Northern Colombia & The Eastern White Sands Forests ~ Mar 21 – Apr 7, 2019.

The 2019 Colombia itinerary was designed to complement the previous two tours which had focused on the hotspots in the western and central Andes as well as sites within a few hours drive of Bogota. To that end on this tour we focussed on the north coast with a stop at the north end of the eastern Andes to kick off the tour. After completing the northern circuit we went for something completely different: a flight out to the northern Amazon basin at Puerto Inirida, near the border with Venezuela and just 30km from the mighty Orinoco River! Here we finished the tour with four days of birding the White Sand Forest, a habitat that is localized in the northern Amazon basin but quite common in this area. This unique habitat has many species that are endemic to it that are highly sought after by world birders. In this area we spent a fair bit of time on the river which provided us with an incredible encounter with a pod of Amazon River Dolphins as well as a passing Giant River Otter! The tour was our most diverse Colombia itinerary so far in terms species as we totalled 590 species over the 16 days, of which ~530 were seen by the group.

March 22 – After meeting up in Bogota the evening before the tour started with a mid-morning flight to Bucaramanga from where the group of 8 Canadians plus guide Avery Bartels piled into three pickups for the 3hr journey to the Cerulean Warbler Reserve near San Vicente de Chucuri. After about an hour we stopped at a restaurant overlooking a reservoir where we enjoyed some nice birding from the balcony. While waiting for our food to arrive we found our first Colombian endemic, an obliging Apical Flycatcher. A

Lineated Woodpecker. Cerulean Warbler Reserve, Colombia. March 22, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

Great Black Hawk was perched nearby while a Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture soared in the distance. Around the restaurant there was plenty of bird activity and we had our first Spectacled Parrotlets, Crimson-backed Tanagers and Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters.

After passing through San Vicente we climbed up the steep dirt track to the lodge. En route we made two stops in the plantations where we picked up a couple more endemics in Colombian Chachalaca and a skulky Niceforo’s Wren. A fine male Yellow-backed Tanager was one of the first birds we saw while a pair of Bar-crested Antshrikes showed up as we were looking for the wren. Forest Elaenia, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet and Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher were among several flycatcher species seen. At the lodge we had time to check out the Hummingbird feeders briefly before dark and pick up our final endemic of the day, the common Indigo-capped Hummingbird.

March 23 – After a lot of rain over night our plans to climb up to the reserve proper were foiled by continuing showers that lasted until around 9am. We decided to stick around the lodge and bird the plantations instead which ended up being a good plan as we had fog and more rain again until around 2:30pm when it finally cleared up. As we waited out the rain under the shelter of the covered balcony post-breakfast we got scope views

DSCN1275_edited (2)
Common Potoo. Cerulean Warbler Reserve, Colombia. March 23, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

on a few occasions of up to four of the endemic Turquoise Dacnises! We also got nice views of Collared Aracari, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Yellow-legged Thrush and Orange-crowned Oriole. The hummingbird and banana feeders also provided us with ample photography. A short walk down the road from the lodge produced a roosting Common Potoo and our first Yellow-tailed Orioles along with a surprise pair of White-fringed Antwrens. A Yellow-browed Shrike-vireo sang once but could not be located.

After lunch we decided to walk a trail behind the lodge that lead up to a new set of hummingbird feeders that the forest guard had recently put out where he had found a Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. This is one of the hardest endemics in this region and we were fortunate that we got prolonged views of it as it came to the feeder and perched in the tree overhead for over half an hour! Activity around the feeders was good as well and we had many migrants such as Bay-breasted, Canada, Blackburnian, Tennessee and Black-and-white Warblers. As we made our way back to the lodge Avery got a very quick look at a male Golden-winged Warbler that unfortunately disappeared before the group could get on it. Fortunately, a nearby family of Yellow-backed Orioles were more confiding. After dinner we heard a Tropical Screech-owl calling in the

DSCN1325 (2)
Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. Cerulean Warbler Reserve. Colombia. March 23, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

distance though it was too far away to be coaxed in.

March 24 – At 6am we embarked on the 1.5km walk up to the reserve proper. The weather was clear and it was a beautiful, and fairly birdy, hike up. Unfortunately it took a lot longer than anticipated and we did not arrive at the hummingbird/wood-quail feeders at the reserve entrance until 9:30. As we climbed up we enjoyed near constant bird activity including wide-spread open country species such as Pale-breasted Spinetail, Bran-colored Flycatcher and Fork-tailed Flycatcher as well as a couple soaring Aplomado Falcons. There were also a few surprises in store for us as a pair of Apical Flycatcher greeted us at the beginning of the trail and partway up we ran into a confiding Masked Yellowthroat. The most interesting find of the morning though was an Ash-throated Crake calling from the pasture. This species is widespread in Amazonian

DSCN1399 (3)
The aptly named Black Inca. Cerulean Warbler Reserve, Colombia. March 24, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

lowlands but only rarely wanders to this side of Andes.

At the feeders in the forest we enjoyed prolonged views at the superb Black Incas along with a supporting cast of Andean Emeralds, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Booted Racket-tails and a lone male Long-tailed Sylph. A covey of the endemic Gorgeted Wood-quail responded from nearby to a burst of playback but did not come into the feeder as hoped for. A few hours mid-day along the forest trail was quite quiet but we did come across a couple Collared Trogons, Ornate Flycatcher, and a skulky White-bellied Antpitta that only allowed for the briefest of glimpses. A canopy flock produced Speckled and Golden Tanagers as well as a lone White-winged Tanager for Ken.

Before heading back down to the lodge in the mid-afternoon (after a delicious lunch brought up to us by Douglas, the forest guard) we made another stop in at the feeders. A pair of Chestnut-capped Brushfinches were at the seed and a Moustached Puffbird perched stolidly nearby. This would be our first of 8 species of Puffbird on this trip!
As we made our way back down to the lodge a distant Recurve-billed Bushbird called

DSCN1462 (2)
Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. Barranquilla, Colombia. March 25, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

from the slopes opposite the trail.

March 25 – After breakfast we piled back into our trucks to make the transfer to Bucaramanga for our late-morning flight to Barranquilla via Bogota. A few stops en route produced a Barred Puffbird, expertly spotted by Joyce as it gave it’s wolf-whistle, Olivaceous Piculet (our first of 5 Piculet species!) and Gray-headed Tanager.

By 3:45 we were at the University grounds on the outskirts of Barranquilla where we enjoyed some nice birds in the dry coastal heat. No sooner had we hopped out of our vehicles than we were looking at a troop of endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalacas

Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird. Barranquilla, Colombia. March 25, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

moving about in the tops of the desert scrub. After getting our fill we wandered down to a flowering tree that held another endemic, a gorgeous male Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird who put on a nice show for us, foraging and perching for extended views. This was followed by Whooping Motmot, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow Oriole and another target, the Chestnut Piculet.

March 26 – Heading east of Barranquilla at first light we made our way to the mangroves of Isla Salamanca National Park. Here we spent a very productive 1.5hrs. Bicolored Conebill and Panama Flycatcher foraged in the mangroves themselves along with a migrant Prothonotary Warbler. At the water’s edge we spied a few Pied Water-tyrants and a Yellow-chinned Spinetail along with both Green and Striated

DSCN1471_edited (2)
Golden-green Woodpecker. Isla Salamanca, Colombia. March 26, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels. 

Herons. The best was yet to come though as a stunning female Golden-green Woodpecker posed nicely for us before a flock of nearly 20 Bronzed Cowbirds (of the endemic “Bronzed-brown” form, often split from the widespread form) were spotted perched in the mangrove ahead of us. This endemic bird is severely threatened and this represents the highest number noted in ebird!

After a field breakfast back at the van we backtracked a bit to the Km 4 road, a birding site that passes through fields and wetland habitats with some adjacent scrub. Here we found one of our targets, Stripe-backed Wren, to be common while a flock of 7 Turquoise-winged Parrotlets, another tricky endemic (!), allowed us extended scope views as they preened nearby. Moving on we encountered our first Scaled Doves, Snail Kites and Russet-throated Puffbirds. A Crane Hawk flew over and a few very large Iguanas were spotted. At a small wetland we turned around though not before noting a fine male White-headed Marsh-tyrant, Limpkin and several calling migrant Soras.

Driving east along the Cienega causeway we made a couple stops for waders though the very dry conditions meant that there was nothing like the usual numbers. A lone Gull-billed Tern and a few dozen Royal Terns were present along with a smattering of Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, both Yellowlegs , Least Sandpiper and Black-necked Stilt.

After lunch at the Hotel Minca in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Santa Marta Blossomcrown. El Dorado Lodge, Colombia. March 26, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

we enjoyed the hummingbird feeders being frequented by White-necked Jacobin, Steely-vented Hummingbird and White-vented Plumeleteer along with singles of Pale-bellied Hermit and Brown Violetear. We then started the extraordinarily bumpy journey up to the El Dorado Lodge. Along the way we made several birding stops seeing roosting Black-and-white Owl, Groove-billed Toucanet, Rufous-and-white Wren and a Rusty Flowerpiercer. The endemics were proving extremely difficult, something we would find to be the case throughout the next two days. Fortunately, a wonderful male Santa Marta Blossomcrown showed for several minutes at the tienda making up for our dip on the Santa Marta Antbird. As dusk set in we finally arrived at our accommodations for the next two nights, the El Dorado Lodge.

March 27
At 5am we piled into our pickups and drove up to the San Lorenzo ridge, spotting a Band-winged Nightjar en route. Unfortunately we were denied the spectacular view of the Sierra Nevada at sunrise by haze/cloud that enshrouded the distant peaks but we soon forgot about that as the birding started the minute we stepped out of the vehicles. A tame Santa Marta Brushfinch hopped about at our feet while another group who arrived before us had a pair of shy Santa Marta Warblers lined up in the bamboo at the roadside. We soon added Black-cheeked (aka Santa Marta) Mountain-tanager and a pair of Plushcaps buzzed through as we had our breakfast and waited

DSCN1573 (4)_edited.jpg
Black-cheeked Mountain-tanager. El Dorado Reserve, Colombia. March 27, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

for the Santa Marta Parakeets to show up at their favoured Eucalyptus nearby. Alas, the parakeets never showed (only Avery heard one calling very distantly) so we started birding our way up the road where the birds were sparse but we enjoyed nice looks at our first White-tipped Quetzal. Some small flocks eventually materialized and we got to enjoy Rusty-headed and Streak-capped Spinetails, the latter nest-building, along with several Yellow-crowned Whitestarts. Paramo Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Chat-tyrant, “Santa Marta” Emerald Toucanet and Hermit Wood-wren (a recently split endemic) one by one came into our binocular views though an impromptu-calling Brown-rumped Tapaculo was only seen briefly by Joan. At mid-morning an immature Black-and-chestnut Eagle was spotted before we started descending towards the lodge, en route spending some time birding above the San Lorenzo research station. Here we were after one of the trickiest endemics, the Santa Marta Bush-tyrant which

Blue-naped Chlorophonia. El Dorado Lodge, Colombia. March 27, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

unfortunately was only heard. Nearby several Tyrian Metaltails were seen foraging on the bromeliads and Gisele spotted a perched White-rumped Hawk that allowed us superb views.

Back at the lodge for lunch and some relaxed birding in the gardens we caught up with the many hummingbirds at the feeders. Blue-naped Chlorophonias and a Band-tailed Guan enjoyed the bananas while Sierra Nevada Brushfinches and the resident Red-tailed Squirrels fed at the grain feeders.

Mid-afternoon saw us off on the Mirador trail to pick up some of the mid-elevation specialties. After noting our first White-lored Warblers near the compost it was predictably quiet as we started off into the forest. Eventually we came across a bit of activity including a pair of Golden-breasted Fruiteaters, spotted high in the trees. A Masked Trogon appeared to be nesting a little further on and on the way back to the lodge we came across several Black-hooded Thrushes and an obliging Gray-throated Leaftosser in a dry streambed.

After dinner we were treated to a couple mammals coming into a canopy banana feeder outside the lodge with both Night Monkeys and a Kinkajou present.

March 28 – With a few higher elevation specialties still missing we decided to drive upslope again for the morning though we didn’t go all the way to the ridge. We started a bit earlier to give ourselves a chance to try for Santa Marta Screech-owl near the research station before first light. However, we didn’t have to wait that long as one flew through the headlights of the front vehicle about 20mins after leaving the lodge. We piled out and spent a frustrating 15 minutes trying to spot it as it called back at us but would not come into view.

After daylight broke we started birding where we had heard the Bush-tyrant the day before but alas, it was not to be as we didn’t even hear it. We enjoyed further views of many of the birds we had seen the day before as we wandered back down towards the research station. Sickle-winged Guan, a migrant Sharp-shinned Hawk and Strong-billed Woodcreeper were new for the trip. At 9am we arrived at the research station to witness the feeding of the Santa Marta Antpitta and it was a

DSCN1614 (2)
The endemic Sierra Nevada Brushfinch. El Dorado Lodge, Colombia. March 28, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

matter of seconds after the worms were put out that we were watching this shy denizen of the Sierra Nevada as it hastily gorged itself before hopping off into the undergrowth.

As we would be departing after lunch for the lower elevation of Minca we spent a couple hours pre-lunch birding in the gardens around the lodge again. This proved productive as we found a Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush and “Bangs’” Grey-breasted Wood-wren on the compost heap and Ken briefly had the Black-fronted Wood-quail at the grain feeder. Our diligence at the hummingbird feeders finally paid off as a male Lazuline Sabrewing and female White-tailed Starfrontlet put in several appearances.

After lunch we began the long haul down the mountainside making several birding

DSCN1525 (3)
Roosting Black-and-white Owl. Minca, Colombia. March 28, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

stops en route. These were quite productive and we enjoyed cracking views of Santa Marta Tapaculo and Rusty-breasted Antpitta before we were denied views of a shy Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner calling from the shrubbery below us. A female Coppery Emerald was visiting the flowers at the Ecotienda when we arrived. Further down we again had no luck with the Santa Marta Antbird but did see our first Black-headed Tanager before finishing the drive down to the Hotel Minca.

March 29 – We started the morning below the Hotel Minca at a little side road that passes opposite to some slopes where Military Macaws roost. Sure enough, we could hear them as we walked down to the viewpoint and we were able to scope them for a while before they all flew off to forage. Here we enjoyed great looks at Whooping Motmots, Black-chested Jays, a troop of Keel-billed Toucans and a migrant Yellow-throated Vireo way up at the top of a bare tree. After breakfast back at the hotel we drove above Minca where we birded a couple little side roads. Here we saw a Rufous-tailed Jacamars, Pale-eyed Pygmy-tyrants and both Black-striped and Golden-winged Sparrows in the undergrowth though we could not call in a vocal Rosy Thrush-tanager. An adult King Vulture soared overhead and a little while later

DSCN1628 (3)
Glaucous Tanager. Guajira Desert, Colombia. March 29, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

so did a group of four graceful Swallow-tailed Kites.

After an early lunch we packed up and started the drive northeast to the Guajira Desert near Riohacha. Mid-afternoon saw us arriving at the toll booth that more or less marks the beginning of the Guajira. The toll booth itself was so birdy we ended up spending 20 minutes there picking up our first Green-rumped Parrotlets, Glaucous Tanagers and Black-crested Antshrike. At a side road just past the tollbooth we met our local guide, Jhonis of Tocuyo Birding who led us down a birdy path in search of one of the top targets of the region, Tocuyo Sparrow. Although we only caught one brief glimpse of the bird we found many other new birds for the trip such as Rufous-vented

DSCN1693_edited (2)
Black-crested Antshrike. Guajira Desert. Colombia. March 29, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

Chachalacas, Buff-breasted Wren and many flyover Bare-eyed Pigeons. A surprise was a very confiding adult Bicolored Hawk that we watched for several minutes as it perched up at the top of a bare tree. Back near the vehicles a flowering tree had at least one Sapphire-throated Hummingbird at it.

As we neared Riohacha and dusk was setting in we stopped at a dry pasture where we saw 20 Double-striped Thick-knees loafing about.

March 30 – Birding the Guajira desert is always a pleasure as activity is usually steady and the dry scrub affords good views of the birds. Today was no exception and we met Jhonis at Camarones from where he took us along a meandering set of trails that culminated at a Wayuu (the local indigenous group) community. As we were eating our field breakfast at the vehicles Johnis picked out our first of several female

DSCN1688_edited (2)
Vermilion Cardinal. Guajira Desert, Colombia. March 30, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

Vermilion Cardinals. Shortly after starting our walk we arrived at a watering hole and here we found a nice little pocket of activity including our first Pileated Finches, Black-faced Grassquit, White-whiskered Spinetail and Slender-billed Inezia (Tyrannutet). A Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant was not terribly confiding and only some in the group got on it. A Harris’ Hawk provided a brief distraction before our first Russet-throated Puffbird of the day was spotted. Carrying on we eventually all got on some scurrying Crested Bobwhites. A small flowering bush briefly held a Buffy Hummingbird but a singing Orinocan Saltator immediately tempted us away. Unfortunately we would not end up seeing the Saltator despite hearing it again as well as at our next birding stop. After a couple hours of fine birding several in the group bought hand-made bags in the Wayuu community, of which a beautiful selection were put on display at the makeshift tienda.

Heading west we spent an hour and a half birding the Cari Cari road, alas this back-up spot for Tocuyo Sparrow proved barren but we enjoyed some other nice birds, especially once we arrived at a series of wetlands and ponds. Here we got nice scope views of a Dwarf Cuckoo along with a couple Pearl Kites, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher and many waterbirds such as Glossy Ibis, a Great Blue Heron and a few flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Happy group in the Guajira Desert of Colombia. March 30, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

As we had a long drive ahead of us to get to the Perija Mountains for the night we had to depart at 10:30. After lunch en route we finally arrived at the foot of the mountains around 4pm. We had time for one birding stop as we ascended and here we saw a couple leking Lazuline Sabrewings and got our first glimpse at Yellow-breasted (Black-fronted) Brushfinch though not the hoped for Perija Brushfinch. After a long haul up the bumpy road we at last arrived at the lodge at 7:15pm.

March 31 – As dawn arrived at the lodge we enjoyed the multitude of Amethyst-throated Sunangels at the hummingbird feeders as well as a brief Lachrimos Mountain-tanager before driving up to the Paramo. Once above tree line our patience was rewarded with superb views of a couple Perija Thistletails and brief looks at a female Perija Metailtail. Most of the group eventually got on Streak-backed Canastero that was picked out on two separate occasions by Gwen! Driving back

DSCN1709_edited (2)
Perija Metaltail. Chamicero de Perija Reserve, Colombia. March 31, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

down a little ways those in the second vehicle got looks at a male Perija Metaltail perched beside the road. We then had a frustrating experience trying to spot a furtive Perija Antpitta, which circled around us but only provided fleeting glimpses in the undergrowth. Golden-headed Quetzals and Emerald Toucanets provided a splash of color and a Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant was briefly spotted before we returned to the lodge for lunch.

In the afternoon we walked down the road from the lodge, coaxing a Perija Tapaculo into view along with a rather uncooperative Gray-breasted Wood-wren (of the endemic manastrae subspecies). We eventually got decent looks at Rufous Spinetail, another endemic subspecies and potential future split, as a few were encountered foraging in the bamboo and tangles at the roadside.

Disappointingly, the weather remained overcast and at times misty so we did not have favourable conditions to spot a soaring Andean Condor, this being one of the most reliable spots for this species in Colombia.

A brief owling jaunt below the lodge after dinner bore no fruit though Avery did hear a very distant White-throated Screech-owl as we walked back up to the lodge and a Band-winged Nightjar was heard by some.

April 1 – After breakfast we started the long drive back down the mountain. We made several birding stops en route seeing some excellent bird as we went. On one of our first stops we found a pair of delightful Rufous-crowned Tody-flycatchers, certainly one of the showiest flycatchers. A little further down we ran into a Yellow-throated Toucan, foraging in a fruiting tree. Much to our shock, through an opening

DSCN1718_edited (2)
Rufous-crowned Tody-flycatcher. Chamicero de Perija Reserve. Colombia. April 1, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

in the canopy a large bird soaring overhead turned into a juvenile Brown Pelican of all things! Not what one expects at over 2000m in the mountains, though as the Pelican flies we were not THAT far from the coast.

Our drivers knew the spots for a couple of the remaining targets and in quick order Luis, who was the most knowledgeable about birds, showed us Perija Burshfinch and a very obliging Klage’s Antbird. While much of the bamboo in the area was seeding the only semi-bamboo specialist we saw were a pair of Dull-colored Grassquits. Unfortunately it was not the season for flowering Guama trees so we dipped on the Rufous-shafted Woodstar that I had seen at a tree by the roadside on my 2015 visit.

As we neared the bottom of the road we made one last stop to try for Golden-winged Sparrow as not everyone had seen it near Minca. We were not disappointed as one posed for us at just a few metres distance, a striking bird to finish our time in the north with!
After a late lunch at the Valledupar airport we flew back to Bogota where we spent the night.

April 2 – Traffic en route to La Florida Park was exceptionally bad, even for Bogota and we did not arrive until 7:15. Fortunately, our abbreviated time here was not a hindrance. Once through the gate we birded our way out to the blind that looks out over the reed beds at one end of the lake. After 15 minutes we were treated to a nice display from a confiding Bogota Rail that walked out in the open and remained there for 30 seconds or so before meandering back into the reeds. As we walked back towards the parking lot a Silvery-throated Spinetail surprised us by calling behind us. In short order we were able to get looks at it perched up near the top of the nearby shrubs. Songbirds seemed unusually scarce though a group of Andean Siskins feeding in the grasses showed well. At the last minute we finally spotted a Spot-flanked Gallinule lurking along the near shore where we had just walked from. Back in the vehicle we transferred to the airport for our flight to Puerto Inirida and the final leg of the tour.

Puerto Inirida is the newest hotspot for birding in Colombia and it did not disappoint! Our local guide, the excellent Daniel Camilo Orjuela met us at the airport and after checking in to our beautiful hotel we had lunch at a local restaurant that, despite its unassuming visage, served up perhaps the best food of the trip. Mid-afternoon saw us at the nearby Caño Culebra trail (about 15 minutes from town)

DSCN1753_edited (2).jpg
Spotted Puffbird. Puerto Inirida, Colombia. April 2, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

where we started off with a primate, a single Collared Titi watching us from the forest beside the trail. Activity was light at first in the mid-afternoon heat but several Swallow-winged Puffbirds were perched out atop bare snags and Daniel soon picked out a pair of Red-shouldered Tanagers for us. After a bit of Playback we got excellent views of a Spotted Puffbird that was followed by our first White Sands specialty, a fine male Black Manakin. A migrant Variegated Flycatcher was a nice surprise as were 2 Broad-winged Hawks circling overhead. Daniel picked out a Rufous-crowned Elaenia that posed well in the scope and our only Amazonian Antshrike of the trip soon followed. As it came time to return to the vehicles we spotted a pair of flycatching Brown Jacamars. Back at the vehicles dusk was setting in and we were treated to a few Least Nighthawks hawking insects overhead.

April 3 – Our first full day in Puerto Inirida was much anticipated and it did not disappoint. Our destination for the day was the Sabanitas community, a 20 minute drive from our hotel. In the community itself we caught up with our first Bare-necked Fruitcrow before heading out along the Caño Carbon trail. This area is all excellent White Sands forest and holds many of the specialties of this localized habitat. The trail starts in cleared scrub before passing through a short section of forest, another clearing then more contiguous forest.

At the first forest patch we got nice looks at Orinoco Piculet and a pair of Cherrie’s Antwrens. On the far side of the next clearing we had a fantastic half hour as the specialties came rolling through. A Golden-spangled Piculet kicked things off before Daniel got us on an Azure-naped Jay. This was followed by a sunning Purplish Jacamar and before we could finish properly admiring it he had a Pale-bellied Mourner lined up for us! Scanning a little further back to the distant treetops we were able to scope White-tipped Purpletuft and a very distant male Pompadour Cotinga. To round off this whirlwind of great birds a Tiny Hawk was spotted perched out in the bare branches of a tree 100m or so away. The rest of the trail was well forested and we ran into a couple small canopy flocks were we found our Spot-backed Antwrens along with more widespread birds like Gilded Barbet and Ivory-

DSCN1772 (2)
Bronzy Jacamar. Puerto Inirida. Colombia. April 3, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

billed Aracari and singles of the scarce Yellow-throated Woodpecker and Black-bellied Cuckoo. In the understory we had a showy Imeri Warbling-Antbird as well as a Brown-winged Schiffornis. We had been hoping for the bizarre Capuchinbird along this trail but did not get a whiff of one, the only disappointment on an otherwise superb day. As we walked back to the community for lunch we added Paradise Jacamar, White-crowned Manakin and Daniel’s persistence was rewarded with scope views for the group of a tiny Dwarf-tyrant-manakin to go along with another miniscule creature, the Short-tailed Pygmy-tyrant that we had spotted earlier. This

A mid-morning break in the white sands forests at Sabanitas, Puerto Inirida, Colombia. April 3, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

latter is the smallest songbird in the world at only 2.5 inches!

Back in Sabanitas we were treated to a local lunch of fish and several variations of yucca prepared by one of the indigenous women in the community. After relaxing for a bit (some of us took advantage of the hammocks that were strung up for us!) we walked a little ways along the entrance road to a small side trail that led into a patch of very dense low secondary scrub that was flooded once we had advanced 50m or so. This unique habitat is home to the Yapacana Antbird, a species known from just a few isolated locations near the confluence of eastern Colombia, northwest Brazil and southern Venezuela. The habitat was not conducive to getting good looks at anything more than a metre away but we ended up getting on a male of this very rare bird.

The rest of the afternoon was spent along the road where we found several new additions to the trip including Swainson’s Flycatcher and Black Caracara. Parrots were well represented flying over and we had a couple trios of Black-headed Parrot as well as three species of Macaw – Blue-and-Yellow, Scarlet and Red-and-Green.

April 4 – For the first time since arriving in Puerto Inirida we were on the water today, transported down the Inirida River to the Matraca trail, about 15 minutes downstream from town. Daniel had a comfortable boat with cushioned seated and a plastic roof to provide shade lined up for us. In contrast to our birding up to this point, this morning we were in seasonally flooded Varzea forest (dry at this season) which held a different selection of species than the White Sands forest.

A male Amazonian Black Tyrant greeted us as we disembarked but activity was light for the first hour or so. During this time we came across our first Blackish-gray Antshrikes, Black-chinned Antbirds and a pair a Pink-throated Becards building their nest. A singing Cocoa Thrush came in to Daniel’s tape but remained elusive, never perching within sight. Up ahead some soft churring caught Daniel’s attention, “Orinoco Softtail!” he exclaimed. We were soon watching three of these extremely

DSCN1830_edited (2)
Ringed Woodpecker. Puerto Inirida, Colombia. April 4, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

range restricted furnariids chasing each other about the undergrowth coming within a couple metres of us! Another obliging furnariid was a Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner that entertained us with its head weaving display as it gave its seemingly never-ending trill from an open perch in the understory.

At a small clearing a calling Ferruginous Pygmy-owl attracted in a whole entourage of birds including our first Golden-bellied Euphonias, Yellow-bellied Dacnis and another White-tipped Purpletuft. Several hummingbirds were in attendance, including both White-chinned and the rarer Rufous-throated Sapphires (we would also add Blue-chinned Sapphire at a flowering bush shortly afterwards!). Nearby a White-necked Puffbird and Blue-crowned Trogon showed nicely. Carrying on we got scope views of a pair of Orange-cheeked Parrots feeding quietly in the canopy, a fine Ringed Woodpecker and a female Green-tailed Jacamar perched together on a hanging vine with her young.

Again Daniel picked out a special bird singing behind us so we back-tracked a bit and soon could hear the repeated phrases of a Rose-breasted Chat singing overhead. Unfortunately only Avery got on the bird before it disappeared, not to be heard from again. By now it was late morning and it was time for us to turn around. The birds weren’t finished with us yet though and we were delighted to see a superb Collared Puffbird on a small side trail. Speckled Spinetail, Helmeted Pygmy-tyrant and a flock

DSCN1860_edited (2).jpg
Collared Puffbird. Puerto Inirida. Colombia. April 4, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

of Velvet-fronted Grackles rounded out an excellent morning of birding!

In the afternoon we were back in the boat heading north from town along the Inirida river, then west on the Guaviare to a site called La Rompida. En route we enjoyed waterbirds such as Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, White-winged Swallows and good numbers of herons and egrets. La Rompida is the site for another local specialty. A couple years ago a mystery Antshrike was discovered in the Inirida area, on which genetic work is currently being undertaken to determine if it is a new species or a disjunct population of Chestnut-backed Antshrike (not otherwise known from Colombia). Recently, Daniel found a population at this site, where they apparently are quite common.

We started with a family of Collared Plovers and a lone Pied Plover on the shore followed by a quick jaunt to the grassy margins at the back of the beach where we spotted a couple roosting Ladder-tailed Nightjars along with a Burrowing Owl. Carrying on we soon had the bizarre White-eared Jacamar lined up in the scope and our first Amazonian Umbrellabird in a fruiting tree. After crossing a small stream, either via a precarious bridge or (more sensibly!) in a small dugout canoe, we walked along the margin of it to where Daniel got us on a very obliging male of the mystery Antshrike. In the same area we also enjoyed a pair of Rusty-backed Spinetails, a Little Cuckoo and our 9th, and final, Puffbird species of the trip, the diminutive Chestnut-capped Puffbird. The day concluded with sunset and watermelon on the beach while Black Skimmers and a mixed martin flock that included migrant Purple and Brown-chested Martins commuted along the river.

April 5 – This was a day with long periods spent on the water but we started with a short trip across the river to the El Paujil trail. Like the Matraca trail yesterday, this was an area of Varzea and held many of the same birds as well as several new ones. We started with a pair of Amazonian Streaked-antwrens in the scrub of a nearly dry streambed before a Cream-colored Woodpecker flew in overhead. We then played hide-and-seek with a responsive Varzea Schiffornis that eventually was seen by everyone as it darted about the understory. At a small clearing Daniel got us on a confiding Blue-throated Piping-guan in a nearby tree. Here we also scoped a Long-billed Woodcreeper and eventually got on a calling Cinnamon Attila.

Arriving at a small stream we called in a pair of Dot-backed Antwrens. Daniel then heard a Rose-breasted Chat calling again in the distance so we rushed over to it but it had gone silent and, frustratingly, we were not able to relocate it. We did get some consolation in the form of a Yellow-crowned Elaenia that posed for several minutes

DSCN1957_edited (2).jpg
Green-tailed Jacamar. Puerto Inirida. Colombia. April 5, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

just 5m from us. This species was only recently confirmed to occur in Colombia but seems not uncommon in the area. One of the main reasons for birding this trail was that Wire-tailed Manakins lek nearby and while we did not see any lekking, we did get to enjoy a superb male on a couple occasions. Here we also got quick looks at a foraging Black-throated Hermit.

Mid-morning saw us back in the boat and zipping south down the Inirida River en route to the Cerros de Mavicure, bare granite mountains (after a fashion) that are typical of the Guianan shield. Along the way we saw many Muscovy Ducks and stopped for a Bat Falcon that was perched atop a snag. As we reached the base of the impressive cerros we pulled in to the dock at the indigenous village of El Remanso. Here we enjoyed another nice lunch before boating down a further 5 minutes to a beach with a fine view of the rounded peaks. The cerros result in a narrowing of the river which created some rapids and this in turned provided habitat for Black-

Cerros de Mavicure, Colombia. April 5, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

collared Swallows that were nesting in the boulders alongside the beach. A Capped Heron was spotted across the river, our only one of the trip. Daniel has documented nesting of Orange-breasted Falcon on the cerros and sure enough, he spotted one circling way up by the top of one of the cerros.

It was mid-day and the birding was slow so, having enjoyed the impressive landscape, we headed back towards town. As we neared civilization we pulled in to a small side stream called Caño Cunuben where Daniel assured us there would be Hoatzin. Sure enough there was a large group of them in the riverside shrubbery. Lost in the excitement of these prehistoric-looking birds was an Amazonian Tyrannulet that was only seen by Daniel and Avery. Once we had had our fill we turned our attention to an oropendola colony in a tree right over the river. Here we noted a few Olive Oropendolas among the many Crested. We were hoping for Sungrebe but we had to make do with our only Slate-colored Hawk, Red-capped Cardinals and Thrush-like Wrens of the trip.

This evening Daniel had arranged a treat for us, an indigenous dance performance put on by a local professor and three generations of his family! It included several local, hand-crafted instruments and impressive body paint.

April 6 – Our last morning of birding for this tour saw us return to the White Sands forest at the Caño Vitina community. En route we stopped off at a spot where Daniel regularly has White-naped Seedeater. Unfortunately, though it was heard singing in the distance we would dip on this white sands specialty. In the area we did spot several Plain-crested Elaenias as well as both Black-faced and Burnished-buff Tanagers. A couple calling Russet-crowned Crakes prompted us to take on the near-futile task of trying to see one in the dense roadside vegetation (Daniel and Ken got glimpses).

At the Caño Vitina community we were treated to a splendid Green-and-rufous Kingfisher at the bridge right in the village. Shortly afterwards we spied a female Spangled Cotinga in a bare tree. A single Yellow-green Grosbeak and Black-eared Fairy briefly came through while at a small pond we finally all got on a Green-tailed Goldenthroat. A flyover female Pompadour Cotinga prompted us to return to scanning the distant treetops and we eventually all got scope views of a male Pompadour as well as a male Spangled Cotinga. Our last order of business was to try for Yellow-crowned Manakin at a little forest patch, one of the final White Sands specialties we were missing. However, despite hearing one calling from the forest we were not able to locate it and we had to make do with a consolation White-eyed Tody-tyrant. A vocal Yellow-throated Flycatcher perched beside the track as we

DSCN2082_edited (2).jpg
Maguari Stork. Puerto Inirida. Colombia. April 6, 2019. Photo: Avery Bartels.

arrived at the community was a pleasant finish to a sweltering, though productive morning.

One final treat was awaiting us as we drove back to our hotel – a majestic Maguari Stork at a small wetland beside the road! Back at the hotel we had an early lunch and packed our bags in preparation for the flight back to Bogota. Once in the capital we had our final group dinner though the majority of us would do some post tour birding the following day before our evening flights home.

By Avery Bartels


A big day in the Central Okanagan Valley of British Columbia ~ May 20, 2019

It was about 11:55 PM. We were standing in the darkness on the side of mountain at the Bald Range, west of Kelowna. A Great Horned Owl called just before midnight, and we waited impatiently, once the clock passed midnight, for the owl to call again. We were beginning our big day, which is one particular day when a group of people try and see and hear as many species of birds as possible. Finally, after only a few minutes, the Great Horned Owl hooted, and the hoot was answered by a nearby youngster. Just as our noble scribe for the day, Ryan Tomlinson, finished writing down the particulars of our sighting, our second species for the day called. This time it was a tiny Flammulated Owl, a species that occurs in Canada, only in the southern interior of B.C. After a short walk, we had brief views of the tiny, cryptically patterned owl, high in a fir tree. On our way back down to Kelowna, we listened for Common Poorwills on a dry hillside, and we heard one calling.

We drove across Kelowna, in the darkness, to our next area of exploration, Beaver Lake and Dee Lake roads. Team members were chomping at the bit to add new species, but our roaring start petered out. Nathan Earley heard a Barred Owl call in the distance so we all listened intently. After a few more minutes, the Barred Owl hooted from nearby trees. We spent the next couple of hours trying to find more owls, but had no luck. Listening to the eerie calls of Common Loons this evening was very enjoyable, however. By the time it was beginning to get light out, 4:15 AM or so, the birds were in full song. The list ticked up with each stop, keeping Ryan busy. Hermit, Swainson’s and Varied thrushes, Wilson’s Warbler, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Canada Jay, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill and a clapping Spruce Grouse were all nice additions to the list. Snowshoe Hares hopped back and forth across the road in front of us. Carrying on down Beaver Lake Road, we added another species of owl to the list, a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Pileated Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Cassin’s Vireo, Nashville Warblers, Red Crossbill and much more were noted in the coniferous forests. Ryan pointed out a Ruffed Grouse sitting on a log in the forest to me. Just then, Jesse Hannebauer called out to me. ‘Hey Chris, Wolf!’ Ryan and I immediately left our drumming grouse and headed out to the road, but unfortunately we had missed seeing

Gray Wolf. Beaver Lake Road, Lake Country, BC. May 20 2019. Photo: Nathan Earley.

this rather uncommon, at least in the Okanagan, canine. Jesse and Nathan had a photo, however so we got to see it in a digital form. We saw a White-breasted Nuthatch and a lovely male Black-headed Grosbeak at about km 8, and we also had a singing Least Flycatcher here. The Beaver Lake Grasslands were productive as ever, with Western Meadowlarks, Western Kingbirds, Mountain and Western bluebirds, Vesper Sparrows, Say’s Phoebe and Black-billed Magpies making appearances. As we entered civilization we began adding the common urban species to the list; American Crow, House Sparrow, European Starling, Rock Pigeon.

Our next stop was set to be a good one at Robert Lake. The water levels, unfortunately, were too high this year so there were barely any shorebirds present. We did see some Spotted Sandpipers, Wilson’s Phalaropes and Wilson’s Snipe, but the usual American Avocets were not present which was a surprise. Our tally of waterfowl grew substantially here though, with Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy

Yellow-headed Blackbird. Robert Lake, Kelowna, BC. May 20, 2019. Photo: Nathan Earley.

Duck, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon and Blue-winged teal being added. Also, Eared Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Sora, Virginia Rail, Bank Swallows, Bald Eagle and Marsh Wren were nice additions.

At Alki Lake, again high water levels meant no shorebirds. A flock of about 100 gulls got us excited, but they turned out to be 99 California Gulls and one Ring-billed Gull. Before leaving the Glenmore Valley, we found a nice intermediate morph Swainson’s Hawk soaring over Glenmore Road.

East of Kelowna, we headed up Hwy 33, stopping quickly in the grasslands where Nathan and Ryan said they had seen a larger dark bird flycatching from a Ponderosa Pine snag. ‘We haven’t had Lewis’s Woodpeckers here in several years, so I bet they were starlings’, I said. Thankfully, I was wrong, and they were Lewis’s Woodpeckers indeed. Two of them, in a large snag on a hillside above Mission Creek. We looked, in vain, for a Great

Nashville Warbler. Three Forks Road, Kelowna, BC. May 20, 2019. Photo: Nathan Earley.

Gray Owl east of town, but did at least add a Hairy Woodpecker to the list. We spent too much time at a bridge on Three Forks Road, looking for an American Dipper which never showed up. It took us about 4 stops to finally find some Chestnut-backed Chickadees as well, so feeling we had spent too much time working for about 3 species, we headed back down to Kelowna.

At Mission Creek, our search for a Western Screech-Owl didn’t turn one up, but a short walk through Sutherland Hills Park added Calliope Hummingbird, Vaux’s Swift, Yellow Warbler and Pygmy Nuthatch to our lists. Munson Pond, another of Kelowna’s hotspots, was next on our radar. The flooded field along the entrance road, where Black-necked Stilts had been present, sadly, did not yield. Nathan heard a Ring-necked Pheasant crow in the distance, and overhead a Cooper’s Hawk soared. I spotted a female Northern

Cooper’s Hawk. Munson Pond. Kelowna. BC. May 20, 2019. Photo: Nathan Earley.

Pintail on a small pond, our only for the day. No Wood Duck was present at Munson Pond, so we headed for Wilson Creek, a short distance away, where a pair of Wood Ducks graced us with their presence.

The Mouth of Mission Creek has been a hotspot in recent days, especially with the discovery of B.C.s second Great Black-backed Gull here. Unfortunately, the gulls seems to have disappeared so we did not see it on the big day. There were, however, some Glaucous-winged Gulls and several Bonaparte’s Gulls present. Far out on the lake were hundreds of Western Grebes with a few Red-necked Grebes sprinkled in. As I scanned through the grebes with the scope, I picked out four large blackish ducks with distinct white wing patches. ‘White-winged Scoters’, I announced, and this got everybody scrambling for a place at the scope. As we walked back to the car, I pished out a Common Yellowthroat from the bushes, our only one for the day.

The next stop, at John’s Family Regional Park, was another where we spent far too much time and effort and only got one bird, a Rock Wren. We had hoped for Canyon Wren and Chukar here as well, but we didn’t find them. It was still very nice up there, and on our

Group at John’s Family Park, Kelowna, BC. May 20, 2019. Photo: Jesse Hannebauer.

walk we saw Lazuli Buntings, Dusky Flycatchers, and Black-headed Grosbeaks. One more quick check in at the Mouth of Mission Creek nabbed us just one more species, a Cedar Waxwing.

It was now late afternoon and so we rushed off across the Bennett Bridge to West Kelowna. A quick stop at a pond on the way up to Rose Valley, boosted our list with two more ducks; Common Mergansers and Barrow’s Goldeneye. Jesse suggested we make Rose Valley our final stop of the day, and it was a fantastic suggestion. As we walked up through the mixed riparian and coniferous forest, we added half a dozen more birds to the day list. We had two Western Screech-Owls, a displaying male Black-chinned Hummingbird, several Veery, a singing Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Townsend’s Solitaires and last but not least, Nathan spotted our only White-throated Swifts for the day. The list stood at 145 species for the day, all within the limits of the

Lazuli Bunting. Beaver Lake Road, Lake Country, BC. May 20, 2019. Photo: Nathan Earley.

Central Okanagan Regional District boundaries.

Bird list for the day: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Lesser Scaup; White-winged Scoter; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Ruffed Grouse; Spruce Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Common Poorwill; Vaux’s Swift; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Killdeer; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Bonaparte’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Flammulated Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Barred Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Red-naped Sapsucker; American Three-toed Woodpecker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Least Flycatcher; Hammond’s Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher; Pacific-slope Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; N. Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Rock Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Veery; Swainson’s Thrush; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Varied Thrush; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; White-winged Crossbill; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Northern Waterthrush; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Chris Charlesworth


S.E. Arizona with Limosa Holidays

Apr 30 – I met the group in the arrivals hall at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and we made the short transfer back to our hotel. After a quick bite and a much-needed cold refreshment we headed off to bed.

May 1 – We left Phoenix shortly after 7 AM and headed east towards the fabulous Gilbert Water Ranch. It was a lovely day with brilliant sunshine, blue skies and warm temperatures. Shortly after leaving the parking lot we paused at a stand of Saguaro Cactus where we were entertained by several Gila Woodpeckers entering nest holes and

Gila Woodpecker stuck between a prickly place, and a prickly place. Gilbert, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

feeding on the flowers of the cactus. A Curve-billed Thrasher ran about on the ground near the parking lot, and close by was our first Abert’s Towhee. Black-chinned Hummingbirds were numerous, and we saw one male Anna’s Hummingbird eventually as well. Gambel’s Quail put on a nice performance, and we had very nice views of Mourning Doves. On the ponds we had some waterfowl, including Blue-winged, Cinnamon and Green-winged teal, Mallards, Northern Shoveler and the ubiquitous Canada Goose. American Coots, Neotropic Cormorants and several herons and egrets including Black-crowned Night-Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret and Great Blue Heron were all seen as well. Shorebirds included many Long-billed Dowitchers, with smaller numbers of Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilts and some lovely American Avocets. In the trees and bushes along the trail we had Song Sparrow, a Yellow Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Inca Dove, and many Great-tailed Grackles, and overhead were Cliff Swallows

Roseate Skimmers. Gilbert, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. In addition to the 40 some species of birds we tallied here, we saw Red-eared Sliders and Desert Cottontails.

After an hour’s drive through some very scenic countryside, we arrived in the town of Globe where we had lunch. The temperatures were a little cooler at slightly higher elevations at Globe. We carried on from Globe down to Aravaipa Canyon. Even though it was hot at this point in the afternoon, the canyon was alive with activity. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a Common Black-Hawk, one of the canyon’s specialities, but we were rewarded nonetheless, with sightings of Zone-tailed Hawk, Gray Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk and Red-tailed Hawks. Flycatchers were well represented, with sightings of Olive-sided Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Brown-crested Flycatcher and the stunning Vermilion Flycatcher. We saw a female Vermilion Flycatcher sitting on a tiny little ragged nest in a mesquite tree right next to the road.

Brown-crested Flycatcher. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Other goodies encountered in the canyon included an immature male Hooded Oriole, a young male Summer Tanager, a Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s and Canyon wrens and Verdin. On our way out of the canyon, we had a brief look at a Greater Roadrunner doing just what’s it’s known for, running up the bank at the edge of the road and out of sight. The scenery in Aravaipa Canyon was stunning with towering cliffs, hillsides studded with Saguaro Cactus and large cottonwood trees lining the shores of the creek. Flowers were showing nicely after some recent rains and we enjoyed seeing Saguaro, various forms of cholla cactus and Prickly Pear cactus all in flower. We carried on to Tucson, checked in at our hotel and went out for a nice meal.

May 2 – Our adventures began at Agua Caliente Park. Before we had even left the parking lot, we’d seen a couple of nice birds including a singing Rufous-winged Sparrow and an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner. We meandered through the park ticking off birds one by one under the morning sunshine. Hooded Oriole, Lucy’s Warbler, Warbling

black-tailed gnatcatcher
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. Tucson, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Vireo, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Vermilion Flycatcher, Phainopepla, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher all appeared. A Belted Kingfisher posed briefly for views in a palm tree next to the pond. Back in the parking lot before we left, we found a pair of Cactus Wrens, the state bird of Arizona, perched on a Saguaro Cactus flower, the state flower of Arizona!

On our way to the supermarket to pick up lunch, we pulled off on the roadside to take a look at a Harris’s Hawk soaring overhead. From Tucson, at about 2000 feet above sea level, we traveled to the top of Mount Lemmon at over 9000 feet. The temperature at the bottom was 28 degrees Celsius and once we reached the top it was about 13 degrees Celsius. It is said that driving from Tucson to the top of Mount Lemmon is the equivalent, as far as habitats go, of traveling from Mexico to Canada. The lower reaches of the road are a spectacle of rock formations and towering Saguaro Cactus. Near the top, stately firs, pines and spruce trees cover the landscape. There were even a few patches of snow near the summit. We took a stroll up Bear Wallow, one of my favorite areas to look for forest

Red-faced Warblers showed well at Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

birds on Mount Lemmon. Bear Wallow did not disappoint. We had several excellent looks at one of the show-stopping birds here, the Red-faced Warbler. This ended up being top pick for bird of the trip at the end of the tour! Other warblers along the trail included Orange-crowned Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Mountain Chickadees showed well, and we were happy to see them since the Catalina Mountains are the only range in S.E. Arizona where one regularly finds this species. We also saw Red-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, Hermit Thrush, House Wren and Yellow-eyed Juncos.

We had lunch at Loma Linda Picnic Site, where Steller’s Jays, Acorn Woodpecker and Yellow-eyed Junco took turns cleaning up the scraps once we were finished. A male Western Bluebird was a nice catch here as well. At the ski valley we had a look at some hummingbird feeders that were abuzz with Broad-tailed Hummingbirds and a single,

yellow-eyed junco
Yellow-eyed Junco. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

somewhat wary Rivoli’s Hummingbird. A Yellow-eyed Junco practically walked underneath Alex’s feet! Two Wild Turkeys foraged on one of the grassy ski runs, and suddenly I felt guilty for having a turkey sandwich for lunch. At the summit of the mountain we took another stroll, catching a glimpse of a White-tailed Deer trotting down the slope. Overhead, Violet-green Swallows zipped about, while Spotted Towhees lurked in the shrubbery. Pip spotted our first Greater Pewee of the trip, though it disappeared all to quickly. Our first stripy-backed Cliff Chipmunks were seen here, and down in the ski village of Summerhaven we saw a couple of impressive Tassle-eared Squirrels. Also in Summerhaven, American Robins hopped about, and Steller’s Jays called from the pines. At some feeders at a local real estate agency, we watched Pine Siskins and Black-headed

Rock formations on Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Grosbeaks gobble up the seeds. Another obliging Red-faced Warbler hopped into the bush in front of us, and several people noted it was too close for photographs! We enjoyed a refreshment at the Cookie Cabin before beginning the descent of Mount Lemmon. On the way down we made a couple of stops to photograph the spectacular rocky scenery before returning to Tucson. We had another lovely meal out and it seemed everyone was quite tired this evening, so a good rest was in order.

May 3 – Another sunny and warm Arizona day greeted us as we started out at Sabino Canyon. The ‘old trams’ were being replaced by new ones, so we rode up into the canyon on a temporary shuttle. We hopped off the shuttle and walked down a portion of the canyon, enjoying the incredible scenery, the birds, butterflies, lizards and cactus. Birds, though not overly abundant, included some dazzling ones such as Northern Cardinals,

Black-throated Sparrow. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Summer Tanager, Broad-billed Hummingbird, and Canyon Wren. Also, some not so dazzling birds like Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler and Verdin were also seen. Perhaps the avian star of the walk, was a stunning Black-throated Sparrow that sat right out in the open and sang for several minutes. Lizards included a colorful Greater Earless Lizard, a Tiger Whiptail, as well as Sonoran Spotted Whiptails. Butterflies were numerous, with the most common species being Empress Leila, Marine Blue, Dainty Sulphur and Red-spotted Purple. If all this wasn’t enough, the steep walls of the canyon, studded with Saguaro Cactus made for some of the best scenery we encountered on the trip. Around the visitor’s center we saw our first Round-tailed Ground Squirrels, small squirrels with large eyes and short, rounded tails.

After we’d consumed our lunches, we drove across to the west side of Tucson where we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Sonoran Desert Museum and grounds.

Flowering Palo Verde trees and Saguaro Cactus. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Today was hot, so birds were somewhat in hiding as we explored this area. Nonetheless, there were plenty of Cactus Wrens, White-winged Doves, Verdin, and Curve-billed Thrasher to see. In the taller trees where water was present, we did find some more interesting things such as Hooded Orioles, Wilson’s Warbler, Brown-crested Flycatcher and an immature Cooper’s Hawk. The hawk was sitting in a cottonwood at close range to us, where it was devouring its prey. We decided the prey was most likely a White-winged Dove. It was enjoyable to wander about inside the hummingbird aviary, where we had up close and personal looks at Costa’s Hummingbirds, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and a male Rufous Hummingbird, though we couldn’t count any of these on our lists. On our way from the museum to our next destination, Green Valley, we paused at a busy Tucson intersection to look for Burrowing Owls. Though we found their burrow and their favorite perch, the owls must have been hiding out from the heat beneath the ground. We carried on to Green Valley, possibly the retirement capital of S.E. Arizona, which was to be our home base for the next two nights.

May 4 – Today was our day to explore the Santa Rita Mountains and the confines of the famous Madera Canyon. We began at the Madera Picnic Area where a walk through the Madrean Pine / Oak forest yielded some nice birds, such as Dusky-capped Flycatcher,

Elegant Trogon. Madera Cyn, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Hepatic Tanager and a brief glimpse of our first stunning Painted Redstart. The highlight, no doubt, was a calling male Elegant Trogon, one of the holy grail birds of any trip to S.E. Arizona. The trogon did not seem to mind being watched and photographed by crowds of people this sunny morning.

At Proctor, another section of Madera Canyon, we searched for the rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and though we didn’t find it here, we still saw some very nice stuff. After a bit of a search, we finally had excellent views of a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, the bird whose name is longer than the bird itself. The first Canyon Towhee of the trip presented itself here at Proctor and we gladly watched birds we had already seen such as Summer and Western tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole and Wilson’s Warbler. We had a picnic lunch at the top parking area of the canyon and then spent much of the afternoon watching the feeders. At Kubo Cabins we were entertained by Mexican Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker, Scott’s Oriole, Rivoli’s Hummingbird and more. Our first Western Wood-Pewee paused long enough for scope views. Another Painted Redstart played hide and seek here, leaving us wanting to see more of this spectacular little warbler.

Next, we sat and watched the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge. Wild Turkeys put on quite a

Acorn Woodpecker. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

show here, with several males puffed up and displaying to a batch of onlooking females. Acorn Woodpeckers were numerous and provided constant entertainment, but we had to have patience to see the Arizona Woodpecker here, though we did finally have excellent views of it. Groups of noisy Mexican Jays occasionally came in to raid the feeders, while Bridled Titmice came in quietly and grabbed a few seeds before disappearing. Hummingbirds, including Black-chinned, Rivoli’s and Broad-billed, sipped nectar from feeders right in front of us. Mammals included many Rock Squirrels and a White-nosed Coatimundi, the latter of which was the first one I had seen on all my trips to Arizona.

We returned to Green Valley for a little siesta before dinner, and after that we returned to Madera Canyon, in hopes of seeing some nocturnal species. Just before it got dark, we

White-nosed Coatimundi. Madera Cyn, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

had nice views of our first Rufous-crowned Sparrow hopping about and we saw a Canyon Wren singing from a boulder at sunset. Near Santa Rita Lodge we camped out for a bit, waiting for an Elf Owl to emerge from its hole in a telephone pole. Unfortunately, the owl had not received the news that we were coming and didn’t come out. While we waited for the owl, a Mexican Whip-poor-will called in the distance, as did a Whiskered Screech-Owl. Before we left the canyon, we did have excellent views of a Whiskered Screech-Owl, so it was, in the end, a successful night of owling. On our way back to Green Valley we caught a glimpse of our first Black-tailed Jackrabbit of the tour.

May 5 – Our morning began in Green Valley along a lovely road called Paseo del Canto. It was sunny and just the right temperature as we strolled along the street. We ate our breakfast out in the field today and not long after we arrived, we found our target species, a Gilded Flicker. At one point, a pair of Gilded Flickers copulated while atop a Saguaro Cactus. It was a prickly situation indeed. Other typical birds like Costa’s Hummingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Lucy’s Warbler and Brown-crested Flycatcher

Curve-billed Thrasher. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

were all observed as well. Next, we headed to Box Canyon, where there had been reports of a species of sparrow, normally not found north of the Mexican border, the Five-striped Sparrow. We spent quite a bit of time searching for the sparrow, to no avail, but in the process, we found Rock Wrens, Canyon Wrens, Summer Tanagers, Western Wood-Pewee, Cassin’s Kingbird and Hooded Oriole. A couple of Harris’s Antelope Squirrels found in Box Canyon were the only ones we saw on the entire trip. The flowering Ocotillo was stunning here and at many locations during our visit to Arizona. In addition to the Ocotillo were flowering Prickly Pear Cactus.

We then visited the lower reaches of Florida Canyon. A walk through the desert scrub here eventually yielded exactly what we had come here for, a Black-capped Gnatcatcher. This, the rarest of the North American gnatcatchers. The bird we found was a male and

Northern Cardinal. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

he stayed quite high up in the canopy, pausing now and then in the open to call. Also, we had our only looks at Blue-gray Gnatcatcher here in Florida Canyon as well.

After a short pause in Madera Canyon where we had a nice picnic lunch, we began the drive towards Tubac and the Santa Cruz River. It was quite hot as we entered the cottonwood forests along the banks of the river, following the Anza Trail. Once we were beneath the shade of the big trees, next to the babbling brook, it was pleasantly cool. Despite the time of the day, the birds were very active. Summer Tanagers, Song Sparrows, Lucy’s Warblers, Northern Cardinal, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Bewick’s Wren were seen in this riparian woodland. As we walked along, I spotted a fledgling Great Horned Owl up high on a branch in the cottonwoods. On our way back, I spotted one of the adult birds, watching out for its youngster(s). The real object of our affection on this particular walk was a Central American species called the Rose-throated Becard. Off and on for several

Bullfrog. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

years now, Rose-throated Becards have been found along the Santa Cruz River and this year, apparently a pair was building a nest there. I followed instructions, looking for a golf course on the right and an orange bucket, and then looked to the west and spotted the large, football sized nest, dangling from the branches. I could hear one of the becards calling overhead, so I knew they were there. What appeared to be the female came in with a beak full of nest material, and shortly thereafter Pip spotted the male. The male continued to be seen off and on as he sang from high in the canopy. We returned to the van, and just as we were leaving, a pair of Lark Sparrows appeared on the grass near the van, our first for the trip.

After a short stop for gas in Rio Rico, we carried on to Patagonia, where we checked in at our motel and enjoyed dinner in the local saloon.

May 6 – At 6 AM most of us met up for a pre-breakfast visit to the famous Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop. Here, sometime in the 1970’s, a Mexican species new to the North American list was found at this location. Subsequent visits by other birders to locate the bird ended up with the discovery of several other rare species. The phenomenon became known as the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect. We didn’t find anything rare here this

Thick-billed Kingbird. Patagonia, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

morning, other than uncommonly cold temperatures. It took a while for the insects to come out once the sun reached the treetops. Most of us were shivering and reaching for sweaters this morning. The birding was, in the end, worth the trouble. We saw our target species this morning, Thick-billed Kingbirds, though they remained hidden until we were nearly ready to give up. A Black Vulture sat on a rock in the sunshine across the valley, no doubt, enjoying the warmth of the sunrise. Canyon and Rock wrens sang from the rocky hillsides nearby while White-throated Swifts zipped overhead. Down in the streamside riparian growth we found Western Tanagers, Bell’s Vireo, Dusky-capped and Brown-crested flycatchers, Yellow Warblers and more. By this point our appetites were telling us it was time to head back to Patagonia and have breakfast.

Eating at the Gathering Grounds in Patagonia is always a treat and breakfast today was no exception. After breakfast we headed for Patagonia Lake State Park, stopping on the way in a grassland area where we had great looks at a Botteri’s Sparrow. I paid the entrance fee and then as I drove down the hill towards the lake, a rather large Bull Snake (Gopher Snake) appeared at the edge of the road. Some of us hopped out for a better

gopher snake
Bull Snake. Patagonia Lake, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

look. Some stayed in the van. The Bull Snake, though it superficially looks like a rattlesnake, is not venomous and lacks rattles on the end of its tail. We were able to snap some photos of the snake as it slithered off the road and back into the desert. Walking the birding trails at Patagonia Lake produced close to 50 species this morning. We had fantastic views of Yellow-breasted Chats as they chased one another around through the trees. Lincoln’s and Song sparrows hopped about at the edge of the muddy shore, while the usual Bell’s Vireos, Lucy’s Warblers, Yellow Warblers and Summer Tanagers frequented the deciduous trees. We had a great view of a male Common Yellowthroat as he sang from the perch in a tree next to the marsh. American

White-tailed Deer with odd face pattern. Patagonia, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Coots dabbled about, along with a pair of Mexican Ducks and their gang of ducklings. A male Ruddy Duck was a nice addition to the day list as were a dozen or so Neotropic Cormorants. At least 5 Spotted Sandpipers bobbed away as they foraged along the shoreline. Green Heron was new for the trip list, as this was the only expected species of heron we had missed early on in the trip at the Gilbert Water Ranch. Great Blue Heron and Great Egret were also present. Benches were situated here and there along the trail system and each bench had a bird name on it. At the Common Yellowthroat bench, we did in fact see a Common Yellowthroat. At the woodpecker bench we found Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. The Kinglet bench, however, produced no kinglets. High overhead, an Osprey sailed by; our only one for the tour. A couple of White-tailed Deer were noticed this morning, as they quietly fed in the woods. Of note, one of the deer had a strange white pattern on its face!

Back in Patagonia, we had lunch and then we spent the afternoon at the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds. It was very pleasant watching the birds here, and the hummingbirds

Yellow-breasted Chat. Patagonia, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

preformed nicely with star appearances by the local celebrity, the Violet-crowned Hummingbirds. Other species present included Anna’s Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Rivoli’s Hummingbird and Broad-billed Hummingbird. Yellow-breasted Chats came into feed on orange halves, providing exceptional looks at this elusive species. Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher, Gila Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker. The list went on. Of particular interest, we saw an adult White-throated Sparrow lurking in the brush pile, our only one for the tour, though we did see it again the following morning. White-crowned Sparrows were rather numerous and one or two lucky observers caught a glimpse of a male Indigo Bunting that came in briefly to feed. Dinner at the Wild Horse Saloon was very enjoyable this evening. Richard and Sue had the good fortune to see several Lesser Nighthawks catching insects beneath the streetlights this evening.

May 7 – The early morning contingency met at 6:30 and we headed back over to the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds, this time, hoping to catch a glimpse of an American Goldfinch and the Indigo Bunting. We succeeded in seeing the American Goldfinch, a lovely male, throughout the course of our stay this morning. The Indigo Bunting had

Violet-crowned Hummingbird. Patagonia, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

other plans and decided not to make an appearance this morning. As a consolation prize, we enjoyed watching a couple of Cedar Waxwings in the front garden. While we were not surprised to find Abert’s and Canyon towhees here at the Paton’s, I was not expecting a Green-tailed Towhee to appear as it did, and forage about with the White-crowned Sparrows. Several Arizona Gray Squirrels pillaged the feeders this morning. Also, in the mammal department, we saw a Collared Peccary in Patagonia this morning. We got back to our hotel and suddenly noticed that Trevor, the given name of our plastic step stool, was missing. Somebody who was on ‘Trevor duty’

American Goldfinch. Patagonia, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

had left him back at the Paton’s. I went back to retrieve Trev and found him looking rather lonely in the parking lot.

Back at the Gathering Grounds for breakfast, we also ordered our lunches and took them with us out into the field. We, rather reluctantly, left Patagonia this morning, and headed east to the Sonoita Grasslands. We spent several hours in the grasslands, which were beautiful this morning, under blue skies and light winds. Connell spotted our first Pronghorn Antelope as we entered the grassland habitat at Las Cienegas. ‘Lilian’s’ Eastern Meadowlarks were seen, and I explained that this unique race may perhaps get split and acquire full species status one day. Sparrows were common in the grasslands with the most abundant being Lark Sparrows. Mixed in with the Lark Sparrows were several Lark Buntings, another nice surprise. A single Brewer’s Sparrow appeared just long enough for scope views, and after some searching, we had excellent looks at Grasshopper Sparrows. Horned Larks strutted about on the ground and Loggerhead Shrike was a first for the tour. Our first definite Chihuahuan Ravens were noted today.

Scenery in Sonoita Grasslands, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Swainson’s Hawks showed off their features nicely as they soared against the blue sky. The sprinkling of wildflowers out in the grasslands was very nice.

Our next stop was at the Appleton-Whittell Audubon Research Ranch near the town of Elgin. We drove through much of the same grassland habitat to get to the ranch, but it really is gorgeous country out there. Botteri’s Sparrows seemed to be everywhere, jumping up out of the grass and pumping their tails as they flew short distances. A Loggerhead Shrike was seen quite well as were more Eastern Meadowlarks. Once we got to the ranch we were greeted by a friendly young man, one of the researches staying here. He explained they were doing some work there during our visit and that the Scaled Quail, the birds we had come to see, could be hiding due to the increased activity. The wind was also relentless. We had lunch inside a barn, where I thought we might be sheltered from the wind. I was wrong. The barn was like a wind tunnel, and the wind actually blew the lettuce right off Irene’s fork! We were, in the end, fortunate enough to see Scaled Quail. I flushed one up from some long grass next to the parking lot and we saw two more quite nicely as well. Thanking the researches for their hospitality, we carried on our way to Sierra Vista.

We checked in at our hotel and then reassembled for a visit to the edge of the Huachuca Mountains at Ash Canyon. Feeders are strung up all over the garden of Mary Jo at the Ash Canyon B & B. We parked ourselves in front of the hummingbird feeders and tallied

Lucifer Hummingbird. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

a few species; Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Anna’s. Then, a female hummingbird with buffy underparts and a long, curved bill appeared. It was the bird we’d come here to see, a Lucifer Hummingbird. This Mexican hummingbird species is only found at a few spots in the USA and Ash Canyon is one of them. A lucky few of the group also got a quick view of the male Lucifer Hummingbird as well. Orioles put on a spectacular show here today, with loads of Scott’s and some Bullock’s orioles coming into feed on jam. Ladder-backed, Gila and Acorn woodpeckers joined in on the feast, as did Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, Mexican Jays, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Pyrrhuloxia, White-winged Doves and much

gambel's quail
Gambel’s Quail. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

more. At one point, a Wild Turkey even crashed on to the scene. We returned to Sierra Vista and had dinner, during which time we discussed what a top knotch day we had had.

May 8 – We picked up lunch this morning and headed for the Huachuca Mountains. The road up to the top of Carr Canyon is an interesting one. It is gravel and bumpy and has some hairpin turns, but the scenery is amazing and once you get to the top, the birding is sensational. We arrived at Reef Townsite Campground and as soon as we got out of the van, we started spotting new birds. Buff-breasted Flycatcher, one of the signature birds of the upper reaches of the Huachuca Mountains, were seen almost immediately, and by the end of our visit, we must have seen close to ten of them. Warblers, including Townsend’s, Virginia’s, Hermit, ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped, Black-

buff-breasted flycatcher
Buff-breasted Flycatcher. Huachuca Mtns, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

throated Gray, Grace’s and Wilson’s warbler, as well as Painted Redstarts, entertained us throughout our stay. Other woodland birds like Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-eyed Junco, Hutton’s Vireo, and Greater Pewee were also nice to see. Bumping our way back down the mountain, we had a stop to take pictures of the scenery and Pip happened to spot a Peregrine Falcon. Our first Hammond’s Flycatcher was noted here. Down at the bottom of the canyon we had lunch at the Carr Canyon Picnic Site. Not many birds were found here, though the usual cleanup crew of Mexican Jays came in as we were leaving. An open area short distance away, where I often find Eastern Bluebirds again produced the goods today. We watched a pair of ‘Mexican’ or ‘Azure’ Eastern Bluebirds forage amongst the oaks. Several White-tailed Deer also fed on the irrigated

eastern bluebird
‘Azure’ Eastern Bluebird. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

lawn here.

Our next destination was San Pedro House, where feeders and a grove of tall cottonwoods attract some nice birds. Upon arrival, I headed over to check out one particularly large cottonwood tree where I knew of a Western Screech-Owl that lived in a ‘heart-shaped’ cavity. Sure enough, the owl was sleeping away at the entrance to its roost. A male American Kestrel was also hanging out in the same tree, providing us with the best look we got of this attractive species of falcon on this tour. We enjoyed a lovely walk along the San Pedro River this afternoon, and the clouds kept the temperatures quite bearable. At this point it was beginning to get harder to add new species at every stop. We didn’t add any on our walk along the river, but we had excellent birding, nonetheless. A Zone-tailed Hawk sailed overhead several times. Gray Hawks called in the distance. Richard spotted a Great Blue

western screech-owl
Roosting Western Screech-Owl. San Pedro River, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Heron sitting on a nest high in a cottonwood tree. There were good numbers of Western and Summer tanagers, as well as Bullock’s Oriole, Western Wood-Pewee, Lucy’s and Virginia’s warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Abert’s Towhee, Bewick’s Wren, Brown-crested, Ash-throated and Dusky-capped flycatchers. The list goes on and on. We walked around a pond where Mexican Ducks were preening on logs around the edges, while a pair of Spotted Sandpipers slept away the afternoon nearby. A large Bullfrog was seen here, as well as the usual Red-eared Sliders that are found at most wetlands in this part of the world.

Back at the visitor’s center, some of us had wandered inside to do some retail therapy when Alex happened to photograph a male Blue Grosbeak at the feeders outside.

common ground-dove
Common Ground-Dove. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Unfortunately, by the time the rest of us arrived, the grosbeak had flown off. We waited around for a while, hoping he might return, but he didn’t. We enjoyed watching Common Ground-Doves, White-crowned Sparrows, Curve-billed Thrashers and the like anyway.

We had dinner back in Sierra Vista and then some of us went out to look for night birds in Miller Canyon. Though we heard Common Poorwill in the distance, unfortunately we didn’t see any tonight. We saw quite a few White-tailed Deer and we enjoyed the stunning vistas of the Milky Way.

May 9 – After checking out of our accommodations, we left Sierra Vista and returned to Miller Canyon and the Beatty’s Guest Ranch. We hiked up the canyon about a mile or so, and searched, in vain, for a Spotted Owl. Owl or no owl, we saw some nice birds this

mexican jay
Mexican Jay. S.E. Arizona. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

morning, including a Painted Redstart, our first and only Cordilleran Flycatcher of the tour, Hepatic Tanagers, Dusky-capped Flycatchers and more. At the hummingbird feeders Tom Beatty Jr. gave us a running commentary on some of the hummingbirds. There were plenty of Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Broad-billed Hummingbirds, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Anna’s Hummingbird and some rather magnificent Rivoli’s Hummingbirds feasting at the feeders. Richard, Sue and Jane saw our first Blue-throated Hummingbird of the tour. Tom’s pack of ‘coon hounds’ had treed a squirrel earlier and the hounds were noisily trying to fend off any remaining threat the pesky mammal might throw their way.

We visited Sierra Vista one last time, to have lunch before beginning our journey towards Portal. We picked up food and took it back to San Pedro House where we enjoyed a picnic while a Western Screech-Owl watched us from it’s perch, up in the tall

rivoli's hummingbird
Rivoli’s Hummingbird. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

cottonwood. Otherwise, the feeders were quiet, with no sign of yesterday’s Blue Grosbeak. As we continued traveling east, we passed through the mining town of Bisbee, with its old-fashioned town center and deep pit copper mines all around. Scattered here and there was derelict mining machinery. We got fuel in Douglas and then drove on until we found ourselves on State Line Road. The east side of the road is in New Mexico and to the west is Arizona. We briefly found ourselves on the New Mexican side, where we tallied some very nice birds in a short time. There was an adult Great Horned Owl sitting atop a hay bail in an old barn. A Cactus Wren harassed an American Kestrel that had landed on a yucca stem. Showing nicely were a pair of Bendire’s Thrashers, with nearby Curve-billed Thrashers for comparison. Also, on the New Mexico side of the border, were Loggerhead Shrike, Gambel’s Quail and Swainson’s Hawk.

We arrived in Portal around 4 PM and checked into our accommodations. Clouds were gathering and the temperature was on the cool side. We decided to head over to a set of

‘Crissal’ sign. Portal, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

feeders in a private garden on the edge of town. A sign reading ‘Crissal’ greeted us at the top of the driveway. At this particular set of feeders, Crissal Thrasher was being seen somewhat regularly. We settled in to watch the feeders and were immediately surprised at the diversity of the birds coming into feed. There was quite a covey of Gambel’s Quail running the show on the ground, with a group of tiny, stripy chicks being delinquent as ever. Black-throated Sparrows were another star attraction here, as several often fed very close to where the people sit and watch, and they did today. Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxias, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser

Pyrrhuloxia. Portal, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Canyon Towhee, and several gorgeous Lazuli Buntings also joined in on the feast. At a jam feeder, both Bullock’s Orioles slurped down the sugary substance while White-crowned Sparrows scurried about on the ground beneath the seed feeders. A Curve-billed Thrasher appeared several times, with each appearance evoking a stir amongst the observers, who were keen to see the ‘fabled’ Crissal Thrasher. Suddenly, I spotted a movement in the shadows beneath the mesquite trees. The bird was dark and had an exceptionally long and decurved bill. It was the Crissal Thrasher. I announced the bird’s presence and suddenly everyone was stirring, jostling to get a good look at the elusive thrasher. Though most of us saw the bird, the thrasher remained in the understory for most of the several seconds it was in view, leaving us wanting more!

We returned to Portal and had a lovely dinner at the café before taking a stroll along the main street, and almost the only street, in search of night birds. Almost immediately we had a tiny Elf Owl in the soft beam of the light. This is North America’s smallest owl species, and it is also a migratory species that mostly eats insects. We saw one Elf Owl and heard several more this evening. Farther down the street, I heard the soft, low-pitched, ping pong ball song of a Western Screech-Owl. After a short search, the owl was in the beam of the light, calling on the branch of a conifer. We left the lights on the owls for just a few shorts seconds so as not to cause them as much disturbance.

May 10 – At 6:30 AM we gathered for some birding in the metropolis of Portal. Seeing as there are only about ten buildings in town, it was quite easy to survey what was about. Several gardens have feeders and urge the public to watch. Donation boxes, which I

Young Great Horned Owls. Portal, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

added to, were situated at most of these feeder areas so folks could donate a little to help to pay for the costs of feeding the birds. As we passed by the post office, we paused to look at a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet that was hanging out near its nest. A couple of ladies pointed out the nest to us high in the trees. We found the nest of a pair of Great Horned Owls in a big sycamore tree. The nest was on a snapped off branch hanging over the road. Two fluffy little Great Horned Owl chicks peered out at us from the top of the snag. Not far down the road we located one of the adults. We sat at one feeder station for a while and we were rewarded with views of a male Blue-throated Hummingbird, the largest of the regularly occurring North American hummingbirds. Also, at their feeders were Western Tanagers, Summer Tanager, Inca Dove, Lazuli Bunting, House Finches, and several tiny Cliff Chipmunks. In the trees overhead, flocks of Band-tailed Pigeons departed, with several hanging around long enough for everyone to get good views through the scope. We tallied just under 50 species on our walk this morning.

After a delicious breakfast at the café we grabbed our sacked lunches and began the drive up into the Chiricahua Mountains. The van screeched to a stop when Irene pointed out something to me at the edge of the road. ‘Gila Monster’, I yelled, and we were quickly out of the bus. This was a ‘Banded’ Gila Monster, showing a specific pattern and colors were more pink than yellow. The venomous lizard was quickly out of sight, but the sighting was documented as several of us got photographs. Our first official stop was at the cemetery at Paradise. We did quite well to get several good views of Juniper Titmouse here and we were also rewarded

gila monster
Gila Monster. Portal, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

with a Townsend’s Solitaire. Other birds we saw included Scott’s Oriole, Bewick’s Wren and a Black-throated Gray Warbler. Carrying on higher up the road, we crossed small creeks several times and once we’d nearly reached the top of the road, the scenery was incredible. My friend Gavin, a fellow Canadian that was leading a group as well, had his van parked on the side of the road. I rolled down my window and listened outside and I heard the ‘double toot’ of a ‘Mountain’ Northern Pygmy-Owl. ‘Ok, out we get’, I said, and we had lovely views of the tiny owl. Thanks Gavin! We stopped at Rustler Park and after using the facilities, we went for a walk in some conifer forest where I hoped we might find Mexican Chickadees. A Hairy Woodpecker appeared, our first for the tour and some inquisitive Steller’s Jays showed up on the scene. A Northern Flicker, of the red-shafted variety, appeared and was finally on our trip list. I could hear the high pitched, buzzy calls of a Mexican Chickadee high in the trees above and soon thereafter, we had them in our binoculars. They were foraging in amongst the needles of the fir trees, alongside a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Pygmy Nuthatches, as well as White-breasted Nuthatches were noted today, giving us the local trifecta of nuthatches. Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, House Wren and Yellow-eyed Junco were also noted. The flowers here were brilliant with many paintbrushes and

Northern Pygmy-Owl. Chiricahua Mountains, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

lupines stealing the show. Connell suggested we stop and photograph a gorgeous cactus that was growing straight up out of the rocks. I later discovered the name of this red flowering cactus was the Arizona Claretcup.

At Barfoot Park we made one last ditch attempt to find a bird that had been eluding us since the beginning of the tour, the Olive Warbler. We walked down into a nice thick patch of pine and fir and then, I heard it. The soft, ‘pew’ call of an Olive Warbler. The call was coming from high in the trees, a place that Olive Warblers know well, and after quite an extensive search, we finally spotted two of them foraging in a pine tree. We toddled down the bumpy road, watching White-tailed Deer scamper left and right as we descended. Sharp-eyed Connell yelled out ‘Stop! Quail.’ I stopped and there it was. A Montezuma Quail, one of the most elusive and sought-after quail species in North America. A male was sitting out in the open at the edge of the woods near the road. Soon thereafter it was off, followed by at least two more. Fantastic! We enjoyed the scenery as we drove through Cave Creek Canyon back to Portal.

Folks had asked to return to the ‘Crissal Thrasher’ feeders we had been at the afternoon before, so we returned. We spent about an hour and a half watching the feeders, which

Crissal Thrasher. Portal, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

again, produced nicely. A Rufous-winged Sparrow hopped out and picked up seeds from beneath the feeders, proving us with one of just a few looks we had of this species on the trip. I spotted a male Blue Grosbeak up in a cottonwood tree. The bird sat there and sang for quite a while, allowing everyone else to see the bird, which up until this point, had been seen by just one member on the tour. ‘Crissal Thrasher’, I yelled out once again, and this time the bird came right out in the open for 10 or 15 seconds and fed on seeds. The cameras clicked at the rate of the paparazzi photographing an A level celebrity. We had done well at this set of feeders indeed. We returned to our lodge and had the final dinner together as a group.

May 11 – We met at 6 AM on this, our final morning in Arizona. We headed back out towards Paradise, in search of a couple more species that had thus far eluded us. The first, a Gray Flycatcher, showed up right on schedule, but the second, the Black-chinned

One of the parent Great Horned Owls. Portal, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Sparrow had other plans. We tried several locations for the sparrow with no luck, though we did enjoy the antics of male Broad-tailed Hummingbirds chasing one another amongst the Ocotillos. We also had nice views of Scott’s Orioles up here today. Eventually I heard a Black-chinned Sparrow singing up a hillside. We searched and searched and eventually we saw one, sitting in mesquite tree long enough for almost everyone to get scope views of. Feeling as though we had accomplished our mission, we returned to Portal and had breakfast. Those that hadn’t come on the early morning portion of the birding said that the Great Horned Owls were showing again nicely around their nest.

After breakfast we reluctantly left Portal and began the 4 ½ hour drive back to Phoenix. The drive took us through western New Mexico for about half an hour before we reached Interstate 10 and turned west, back into Arizona. We had enough time today to make a couple of birding stops along the way. The first stop was at the famous Willcox Water Treatment Plant. Here, we added 9 new species to the trip list. These included Stilt Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, White-faced Ibis, Eared Grebe, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Ring-billed Gull, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and finally a Tropical Kingbird. There were also plenty of American Avocets around, as well as a few Black-necked Stilts and a single Great Egret. Green-winged, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shoveler, and Mexican Duck were here. Horned Larks were noted, along with Eastern Meadowlarks, in the grassy areas around the lake. Pip saw a couple of Scaled Quail.

We carried on westward along I-10 to the city of Benson, where we had lunch and then headed to their local sewage works. Rumour had it, there were Canvasback here. If we were to find a Canvasback, that would be the 200th species of bird seen on the tour. We found the Canvasback, two of them. They were both females, and in addition, we found a male Ring-necked Duck, the 201st and final species we saw on this trip. We arrived in Phoenix at Sky Harbor Airport with plenty of time for folks to make their flight. At this point of the trip, when the goodbyes are being said, it always feels a bit rushed. As the group disappeared into the airport, I reminisced on just how great a tour this had been. The group gelled together nicely and enjoyed some fantastic places with amazing scenery and great birding. In addition to the birds, the mammals, butterflies and reptiles and amphibians also dazzled. It had been all-around great trip, and this was echoed by all.
Chris Charlesworth

Steller’s Jay. Chiricahua Mountains, AZ. May 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Upper Texas Coast ~ April 10 to 18, 2019

Day 1, April 10 – I met the 5 participants for this year’s Limosa Holidays Upper Texas Coast tour this afternoon. Three had flown in from the U.K, one from Singapore and another from Saskatchewan, Canada. We had dinner and discussed plans for the following morning before heading off for some well deserved rest.

Day 2, April 11 – Shortly after 7 AM we left our hotel and headed north for W.G. Jones State Forest. It was sunny and warm this morning, but as the day wore on, the clouds gathered and we had some rain in the afternoon. We spent a couple of hours exploring the Loblolly Pine woodlands at what I call the ‘experimental forest’. Our main targets

Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Jones State Forest, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

today were woodpeckers and we had very nice views of 5 different species before lunch! The highlight, as far as rarity goes, was seeing several Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, an endangered species exclusive to burned pine forests of the S.E. United States. The highlight as far as ‘wow factor’ goes was the Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest living woodpecker, second only to the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker in size. Other species like Red-headed, Red-bellied and Downy woodpecker were also spectacular in their own right. Another species restricted to the pineywoods region, the Brown-headed Nuthatch was seen well also. Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Chickadee, Pine Warbler and Carolina Wren all showed fairly nicely, as well as Blue Jays, Pine Siskins, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Chipping Sparrow. We spooked a roosting Great Horned Owl twice on our morning walk, and the Blue Jays mobbed it ferociously, though we were not able to see where it had landed in the trees. In addition to birds, we saw some attractive Eastern Fox Squirrels as well as the dreaded Eastern Gray Squirrel. With the morning sunshine we saw a few butterflies including Pipevine Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Carolina Satyr and Painted Lady.

We picked up our lunch and returned to another section of Jones State Forest at Middle Lake. As we ate our lunch we spotted a species new to science along the shore of one of

Hooded Warbler. Jones State Forest, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the ponds, a Balloon Egret (Egretta heliumicus). A Red-shouldered Hawk soared briefly above the pond and appeared to have a small snake in its talons. Our walk along the Middle Lake Trail was interrupted by a few rain showers, but we still managed to see some nice species. Highlights included a gorgeous male Hooded Warbler, as well as White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-eyed Vireo and loads of lovely Northern Cardinals.

We headed back towards Houston and visited Jesse Jones County Park beginning with a walk along the Cypress Boardwalk. As we strolled along the path Graham suddenly jumped and pointed down to the path. It was a snake, and a venomous one at that. The gorgeous coppery pattern confirmed it to be a Copperhead, the first I’ve ever seen in about 20 visits to Texas. Once the snake decided to slither off the path, we carried on our way. As soon as we got onto the


boardwalk we spotted a pair of very confiding Prothonotary Warblers. The male belted out his ringing song while his equally attractive mate foraged just over waters’ surface. High in the canopy we saw our first Blue-gray Gnatcatchers of the trip, as well as a Warbling Vireo. Two Tufted Titmice came in to investigate us and we decided that it was a little bird with character! At the park headquarters we stopped to look for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeders and we were rewarded with at least two, a male and a female coming in to feed. Our first White-winged Dove of the trip was noted here as well. A short walk to the ‘Turtle Pond’ produced little and we figured the birds were having their afternoon siesta. It was rather interesting though to watch a Blue Jay pummeling a lizard to death with its bill and then flying off presumably to eat its catch. Back at the hotel Albert spotted a Green Heron on the nearby pond and Graham luckily was a Swallow-tailed Kite overhead! We tallied up our bird list at dinner and we had seen 50 species today, a good start.

Day 3, April 12 – From Houston we headed S.E. towards Winnie, along with the morning rush hour traffic. We made fairly good time and made our first stop along Oak Island Road, west of Winnie. Two Whooping Cranes had been sighted in the fields in the area, so we were on the lookout for gigantic white birds. It didn’t take us too long to spot them

Whooping Cranes. Winnie, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

wading through a field of tall grass. The cranes were quite distant, but they were slowly strolling towards us and eventually we had excellent views and even managed some ok photographs. These rare cranes usually spend the winter further south along the Texas Coast and rarely make it to the Upper Coast area. Shorebirds were also in numbers in the flooded fields and we took the opportunity to study Greater and Lesser yellowlegs as they perched side by side, with a Solitary Sandpiper next to them for good measure. Whimbrel called as they flew overhead. A Crested Caracara sat on a fence post and Blue-winged Teal were seen as well.

We stopped in Winnie to pick up lunch and then headed towards Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. It was cloudy, with a few spotty showers and quite a strong easterly wind this afternoon. We drove around Shoveler Pond, amassing a nice list of wetland species in the process. There were loads of Blue-winged Teal, as well as a few Gadwall,

fulvous whistling-ducks
Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. Anahuac NWR, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Mottled Ducks, American Wigeon and many Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. Only a few Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were tallied, however. Pied-billed Grebes showed nicely, and we saw a couple of Neotropic Cormorants. Herons and egrets were well represented with Tricolored Heron, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and a couple of brief Least Bitterns seen. Amongst the many White-faced Ibis, we picked out an adult Glossy Ibis, and we also saw White Ibis and a few Roseate Spoonbills. Many shorebirds filled the wetlands with species like Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Plover, Black-necked Stilts and more being studied. King Rail was heard, but remained hidden, and one or two Soras were briefly seen by some in the group. Though passerines were a bit thin on the ground, we did have some nice views of

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Winnie, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings and ‘Myrtle’ Yellow-rumped Warblers. A Northern Parula played hide and seek with us in the trees as did a tail pumping Palm Warbler. Marsh Wrens chattered away in the reeds but remained hidden. Dozens of noisy Boat-tailed Grackles kept us entertained with their antics and we enjoyed great views of Purple Gallinules. In addition to the birds we saw a selection of Alligators ranging in size from quite small to 8 or so feet long. As we were about to leave the refuge, our first amazing Scissor-tailed Flycatchers appeared alongside the rather common but attractive Eastern Kingbird.

We left Anahuac and followed FM 1985 back towards Hwy 124, pausing along the way to watch three Swainson’s Hawks sail over a field. As I drove along, I got a great shock when I spotted a Fork-tailed Flycatcher on a fence line next to the road. Excitedly, I

Fork-tailed Flycatcher. Anahuac NWR. Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

turned around and scoured the fence for this ultra rare South American flycatcher, a first for me in North America. There it was, sitting on the wire near a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Eastern Kingbird. We got some photos and watched the bird as it carried on west. Apparently, it was subsequently seen by many observers until late in the afternoon and during the next day.

At High Island we informed the locals of our rare sighting and then we purchased our park passes before staking out a hummingbird feeder where a Buff-bellied Hummingbird had been seen. ‘Every 15 to 20 minutes it comes in, said the homeowner, but this didn’t ring true for us. We were, however, rewarded with the sighting of a few goodies in a nearby brush pile; Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, Common Yellowthroat and a stunning male Painted Bunting. Along the trails we found a few neotropical migrants including Northern Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush and Brown Thrasher. A Monarch butterfly glided past, our first for the tour, and Swamp Rabbit was new for the mammal list as well. We returned to Winnie, had an enjoyable dinner and tallied up our bird list. We’d seen 90 species today!

Day 4, April 13 – Bracing ourselves for bad weather, which was forecast for today, we made our way from Winnie down to the Bolivar Peninsula. Along the way, we paused to view to falcons along Hwy 124, an American Kestrel and a Peregrine Falcon, both new species for the trip. Our first ‘official’ stop was at Rollover Pass. Birds were in abundance

Reddish Egret. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

here and we spent the next hour scanning through flocks of terns, gulls, shorebirds, herons, egrets, pelicans and cormorants. Species new for the trip here included the endangered Piping Plover, along with Spotted, Western and Least sandpipers, Marbled Godwit, loads of American Avocets and a few American Oystercatchers. Reddish Egrets of both the dark and white morphs danced in the shallows and Black Skimmers skimmed over the waters’ surface. Hundreds, maybe thousands of terns, consisted mostly of Royal, Sandwich and Forster’s, with lesser numbers of Common, Least and Black. Amongst the many Laughing Gulls, we picked out a couple of lovely pink-breasted Franklin’s Gulls, as well as a Bonaparte’s Gull, and the usual Herring Gulls

Nelson’s Sparrow peeks at us through the vegetation on the Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

and Ring-billed Gulls.

Next, along Yacht Basin Road, it didn’t take too long to spot our target species here, Clapper Rail. These large and somewhat obliging (for a rail) birds called loudly from the marsh and showed quite nicely. A couple of elusive Nelson’s Sparrows played hide and seek from the marsh, but eventually we all had decent looks at them. Graham pointed out an Osprey, our first, sitting on a post.

After a short ‘pit-stop’ we headed for Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, where the tide was up very high, pushing masses of birds close in to shore. American Avocets were here in the masses and one estimate thrown about was of 5000 individuals. Many other shorebirds were mixed in, such as Red Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and

Clapper Rail. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Willets. We had excellent views of Piping, Snowy, Semipalmated and Wilson’s plovers here. An Osprey hovered over a pool, making several unsuccessful attempts to catch fish. A Horned Lark hopped about on the beach in front of us.

As soon as we got out of the van for lunch at Jose’s Cantina, I spotted a Loggerhead Shrike on a nearby telephone wire. After lunch we popped in at Gregory Park where a large grassy field produced a few shorebirds, best of which were two American Golden-Plovers. Along N. Tuna Road we had good views of a Seaside Sparrow before it disappeared into the reeds.

At High Island we first visited Boy Scout Woods, where patience did not pay off as we waited a while for the Buff-bellied Hummingbird that had been seen. Nigel did spot a

American Avocets. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

female Ruby-throated Hummingbird here though. A short walk through along trails at Boy Scout Woods was rather unproductive, other than the sighting of a couple of stunning Scarlet Tanagers, a Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler and our first Swainson’s Thrush of the trip. Over at Smith Oaks the birding was better. Soon upon arrival we were sent in the direction of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and we found two or three of them rather easily. A small wave of migrants suddenly appeared, producing a few more warblers for our list as Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler and Northern Parula moved through. Albert pointed out Baltimore Oriole overhead, and a few Rose-breasted Grosbeaks suddenly appeared. It was a nice little flurry of activity to finish off the day. We saw 114 species today.

Day 5, April 14 – The drive east towards Louisiana was quite pleasant this morning. Our first stop was at Taylor’s Bayou and this area of cypress swamp proved to be quite productive this morning. We encountered a few warblers here such as Orange-crowned Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Parula and Yellow-throated Warbler. Also, new for the trip list, a pair of Fish Crows solidified their identification with ‘croaky’ frog-like calls. Overhead we had a glimpse of Broad-winged Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk flew by quickly as well.

We headed out to a place near Texas Point where the road had deteriorated quite a bit, so after almost disappearing into a puddle, we decided to abort this mission. Instead we headed for Sea Rim State Park, but on the way, we first stopped in at another of the Texas Coast’s famous migrant bird ‘traps.’ Bird activity was slow by the locals standards but we were very happy to see such stunning birds as Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Rose-breasted

royal tern1
Royal Tern. Upper Texas Coast. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, Orchard Orioles, Great Crested Flycatcher, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler and a fleeting glimpse of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

We headed then for Sea Rim State Park where we had lunch at the picnic tables in the day use area. We had to use our binoculars and cameras at ‘paperweights’ for our napkins and things as it was quite breezy today. Boat-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds tried to steal scraps from our lunches. Overhead, Cave Swallow flew past, followed by a Cliff Swallow. I could hear the distant call of a Black Rail, though we couldn’t see it. The Black Rail is one of the most difficult birds to see in North America. We drove along the edge of the beach, adding some nice birds to the day list. There were Snowy and Piping plovers, Willets, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin and our first Baird’s Sandpiper of the tour here. Terns were well represented, and we were very surprised to tally upwards of 1000 Franklin’s Gulls on the beach here today.

Red Knot. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

We returned to Sabine Woods after lunch and continued exploring the trails. A gentleman asked us if we wanted to see a Chuck-Will’s Widow so of course we said yes! It ended up being a Common Nighthawk, which is still a very nice sighting. Later that day man and woman asked us again if we wanted to see a Chuck-Will’s Widow at another location in the woodlot. ‘Yes’, we said, and we followed them off to a far corner of the park. There on a horizontal branch of pine tree was a lovely Common Nighthawk. We decided everyone had Chuck-will’s Widow fever at Sabine Woods today. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, all females, as most of the males have already migrated through, fed on the honeysuckle flowers. Two Downy Woodpeckers entered their nest in a tiny cavity in

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Upper Texas Coast. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

a willow. Warbler numbers were low, but we did see Worm-eating, Black-and-white, Blue-winged, Prothonotary, Nashville, Tennessee, Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated warblers, as well as Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush and Common Yellowthroat. Brown Thrashers scratched about in the leaflitter, along with a couple of Swainson’s Thrushes, while Indigo Buntings occasionally showed themselves nicely in the grassy meadows at the edge of the woods. We were pointed out a female type Western Tanager here, a species not often encountered this far east and yet another write-in for our growing list of unusual species. Another bird of the ‘western’ camp, a Western Kingbird, was a nice find as it sat on telephone wires at the entrance to Sabine Woods for the day. We returned to Winnie in the late afternoon for dinner at Al T’s, where the evening ‘people watching entertainment continued.

Day 6, April 15 – We picked up sandwiches at the local shop and headed towards Anahuac NWR, via FM 1985. Along the way we stopped to scan fields for Upland Sandpipers. I noticed a buffy / peach colored bird on a fencepost in the distance. I put the

Black-necked Stilt. Anahuac NWR. Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

scope on it and it was a Say’s Phoebe, a rather rare local bird. Also seen here were lovely Eastern Meadowlarks.

Upon our arrival at Anahuac headed for Skillern Tract, where a stroll along the trail was quite enjoyable. Just as we embarked on the trail, a male Painted Bunting gave us tantalizingly quick views, leaving us wanting more. We had a very nice look here at a Yellow-breasted Chat, which is not always an easy endeavor. In the marsh we could hear Sedge Wrens, King Rails, Sora and Least Bittern, but they were all staying hidden. We did add Black-crowned Night-Heron to the trip list here, however.

We checked in to the visitor’s center and then made our way to the Hackberry Trail where Groove-billed Anis had been seen. I told folks to be on the lookout for an all black, grackle sized bird, and almost immediately, Albert chirped in, ‘I’ve got a black, grackle sized bird here’, and it turned out to be a Groove-billed Ani. The ani flew across the path and was followed shortly thereafter by a second ani. Our luck was quite good today with

Scarlet Tanager. High Island, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the difficult marsh species. We had fantastic views of Least Bitterns today and we watched a King Rail at length through the scope. Soras came out to show themselves along with brilliantly colored Purple Gallinules. We had lunch next to a marsh where several Marsh Wrens were singing, my theory, if we spent enough time there, we’d eventually see a Marsh Wren. We did see them as well after a little searching. The usual Alligators were snoozing on the banks of the waterways.

We decided to head over to High Island to check out the rookery and this proved to be a good decision as folks really enjoyed watching the various herons, egrets, spoonbills, and cormorants at their breeding colony. In addition to these birds, we were entertained by a pair of Purple Gallinules on some lily pads below the viewing platform. Graham spotted some scaup out on the lake and asked for the scope. We determined them to be Lesser Scaup, another first for the tour.

Purple Gallinules. High Island, Texas. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

A walk around Smith Oaks was nice but birding was somewhat quiet, due to nice weather. There was Summer Tanager, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak amongst others. At Boy Scout Woods it was also quiet. We watched the hummingbird feeder for the reported Buff-bellied Hummingbird once again to no avail. Otherwise, there were Cedar Waxwings, Scarlet Tanager, Gray Catbird and the ubiquitous Northern Cardinals to keep us entertained.

We returned to Winnie, went out for dinner at the local Mexican establishment, and then headed out to Taylor’s Bayou in search of nocturnal creatures. At our first stop we enjoyed the beautiful night sky, pointing out various constellations and stars. Fire flies glowed intermittently and breaking the silence were various bizarre noises being made by frogs. I let out a Barred Owl hoot and soon thereafter, two Barred Owls began duetting right in front of us. Unfortunately, the duet only lasted a few seconds and then stopped so we never did see them. We did attract the attention of the local sheriff who stopped, turned on his lights and questioned us as to what we were doing out there in

sandwich terns
Sandwich Terns. Upper Texas Coast. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the dark. ‘We’ve had some problems out here’, he said, but soon he figured out we were merely birdwatchers looking for owls and he let us go on our way. As we began driving back to Winnie, we crossed over a bridge and on the right side of the road, in the ditch, I caught some movement. It was a large owl and it flew up into a tree next to the road. We got the spotlight on the bird and it was indeed a Barred Owl. We enjoyed lovely views of this dark-eyed owl as it stared back at us for a few moments. We soon let the owl go on its way as we could hear the calls of a fledgling in the distance. A successful night, with the detection of 5 Barred Owls.

Day 7, April 16 – Today we spent the morning in the southern section of the Big Thicket region, an area of extensive pine forest. I had three species in my sights to find for the group this morning and we found all three of them. First off was the elusive Swainson’s Warbler. As I drove along Gore Store Road with my window down, it didn’t take too long to hear the loud, ringing song of the species. We stopped and soon thereafter we were watching a Swainson’s Warbler as he sung his heart out. One target down, two to go. We then explored an area of young, regenerating pine trees and we could hear the buzzy songs of several Prairie Warblers here. After a little searching, we soon were looking at

Purple Martin. Upper Texas Coast. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the attractively patterned warbler as it sang from the tops of the young pines. Two targets down. A little farther down the road I spotted a speck in the sky and it turned out to be a Mississippi Kite. Suddenly there were about 7 Mississippi Kites sailing overhead. Target three down! In addition to these three, we also got a couple of bonus birds, Northern Flickers and finally a Red-eyed Vireo.

It didn’t take long to get to Sabine Pass, where we had a very enjoyable lunch at Tammie’s Diner. Tableside entertainment was provided by a real cowboy, decked out full in cowboy hot and boots, and mud. As we listened in on the conversation, we learned that he’d fallen off his horse into the mud while they were rounding up cattle. Good food and live entertainment. What more can you ask for?

How about a few more birds? Off to Sabine Woods we headed, with the feat of finding more birds being exactly what was on our minds. Over 50 species were tallied here by us this afternoon and these included a few new species such as Veery and a lovely male Chestnut-sided Warbler. Blue Grosbeak numbers had ballooned, and we saw over a dozen of them foraging about in the grass. Lesser numbers of Indigo Buntings were mixed in. A flock of Cedar Waxwings gobbled up mulberries as did small numbers of Scarlet and Summer tanagers. Other highlights here this afternoon included a Kentucky Warbler, a Blue-winged Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It had been a long day, so we made our way back to the hotel in Winnie and then enjoyed our final dinner together as a group.

Day 8, April 17 – Rumor had surfaced that there was a flooded rice paddy a little bit north of Winnie along Hwy 1406. We headed there first thing this morning and we were not disappointed. Numbers of shorebirds and other wading birds were pretty much off the charts. It didn’t take too long to find the target species, Hudsonian Godwit. There

stilt sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper. Upper Texas Coast. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

were 8 of them, and one or two were in the breeding finery. Semipalmated Plovers were numerous as were Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plovers and especially Long-billed Dowitchers. There were also Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Stilt Sandpipers, Western and Semipalmated sandpipers and at least one American Golden Plover. An immature Peregrine Falcon sat on a telephone pole, assessing the shorebirds. Our second new species for the morning appeared in the fields here in the form of several Dickcissels. Also providing entertainment, a crop duster airplane was at work dusting the field next to us.

We headed towards High Island, popping in first at Boy Scout Woods. It was quite slow here, so decided to try out another location that I had not been to before, Hook’s Woods. Passerine movement was quiet here, but we did spot our only Bronzed Cowbird for the tour here. We headed for Smith Oaks, hoping for one or two more new birds for the tally. There were actually quite a few birds at Smith Oaks including Worm-eating Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Painted Bunting, Scarlet and Summer tanagers, Red-eyed Vireos and Baltimore Orioles, but all species we had previously encountered on the trip.

Piping Plover. Upper Texas Coast. April 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

We returned to Winnie where we had lunch and then said goodbye to Albert, who has heading off to search for some more new birds on his quest to see 5000 species. The group, now dwindling in numbers, returned to Houston, pausing at the Sims Bayou Nature Center to look for Monk Parakeets. The parakeets did not visit during our stay today, but we did add one more bird to the list, a House Finch and a lovely male at that. It was 208th species, and the final one we would add, which made for quite a respectable total. We dropped Brian off at the hotel and then headed to the airport where I wished my three remaining new friends safe travels on their transatlantic flight to London.

Chris Charlesworth

Okanagan Spring Birding ~ Apr 5-7, 2019

April 5 – Fourteen intrepid birders assembled in Kelowna and left the apple bowl shortly after 8 AM. It was a rather cloudy day, though forecast rains held off for the most part. We began birding along Mission Creek where we took a stroll to a grove of trees where a pair of Western Screech-Owl hold a territory. Pam spotted the tiny, very cryptically

Western Screech-Owl. Mission Creek, Kelowna, BC. Apr 5, 2019. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

patterned owl, as it slept the day away nestled up close to a tree trunk. Nice start! Shortly thereafter, a couple of Pygmy Nuthatches appeared and provided lifer views for at lest one lucky birder. Other species seen here included Downy Woodpecker, California Quail and Black-capped Chickadee.

We then made our way into a suburban Rutland neighborhood where a pair of Great Horned Owls had set up their nest in a residential area. The nest was in a coniferous tree in somebody’s back yard. From their balcony they must have had the most incredible experience watching the owls. Through the scope we had great views of a parent owl watching over three mid-sized fluffy babies. In actuality, the three young were slightly different sizes since the eggs hatch at different times.

Once we were satisfied with watching the owl family, we headed north towards Lake Country, pausing for a quick break at a local coffee shop. From through the window of the café we spotted our first Bald Eagle of the trip. We began our journey up Beaver Lake

Great Horned Owl. Rutland, BC. Apr 5, 2019. (C) Pam Laing.

Road, first exploring the grassland area along the first several kilometers of the road. Birds were numerous and we had lovely views of some attractive birds like both Mountain and Western bluebirds and several Western Meadowlarks. The ringing song of the Western Meadowlarks could be heard at various locations as we bumped our way up the road through the grasslands. Raptors were seen in nice numbers throughout the entire tour as the weather conditions were good for migration. The phenomenon began along Beaver Lake Road, where Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and a distant Rough-legged Hawk were tallied. We entered the mixed forest about 6 kilometers up the road and we began seeing some different species. A cooperative Red-naped Sapsucker was the first of the year for all of us. Also a highlight was hearing and eventually seeing a Pileated Woodpecker fly across the road. Mixed groups of Mountain and Black-capped chickadees, Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco and American Robin bulked up the list. The ‘finch-fest’ continues in the coniferous woodlands and we saw over a hundred Pine Siskins as well as some lovely Evening Grosbeaks. Cassin’s Finches were seen well, and we also had some very nice views of White-winged Crossbills. Varied Thrushes sang their ethereal songs from the thick forest, though one or two posed for

Mountain Bluebird. Beaver Lake Road, Lake Country, BC. Apr 5, 2019. (C) Pam Laing.

scope views. Beaver Lake itself was frozen solid, and other than a rambunctious dog, we didn’t see too much there. There was a Steller’s Jay, however. Along Dee Lake Road we explored the boreal forest which was decidedly quiet for birds. The quiet, in early spring, is quite normal, and though we didn’t have a big list, we did have some nice quality birds. Canada Jays were probably the highlight up here as we saw several of these inquisitive birds, also known as Gray Jay, Camp Robber, Whiskey Jack. A couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets came in to check us out and one of them approached nice and close, showing off his bright orange crown feathers. The crossbill show continued and we saw more White-winged Crossbills as well as a pair of Red Crossbills.

We made our way down Beaver Lake Road and headed back towards Kelowna, stopping in at Robert Lake along the way. As usual Robert Lake was packed with a great variety of waterfowl including Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common and Barrow’s goldeneyes and Ruddy Duck! There was a flock of gulls at the lake today that was mostly comprised of California Gulls. A few Herring Gulls and a single adult Iceland Gull were also seen. A Sharp-shinned Hawk sailed overhead, along with a Bald Eagle. Yellow-headed Blackbirds sang their unmusical song from the nearby reeds.

Many of us assembled for dinner at 6 PM and some of us planned to go owling after dinner. We hadn’t made it about a kilometer down the road and the skies opened up with a drenching rain storm. Winds gusted as the front came in. Unfortunately we had to cancel the owling efforts this evening.

April 6 – Many of the group again met at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna and then drove across the Bennett Bridge to West Kelowna where they met the rest of us. We drove down to Penticton and made a short stop to get coffee and utilize the facilities. We then headed for White Lake Road, where at Three Gates Farm we met George. It was very quiet at Three Gates, so we carried on to the sagebrush flats of White Lake. We trained the scope on a dead pine tree and enjoyed a rotating selection of birds that came in, including Cassin’s Finch, House Finch, Pine Siskin, and Western Bluebird. Western Meadowlarks were common here, their songs echoing through the valley. Skies were mixed and there was a breeze this morning and this made for excellent raptor migration conditions. We watched a ridge to the south of White Lake and the raptors began to stack up. There were various forms of Rough-legged Hawks about, including a particularly attractive dark morph individual. There were many Red-tailed Hawks sailing about, and the numbers of Bald Eagles were rather impressive. Two different Golden Eagles made appearances over the ridge, as did Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Northern Harrier. We got a nice show from an American Kestrel that was hovering and hunting over the sagebrush in front of us. Another highlight today was the rather brief sighting of a pair of Gray Partridge that flew across the road and scurried off through the grass. This species was introduced to North America and is uncommon and rather difficult to find in the Okanagan Valley. We briefly saw an adult Northern Shrike before it flew off, and we also saw Say’s Phoebe and an impressive flock of Mountain Bluebirds. On White Lake itself there were many ducks, most of which we had already seen. Some of the highlights included Ruddy Duck, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall and Redhead.

We made our way down Green Lake Road, enjoying the spectacular scenery of the valley below. At the Okanagan Falls Campground we stopped for lunch. The weather was quite cool and breezy at this point and we didn’t see too much here. Overhead was a Turkey Vulture and singing in the trees was a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet. At the falls we braved the chilly winds and were rewarded with the sighting of an American Dipper along the rocky shore.

Next, we headed up into the forests once again, this time east of Okanagan Falls up Shuttleworth Road. At Venner Meadows we listened for Williamson’s Sapsucker and other woodpeckers, but we could only come up with the ubiquitous Northern Flicker.

Canada Jay. Okanagan Valley, BC. (C) Pam Laing.

Some Canada Jays came in to visit us and Henry flushed out a Ruffed Grouse from the forest as he hiked through. The usual Mountain Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches were tallied as well.

Back down into the valley we visited the cliffs at Vaseux Lake. A herd of California Bighorn Sheep greeted us at the cliffs. We could hear a Canyon Wren singing in the distance, and some of the group saw some White-throated Swifts zipping overhead. We walked to the base of the cliffs and eventually Roy spotted the Canyon Wren sitting on a rock as it belted out its lovely song. The wren sat there long enough for everyone to get nice views through the scope. Overhead a couple of Golden Eagles glided past, undoubtedly searching for marmots or Chukar to feed on. George reported in there were several Mountain Bluebirds feeding just downslope. Overhead some more White-throated Swifts appeared.

It was time to head for Oliver where we checked in at our accommodations and then met

Bighorn Sheep. Vaseux Lake, BC. Apr 6, 2019. (C) Pam Laing.

once again for dinner at the Rattlesnake Grill. After dinner we headed out to see if we could find any owls at Road 22. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything here, other than a howling coyote. As we pulled back into the parking lot at our hotel, Pam heard a Great Horned Owl hooting nearby. We saw the owl fly into a willow tree and then glide off into the darkness. It began hooting once again so we tracked it down and had lovely views of it in the beam of my spotlight.

April 7 – We awoke to rain along the shore of Tucelnuit Lake. Many of us saw a pair of gorgeous Wood Ducks swimming parallel to the shore in front of the hotel this morning. We headed for Deadman Lake, where a variety of waterfowl awaited. Over a ridge to the west of the lake, raptors were on the move, and we saw our first Osprey of the tour here, along with Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Cooper’s Hawks and a Northern Harrier. Gwynneth noted a group of White-crowned Sparrows along a track next to the lake. At Road 22, we checked grassy fields where we sometimes find curlews, but we could find none today. Swallows were swarming over the river and perching on telephone wires. We were able to pick out some Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a single Cliff

Group birding at Road 22, Osoyoos, BC. Apr 7, 2019. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Swallow amongst the numbers of Violet-green and Tree swallows this morning. Strolling along the S.E. dyke was very productive, and again raptors stole the show. Ospreys were fixing up their nests after having just arrived from their wintering grounds to the south. Several Turkey Vultures soared over the ridges, along with Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Northern Harriers coursed low over the fields and many Bald Eagles were seen, including one on its giant nest in a cottonwood. Overhead, a Peregrine Falcon glided from the Throne straight across to the west side of the valley and out of sight. Other species we found along the dyke included Downy Woodpecker, Bewick’s Wren, and Say’s Phoebe. At the north end of Osoyoos Lake a pair of Common Mergansers and a pair of Hooded Mergansers greeted us. We said goodbye to several of our group here as they had to head back home to the lower mainland.

The rest of us headed west of Osoyoos to the Richter Pass. We stopped along Old Richter Pass Road and had lunch. The skies began to clear and the sun was out at this point. Our target species here was Lesser Goldfinch. In July of 2017, an Ontario birder discovered a small population of these ‘southern finches’ in the hills here and they have been present

Lesser Goldfinch. Osoyoos, BC. Apr 7, 2019. (C) Chris Charlesworth.

ever since. I could hear the plaintive high pitched calls of the Lesser Goldfinches so I knew they were in the area. We finally tracked down a group of American Goldfinches and there were 3 or so Lesser Goldfinches mixed in with them. After a bit of persistence, everyone remaining in the group had scope views of them. We had all said our goodbyes and we were just getting in our vehicles when a flock of Sandhill Cranes called overhead. We looked up and there they were, in formation, about 50 of the large birds, heading north. Behind them was another flock, probably 50 more. What a great way to finish our tour. We had amassed a total of 95 species of birds on the trip, slightly less than usual, due to the late arrival of spring this year.

Chris Charlesworth

Southern Manitoba 2 day tour with Christian Artuso. March 1 & 2, 2019.

Day 1: An early start and a long drive but it produced at least 4 Northern Hawk Owl and only a VERY distant glimpse of Great Gray that Brian couldn’t count. We also had great photo opportunities of Pine and Evening grosbeaks, Hoary and Common redpoll, Pileated

N.Hawk-Owl. Manitoba. March 2019. Photo: Brian Chitundu.

Woodpecker, Snow Bunting and others. It was also a great mammal day with a Canada Lynx and a Least Weasel.






Day 2: An even earlier departure to find Great Gray Owl produced some nice new birds such as Sharp-tailed Grouse but the Great Grey Owl was still missing in action until late morning, when I gave up on the best areas and went to Plan C… Not long after we started searching a new area we had a stroke of luck by spotting a Great Gray Owl hunting behind some abandoned sheds. We even got to wa

Great Gray Owl. Manitoba. Photo: Brian Chitundu.

tch this owl plunge and catch a Meadow Vole. After this, Brian decided it was time to switch from boreal forest to open country birding so we raced back to the Winnipeg area and found six Snowy Owls and some other targets including Gray Partridge and some bonus mammals including White-tailed Jackrabbit.



Snowy Owl Powerline
Snowy Owl. Manitoba. March 2019. Photo: Brian Chitundu.


TEXAS ~ The Rio Grande Valley with Limosa Holidays. Feb 20 to March 2, 2019.

DAY 1 – I met 6 participants at the arrivals hall at Houston International Airport at about 3 PM this afternoon. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon as we drove through the sprawling city of Houston to our first port of call, Rosenberg. After checking in to the hotel we went out to Chili’s for dinner and then the group, who were understandably,

Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

pretty tired, headed off for a night’s rest.

DAY 2 – We left our hotel shortly after 7 AM and made our way to Brazos Bend State Park, south of Rosenberg. As we drove along the entrance road, flocks and flocks of American Robins were noted as they lifted off the fields. We enjoyed a nice walk around 40 Acre Lake this morning, tallying over 60 species of birds, despite cool, cloudy and drizzly conditions. In the woodlands surrounding the lake were many more American Robins, as well as Cedar Waxwings, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets, Orange-crowned, Palm and ‘Myrtle’ Yellow-rumped warblers, American Goldfinches and more. Woodpeckers showed nicely as we saw Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and best of all a Pileated Woodpecker, the latter of which was drumming away loudly on a tree stump as we watched in the scope. Carrying on around the lake we encountered Eastern Phoebe, a

Anhinga. Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Feb 21, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

male Vermilion Flycatcher, White-eyed and Blue-headed vireos, Swamp and White-throated sparrows, Common Yellowthroat and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Waterfowl noted included Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks and some lovely Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot and Common Gallinule were also scattered across the lake. Skimming the surface of the water were hirundines including Cave, Tree, N. Rough-winged and Barn swallows. Great Egret, Snowy Egret and Cattle Egret were seen along the lake’s edge, along with White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron and some Roseate Spoonbills. Anhingas showed very nicely here today and we were fortunate enough to have incredible views of some American Bitterns this morning. On our way out of the park, the robins in the fields had been replaced by a flock of Killdeer. Just as we turned out of the park, I mentioned to watch out for Sandhill Cranes, and barely before I could get the sentence out of my mouth, a group of 20 or so were seen quite close to the road.

The drive from Brazos Bend to Bay City provided views, from the moving van, of American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, Crested Caracara and Northern Harrier. We had lunch at Subway in Bay City and then carried on to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. As we drove along the entrance road, I spotted a star mammal for the day, a Bobcat, as it crossed the road and then crept through the thickets, occasionally popping into view.

Bobcat! Aransas NWR, Texas. Feb 21, 2019. Photo: Richard Carlin.

Other mammals seen today included White-tailed Deer and Eastern Fox Squirrels.

At Aransas we explored the Big Tree Trail which wound through the live oaks for a few hundred meters before ending in the saltmarsh along the shore. Out on the sea were Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead and a Red-breasted Merganser, and both Brown and American White Pelicans put in appearances. Forster’s Terns foraged in the channels nearby one, with one or two of them plunging headfirst in to the water for tiny fish. On the shore, Kath pointed out our first Willet of the trip and shortly thereafter it was joined by our first Greater Yellowlegs. Way off in the distance we spotted two large white birds that, once the scope had been trained onto them, turned into Whooping Cranes! Feeling we had done pretty well, we left the refuge and headed for Rockport where we checked into our hotel, and then went for a delicious meal at Charlotte Plumber’s restaurant. As we sat inside, we saw Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night-Heron beneath the bright lights of the marina. We had seen close to 80 species of birds today, which was fantastic given the cool, dreary weather.

DAY 3 – After breakfast we loaded up our luggage and headed down to the local supermarket where we picked up our lunch. We then made our way to Fulton Harbor where we boarded the MV Skimmer, with Captain Jay at the helm. Captain Jay is an enthusiastic chap, with a strong Texan accent, and a real passion for showing people the birds of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It was a misty morning and the fog remained with us throughout the boat trip. It was cool as we steamed out across the sea towards the refuge. As we left the harbor we spotted a few species such as Laughing Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, Purple Martin, Brown Pelican and Neotropic and Double-crested

Whooping Cranes. Aransas NWR, Texas. Feb 22, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

cormorants. Jay slowed the boat down as we entered the protected waters of the refuge. It didn’t take us long to spot our first group of Whooping Cranes in the distance. There were two adults and a rusty immature bird foraging a few hundred meters away. The giant birds began striding towards us and then to our delight, they took to the air and flew right towards the boat, landing nice and close to us at the edge of the water. We watched a Reddish Egret as it staggered about like a ‘drunken sailor’, scaring up little fish in the shallows. Other wading birds included Roseate Spoonbills, Tricolored Heron, Snowy and Great egrets and Great Blue Herons. A few terns, including Caspian, Royal and Forster’s terns foraged around the boat. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler, and we saw a Savannah Sparrow. We had a few quick glimpses of Bottlenose Dolphins as they surfaced near the boat. We arrived back on shore around 12:30 PM and we all agreed the trip was a great success.

We drove towards Corpus Christi, stopping in at Sunset Lake and Indian Point Park to search for waders. Unfortunately, many of the waders were in an area we could only see from the freeway, where we could not stop and get out to search. Nonetheless, we did see Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt and American Oystercatcher. As we cruised through the neighborhood near Sunset Lake, we saw our first Inca Doves and White-winged Doves. A Mottled Duck was viewed through the scope and we enjoyed watching a large group of

Great Egret at Goose Island State Park. Rockport, TX. Mar 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Black Skimmers here. At one point, an Osprey flew by and scared up the flock of skimmers into their sky. Martin and I had a fleeting glimpse of a Clapper Rail as it disappeared into the reeds. We had a good drive ahead of us yet, as Harlingen was our destination. Along the freeway we saw many raptors including Crested Caracara, Red-tailed Hawks, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture and American Kestrel. A Greater Roadrunner was seen by one or two of the group as it flew out as if to cross the road, and then, thinking better of it, turned around and headed back into the thickets. A little break at the Sarita Rest Stop provided us with a chance to stretch out legs and we added three species to the list here; Brewer’s Blackbird, the rather gaudy Green Jay and, voted by several folks the best ‘songbird’ of the day, some Black-crested Titmice. As we entered Harlingen and drove towards our hotel, thousands of Great-tailed Grackles lined the telephone wires as they came in to roost for the evening. This evening, we headed out for a delicious meal of Mexican food at Los Asados.

White-tipped Dove. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

DAY 4 – Our day began at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, not too far from our hotel. ‘This could be a one hour stop’, I said, to everyone. Three hours later we were tearing ourselves away from this lovely park along Arroyo Colorado. We walked less than a mile in 3 hours and spotted close to 50 species of birds, most of them new for the trip. The feeding station was full of activity with everything from Plain Chachalacas, Green Jays,

Long-billed Thrasher with N. Mockingbird in background. Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, Harlingen, TX. Feb 23, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

White-tipped Doves and Indigo Buntings to Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and Black-crested Titmouse visiting. Along the trails we ran into goodies like Long-billed Thrashers and Curve-billed Thrashers, Olive Sparrows, Bewick’s Wrens, White-eyed Vireo, Hooded Oriole and Tropical Kingbird. We chanced upon a gorgeous pair of Green Kingfishers that were hanging about along a small stream where we saw one of the birds enter a cavity in the clay bank. We saw a lovely mammal here, the Desert Cottontail, as it quietly fed alongside a pathway, and we also saw a cracking butterfly, the Mexican Bluewing, as it fed on nectar dripping from a hummingbird feeder.

After picking up lunch we made our way towards Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, pausing along the way to check out a pond alongside the road. Blue-winged Teal and American Wigeon were here as well as Black-necked Stilt and Greater Yellowlegs. As we traveled towards the refuge we saw raptors such as Red-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk,

Tropical Parula. Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX. Feb 23, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

American Kestrel and Crested Caracara. Once at the refuge we had just sat down to have lunch when a brilliant Altamira Oriole appeared at a nearby feeder. We took a stroll along the Kiskadee Trail, which at first seemed rather quiet. Soon, we found a little flock of birds that included several Blue-headed Vireos, White-eyed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler and a lovely male Tropical Parula, the latter of which is fairly rare. A little time in one of the hides was very productive as we watched Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Green Jays, White-tipped Doves, Black-crested Titmouse and Plain Chachalaca come in to drink and feed.

Some of the group members watching feeders at Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

A short drive down to the Osprey Overlook was very productive and the lake was absolutely covered in birds. Most were American Coots and we didn’t know where to begin estimating how many were on the lake. Some said 7,000. Others said 50,000, but the lake was covered in coots nonetheless. Mixed in were some Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks and Redheads. Along the shore were Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret and more. We took a little stroll down to the Alligator Pond, spotting little along the way. Once at the pond we spotted one of the largest alligators I have ever seen. It must

Stunning Green Jay. Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX. Feb 23, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

have been a good 15 feet long! Heading back down the road, I just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time and spotted a Nine-banded Armadillo foraging in the roadside thickets. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped to see some Eastern Meadowlarks. To the surprise of some, the meadowlark was a gorgeous bird with bright yellow on the breast, interrupted by a black ‘v’. A drive up and down another road did not yield an Aplomado Falcon, unfortunately, but we did see several Harris’s Hawks. As we returned to our hotel we stopped to watch as 100 or more Green Parakeets lined the telephone wires prior to heading to their evening roost. We had dinner this evening at La Playa and then headed back to get some much needed rest.

Green Parakeets. Harlingen, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

DAY 5 – It was a rather nice morning, with cool temperatures and partly sunny skies as we drove from Harlingen towards South Padre Island. We paused along the way, to check out the shorebirds at the Zapata Memorial Rest Stop, and we were handsomely rewarded with a great variety of birds. Most common were Long-billed Dowitchers, along with Least Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plover. Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Curlew, and Semipalmated Plovers were also seen, and we were very happy to spot just one single Piping Plover here. Stilt Sandpiper, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone and a nice flock of Marbled Godwits were also fantastic to tally here. In addition to shorebirds were wading birds such as Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Reddish Egret and Tricolored Heron. Hundreds of Laughing Gulls were resting on the shore, alongside lesser numbers of Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Royal, Caspian,

Northern Pintail. South Padre Island, TX. Feb 24, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Forster’s and a Gull-billed tern.

We crossed the bridge to South Padre Island and headed straight for the Birding Center and boardwalk. Birds were numerous here, and they were also quite obliging to the photographers in the group. We had fantastic looks at waterfowl including Redhead, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Duck. Herons and egrets were well represented with highlights being a little Green Heron fishing in a pond next to the parking lot and some lovely Roseate Spoonbills that posed for photos. This boardwalk, which runs through both brackish marsh and freshwater marsh, is fantastic for rails and we were not disappointed, having excellent views of both Sora and Clapper Rail. One of the real highlights here, a male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher few right over us, showing off his magnificent streaming tail and brilliant pink underwings. Two Wilson’s Snipe were

Roseate Spoonbills (and a White Ibis). S. Padre Island, TX. Feb 24, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

new for the trip list, and everyone finally had a nice look at Stilt Sandpiper here as well. Before leaving South Padre Island we had lunch at Subway.

We headed west to the town of Weslaco and the Valley Nature Center where a very rare bird for North America, a Golden-crowned Warbler, had been wintering. With the help of a sharp-eyed staff member, we were all able to obtain good views of this Mexican and Central American stray as it foraged in the thick vegetation. Other nice birds noted at the nature center included a Clay-colored Thrush, some Black-crested Titmice, Orange-crowned Warbler, Inca Dove and Great Kiskadee. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was spotted as it roosted high in the trees, looking rather out of place with no water to be seen. This evening, on our way to dinner, we took in the spectacle as tens of thousands of Great-tailed Grackles came in to roost on telephone wires at dusk. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meal at the Texas Roadhouse.

Golden-crowned Warbler. Valley Nature Center, Weslaco, TX. Feb 24, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

DAY 6 – We left Harlingen this morning and made our way to Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. Upon arrival I could hear the telltale loud raucous calls of parrots in some nearby trees, so we went to investigate. There were perhaps 50 Red-crowned Parrots clambering about, squawking and flying around at the edge of a golf course. This species is one of a few species of parrots / parakeets that are officially countable in North America. We explored the ‘Tropical Zone’ first, where the usual Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Great Kiskadees, Northern Mockingbirds, Black-crested Titmouse and

Pauraque roosting at Estero Llano Grande State Park, Weslaco, TX. Feb 25, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Green Jays were noted. We ran into a very informative fellow who showed us where an Eastern Screech-Owl was roosting in an extremely hidden spot in a palm tree. He also pointed out a roosting Common Pauraque, so thanks to the man from Wisconsin, we added two really nice nocturnal birds to our list. At some feeders we saw our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird and some saw a Buff-bellied Hummingbird as well.

We did a nice loop walk in Estero Llano Grande Park that took us from the visitor’s center to a levee that overlooked a water filled ditch, and then back to the center via the ‘Alligator Pond’. At the visitor’s center we scanned the ponds finding good numbers of Green-winged Teal, along with Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks, Least Sandpipers, and an assortment of herons. Once at the levee we had nice looks at several American

White Ibis. S. Padre Island, TX. Feb 24, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Avocets, as well as Black-necked Stilts, Stilt Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, and a lovely White-tailed Kite. At the ‘Alligator Pond’ we had nice looks at roosting Black-crowned Night-Herons and several Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Best of all, we saw another roosting Pauraque, right next to the path.

We picked up lunch at the supermarket and headed for Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. As soon as we arrived, a stunning Altamira Oriole caused some excitement. Once we finished lunch, we headed off to explore Willows Lake. Being mid afternoon, birds were a little quiet but once we arrived at the lake, things picked up. Waterfowl included several gorgeous Cinnamon Teal, and a Sora was seen as well. A Coypu, or Nutria, was seen munching on grasses in the pond. We climbed to the top of the impressive viewing tower where we enjoyed a nice view, though saw few birds. We did see a distant Peregrine Falcon perched on a water tower however, the first for the trip. Before leaving

Blue-winged Teal. S. Padre Is. TX. Feb 24, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the area we drove through some farm field, hoping to find a Burrowing Owl.

Unfortunately, no owls were seen today, most likely because the areas where they had previously been seen had been disturbed. We drove on to McAllen, where we checked in to our hotel. Dinner tonight was Italian, and was at the Olive Garden.

Clay-colored Thrush. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

DAY 7 – We started off at a lovely park called Quinta Mazatlan, just a few short miles from our hotel in McAllen. The object of our visit was a bird called a Crimson-collared Grosbeak, a species that only rarely appears north of the Mexican border. We checked in at the historic adobe house, apparently the oldest adobe house in Texas, and then made our way over to the feeders at the amphitheater. We sat for about an hour watching the feeders, which were busy with the likes of Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and Plain Chachalaca, but no grosbeak appeared. A light

Female Northern Cardinal. Salineno, TX. Feb 27, 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

rain began to fall so we headed back to the visitor’s center and enjoyed a cup of coffee until the precipitation let up. We then went for a walk to another set of feeders where the grosbeak had been seen previously. Here we added Inca Dove, Olive Sparrow, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Green Parakeet and more to our list of birds. New butterflies included Mourning Duskywing and Empress Leila. As we were leaving Quinta Mazatlan, with no grosbeak sighting, we spotted an immature Cooper’s Hawk sitting in the open in the top of a tree. Perhaps this accipiter had kept the rare grosbeak from emerging this morning.

We picked up lunch and then headed to an area known as the ‘Border Patrol Corral area, near Bentsen State Park. This area is where there had been a spate of recent sightings of the rare Hook-billed Kite. Raptors were certainly active in the area and we saw Gray Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and just our second Red-shouldered Hawk of the tour, but no

Black-crested Titmouse. Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Hook-billed Kite today. A Green Kingfisher was a nice sighting along the canal here, and we saw our first Black Phoebes of the tour, so all in all, it was a productive stop.

Next up, at Bentsen State Park, we had lunch and then took a stroll in to the park to see what we could find. Temperatures had climbed quite high this afternoon and the sun was shining down on us as we scurried from shady patch to shady patch. We watched some feeders where a volunteer from Iowa pointed out Altamira Oriole, Olive Sparrow, Plain Chachalaca and more, and then we took a walk to the ‘Kingfisher Overlook’, with high hopes of finding our first Ringed Kingfisher. We did not find any kingfishers here, but we did find a single Pine Siskin in with a flock of American Goldfinches. The best species, in my opinion, that we found at

Plain Chachalaca. Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, Harlingen, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Bentsen was Northern Bobwhite, as 5 of the elusive little quails foraged in the grass right next to the parking lot!

It had been a hot afternoon, so I offered folks the chance to do more birding or take a siesta back at our hotel. Most opted for the siesta, but Nigel and I returned to Quinta Mazatlan for one hour, during which time we still did not find the grosbeak. We did add two species to the trip list however, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a lovely male Black-and-white Warbler.

Great Kiskadee. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

DAY 8 – After checking out of our hotel we returned to the Border Patrol Corral area this morning, with hopes of finding the elusive Hook-billed Kite. Though we didn’t find the kite, birding was quite good here this morning, with the highlight, no doubt, being the sighting of our first Ringed Kingfisher. Another nice bird added to the list was a Black-throated Green Warbler, though this flitty little character left us all wanting a better view.

Next stop was at Anzalduas County Park. We took a stroll through the somewhat manicured park, finding a surprising number of nice birds such as Lark Sparrows and a

Inca Dove. Quinta Mazatlán, McAllen, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

lovely male Eastern Bluebird. Overhead, a raptor appeared, and it had distinct slow and deep wingbeats, and ‘paddle-shaped’ wings. ‘Hook-billed Kite’, I yelled out and we all watched as the bird flapped away and out of sight. This was a nice bird indeed, but we all wanted a better look. A little later the kite reappeared and sailed overhead, giving us all a good view, as luck would have it. Another highlight was a male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that entertained us for a few minutes before disappearing. Though this species can be rather common in Texas in the spring, it is decidedly uncommon during the winter months. Other flycatchers noted here included Black Phoebe, Tropical Kingbird, Couch’s Kingbird and the brilliant Vermillion Flycatcher. We had our first views of the Rio Grande here at Anzalduas, and we noted several species on the Mexican side of the river, including Muscovy Duck, Snowy Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, American Coot and Spotted Sandpiper to name a few. Several Killdeer put on a nice show here and we found Cattle Egrets for only the second time on the tour. Two Mexican Ducks flew downstream, though were not seen by all in the group before they had disappeared. Before we left the area, we walked a grassy field where we hoped to flush a Sprague’s Pipit. Unfortunately, a couple of guys had been flying their model airplanes over the field, so our chances for finding the pipits were low. We did see some Western Meadowlarks, though no pipits.

After lunch we carried on to Rio Grande City and checked into our accommodations. We

Altamira Oriole. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

then reassembled and continued west to Salineno where we watched the feeders for half an hour or so. As soon as the volunteers had put out some seed and peanut butter, a flurry of activity ensued. Suddenly there were hungry Great Kiskadees, White-tipped Doves, Long-billed Thrasher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse and many others swarming the feeders. No Audubon’s Oriole though, which is the ‘signature’ bird of this particular feeding station. We headed down to the Rio Grande and scanned up and down for Red-billed Pigeons and Morelet’s Seedeater. No luck this afternoon with those species, though we did enjoy watching Ospreys along the river and a number of songbirds in the thorn-scrub such as Verdin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and the usual crop of Lincoln’s Sparrows. On our way out of Salineno, I heard a Pyrrhuloxia singing near to the road so we stopped and enjoyed fantastic views

Pyrrhuloxia. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

of the cardinal / parrotbill cross as it sang from a flowering bush. Back in Rio Grande City we enjoyed dinner at Casa Adobe before heading to bed for some rest.

DAY 9 – An early morning return to Salineno was very productive. We stationed ourselves along the banks of the Rio Grande, hoping for a glimpse of the rather rare and local Red-billed Pigeon. An Audubon’s Oriole sang several times and flew overhead, but that wasn’t enough to warrant adding it to our list. Then, two large, dark pigeons flew up the river and landed in some tall trees on an island. They were Red-billed Pigeons. Through the scope we could make these birds out quite nicely, though it was still difficult to see the namesake red bills. Our second Ringed Kingfisher of the tour flew downstream. A short stroll through the scrub produced our first sighting of

Audubon’s Oriole. Salineno, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the impressive Cactus Wren. Back at the feeding station we didn’t have to wait long for the local pair of Audubon’s Orioles to come in and nibble on some peanut butter. The local birders have named one of the pair ‘Baldy’ since he has a bald patch on his head.

A drive along ‘Dump Road’ turned out to be a very good idea, as two Greater Roadrunners crossed the road right in front of our van! Everybody had really wanted to see this species, especially Marie, and I had feared we had missed our chance, so a great sight of relief exhaled by myself. Another ‘trip tick’ along this road was a Cassin’s Sparrow that obligingly sang from its perch quite close to the van. At Falcon State Park we had a few more birds to find. Black-throated Sparrows showed nicely, and we all agreed that they are one attractive sparrow. Ash-throated Flycatcher was new to the trip list as well. We finally caught up with a little group of Collared Peccary, or ‘Javelina’, a type of wild pig.

Black-throated Sparrow. Falcon State Park, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Carrying on to Zapata, the point farthest west on this tour, we picked up lunch and took it down to the local county park. This is a good area to find the uncommon and elusive Morelet’s Seedeater, though we could not locate any today. We did, however find two new warblers for the trip, a Black-throated Gray Warbler and an ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped Warbler. Limosa Holidays uses the IOC taxonomy so Audubon’s Warbler counts as a species for the trip, while in North America, we simply just think of it as a race of Yellow-rumped Warbler. Before we left Zapata we had one more surprise sighting right in the town. A pair of House Finches showed quite nicely, and the male sported a nice rosy crown. The group joked that the name House Finch was far too boring for such an exotic looking bird and I agree!

We had a long drive ahead of us this morning. I was on the lookout for one more bird however as I drove along the straight highways. I checked every raptor as we drove by,

Crested Caracara. Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX. Feb 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

spotting Red-tailed Hawks, Crested Caracaras, Harris’s Hawks and finally, the one I wanted, a White-tailed Hawk. The bird was on a telephone pole and we all enjoyed great views of it, noting all the pertinent field marks, including its white tail. The rest of the drive back to Rockport was rather uneventful, other than rain showers here and there. We enjoyed another great meal at Charlotte Plumber’s, and it was in fact, the final dinner of the tour. These trips seem to go so quickly!

DAY 10 – It was our last morning in Texas and we headed to Goose Island State Park. It was cool and gray out this morning, a common theme for us on this trip when we were near the Gulf of Mexico. Upon arrival to the park we enjoyed watching a group of American White Pelicans feeding near a boat launch. I was hoping to add one or two

American White Pelicans. Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX. March 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

more sparrows to the trip list here and was rewarded with the sighting of at least two Nelson’s Sparrows. Marsh Wren was another addition to the tour list. We scanned a mudflat with several species of shorebirds, picking out Piping Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone and Greater Yellowlegs. A single Roseate Spoonbill fed in a puddle and a group of a dozen or so Sandhill Cranes flew by. Scanning through groups of female Great-tailed Grackles, some of us eventually found one female Boat-tailed Grackle mixed in. We drove around an area of open fields and were rewarded with the sighting of several more Whooping Cranes this morning, as well as more Sandhills. White-faced Ibis in immature plumage was another trip tick here, and we saw old friends like Wilson’s Snipe and Greater Yellowlegs. Just as we were about to begin the drive back to Houston, we stopped to check out some sparrows on the ground beneath the oak trees. They were Chipping Sparrows, a species we had not encountered on the tour yet, and mixed in was a single Pine Warbler, though it disappeared before all could see it. A male Brown-headed Cowbird sang from the top of an oak tree.

Sandhill Cranes. Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX. Mar 2019. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

We carried on back to Houston, stopping in for lunch at Wharton. In the grass next to the parking area at the restaurant there were several American Pipits foraging. The final species added to the trip list was a Bald Eagle, though it was seen only by myself and ‘co-pilot’ for the day, Marie, as it flew directly over the van. We attempted to check an area for Monk Parakeets in south Houston, but we aborted the mission due to heavy traffic. It had been a great tour, with some fantastic birds and a very nice group. We said our goodbyes and I tallied up the trip list to find we had seen 200 species of birds.

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours