon Glossy Ibis. Other wading birds to be found here include Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Snowy Egret and perhaps the Roseate Spoonbill. Anahuac is great for rails and we could see Soras, Virginia Rail and King Rail here.
After our visit to Anahuac, we'll make our way to one of North America's best known migration hotspots, High Island. Not an island at all, but rather a slightly elevated bit of land covered in trees next to the Gulf Coast, High Island attracts great numbers of migrating birds during spring migration. As the birds make their way over the Gulf the first bit of habitat they encounter is along the Texas Coast at places like High Island. If conditions are just right, one can rack up an impressive list of migrants in an afternoon of birding in this area. Warblers can be plentiful and can include species like Blackburnian, Cerulean, Worm-eating, Black-throated Green, Swainson's, Hooded, Kentucky, Cape May, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted and many other species as well. Not only warblers are to be expected, but other migrants stop here too, such as Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore and Orchard orioles, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and the glamourous Painted Bunting. Walking the trails at High Island can be like a child's Christmas morning, with new treasures awaiting around every corner! Night in Winnie.
April 21 - This morning we'll visit Sabine Pass and Texas Point, along the Louisiana border. We will get our first taste of birding along the coast, with a chance to see Royal, Least and other terns, Black Skimmer, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Neotropic Cormorants and a good selection of shorebirds such as Ruddy Turnstone, American Oystercatcher and Wilson's Plover. In the coastal wetlands here, we'll search for Seaside Sparrows, Clapper Rails, Sedge Wrens and much more.
In the afternoon we'll head for another of the famous migrant traps along the coast, Sabine Woods. Many of the same species we could find at High Island can also be found here, in addition to many other birds. Gray Catbirds are abundant here, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks can be common. Along the edge of the ponds we could see Louisiana and Northern waterthrushes, while skulking in the underbrush can be Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Brown Thrasher and Ovenbird. We'll watch 'the drip' to see what comes in to drink. Perhaps we'll be rewarded with a Golden-winged Warbler or a Philadelphia Vireo. One never knows what will show up in these coastal migrant traps and sometimes a rarity shows up. What will it be this year? A Black-whiskered Vireo? A Tropical Mockingbird? Both of those species have been tallied in previous years by Avocet Tours groups at Sabine Woods. Night in Winnie.
April 22 - A visit to the Bolivar Peninsula is on the agenda this morning. At Rollover Pass, hundreds, perhaps thousands of birds, are usually present. There are masses of wading birds here such as Reddish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, American White Pelicans and Little Blue Herons. Shorebirds are numerous and include Black-bellied Plover, Red Knot, Sanderling, American Avocet and Marbled Godwit to name a few species. Gulls and terns are numerous and we usually see Sandwich Tern, Black Tern, Common Tern, Forster's Tern and loads of Black Skimmers here. The sheer number of birds at Rollover Pass is quite impressive. As we head west along the Bolivar Peninsula, we'll stop at Bolivar Flats, a world-renowned location for migrating shorebirds. The beaches here are home to Piping, Snowy, Wilson's and Semipalmated plovers, all of which can often be seen side by side. Large gatherings of American Avocets often number into the thousands here, while little pools on the beach are often buzzing with Semipalmated, Western, and Least sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and the like. Occasionally Long-billed Curlews probe into the sand for food at Bolivar Flats. Out on the waters of the Gulf we often see ducks such as Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, scoters, and on our 2017 trip, a Long-tailed Duck. Following offshore fishing boats are flocks of gulls that are often accompanied by giant Magnificent Frigatebirds. Scanning the horizon may yield a Northern Gannet. Along the edge of the beach, Horned Larks often scurry along, while raptors like White-tailed Kite and Northern Harrier are often seen patrolling the grassy areas.
After our coastal experience we'll make a return visit to High Island to see what sort of migrants we can pick up this afternoon. Black-billed Cuckoo, Veery, Blue-headed Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Indigo Bunting and Eastern Wood-Pewee perhaps will be added to the list, if we haven't already seen them. We'll check out the heronry today, where hundreds of egrets, herons, spoonbills and cormorants nest. This spectacle impressive and worthy of many photographs. This evening we may visit a bayou not far from Winnie where Barred Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl are known to reside. Night in Winnie.
April 23 - Our first port of call will be Taylor Bayou. Here, amongst the spanish moss draped cypress trees, we'll search for bird like Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated Warbler, Fish Crow, Anhinga, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and more. If we have yet to see Swainson's Warbler and Prairie Warbler, we'll continue on to the southern end of the Big Thicket, a forest area excellent for these and other species. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak and Yellow-billed Cuckoo are also fairly regular here. In the afternoon, we'll make a return visit to Sabine Woods, with high hopes of adding more migrants to our already bulging list. Night in Winnie.
April 24 - Much of this morning is a travel day, as we make our way from Winnie to Harlingen in the Rio Grande Valley. As we near the valley, we'll stop to stretch our legs at a roadside reststop where we should get our first views of the tantalizing Green Jay, as well as other species such as Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse, Hooded Oriole and more. If we get into Harlingen with enough time to spare, we'll visit Hugh Ramsey Nature Park. Trails and feeders here are home to many of the Rio Grande specialties such as Altamira Oriole, Plain Chachalaca, Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Great Kiskadee. Night in Harlingen.
April 25 - Today we plan on visiting Laguna Atascosa NWR, where we will walk the trails in search of more Rio Grande specialties. These could include Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Tropical Parula, and roosting Common Pauraque. This area is excellent for Greater Roadrunners, and with some luck we may see the elusive Northern Bobwhite. Some exciting raptors call this area home, including White-tailed Kite, White-tailed Hawk and the Aplomado Falcon to name a few species.
In the afternoon we'll head for South Padre Island, where a boardwalk through coastal mangroves and mudflats can provide some excellent birding. Shorebirds can be plentiful, as can herons and egrets, skimmers and with some luck Clapper Rails. The mangroves can hold some exciting migrant passerines here as well. Birds along the boardwalk can be quite confiding and this is a favorite area with those toting cameras. Night in Harlingen.
April 26 - A morning visit to Sabal Palms Sanctuary in Brownsville is on the agenda. Here, in the subtropical forest we'll look for Clay-colored Thrushes, Gray Hawk, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and much more. The wetland area at Sabal Palms is excellent for the Least Grebe, as well as Mottled Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and other waterfowl.
From Brownsville we will head west through the valley towards McAllen, stopping along the way at Estero Llano Grande State Park. Here, many more opportunities to see the Rio Grande specialities exist as the park has feeders, wetlands and mesquite woodland. Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, a tiny flycatcher, whose name is longer that he is, can be found here, and this is another excellent location at which to look for roosting Common Pauraque. Feeders host Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
After dinner this evening we'll head out into residential McAllen to look for parrots as they come in to roost at dusk. The two species, which are countable in the ABA that we will look for are Red-crowned Parrot and Green Parakeet. After dinner we can go look for Elf Owl at Bentsen State Park. We should also hear Pauraque, Whip-poor-will, Chuck-will's-Widow and Lesser Nighthawk! Night in McAllen.
April 27 - We'll spend the morning exploring the Santa Ana NWR. We'll check farm fields on the way to the refuge where we have seen Burrowing Owls in the past. The feeders at the headquarters are good for Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, White-tipped Dove, Olive Sparrow, Inca Dove and more. Trails through the refuge are home to Verdin, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Great Kiskadee, Couch's Kingbird, Groove-blled Ani, Tropical Parula and Clay-colored Thrush. Raptor migration can be impressive over Santa Ana, with numbers of kites, Swainson's and Broad-winged hawks and if we're really lucky, a Hook-billed Kite sailing over. Ponds and wetlands provide habitat for the tiny Green Kingfisher as well as its much larger cousin the Ringed Kingfisher.
This afternoon we'll continue west through the valley to Rio Grande City, perhaps stopping in at Anzalduas County Park if there are any interesting sightings about. Night at Rio Grande City.
April 28 - We'll begin our morning bright and early along the banks of the Rio Grande at Salineno. This area is excellent for a couple of hard to get species including Audubon's Oriole and Red-billed Pigeon. The banks of the river are also quite good for Ringed and Green kingfishers if we haven't already seen them. Sometimes, tiny White-collared Seedeaters can be found in the grasses along the river, while Cassin's Sparrows sing their sweet songs from the drier grassland habitat nearby. After exploring Salineno, we'll head for Falcon State Park. This area provides us with the chance to see some dry country species such as Black-throated Sparrow, Bewick's Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Scaled Quail, Curve-billed Thrasher and Pyrrhuloxia. We'll begin our drive back towards Houston this afternoon, crossing some arid country excellent for raptors including Crested Caracara and Harris's Hawk. Night in Victoria.
April 29 - From Victoria we'll return to Houston, pausing along the way to see if we can add Monk Parakeet to the list. Tour will conclude this afternoon in Houston.