TEXAS ~ Rio Grande with Limosa Holidays. Feb 21 to Mar 2, 2018

DAY 1 – By about 3 PM the first tour participants emerged from the arrivals hall at Houston International Airport, and soon, all 7 of us were on our way to Rosenberg. It was an overcast and periodically rainy afternoon, and there was a lot of rush hour traffic so the journey from Houston Airport to Rosenberg took about an hour and a half, which is to be expected. Along the way we saw a few birds such as Great-tailed Grackles, Great Egret, a Cooper’s Hawk, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and the usual Feral Rock Pigeons and European Starlings. We checked into our hotel and then went for dinner at Chilis.

DAY 2 – It was cool and overcast this morning as we left our hotel in Rosenberg and made our way towards Brazos Bend State Park. Upon arrival at the park we were greeted by a small group of American Robins foraging on the ground beneath a live oak tree. We spent a couple of hours circumnavigating 40 acre Lake, racking up a nice list of birds along the way. The first order of business was to scope the lake and since this was our first morning of birding, almost everything was new. There were Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots, Common Gallinules, Gadwall, a Ring-necked Duck, Black-bellied

American Bittern. Brazos Bend S.P., Texas. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Whistling-Ducks and some lovely American Anhingas found here. An adult Little Blue Heron crept through the aquatic vegetation looking for morsels and White Ibis, Snowy and Great egrets, Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorant were also in attendance. The path took us alongside some woodland where Red-bellied Woodpecker was briefly seen, and Downy Woodpeckers showed quite nicely. There were quite a few ‘Myrtle’ Yellow-rumped Warblers along with a few Orange-crowned Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets bopping about in the trees. American Goldfinches were quite numerous. We had exquisite views of several American Bitterns this morning, which was a real treat, since this species is often hidden away in the thick marsh vegetation. A stunning male Vermilion Flycatcher appeared alongside the path and caught our attention for several minutes. American Pipits were also seen, as were Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Marsh Wren, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse. Skimming over the lake were Tree Swallows, and singles of Cave Swallow and Barn Swallow. A couple of American Alligators were noted, one of which was quite large. A short rain shower produced enough rain for us to dig out our umbrellas and jackets, but it stopped just in time for us to have very good views of a Sedge Wren.


By about 10:30 AM we were on the road, weaving through the countryside on our way towards Rockport. There were many American Kestrels noted on the power lines along the road today and we probably saw at least 30 of these miniature falcons. Also, a few Loggerhead Shrikes were seen from the van as we drove along. We stopped to ogle at some very close Sandhill Cranes, and by the end of the drive we had tallied over 100 of these majestic birds. Our next stop was at the highway 35 causeway near Port Lavaca

American Oystercatcher. Texas. Photo: Chris Charlesworth


where a Purple Sandpiper, a Texan rarity, had been thrilling birders for the past few days. Rain was dribbling down periodically while we searched, but we only found Ruddy Turnstones, Spotted Sandpipers, Willet, and some nice American Oystercatchers. There were some Least Sandpipers foraging in a muddy puddle. Farther out on the water were up to half a dozen Common Loons, and a Red-breasted Merganser. We ate our lunch here and then turned around and started to drive back to the highway. As we drove along we saw a little group of Ruddy Turnstones fly up from the water’s edge, along with one slightly smaller darker shorebird. Guess what? It was the Purple Sandpiper. We, and several other Texan birders, had great views of the bird and we left with smiling faces.


The next stop on the agenda was at Lions / Shelly Park in Refugio. We had hoped to find Green Kingfisher here, but you can’t win them all. We were rewarded with great views of our first Golden-fronted Woodpecker here however. Other goodies included Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler and Wilson’s Warbler. We were almost in Rockport when we spotted a lot of shorebirds on some flats, and we just couldn’t drive by them without stopping. There was quite a nice variety here including Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-

Black-necked Stilt. Texas. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

necked Stilt, American Avocet, Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret and more. We finally made it to Rockport, after having tallied up an impressive list of 100 bird species. Dinner at Charlotte Plummer’s was quite nice.


DAY 3 – It was an overcast morning, with a bit of patchy fog as we found ourselves at the Fulton Harbor, ready to board the MV Skimmer, led by Captain Tommy, to see one of North America’s rarest birds, Whooping Cranes. Before we even left the harbor we had added a new bird to our list as an adult Franklin’s Gull accompanied the more common Laughing Gulls, offering an excellent comparison of the two somewhat similar species. We left the harbor and as captain Tommy gave us instructions on what to do in the unlikely event we needed to use life jackets, we began picking up birds through the window of the skimmer. There were Common Loons, as well as a few Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead. Brown Pelicans and both Double-crested and Neotropic cormorants were here. Once we got into the protected waters of Aransas, we began to see large white birds on the horizon that eventually took the shape

whooping crane
Whooping Cranes. Aransas NWR, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

of Whooping Cranes. The first group of three, two adults and a rusty plumaged immature, fed in the marsh not more than 50 yards in front of the boat. An amazing success story, Captain Tommy explained that only about a dozen of these majestic birds remained in the wild in the 1940s, though today their numbers are over 500. We saw 39 Whooping Cranes today, a fairly large percentage of the world population. In addition to the cranes there were many other birds to enjoy. Roseate Spoonbill, Clapper Rail, Osprey, Royal Tern, Reddish Egret, and many other species were tallied. We were thrilled to see Bottlenose Dolphins around our boat, with one individual sporting a green tracking tag on its dorsal fin. It had been a very enjoyable morning we

Dolphins (web)
Bottlenose Dolphins. Aransas NWR, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Nigel Turnbull.

all agreed, as we returned to Rockport, where we picked up lunch and had it at a picnic area next to the gulf. It was now quite sunny and warm and the breeze had picked up considerably. We had a fair journey to make this afternoon, all the way from Rockport down to the LRG (Lower Rio Grande) and Harlingen where we would be staying for the coming three nights.


We paused to look for more shorebirds at Sunset Lake near Corpus Christi, and we were rewarded with half a dozen species of plover including our first Wilson’s Plover, Snowy Plover and endangered Piping Plover, as well as Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover and Black-bellied Plovers. Close to 200 American Avocets were estimated to be here today, with one or two beginning to show the pink head feathers of breeding plumage.

As we continued south along Hwy 77, the vegetation changed to thorn forest, characterised by mesquite trees. We stopped at a rest stop, just south of Sarita, a regular stop for birders since it gives them their first opportunity to see some Rio Grande species. We were rewarded with lovely views of Green Jays, our first Black-crested Titmouse, and the only Brewer’s Blackbirds we saw on the entire tour. Nigel spotted a female Rufous Hummingbird visiting some flowers, and this was the only one of that species we encountered on the tour. As we made our way closer to Harlingen, sightings of Crested Caracaras and a couple of White-tailed Hawks interrupted the drive. Once in Harlingen we checked in at our hotel and then went for a scrumptious Mexican dinner at a local establishment called Los Asados.

DAY 4 – I took the group to the Hugh Ramsey Nature Park in Harlingen first thing this morning. I ‘sold’ the idea of visiting this park to the group as ‘just a place we’ll kill an hour before the sandwich shop opens up’. It turned out the hour and a half or so we spent here was the most productive birding we had today! A feeder station set up near the parking area produced sightings of such goodies as a male Buff-bellied Hummingbird, White-tipped Doves, Great Kiskadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Altamira Oriole, Green Jay and Northern Cardinal. Walking the trails, we happened upon a single

green jay2
Green Jay. Texas. 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Least Grebe on a little pond covered in green sludge. A Lincoln’s Sparrow sat on a branch long enough for lengthy scope views, and a White-eyed Vireo posed nicely for great views in the morning sunshine as well. One and possibly two Olive Sparrows, another species found in the USA only in south Texas, were nice to add to the list this morning. Up to three Long-billed Thrashers put on a lovely show. A Gray Catbird skulked in the underbrush and our first Harris’s Hawk of the tour sailed overhead. Not everyone saw it, but a Collared Peccary dashed through the brush and disappeared into the thickets. Not a bad start to the day!


We picked up lunch and then headed out towards Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Upon arrival we were led to an area where there was supposed to be a roosting Common Pauraque was meant to be, but he wasn’t there unfortunately. Around the headquarters feeders are peppered about and we visited the various stations, where hundreds of Great-tailed Grackles caused a great noise. Green Jays were surprisingly common, and there were many Red-winged Blackbirds as well. From the visitor’s center we took a stroll along the first half a kilometer of the Bayside Loop, and it was pretty quiet. A few butterflies were about however, and Nigel managed to identify Mimosa Skipper and White Peacock. We had lunch at Osprey Overlook, where the wind was howling, as per usual. A few birds were feeding along the muddy edge including

Greater Roadrunner. Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Nigel Turnbull.

some nice Roseate Spoonbills, a Reddish Egret and a number of ducks including our first American Wigeon of the tour. John D headed off towards the bushes and came back exclaiming that he had seen a roadrunner. We dashed off to look for ourselves, but there was no sign of the bird anywhere. Some of us, however, did have a brief look at a Verdin here. We headed back to the van and piled in, but Nigel was nowhere to be seen. Just as we were about to head out and look for him, he came up and said he had seen the roadrunner so out we got once again. This time we saw the bird, a Greater Roadrunner, sitting still in the shade beneath the mesquite trees. We headed back to the visitor’s center for one more look before leaving the refuge. This time we were lucky to see a little group of Plain Chachalacas, some of which were feeding at the station.


We departed the refuge and headed south, hoping to see an Aplomado Falcon. We were not disappointed, as a large, very long winged, long tailed falcon soared in front of the van and over the field. Soon thereafter we stopped to search for a Tropical Kingbird, and were rewarded with one, as well as a lovely male Vermilion Flycatcher. We carried on to the coast at Laguna Vista where we scanned the water, adding Redhead to our trip list. Other species present included Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, and the usual Brown Pelicans, White Ibis, Snowy and Great egrets and Laughing Gulls. The day was getting on so we returned to our hotel before heading out for a very tasty meal at the Texas Road House.

DAY 5 – From Harlingen we made our way to a lovely place called The Inn at Chachalaca Bend, near Los Fresnos. On the way we added a few birds to our list such as Lesser Scaup on a resaca and a White-tailed Kite next to the road. Once at the Inn, we mulled around the office area hoping to catch a glimpse of a local rarity, a Rose-throated Becard. Unfortunately today, luck was not on our side. There were a number of other nice birds about however, including Buff-bellied Hummingbird, a number of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, a Blue-headed Vireo, Black-crested Titmouse, and Long-billed Thrasher.

Feeling a little defeated by the becard, we left Chachalaca Bend and headed for Brownsville and the Sabal Palms Sanctuary. It was cloudy and dark skies threatened to rain on us, though for the most part it was dry. We headed first for a hide next to a pond. All the ponds and waterways here were rather dry, a sign of less rain than in past

black-crested titmouse
Black-crested Titmouse. Texas, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

seasons. There was just enough water to attract some birds and there were several Least Grebes here as well as Pied-billed Grebe, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal and the ubiquitous American Coot. On the far side of the pond, a Couch’s Kingbird sat atop a tree and sang, our first for the trip. Wandering more trails we caught up with Ladder-backed Woodpecker and the whiny-voiced Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. We had lunch next to feeders where Green Jays, Northern Cardinal, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, and best of all a Clay-colored Thrush, came in to feed.


From Brownsville we headed east, crossed over a long causeway and found ourselves on South Padre Island, a long, thin barrier island covered in hotels, resorts and sandy beaches. One area remains a gem for birds, however, the boardwalk at the ‘World Birding Center’. We spent some time exploring the mudflats, Black Mangrove groves and

clapper rail
Clapper Rail. S. Padre Island, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

marshes along the boardwalk, tallying close to 70 species of birds on our visit! Herons and egrets of all sorts were here, including Reddish Egrets and our first Green Heron of the tour. Waterfowl were in good numbers with Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Mottled Duck, Green-winged and Blue-winged teal, and more. Some shorebirds foraged on the mudflats, including Long-billed Curlew, Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipe and Black-bellied Plover. At one point a Clapper Rail came right out in front of us and wandered around in the open, in a most un-rail-like fashion. Ospreys seemed to be everywhere and another professional fish catcher, the Belted Kingfisher was also noted here. Our one and only Gull-billed Tern of the tour flew over here, and a couple of us caught a glimpse of a speeding Peregrine Falcon. A few Alligators were observed, and one, though only its snout could be seen beneath the boardwalk under us, appeared to be very large. All in all, it was a very

Great Blue Heron. S. Padre Island. TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

pleasant afternoon on South Padre Island. We returned to Harlingen for the night and enjoyed some Chinese food at the China Star.


DAY 6 – It was a misty morning as we made our way back to the Inn at Chachalaca Bend for one more try for the sought-after Rose-throated Becard. On our way into the property, a pair of Great Horned Owls were spotted as they roosted in a large tree outside the gate. We had decent, although foggy views, of them just before they flew off to hide in a more concealed location. Wandering around the property we found much of the same as we had found the previous day, but perhaps the highlight was the opportunity to study five species of swallows all lined up on a wire side by side. There were N. Rough-winged, Cliff, Cave, Barn and Tree swallows present.

Next, we made our way to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge where we headed for Willow / Cattail Lakes before lunch. On the lakes there was a nice variety of waterfowl including some lovely Cinnamon Teal. In fact, on one log, there were Cinnamon, Green-winged and Blue-winged teal all lined up side by side. Brief views of Black-and-white Warbler and Nashville Warbler were obtained here by some people, though most of the

great kiskadee
Great Kiskadee. Texas, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

warbler types we encountered were ‘Myrtle’ Yellow-rumped Warblers and Orange-crowned Warblers. We had lunch while watching the usual Green Jays, Red-winged Blackbirds and Altamira Orioles visit feeders, and then we headed out for one more try on the trail, this time to Pintail Lakes. John D spotted the highlight bird here, a lovely little female Green Kingfisher sitting on a stump next to the lake. White-faced Ibis came in and allowed us to study their features through the scope, and we flushed several Wilson’s Snipe from the grassy shore. Hovering over the horizon were White-tailed Kite and Harris’s Hawks, and a Gray Hawk called, but remained hidden. As we made our way back towards the visitors center I glimpsed a Bobcat as it leapt into the roadside vegetation. We crept forward slowly, but couldn’t see the cat, and we were then distracted by a calling Gray Hawk so we carried on hoping to see the hawk. Nigel lingered and was rewarded with a view of the Bobcat as it disappeared into the thorns. We headed for McAllen, checked into our hotel and then after a short while we went searching for parrots at dusk.


Green Parakeets and Red-crowned Parrots are two parrot species that are ‘tickable’ in North America, so we headed out to known roosts for both species in hopes of seeing them. We arrived at the Green Parakeet roost, which consisted of a busy intersection, a large grocery store parking lot and overhead telephone wires. Small groups of Green

red-crowned parrots
Red-crowned Parrots. McAllen, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Parakeets soon began arriving and we tallied over 70 of them before I exclaimed we should head off to look for the Red-crowned Parrots before it got dark. We made our way to a residential neighborhood with lots of trees and it didn’t take too long to find a tree full of large amazon type parrots. We tallied 76 of them, and 74 were Red-crowned Parrots! The other two, a Yellow-headed Parrot and a Red-lored Parrot, but nice to see, but not officially countable in North America…yet. We headed for dinner at the Olive Garden and then retired for the evening.


DAY 7 – This morning we made our way to a park called Quinta Mazatlan, another of the Rio Grande’s ‘World Birding Centers’. This lovely park, with trails, feeders and a historical adobe mansion, was a pleasure to explore, and we began at the stone amphitheater since there had been a Mexican rarity seen here recently, an immature male Blue Bunting. One of the park staff came out with food, and placed orange halves on trees, smeared peanut butter on branches and sprinkled seed about. As soon as he

blue bunting
Blue Bunting. Quinta Mazatlán, McAllen, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

left, the first bird appeared at the feeders and wouldn’t you know it, it was the Blue Bunting! We enjoyed great views of this Mexican vagrant, as it gobbled down seed alongside Great Kiskadees, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, Green Jays and hordes of Red-winged Blackbirds. We were happy to see several little groups of Cedar Waxwings come in to feed in the treetops, and we saw our first Inca Doves of the tour here at feeders as well.


We tried, along a dirt road through agricultural fields, to find Burrowing Owl this morning, with no luck. Christine did spot our first Black Phoebe of the tour, however, and we had the opportunity to study a group of Western Meadowlarks as they foraged in the fields. Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier and American Kestrel patrolled the fields, while Red-tailed Hawk surveyed the horizon from its perch on a telephone pole.

Our next stop was at Estero Llano Grande State Park, where we spent a couple of hours, beginning with devouring our lunches on the deck of the visitors center. I ran into a good friend from back home who gave me valuable intel on where to find a roosting Pauraque, so as soon as we had finished eating lunch off we went, and we had crippling views of a Common Pauraque as it spent its day on the ground. We then braved the very strong winds atop a dyke as we scanned the lake below for a Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Common Pauraque roosting at Estero Llano Grande S.P., Weslaco, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Nigel Turnbull.

that had been reported with some Northern Shoveler. I found the shovelers easily, and there was the whistling duck in with them. Because of the strong winds, the scope wobbled a lot, but we all got decent views of the duck at least, and there was a pair of White-tailed Kites sitting in a tree next to the lake. Bonus! Before we left Estero Llano, we explored the ‘Tropical Region’ where a few trailer park snowbirds put out feeders. We hoped, in particular, for a locally rare species, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird, that had been seen earlier in the day. We never did see the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, but we did have our one and only encounter with Black-chinned Hummingbird of the tour, as a male and a female came in to feed. Buff-bellied Hummingbird was also here. Lesser Goldfinches paused long enough in a tree top for me to get them in the scope and offer people their first look at the ‘black-backed’ race of this species found in the Rio Grande. As we left, Nigel informed us on the list of butterflies he had racked up, which was quite impressive. After one more unsuccessful try for the Burrowing Owl, we headed back to McAllen, and went for dinner at Applebee’s. After dinner, we visited Bentsen Rio Grande State Park, in hopes of finding some night creatures. Shortly after parking the van, we

Brown Tarantula, McAllen, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

discovered a Brown Tarantula in the middle of the road, which was quite spectacular to see. Farther along, we began hearing the calls of Common Pauraques. I shone my flashlight towards some feeders and we saw a Northern Raccoon just as it decided to ‘head for the hills’, and just as we were about to leave, a Coyote appeared. To top things off, two Pauraques flew up from the roadside and fluttered about in my spotlight for several seconds. It had been an enjoyable evening, all except for the constant annoyance of the US border helicopter hovering above.


DAY 8 – Anzalduas County Park was our first stop this morning and here, we enjoyed our first views of the Rio Grande and Mexico. One of the first birds we found at the dam was a Muscovy, a the only ‘tickable’ USA population of this species. Cave Swallows swarmed near their nests built on the dam itself. Straddling the river between Mexico and Texas were groups of Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks. Ospreys and Caspian Terns sailed up and down the river, entering the USA and then Mexico, no passports needed. A Couch’s Kingbird and a young male Vermilion Flycatcher were spotted here, but the best was yet to come. We fanned out and walked through a field of short grass, eventually flushing about 4 Sprague’s Pipits. The looks weren’t great, and were just of pipits flushing from the grass and giving distinctive call noted. I explained to the group that this was the best look one would normally get of a Sprague’s Pipit. At that moment we found another Sprague’s, but this one did not flush it sat long enough for scope views. Another bonus!

At Bentsen Rio Grande State Park we took the ‘tram’ to an area with feeders. This was the location that an Audubon’s Oriole had been visiting. We waited for perhaps an hour with no sign of the oriole. There were Altamira Orioles, Green Jays, Plain Chachalaca, White-

giant swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail. McAllen, TX. Feb 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

tipped Dove, Olive Sparrow and dozens of Red-winged Blackbirds about however, and all the activity had attracted a Bobcat. We had a rather quick glimpse of the Bobcat as it ambled across an opening beneath the feeder. Nigel racked up several new butterfly species here as well, with the likes of Teleus Longtail, Texan Crescent, White Peacock, and Dusky Blue Groundstreak being just some of the highlights.


Our westward migration continued and we soon found ourselves in Rio Grande City, a somewhat less urbanized area than Harlingen and McAllen. We checked in at our hotel and had lunch before emerging once again into the afternoon heat for a visit to Salineno. The drive to Salineno was about half an hour and took us through the historic towns of Rio Grande City and Roma. Once at Salineno, we headed for the feeders, which are cared

altamira oriole2
Altamira Oriole. Salineno, TX. Mar 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

for and filled multiple times each day by a friendly fellow from Iowa. This feeder set up is perhaps the best and most reliable place in the USA to see Audubon’s Oriole, though we didn’t see one this afternoon. We were treated to several great views of Altamira Orioles though, as well as Great Kiskadees, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Green Jay, Northern Cardinal and Black-crested Titmouse. A Sharp-shinned Hawk, our one and only for the tour, harassed the birds at the feeder occasionally. We followed a trail upstream along the river, through mesquite woods and open fields. We were rewarded with the sighting of a Cassin’s Sparrow giving a flight song. Also new for the list here today were Chipping Sparrows and a pair of Bewick’s Wrens. Back in Rio Grande City, we had dinner this evening at Chili’s.


DAY 9 – We left our hotel in Rio Grande City shortly after 7 AM and returned to Salineno where we hoped to find a few of our final target species. Ringed Kingfisher just wouldn’t cooperate, so unfortunately we missed this species, and Red-billed Pigeons were not flying up and down the river as they often do. We put it down to the fact that there was a gale force wind blowing through the valley this morning. We were however, quite happy to have a great scope view of an adult Gray Hawk in a riverside tree. ‘Mexican’ Mallards were found along the river here too, though

golden-fronted woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Salineno, TX. Mar 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

they didn’t evoke the same excitement as the Gray Hawk did. Up at the feeders we spent close to an hour waiting and watching the same species that had come in the evening prior. Just as I was beginning to get nervous that we might miss the Audubon’s Oriole, a pair of these beautiful orioles came in for a leisurely feeding.


Next, we explored Falcon State Park, where the habitat had become decidedly more arid. As we drove in I spotted a Pyrrhuloxia foraging on the ground next to the road, and this was the only individual of this species that we found. We followed a trail through the scrub, finding species like Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a very dapper Black-throated Sparrow! Before we left, we were treated to views of a several Collared Peccary as they fed in grassy areas at the edge of a campground.

Lunch was picked up in Zapata and we had a picnic at the local city park. After lunch we had a quick try for one of the area’s more sought-after species, White-collared Seedeater. A tiny ‘peep’ call note announced the presence of a seedeater and it didn’t take too long to locate the tiny bird, a female, in the grasses nearby. It was time for us to begin the drive to Rockport, a journey of 3.5 hours.

audubon's oriole1
Audubon’s Oriole. Salineno, TX. Mar 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Driving Texas roads is an exercise in stamina. The roads are long and straight with no bends. The countryside is flat with no scenery to look at. This describes the particular area of Texas we were in. If one were to travel north to San Antonio, the rolling oak-covered hills of Hill Country are lovely, and to the west the mountains of Big Bend are scenic as well. I broke the drive up with the occasional ‘pit-stop’ and by about 5:45 PM we arrived at our hotel in Rockport. We had dinner at Charlotte Plummer’s and it was the opening night of Oysterfest so we were treated to a very impressive show of fireworks!


DAY 10 – It was our last morning in Texas and we made the best of it. We headed for Goose Island State Park, which, it was good to see, was still standing after Hurricane Harvey. Upon arrival we checked some mudflats where Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover, Dunlin and our first Western Sandpipers of the tour were noted. Waterfowl included Buffhelead, Common Goldeneye and Redhead, and the usual herons and egrets were about. We headed for another area known as ‘the Big Tree’. This area had open fields and a wetland, as well as a very large and impressive live oak tree. We got

Whooping cranes flying(web)
Whooping Cranes. Goose Island S.P. Rockport, TX. Mar 2018. Photo: Nigel Turnbull.

reacquainted with Whooping Cranes here, as perhaps up to ten of them were seen in the general area. A flock of meadowlarks played hide and seek with us and we were eventually able to see that at least some of the birds in the flock were Eastern Meadowlarks, a first for the tour.


It was still about 3 hours to Houston so we started the journey, stopping at Wharton for lunch at Denny’s. On the grass outside of Denny’s I counted 50 American Pipits wandering about, mostly hiding in shady spots. In S.E. Houston we stopped in at the Sims Bayou Nature Center, where Monk Parakeets can often be found. The parakeets were nowhere to be seen today, but we did add Blue Jay to the trip list and we had some great views of Cedar Waxwings. I knew an Eastern Screech-Owl liked to roost in a box down along the bayou so I peered through the trees looking for the best angle. Once I found the box, I was happy to see a little ‘red’ morph Eastern Screech-Owl peering out of the box. Everyone else was happy as well, and it was a lifer for several.

Once we were in the vicinity of the airport we made a short stop at Jesse Jones Nature Park to check the feeders. There were Chipping Sparrows at the feeders but little else. It was nice to see Red-bellied Woodpeckers once again, and we heard a Pine Warbler singing. We headed for the hotel at which I would be staying for one more night and everyone packed their telescopes, binoculars and got ready for the flight. Before we left though, we squeezed out one more final species, number 195, a House Finch.


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