Day 1 - Arrival in Houston and spend night at hotel near airport.
Day 2 - This morning we'll make our way north of Houston to the 'Pineywoods' area. Here, we will investigate a tract of Loblolly Pines home to several range restricted species, including the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Other woodpecker species to keep an eye open for today include Red-headed, Red-bellied, Pileated and Downy. These pine forests are home to the tiny Brown-headed Nuthatch, as well as Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Bluebird, Summer Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow-throated Vireo to name just a few species.
To finish off the day we'll stroll around the Cypress Boardwalk at Jesse Jones Nature Park, where swamp residents like the stunning Prothonotary Warbler, tiny Northern Parulas and Barred Owls can be found. With any luck other migrants will be about with the likes of Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush and Broad-winged Hawk all possibilities. Night in Houston.
Day 3 - After breakfast we'll leave Houston and travel south towards the Gulf of Mexico, spending a good part of our morning exploring the world famous Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. This large refuge comprises a network of marsh habitats, excellent for birding. In the reeds we'll search for elusive American and Least bitterns, as well as King Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, Purple Gallinule and Common Yellowthroat. Shorebirds can be numerous at Anahuac and we'll hope for highlights including Hudsonian Godwit, Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Whimbrel, amongst a possible 20 species of shorebirds. The ponds of Anahuac are home to herons and other waders such as Tricolored Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, White-faced Ibis and possible Glossy Ibis. Open fields surrounding Anahuac provide habitat for birds like the gorgeous Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, as well as Dickcissel, White-tailed Kite, Swainson's Hawk, Common Nighthawk, and Loggerhead Shrike. In addition to birds, we should see several American Alligators that call this area home.
This afternoon we'll make our way to High Island, a salt-dome that is 30 feet higher than the surrounding plains. Groves of trees at High Island can attract epic numbers of migrating birds as they make landfall after crossing the Gulf of Mexico. It is possible to find 20 or more species of warblers here on a good day, with potential highlights including Cerulean Warbler, Swainson's Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Canada Warbler and Bay-breasted Warbler, to name just a few. In addition to the warblers other migrants to watch out for include Black-billed Cuckoo, the stunning Painted Bunting, Philadelphia Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore and Orchard orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Night in Winnie.
Day 4 - Our travels will take us to the Bolivar Peninsula this morning, an area fantastic for a wide range of coastal species. Shorebirds are the main attraction here, with sandy beaches home to up to 7 species of plovers; Piping, Snowy, Semipalmated, Wilson's, Black-bellied, Killdeer and American Golden Plover. Common will be Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Willet and Marbled Godwits, and amongst them we'll look for less common species such as the declining Red Knot, Long-billed Curlew, Baird's Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper. American Avocets can be abundant here, with up to 10,000 birds wintering in the area. Though many may have already left for the north, there should still be impressive numbers of avocets about. The beaches of Bolivar are excellent for Reddish Egrets, and we'll hope to see them doing their 'drunken sailor' dance in the shallows. Terns are common here and we expect Forster's, Royal, Caspian, Least, Black, Sandwich, Common and Gull-billed terns, as well as flocks of Black Skimmers. In marshy areas we'll look for lingering winter residents such as Nelson's Sparrow and Le Conte's sparrow, and we should get great views of Clapper Rails.
After what promises to be a fantastic morning of birding we will return to the High Island area this afternoon to see what new migrants might be about. Additions to the warbler list could include Magnolia, Nashville, Cape May, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Green, Wilson's, and Tennessee warblers, as well as American Redstart, Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush. Scanning the forest floor may produce ground-dwellers like Gray-cheeked Thrush, Brown Thrasher, and the rather numerous Gray Catbird. We will watch the drips that often attract birds, especially on warm sunny days. We hope for a little weather however, since storms can bring in even higher numbers of migrant birds. This evening, after dinner, we may make a journey out to a local bayou home to Barred Owls and possible Eastern Screech-Owls. Night in Winnie.
Day 5 - From Winnie we'll head east this morning, almost to the Louisiana border, where we will explore the Sabine Pass area. Along the way we'll spend an hour or so at Taylors Bayou, a lovely area where towering Cypress trees draped in Spanish Moss line the banks of the slow moving water way. Here, we'll hope to find nesting Yellow-throated Warblers, as well as more Prothonotary Warblers. Acadian Flycatcher can be common here, along with Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jay, and Great Crested Flycatcher. Once we make it to Sabine Pass, we will explore marshes where Seaside Sparrows can be found, and we should get even more views of Clapper Rail and perhaps Sora. Fish Crows call this area home, so we will have to check through any crows we see, and hope they call to reveal their identity. This area is also good for shorebirds, especially the attractive American Oystercatcher. Some days, if the winds are blowing just right, one can find Magnificent Frigatebirds over the pass, along with flocks of Laughing Gulls, and terns.
After lunch we'll make our way to Sabine Woods, which, like High Island, attracts a plethora of migrant species tired from their gulf crossing. Just a few of the many potential birds species we could encounter at Sabine Woods include Veery, Least Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue Grosbeak, Blue-winged and Golden-winged warblers, roosting Common Nighthawks, and if we were really lucky a roosting Chuck-will's-Widow. Night in Winnie.
Days 6 & 7 - We now have two days to explore areas we would like to have another look at, so whether it be Bolivar Flats or Anahuac NWR, we should pick up some new species. On Day 7, we will make our way back to Houston in the mid-afternoon, where our tour of the Upper Coast will conclude.