Day 1 - Arrival in Houston and drive approx 1.5 hrs to Rosenberg to spend night.
Day 2 - We will spend a couple of hours at Brazos Bend State Park this morning. This is a fantastic location to see wading birds like White Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, American and Least bitterns and Anhinga. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are usually found here, along with Pied-billed Grebes, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks and Blue-winged Teal. Birds of the 'East Texas' habitats can be found here as well, such as Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and Boat-tailed Grackle. Wintering mixed flocks may include Blue-headed Vireos, Palm Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and more. This afternoon we will drive down the coast to Rockport / Fulton where we will spend the night. On the way we'll watch fields for Sandhill Cranes and flocks of Snow Geese. If we find such a flock of Snow Geese, we will see if we can pick out any Ross's Geese mixed in. Night in Rockport.
Day 3 - This morning we will enjoy a boat trip into the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Our main target is to get good views and photos of the rare and endangered Whooping Cranes. Much of the wild Whooping Crane population spend the winter along the Texas Gulf Coast, especially at the Aransas NWR, so as long as the weather cooperates, we have a very good chance to find the cranes. Other birds to watch for include Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, American Oystercatchers, Long-billed Curlews, Clapper Rails and Osprey. We often see Bottlenose Dolphins on the boat excursion this morning.
In the afternoon, we'll drive south towards the Rio Grande Valley and our base for the next few days, Harlingen. On the way, we'll pause in Corpus Christi to scan the beaches and lagoons for shorebirds like Piping, Snowy and Wilson's plovers, American Avocets and more. Black Skimmers, and various terns and gulls are possible here as well.
A quick stop at a rest stop south of Sarita should yield our first 'Rio Grande specialty' birds like Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker.
Day 4 - Much of day to be spent at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. As we make our way to the refuge, we'll keep our eyes open for Greater Roadrunners and White-tailed Kites, as well as other species. At the refuge we'll watch some feeding stations and water features where birds like Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Bronzed Cowbird, Northern Cardinal, Green Jay and Plain Chachalacas can be seen and often photographed at close range. Further explorations of trails in the park should yield birds like Verdin, White-eyed Vireo, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed woodpeckers, Altamira Oriole and Great Kiskadee can be seen. We'll scan a large lake where birds like Redheads and various other ducks can be found, in addition to terns, herons and egrets. If there have been recent sightings we can look for Aplomado Falcon near Port Isabel. Other raptors to watch for include White-tailed Hawk, Harris's Hawk and Crested Caracara.
Later on in the day, if time permits, we can visit another local park in Harlingen where we might find Green Kingfisher, Tropical Kingbird, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and more.
Day 5 - We will head south today and explore Sabal Palms Sanctuary in Brownsville. This lovely piece of habitat is home to many birds, some that we will see regularly throughout the tour, like Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, and Plain Chachalaca. The ponds here are great for Least Grebes, as well as kingfishers like Green and if we're lucky Ringed. Great Horned Owl can often be found roosting in trees in the park, and occasionally rarities show up. Feeders sometimes attract Clay-colored Thrush.
We'll then drive over to South Padre Island, stopping along the way to check a lagoon and boat launch excellent for waterbirds. We often see a variety of shorebirds here like Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, Piping, Snowy and Wilson's plovers, American Oystercatchers, Short-billed Dowitchers, American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and sometimes Stilt Sandpipers. Herons and egrets are common, and this is another good spot to see Reddish Egrets.
At South Padre Island we'll walk the boardwalk at the convention centre, an excellent place to view a wide array of waterbirds. Green Herons, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, Neotropic Cormorants and the like are regular. A nice selection of waterfowl can often be found here, and rails such as Sora, Virginia and Clapper are sometimes seen, and often heard. The mangroves often hold a few songbirds like Yellow Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, and the like. Night in Harlingen.
Day 6 - Morning at Estero Llano Grande State Park. This fantastic park is full of great birds, and we'll start off with a walk through the old campground area. This overgrown 'subtropical forest' is home to birds like Clay-colored Thrush, Tropical Parula, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, White-tipped Doves and often roosting Common Pauraque. The ponds and lakes at Estero Llano Grande are great for waterfowl, shorebirds and herons and egrets. Trails through the thorn scrub forest should yield birds like Verdin, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, various wintering sparrows and perhaps some wintering warblers.
Later on in the afternoon, we'll check into our hotel in McAllen, and then we'll go out to look for Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets as they come in to roost. We'll then have dinner and then go out to look for a few nocturnal birds such as Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Common Pauraque.
Day 7 - Start morning off at Quinta Mazatlan, one of the many fantastic parks in the area, where birds come in to feeders. Great Kiskadees, Golden-crowned Woodpeckers, White-tipped Doves, Green Jays and much more. On one of our tours, we saw a male Blue Bunting here. Rest of day at Santa Ana NWR. Feeders here are excellent, and trails provide access to some lakes, great for waterfowl, shorebirds and both Ringed and Green kingfishers. We'll watch for raptors including the rare Hook-billed Kite. Night in McAllen.
Day 8 - First stop today is Anzalduas County Park. Large grassy fields near park entrance are good for wintering Sprague's Pipits. We'll keep an eye on the sky as this is a good area to spot Hook-billed Kite. Along the Rio Grande, ducks can be seen, and we have seen Muscovy here in the past. Along the edge of the water, we'll watch for Black Phoebes, swallows, ducks, and again both the Ringed and Green kingfishers. This park is also good for Vermilion Flycatchers, Say's Phoebes and Eastern Bluebird. On past trips we have seen Tropical Parula and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher here.
We'll then make our way west towards Salineno and Chapeno. Here, we will visit more feeders where one of our main target birds will be Audubon's Oriole. With any luck we might find Morelet's Seedeaters, formerly known as White-collared Seedeater. Along this stretch of the river we could see Red-billed Pigeons if we are lucky. Cassin's Sparrows are seen along the trails in some years, along with other species like Lark Sparrow, Bewick's Wren, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Couch's Kingbird.
Night in Rio Grande City.
Day 9 - Morning visit back to feeders at Salineno and / or Chapeno in case there was anything we didn't yet see. We will then spend a couple of hours at Falcon Dam State Park. Here, some species associated more with the desert, like Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-throated Sparrow and Pyrrhuloxia can be found. Some trips we bump into a covey of Northern Bobwhite here. In the afternoon we will drive to Corpus Christi for the night.
Day 10 - Morning birding around Corpus Christi and then afternoon drive back to Houston to conclude tour.