phil jeffrey:: Texas, April 2008 trip report
Original plans called for a visit to TX in late May or early June to pick up the remaining RGV specialties that I hadn't seen before the Federal government eviscerated the native habitat along the lower Rio Grande River in the name of border security. The presence of some RGV specialties in late March made me inclined to do a week-long early spring trip to TX in April 2008 as well. Since I saw Muscovy Duck in November 2007 the major river targets were Red-billed Pigeon and White-collared Seedeater. Other species of interest were Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Groove-billed Ani, Hook-billed Kite and Aplomado Falcon as well as all of the RGV regulars that I'd seen before. Additionally I wanted to find Black-capped Vireo in the hill country. The short version of this trip report is that I found all of these targets, in a trip of unusual luck.
Trip planning content here is basically the same as the 2007 trip.
The ABA/Lane Guide to the RGV is rather out of date, although apparently a new version is imminent. The the ABA/Lane Guide for the Upper Texas Coast (UTC) appears to be even further out of date. As a result I didn't even consult either of them and relied on memory, the directions in this page and on the Texas Birding Trail maps - hard copy they are a modest $3.15 each, and you can also download the information via the web (see below) or view it online. In terms of finding sites, this is probably a better bet than the Lane Guides although of course species frequency etc is not represented. In 2006 Bentsen State Park only stocked the one for the lower Texas coast (not that smart), but Aransas NWR visitor center had all three coastal ones. Those were the only birding guides that I brought with me on this trip, but then I've been to most of these places before. For the hill country sites a good map is very useful indeed.
(RGV = lower Rio Grande Valley)
The San Antonio Dollar rent-a-car was a little small, and the PT Cruiser I was given had no cruise control, but after that there was an uneventful drive to Kerrville - seeing some Common Ravens en route - and then via US-41 and FM-1340 to Kerr WMA for scouting and to look for target birds. I got to Kerr WMA at 1:30pm - not your most auspicious birding time. Stopping at the first picnic shelter to check out some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers singing, I also heard and then saw a male Golden-cheeked Warbler. This was the shelter at the "Axe" interpretive display. At the check-in station there's a specific Black-capped Vireo map and birder sign-in sheet, so I went further on to the second shelter (the "Fire" interpretive display) which was supposed to be a good location for them. And by some miracle there were two male Black-capped Vireos having a little territorial dispute and singing out in the open within 10 minutes. This was in the afternoon, so the odds against that sort of thing were high. I spent another two hours at Kerr, mostly at this second location, and I also picked up Common Raven, Myiarchus sp. (best guess: Ash-throated), Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lark Sparrow (singing) and White-eyed Vireo. The Gnatcatchers were just about the most numerous bird. I only saw one Golden-cheeked and two Black-capped Vireos but these were the targets for the first and second day of the trip. Black-capped Vireo was US#601.
Owing to the very early start and the lack of other target birds, I just did a little scenic driving in the later afternoon down FM-1340 and TX-39 before checking into the Motel 6 in Kerrville for the night - I was feeling pretty tired. Both river valleys are very scenic, but if anything FM-1340 is more so since the valley is narrower and less developed and hews close to the Guadalupe River. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and probable Western Kingbird were hunting from wires in northern Kerrville at dusk.
Leaving Kerrville at 6:20am I headed in twilight down scenic 39 and FM-1340 back to Kerr WMA. Getting there at 7am it still seemed a little dark, aided by the overcast - sunrise was probably closer to 7:30am. I heard Golden-cheeked Warbler at the first picnic shelter, and after a little while at the second shelter saw a pair of Black-capped Vireos moving quietly through the brush. Also there were Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows, Lark Sparrow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, I discovered the Wild Turkeys were fed either by design or by scavenging deer feed. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were everywhere just as the previous day. After some patience at this location I got a good look at a singing Black-capped Vireo and a singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler popped up not 20 yards away. I saw the other Golden-cheeked Warbler on the way out of the park.
Heading south I dropped in at Lost Maples SP ($5) for an all-too-brief visit. House Finch, Chipping, Clay-colored, and Lincoln's Sparrows, singing Summer Tanager, various heard-only warblers (Golden-cheeked, Black-and-white, Black-throated Green, Blue-headed Vireo), singing Nashville Warbler, a few cooperative Yellow-throated Vireos, White-eyed Vireo, Carolina and House Wrens. An Eastern Phoebe was hunting along the trail which seemed a little late for this location.
I headed south to Sabinal down a rapidly widening and pastoral river valley, seeing Chimney Swifts near Hondo. In the increasingly southern vegetation mix there were several Ravens around, probably Chihuahuan. I saw a variety of raptors en route south via local roads: Swainson's, Harris's, White-tailed Hawks and Crested Caracara. Many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were on roadside wires, together with presumed Western Kingbirds. I had my first Green Jays roadside near Falfurrias.
I had planned to get to Quinta Mazatlan at McAllen by 5pm but this turned out to be a farce with none of the registration information available at that site at 4:30pm - it was a waste of time to bail out of the north so early in the day and I could have spent more time at Lost Maples.
However the early arrival let me spend the late afternoon at Alan William's yard in Pharr, superficially a most unlikely spot but the plantings do seem to pull in quite a variety of RGV specialty birds: Clay-colored and White-throated Robin (US #602), Great Kiskadee, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lincoln's Sparrow, Great/Brown-crested Flycatcher (probably the latter), Black-bellied Whistling Duck flyover, possible Red-eyed Vireo, Inca, White-winged and Mourning Doves, Ruby-throated and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds. A pretty good yard list and there had been a nighthawk flying around the property before I arrived.Quite a brisk start to the trip with two life birds in two days. I spent the next 3 nights at a Super8 in McAllen.
If days 0 and 1 were pretty good, this next morning was truly outstanding. As part of the McAllen Birding Festival I met at 5:30am at Quinta Mazatlan to make the trek upstream to kayak the Rio Grande. As it turned out the Rio Grande was running fast since they were releasing water from the dam (Roy referring to it as more of an irrigation canal than a river, but it was certainly in full river mode). The put-in was at Chapeno down the hill from the old feeder station that was the location of my life Brown Jay several years previously. The feeders appeared to not be in operation and Brown Jays have become very elusive. Given the current kayaking was destined to be an adventure, fulfilled by ending up in rather than on the river at the first difficult stretch. After taking a while to get back into the kayak, a little scratched and thoroughly wet, paddling downstream turned up some very nice birds indeed: Chihuahuan Raven, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Couch's Kingbird, flyby Barn, Cliff and Bank Swallows, Double-creasted Cormorant, Gadwall. Then things started to get interesting: the first Muscovy Duck headed upstream, seen well from the kayaks. A Gray Hawk popped up from the canopy (seen only on the Mexican side). Because of the swift current the overall trip was fairly short but provided a unique look at the river. We landed at Salineno where things got very interesting indeed, first with Altamira and Bullock's Oriole, then a second Muscovy Duck, then two Red-billed Pigeons (US #603), a Red-shouldered Hawk, a female Hook-billed Kite (US #604) that flew right over our heads and finally a third Muscovy Duck (!). I saw a singing Olive Sparrow in the scrub along the NWR trail.
After the river we went via the Salineno dump road to Falcon County Park in the heat of the day for lunch. Nevertheless we saw Western Kingbird, Pyrruloxia, White-crowned Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Verdin, and many Mockingbirds. Vesper Sparrow was on the wire on way back to 83. A stop at the Roma bluffs overlook didn't add anything new but was my first visit to the site and highlighted that the square was full of partially renovated old border town architecture.
I Returned to McAllen and a brief nap at the hotel. I tried Hidalgo Pumphouse but sign said that *park* closed at 5pm - a useless arrangement for the average birder. Instead I went to Chihuahua Woods Preserve where the cacti were in bloom but the bird activity was low in the late afternoon. Chihuahua Woods is destined to be on the other side of the border fence so this was probably my last visit there. After a quick circumnavigation of the trails I went to Bentsen Rio Grande SP. On the walk in a Mississippi Kite flock dropped out over the path. At Bentsen I saw Couch's Kingbird, Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole. At hawk tower there were more Mississippi Kites. The resaca was full with Least and Pied-billed Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, Ringed and Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, White-faced Ibis, Neotropic Cormorant, American Coot. There was a huge roosting blackbird flock at this location. At dusk Lesser Nighthawks flew over the hawk tower. At the entrance to the hawk tower trail a male Common Pauraque sang from the road but despite hearing other ones this was the only one I saw. I heard Eastern Screech-Owl and Elf Owl on the walk back to the car. Passerine activity was low in the late afternoon, and there was rather a dearth of birders.
Overnight at the McAllen Super8 for the second night
I arrived later than intended at San Ygnacio (9:40am) I walked into the main area on the refuge to find a couple who told me that they'd seen a male White-collared Seedeater just 10 mins before by the boat ramp. Almost immediately the male White-collared Seedeater (US #605) showed itself well, but for less than a minute, at the cane at the main feeder area. I waited around for another hour and a half but it did not show again. There was a cacophany of blackbird and grackle songs and calls and a great deal of both at the feeders. Also present were White-tipped Dove, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Couch's Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Lincoln's Sparrow. A pair of flyby Green Kingfishers on the river were seen from the upstream river access.
After San Ygnacio I Stopped at Zapata city park and saw nothing of interest. On the bridge south of town where all the swallows seemed to be Cliff not Cave - by the end of the trip it was almost tempting to think that Cave Swallows preferred the smaller culverts while the Cliff Swallows were happier on the larger bridge spans. A second visit to Salineno gave Altamira Oriole and Green Jay but activity was low. Roma had Chimney Swift again but I was mainly taking photos of the historic square.
A late Sunday afternoon visit to Sparrow Road in La Hoya was fairly slow but turned up some nice birds - Pyrrhuloxia, a singing Cassin's Sparrow, an immature White-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Verdin. At least on a Sunday there was no tanker traffic and not much traffic overall. The urban park in Edinburg that held the WBC wetlands was swarming with humanity so I left without stopping there and instead spent the time before sunset at Violet and 10th in McAllen where there were 100+ Green parakeets staging before dark and harassing a passing Cooper's Hawk.
Overnight at the McAllen Super8 for the third and last night.
After El Canelo I went toward South Padre Island. I drove slowly down Old Port Isabel Rd - finding Cassin's Sparrow, Gull-billed Tern, White-tailed Hawk, and Crested Caracara. There was a Peregrine along TX-100 at a nest, but I didn't find Aplomado Falcons anywhere. At the South Padre Island convention center I saw Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, three female Prothonotary and one Hooded Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Sora, Caspian, Royal, Least and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmer, Marbled Godwit and fly-by American Golden Plover. I didn't see any Ani at the nearby residential site despite checking it twice.
I decided to skip off SPI and check Laguna Atascosa NWR for Ani and Aplomado Falcon. At Laguna Atascosa I saw Greater Roadrunner near the visitor center, a mutant azure-colored Green Jay at the feeders along its greener brethren with Long-billed Thrasher and White-tipped Dove and the usual mass of blackbirds. I returned to SPI and saw basically the same species again, along with a molting male Indigo Bunting as the sun set. I stayed overnight at the Super8 in Harlingen but motel prices on SPI were cheaper, if anything.
Exiting South Padre Island and going east on TX-100 out of Laguna Vista I noticed birders pulled over at the side of the road and discovered that they were watching two falcons at a nest site - one U-turn later I watched two Aplomado Falcons (US#608) at the nest from the far side of the road. I watched them at a distance for a while, before leaving and headed down old Port Isabel Road again: Cassin's Sparrow in song flight, Eastern Meadowlark were all that I found.
Then to Sabal Palm Preserve for perhaps the last time: Least and Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, American Coot, calling Waterthrush sp. and the usual suspects at the resaca, remnants of a recent grass fire along the entrance road, Black-throated Green, Blue-winged and Tennessee Warblers in the butterfly garden along with Brown-crested Flycatcher, and the Border Patrol on dirt bikes at the Rio Grande overlook - a lot narrower here than at Salineno. Most of the action was in the butterfly garden. The rather quiet feeders had Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove and Bronzed Cowbird. No hummingbirds on this visit as with the last several ones.
After chugging through congested central Brownsville I headed eastbound along US-281 toward Estero Llano Grande SP. En route I made a diversion and from a recent trip report I followed Rangerville Road into Rangerville, turned left (west) onto Jimenez Rd which after it turned to dirt crossed an irrigation canal. Parking here, and exactly as advertized a group of Cave Swallows were nesting under the culvert, giving eye-level looks. (On Mapquest, this is where Hackberry Rd meets Jimenez Road; Rangerville Road connects Harlingen with US-281). At Estero Llando there was no Tropical Kingbird, but Black-bellied Whistling- and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper and Green Kingfisher. Several Lincoln's and probable Savannah Sparrows were in the developing scrub along the trails.
After checking in at the McAllen Motel6 I went to Santa Ana NWR toward dusk. At Pintail Lakes: Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Scaup sp, Forster's Tern, various herons and fly-over Anhinga. Ani had been reported from this location but I did not find them. At the hawk tower there were a few hawk kettles: mostly Mississippi Kite, and some Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks with a fly-by local immature Gray Hawk. A Harris's Hawk up perched right next to the hawk tower.
Failed at a sunset sprint to the edges of the golf course near Quinta Mazatlan looking for Tropical Kingbird, where all that was calling was a Kiskadee.
Further up-river at San Ygnacio, I met the caretaker Joel who said that the seedeater had not been seen in a couple of days, and not at the feeders since that Sunday sighting - judging from subsequent posts on TXBIRDS the male had become rather elusive and the female at best unreliable near the presumed nesting spot. The feeders held the usual suspects including Olive Sparrow and Long-billed Thrasher. The River was fairly quiet. I left at 10:30am and checked out the Zapata road stop 3 mi north of San Ygnacio with good overlook over the Rio Grande, swaths of native habitat (arid upland and riparian). There was a singing Long-billed Thrasher, Couch's Kingbird down by river (no access) and Pyrrhuloxia, Lark Sparrow in the scrubbier patches. This place certainly has potential.
Then back via Zapata, Hebronville, Alice - to Corpus Christi with a few Swainson's Hawk en route in the high wind that was present all day.
In western Corpus Christi I stopped at Polliwog Pond - finding Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Tennessee Warbler, Indigo Bunting, but not all that much of interest on the ponds except White Ibis. At what was my first visit to Blucher Park - I saw Long-billed Thrasher, Yellow-breasted Chat (2+), Black-throated Green Warbler, calling waterthrush, Chimney Swift, Bronzed Cowbird, Myiarchus flycatcher (Brown-crested?), Indigo Bunting and what may have been a nervous Chuck-will's-widow that flushed twice from the trees as I walked along. I never saw it perched however.
Then onto Mustang Island. At Paradise Pond I saw Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Blue-winged Teal along with a few herons. At the water treatment plant boardwalk: Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, Roseate Spoonbill, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Coot, Common Moorhen, various herons and egrets. It was relatively quiet so I gave up early in windy conditions and stayed overnight at the Motel6 in eastern Corpus Christi just off the Padre Island expressway.
I left Mustang Island via the Port Aransas ferry and headed north-west via Sinton, Jourdantown and Hondo into the hill country. After some road construction near Vanderpool I finally got to Lost Maples SP. I was tired from the driving and not highly motivated so various vocal species were not always pursued. However I did find Nashville and Golden-cheeked Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, Vesper,Chipping, Clay-colored and Field Sparrows. Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. A Black Phoebe was at the ponds but yet again no Green Kingfisher. I have more luck with Green Kingfisher these days, but still not here.
Later in the afternoon I returned once again to Kerr WMA: and found 2 pairs of Black-capped Vireo, heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw Clay-colored and Chipping Sparrows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Wild Turkey.
Overnight San Antonio. Flew out early the following morning and spent most of Friday traveling back to PHL.
|Least Grebe||Tachybaptus dominicus||RGV|
|Pied-billed Grebe||Podilymbus podiceps||RGV|
|Neotropic Cormorant||Phalacrocorax brasilianus||RGV, Port Aransas|
|Double-crested Cormorant||Phalacrocorax auritus||RGV|
|Anhinga||Anhinga anhinga||Santa Ana NWR|
|Great Blue Heron||Ardea herodias||various|
|Great Egret||Ardea alba||RGV|
|Snowy Egret||Egretta thula||RGV|
|Little Blue Heron||Egretta caerulea||RGV|
|Tricolored Heron||Egretta tricolor||RGV|
|Reddish Egret||Egretta rufescens||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Cattle Egret||Bubulcus ibis||RGV|
|Green Heron||Butorides virescens||Port Aransas|
|Black-crowned Night-Heron||Nycticorax nycticorax||Port Aransas|
|White Ibis||Eudocimus albus||South Padre Island|
|White-faced Ibis||Plegadis chihi||Bentsen SP|
|Roseate Spoonbill||Platalea ajaja||Port Aransas|
|Black Vulture||Coragyps atratus||widespread|
|Turkey Vulture||Cathartes aura||widespread|
|Black-bellied Whistling-Duck||Dendrocygna autumnalis||RGV, Corpus Christi|
|Fulvous Whistling-Duck||Dendrocygna bicolor||Estero Llano Grande SP|
|Muscovy Duck||Cairina moschata||Salineno and Rio Grande|
|Wood Duck||Aix sponsa||Guadalupe River|
|Mallard||Anas platyrhynchos||South Padre Island, Salineno (Mexican Duck)|
|Mottled Duck||Anas fulvigula||South Padre Island|
|Blue-winged Teal||Anas discors||various|
|Northern Shoveler||Anas clypeata||Bentsen SP|
|Redhead||Aythya americana||South Padre Island|
|Ruddy Duck||Oxyura jamaicensis||Port Aransas|
|Hook-billed Kite||Chondrohierax uncinatus||Salineno (US #604)|
|White-tailed Kite||Elanus leucurus||Bentsen SP, Santa Ana NWR|
|Mississippi Kite||Ictinia mississippiensis||Bentsen SP, Santa Ana NWR|
|Northern Harrier||Circus cyaneus||Port Aransas|
|Cooper's Hawk||Accipiter cooperii||El Canelo etc|
|Gray Hawk||Asturina nitida||Rio Grande river, Santa Ana NWR|
|Harris's Hawk||Parabuteo unicinctus||various|
|Red-shouldered Hawk||Buteo lineatus||Salineno|
|Broad-winged Hawk||Buteo platypterus||Santa Ana NWR|
|Swainson's Hawk||Buteo swainsoni||various|
|White-tailed Hawk||Buteo albicaudatus||several locations s.TX|
|Red-tailed Hawk||Buteo jamaicensis||a few, mainly hill country|
|Crested Caracara||Caracara plancus||various|
|American Kestrel||Falco sparverius||mainly northern agricultural|
|Peregrine Falcon||Falco peregrinus||TX-100 at Laguna Vista|
|Aplomado Falcon||Falco femoralis||TX-100 near Laguna Vista, US #608|
|Plain Chachalaca||Ortalis vetula||various RGV|
|Northern Bobwhite||Colinus virginianus||El Canelo|
|Clapper Rail||Rallus longirostris||South Padre Island|
|Sora||Porzana carolina||South Padre Island, Estero Llano Grande SP|
|Common Moorhen||Gallinula chloropus||various|
|American Coot||Fulica americana||various|
|Black-bellied Plover||Pluvialis squatarola||Corpus Christi|
|American Golden-Plover||Pluvialis dominica||RGV, South Padre Island|
|Semipalmated Plover||Charadrius semipalmatus||South Padre Island|
|Black-necked Stilt||Himantopus mexicanus||various|
|American Avocet||Recurvirostra americana||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Greater Yellowlegs||Tringa melanoleuca||various|
|Lesser Yellowlegs||Tringa flavipes||various|
|Solitary Sandpiper||Tringa solitaria||Port Aransas|
|Spotted Sandpiper||Actitis macularia||various|
|Whimbrel||Numenius phaeopus||coastal grassland|
|Ruddy Turnstone||Arenaria interpres||Corpus Christi|
|Least Sandpiper||Calidris minutilla||various|
|Pectoral Sandpiper||Calidris melanotos||South Padre Island|
|Short-billed Dowitcher||Limnodromus griseus||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Long-billed Dowitcher||Limnodromus scolopaceus||Estero Llano Grande SP|
|Wilson's Phalarope||Phalaropus tricolor||Port Aransas|
|Laughing Gull||Larus atricilla||widespread coastal|
|Franklin's Gull||Larus pipixcan||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Ring-billed Gull||Larus delawarensis||Port Aransas|
|Herring Gull||Larus argentatus||Corpus Christi|
|Gull-billed Tern||Sterna nilotica||various coastal|
|Caspian Tern||Sterna caspia||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Royal Tern||Sterna maxima||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Sandwich Tern||Sterna sandvicensis||South Padre Island|
|Forster's Tern||Sterna forsteri||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Least Tern||Sterna antillarum||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Black Skimmer||Rynchops niger||Port Aransas, South Padre Island|
|Rock Pigeon||Columba livia||widespread urban|
|Red-billed Pigeon||Columba flavirostris||Salineno, US #603|
|Eurasian Collared-Dove||Streptopelia decaocto||widespread|
|White-winged Dove||Zenaida asiatica||widespread|
|Mourning Dove||Zenaida macroura||widespread|
|Inca Dove||Columbina inca||RGV|
|Common Ground-Dove||Columbina passerina||RGV|
|White-tipped Dove||Leptotila verreauxi||RGV|
|Green Parakeet||Aratinga holochlora||McAllen (Violet/10th)|
|Greater Roadrunner||Geococcyx californianus||Kerr Co, Laguna Atascosa NWR|
|Groove-billed Ani||Crotophaga sulcirostris||South Padre Island, US #607|
|Barn Owl||Tyto alba||El Canelo|
|Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl||Glaucidium brasilianum||El Canelo, US #606|
|Lesser Nighthawk||Chordeiles acutipennis||Bentsen SP|
|Common Pauraque||Nyctidromus albicollis||Bentsen SP|
|Chimney Swift||Chaetura pelagica||Roma, etc|
|Buff-bellied Hummingbird||Amazilia yucatanensis||RGV|
|Ruby-throated Hummingbird||Archilochus colubris||RGV, Lost Maples SP|
|Black-chinned Hummingbird||Archilochus alexandri||RGV, Lost Maples SP|
|Ringed Kingfisher||Megaceryle torquata||RGV|
|Belted Kingfisher||Megaceryle alcyon||Bentsen SP|
|Green Kingfisher||Chloroceryle americana||Rio Grande, San Ygnacio, Estero Llano SP|
|Golden-fronted Woodpecker||Melanerpes aurifrons||southern TX|
|Ladder-backed Woodpecker||Picoides scalaris||RGV|
|Eastern Wood-Pewee||Contopus virens||Lost Maples SP, Santa Ana NWR|
|Black Phoebe||Sayornis nigricans||Lost Maples SP|
|Eastern Phoebe||Sayornis phoebe||Lost Maples SP|
|Vermilion Flycatcher||Pyrocephalus rubinus||Salineno, Falcon Co Park|
|Ash-throated Flycatcher||Myiarchus cinerascens||Kerr WMA|
|Brown-crested Flycatcher||Myiarchus tyrannulus||RGV|
|Great Kiskadee||Pitangus sulphuratus||RGV|
|Couch's Kingbird||Tyrannus couchii||RGV widespread|
|Western Kingbird||Tyrannus verticalis||various|
|Eastern Kingbird||Tyrannus tyrannus||South Padre Island|
|Scissor-tailed Flycatcher||Tyrannus forficatus||widespread outside hill country|
|Loggerhead Shrike||Lanius ludovicianus||nr Laguna Atascosa NWR|
|White-eyed Vireo||Vireo griseus||various|
|Black-capped Vireo||Vireo atricapillus||Kerr WMA, US #601|
|Yellow-throated Vireo||Vireo flavifrons||South Padre Island, Lost Maples SP|
|Red-eyed Vireo||Vireo olivaceus||South Padre Island|
|Green Jay||Cyanocorax yncas||RGV|
|Western (Woodhouse's) Scrub-Jay||Aphelocoma californica||Lost Maples SP, now A. woodhouseii|
|Chihuahuan Raven||Corvus cryptoleucus||southern TX|
|Common Raven||Corvus corax||hill country|
|Purple Martin||Progne subis||widespread|
|Tree Swallow||Tachycineta bicolor||Santa Ana NWR|
|Northern Rough-winged Swallow||Stelgidopteryx serripennis||RGV|
|Bank Swallow||Riparia riparia||RGV|
|Cliff Swallow||Petrochelidon pyrrhonota||widespread|
|Cave Swallow||Petrochelidon fulva||RGV|
|Barn Swallow||Hirundo rustica||widespread|
|Carolina Chickadee||Poecile carolinensis||Lost Maples SP|
|Black-crested Titmouse||Baeolophus atricristatus||widespread|
|Verdin||Auriparus flaviceps||Falcon Co Park, La Hoya sparrow road|
|Cactus Wren||Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus||Falcon Co Park|
|Carolina Wren||Thryothorus ludovicianus||Lost Maples SP|
|Bewick's Wren||Thryomanes bewickii||Salineno|
|House Wren||Troglodytes aedon||Lost Maples SP|
|Ruby-crowned Kinglet||Regulus calendula||Kerr WMA|
|Blue-gray Gnatcatcher||Polioptila caerulea||widespread, especially Kerr WMA|
|Clay-colored Robin||Turdus grayi||Allan Williams' in Pharr, Salineno|
|White-throated Robin||Turdus assimilis||Allan Williams' in Pharr, US #602|
|Gray Catbird||Dumetella carolinensis||South Padre Island|
|Northern Mockingbird||Mimus polyglottos||widespread|
|Long-billed Thrasher||Toxostoma longirostre||RGV|
|Curve-billed Thrasher||Toxostoma curvirostre||RGV|
|European Starling||Sturnus vulgaris||widespread (sub)urban|
|Blue-winged Warbler||Vermivora cyanoptera||Sabal Palm|
|Tennessee Warbler||Oreothlypis peregrina||Sabal Palm, Corpus Christi|
|Orange-crowned Warbler||Oreothlypis celata||Kerr WMA|
|Nashville Warbler||Oreothlypis ruficapilla||Lost Maples SP|
|Northern Parula||Parula americana||South Padre Island|
|Yellow Warbler||Dendroica petechia||South Padre Island|
|Yellow-rumped Warbler||Dendroica coronata||South Padre Island|
|Golden-cheeked Warbler||Dendroica chrysoparia||Kerr WMA, Lost Maples SP|
|Black-throated Green Warbler||Dendroica virens||Sabal Palm, South Padre Island, Lost Maples SP|
|Prothonotary Warbler||Protonotaria citrea||South Padre Island|
|Common Yellowthroat||Geothlypis trichas||RGV|
|Hooded Warbler||Wilsonia citrina||South Padre Island|
|Yellow-breasted Chat||Icteria virens||Alan William's at Pharr, Corpus Christi|
|Summer Tanager||Piranga rubra||various|
|Scarlet Tanager||Piranga olivacea||South Padre Island|
|Olive Sparrow||Arremonops rufivirgatus||RGV|
|White-collared Seedeater||Sporophila torqueola||San Ygnacio, US #605|
|Cassin's Sparrow||Aimophila cassinii||La Hoya sparrow road, coastal RGV prairie|
|Rufous-crowned Sparrow||Aimophila ruficeps||Kerr WMA|
|Chipping Sparrow||Spizella passerina||various|
|Clay-colored Sparrow||Spizella pallida||Kerr WMA, Lost Maples SP|
|Field Sparrow||Spizella pusilla||Kerr WMA, Lost Maples SP|
|Vesper Sparrow||Pooecetes gramineus||Salineno, Lost Maples SP|
|Lark Sparrow||Chondestes grammacus||widespread|
|Savannah Sparrow||Passerculus sandwichensis||South Padre Island, Port Aransas|
|Lincoln's Sparrow||Melospiza lincolnii||widespread|
|White-crowned Sparrow||Zonotrichia leucophrys||Falcon Co Park|
|Northern Cardinal||Cardinalis cardinalis||widespread|
|Pyrrhuloxia||Cardinalis sinuatus||Falcon Co Park, La Hoya sparrow road, San Ygnacio|
|Rose-breasted Grosbeak||Pheucticus ludovicianus||South Padre Island|
|Blue Grosbeak||Passerina caerulea||South Padre Island, Corpus Christi|
|Lazuli Bunting||Passerina amoena||Lost Maples SP|
|Indigo Bunting||Passerina cyanea||various RGV|
|Red-winged Blackbird||Agelaius phoeniceus||widespread|
|Eastern Meadowlark||Sturnella magna||RGV coastal prairie|
|Yellow-headed Blackbird||Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus||South Padre Island|
|Great-tailed Grackle||Quiscalus mexicanus||widespread abundant|
|Bronzed Cowbird||Molothrus aeneus||El Canelo|
|Brown-headed Cowbird||Molothrus ater||various|
|Orchard Oriole||Icterus spurius||South Padre Island, Corpus Christi|
|Hooded Oriole||Icterus cucullatus||El Canelo, San Ygnacio|
|Altamira Oriole||Icterus gularis||Bentsen SP, Salineno|
|Baltimore Oriole||Icterus galbula||South Padre Island|
|Bullock's Oriole||Icterus bullockii||Salineno, Falcon Co Park|
|House Finch||Carpodacus mexicanus||Lost Maples SP|
|House Sparrow||Passer domesticus||widespread (sub) urban|
|Total||195 species, 8 life birds|
Sabine Woods [UTC-26] has been recommended to me as a better option than High Island for migratory birds, but the road connecting this location to the High Island area is closed, forcing some backtracking.
Anahuac NWR with a series of impoundments and also some trees for migrating land-birds [[UTC-49]. The East Bayou tract, a series of old rice fields, is often useful for shorebirds [UTC-50]. Mixed goose flocks gather nearby but aren't always easy to see from the road. Anahuac seems to be a little better in migration (e.g. April) than in winter. Anahuac was hit hard by hurricane Ike in late summer 2008.
High Island/Smith Woods has the reputation as a major migrant trap. The area suffered a direct hit from a hurricane in fall 2007, but is recovering. [UTC-52, UTC-55]. I've been to High Island a few times, found that in general it wasn't much better than your average East Coast migrant trap, but clearly I haven't been there under major fallout conditions. Some of the sites have cranky limitations on bird photography (e.g. no flash photography from the trails) so generally I don't think of it as a good option for passerine photography.
Rollover Pass - good for herons and gulls/terns which can flock in the parking lot at high tide, or be dispersed amongst the flats at low tide. [UTC-56]
Bolivar Flats - extensive shorebird habitat, now requiring a day permit for access. [UTC-58]
Brazos Bend State Park usually most noteworthy for herons and perhaps Prothonotary Warbler, also allegedly has sparrows along the entrance rd (but pulloffs are difficult and this is a popular park). Least Grebe was reported from here in late 2006. [UTC-117]
Brazoria NWR, formerly with very restricted access, has more liberal access these days and the Big Slough auto trail appears to be open daily from dawn to dusk with somewhat similar species and habitat to Anahuac NWR but possibly even better - so far my two visits have been either in rain or right at the end of the day, so I've not been doing it justice. [UTC-108].
Aransas NWR for Whooping Cranes and abundant mosquitos. The Rockport Skimmer out of Rockport and Port Aransas does water-based tours which often make it easier to see the Cranes although you can usually see two adults from the observation tower at the southernmost extent of the two-way auto tour route section. There are other companies offering such tours. Mosquitos have been bad for me at Aransas, and apart from the Whooping Cranes I've often felt that time was better served exploring other locations (but of course all the typical species are present here). It takes a little while to get around the full auto tour loop so I tend to just drive down to the observation tower and back. The entrance roads can be good for migrating shorebirds like Upland Sandpipers. [CTC-37].
Two sites in Port Aransas that I favor - arriving from the ferry and make the right at the first intersection (Valero station on corner) onto a road that is called Cutoff Rd (badly signed). About 1/3 of a mile on this road turn right down a small road between the "Shark Valley Resort" and the San Juan restaurant. This is Paradise Pond, a small pond with a partial boardwalk that may be good for migrating passerines and some water birds. The "resort" is the former Paradise Motel, hence the naming of this site. A short distance further on turn right onto Ross Rd (a sharp turn) and go to the "Port Aransas Birding Center" [CTC-57] which is the outflow from the water treatment plant with a large pond with many herons and ducks in season and a boardwalk with an observation tower. See the Central TX Coast birding trail for Mustang Island for more sites. The small roadside "parks" either side of TX-361 on the road from Aransas Pass toward the Port Aransas ferry have potential for shorebirds (and I saw a White-tailed Hawk there in 2006) [CTC-56].
Kickapoo Cavern State Park (limited access) for Black-capped Vireo - Kerr WMA seems a better option. Or Balcones Canyonlands NWR that has an observation deck (the Shin Oak Observation Deck).
Kerr WMA for Black-capped Vireo. The Kerr WMA is located about 80 miles northwest of San Antonio, in Kerr County at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Guadalupe River. Take IH 10 to Kerrville and turn west (south) on SH 16 and connect with SH 27 on the south side of Kerrville. Turn right on SH 27 heading toward Ingram about seven miles. In Ingram connect to SH 39 going west another seven miles to Hunt. Go through Hunt on RR 1340 heading northwest for 12 miles to the Kerr WMA entrance. Looks to be ~20 miles due north of Lost Maples. Black-capped Vireo (look at this population trend data) was found on all three visits to this site - a pretty good record considering two of the visits were in the afternoon. From the website: "Black-capped Vireos are located throughout most of the WMA, however the best viewing opportunities are in the Doe and Fawn Pastures. From the headquarters, go north on the main paved road approximately 1.2 miles. You will intersect another paved road to the left which is closed to the public ; however, you may park at this location and walk into the pasture a short distance. Another ideal location is down the main road another 0.3 mile where you will notice a tour shelter on your right. All birders need to register at the bulletin board located at the Area office. Additional information can be obtained from our courteous staff during office hours (M-F, 8am-5pm). The Area will be closed to the general public when hunts are conducted. The management area is open during daylight hours everyday of the week."
Lost Maples State Park, notably a good site for Golden-cheeked Warbler and allegedly Green Kingfisher and hosts a number of migrant passerines. Can be a little difficult to see them because of the extensive cover. The park is located 5 miles north of Vanderpool on Ranch Road 187. Open 7 days, no gate, but modest fee ($5). Closes at 10pm.
10 miles north of Raymondville is El Canelo Ranch turn west down the dusty entrance road and then north again into the ranch itself. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl largely guaranteed. $150/night single occupancy, but then again there's that owl..... Also $35 per half-day of birding, by appointment only. 956-689-5042. There are other sources for Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl - see the Rio Grande Valley RBA.
South Padre Island Convention Center. Nature trails open 7 days, presumably dawn-dusk, free. various Rails, Franklin's Gull, and has a small patch of habitat that can host quite a variety of tired and hungry passerines - this was probably damaged in 2008's hurricanes. The south bay section has breeding Mangrove subspecies of the Yellow Warbler but is accessible via boat only, apparently.
Laguna Atascosa NWR Sunrise-sunset/7 days. An Aplomado Falcon reintroduction site but hasn't been memorable for anything else when I've been there in previous years at least in part due to drought. However good birds are seen there - its just that you have to work harder for them. From Harlingen, go east on Highway 106 14 miles past Rio Hondo. Take a left at the T and drive 3 miles to the visitor center. From South Padre Island, take Highway 100 out of Port Isabel and exit right on Farm Road 510 at Laguna Vista. Continue 5.4 miles to the Cameron County Airport road. Take a right and continue approximately 7 miles to the visitor center. From Brownsville, go north on Paredes Line Road (1847) through Los Fresnos to Highway 106. Take a right and go approximately 10 miles to the T. Take a left and drive 3 miles to the visitor center.
Sabal Palm refuge for the usual suspects including Buff-breasted Hummingbird, White-tipped Dove, Long-billed Thrasher, Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe and more. Visitor Center open 9am-5pm daily, trails NOT open year-round (see below) 7am to 5pm. $5. Link to trail map. From US 77/83 go east on Boca Chica past the airport. Turn right (south) on FM 511. At the four way stop continue straight on FM 3068 until it ends at Southmost and turn right. Go 1/2 mile to the entrance on the left. The visitor center feeders were very quiet in Nov 2006 when I was there, but the resaca was still productive. THIS SITE WILL BE BLOCKED OFF BY THE BORDER WALL IN 2008 - apparently not so far (as of March 2009). REDUCED HOURS: May 15 Ð Oct. 15 CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC; Oct. 15 Ð Dec. 15 OPEN WEEKENDS ONLY (Saturday & Sunday); Dec. 15 Ð May 15 OPEN Tues Ð Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..
Brownsville's Fort Brown for Green Parakeet. The parrots appear to be more of a neighborhood Brownsville location rather than the fort itself - and I was unable to find good Red-crowned Parrot locations on this trip.
Old Port Isabel Rd for Aplomado Falcon, Cassin's Sparrow - recent Aplomado Falcon reports from there, but it's hit and miss, and there are also sightings from the vicinity of Laguna Atascosa NWR.
Los Ebanos Preserve in San Benito. 6 days a week from 8AM to 5PM closed Thursdays. $5. Private and not part of the World Birding Center cluster. On State Hwy 100 between Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas. From Expressway 77/83, take the South Padre Island exit and go east 100 yards to our entrance on the left.
Harlingen Arroyo Colorado Sunrise-sunset 7 days. Free. Take Expressway 83 to Ed Carey Dr. Exit on to Ed Carey Dr. Travel North on Ed Carey Dr. until you come to Arroyo Colorado site on the east side of the road. May be a good site for Green and Ringed Kingfisher but few reports seen from there.
Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. 8am-5pm during Nov-Apr, closed Mondays ($3). May-Oct also closed Tues. Green Kingfisher has been reliable, Red-crowned Parrot reported, Northern Jacana was there Aug-Oct 2006. Groove-billed Ani reported sporadically. Better for shorebirds. Take Expressway 83 to FM 1015. Travel South on FM 1015 crossing Business 83 and Mile 6 North. Look for the World Birding Center entrance on the east side of FM 1015 before reaching Mile 5 North (at the point where the road curves right if you are headed south from US-83). It should be possible to navigate back roads between Estero Llano and Frontera Audubon if you have a better map than I did - E 18th St looks like a good bet. [LTC-54].
Weslaco Valley Nature Center ($3). Closed Mon. Tue-Fri: 9am-5pm, Sat: 8am-5pm, Sun: 1pm-5pm. In Gibson Park - 1 block south of Business 83 on Border Street in Weslaco. Road construction: from west take Milano St/Westgate temp exit and then frontage road; from east take Airport Dr/Texas Blvd then south on Texas Blvd to Business-83 west. Either way take Border Ave south of Bus-83 for 1.5 blocks. This seems to be of marginal interest since it is very urban and lacks much habitat. [LTC-57].
Frontera Audubon site in Weslaco. Green Kingfisher on 2/18. 1101 South Texas Blvd, Weslaco several blocks south of 83 near 12th St. S Texas Blvd is "Mile 5 Rd W" coming from US-281. Open 7 days (Sat best). Sun-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 7am-7pm. Weslaco is about 17 miles west of the US-83/US-77 junction in Harlingen. This is a relatively small site in suburban Weslaco, nevertheless has a good selection of species and some rarities. [LTC-58]. I saw my life Crimson-collared Grosbeak here in December 2008.
Edinburg Wetlands World Birding Center in Edinburg (WBC site), also now have their own web site as of Dec 2006. Trails Sunset-sunrise/7 days. $2. Take Rt-83 to North Highway 281. Travel north on Highway 281 to the University Dr. exit (Rt-107). Travel east on University Dr. until Raul Longoria St (Rt 1426). Turn south on Raul Longoria to Sprague St. Travel east on Sprague St. until you reach Edinburg Scenic Wetlands on your left. It's attached to an urban park so be prepared for quite a few people. [LTC-61]
Santa Ana NWR (also Wiki link here). Refuge headquarters is located 7 miles south of Alamo, Texas, on FM 907 about 1/4 mile east on U.S. Highway 281. Trails open 7 days sunrise-sunset. This is a little east of McAllen. Clay-colored Robin and Tropical Parula have been my main finds here, historically, plus there's a new hawk watch tower. It's still a must-visit on any RGV trip. [LTC-59]
Alan Williams' residence in Pharr (Williams Wildlife Sanctuary) is a remarkable little suburban oasis where I saw my life White-throated Thrush and seems to be a magnet for all sorts of valley birds. To quote the website a "testament to the avian desires & needs of water features and a diversified habitat of plants, shrubs and trees". This is a private residence but the birder access is well-signed - walk up the left side of the yard and house, remember to sign in and donate.
Quinta Mazatlan in downtown McAllen - Weds-Sat 8-5pm, Tues 8-8pm, Sun/Mon closed. $2. Take Expressway 83 to 10th Street exit. Travel South on 10th St. Turn East on Sunset (Wyndham Garden Hotel on corner). Proceed along Sunset to Quinta Mazatlan with parking lot out in front of the big brown gates. [LTC-61]
McAllen sewage ponds: shorebirds, waders, ducks. From McAllen go south on 115 towards Hidalgo. Turn right (west) on Idela Drive and follow it until it ends. This is just a little south of the airport and on the west side of 115 - it was CLOSED ON SUNDAY when I went there and in fact the birding access wasn't clearly marked so it's status is uncertain even if it is on the birding trail maps. I haven't tried it in recent years and don't see reports on it.
McAllen Green Parakeets as of 12/05 they are staging at 10th and Dove which is several blocks north of the previous Hastings Bookstore location. Supposedly they are still in this general area - looks to be perhaps 5 miles north of US-83, with alternative (faster?) access via US-281 exiting at Owassa Rd (which seems to be what Dove becomes). More recently I've heard reference of 10th/Violet. Head to this general area, park in a strip mall lot, and listen. Green Parakket flocks are not subtle.
Anzalduas County Park. Mission. Fee on weekends. Opens 8am-sunset. From US 83 west of Mission follow FM 1016 south about 5 miles, then right on FM 494 (look for sign to park). (Alternative: exit S Shary Rd/494 from US-83). Near Granejo. Historically - Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Parula have been my main finds here. Also good for Gray Hawk, Spragues Pipit (2/18/06), NB Tyrranulet. I did not visit it in 2006 or 2007, for pressure of time. It gets very busy on weekends. Flooding along the Rio Grande led to extensive period of closure in 2010. It's supposedly destined to be behind the border wall. [LTC-68]
Bentsen-RGV is open 6am-10pm/7 days. $5. This site is radically changed since they banned RV camping, so it's a question how good it remains - I've spoken to some birders who are fairly negative about the "revisions", although doubtless this is not the only viewpoint. Activity was fairly low there in Nov 2006, but this may have been seasonal and the fact that it is a wet year. Either way, the experience there will no longer be as distinctive as it was on my 2000-2002 visits. Having said that, few could argue with Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Gray Hawk and Clay-colored Robin unless they were familiar with the old Bentsen (which was often even more productive, with better views). It was very quiet indeed in Nov 2007 but it still has its moments. [LTC-69]
Nature Conservancy's Chihuahua Woods - in 2006 the web page listed it as closed due to fire danger, but it no longer says so. Open sunrise-sunset. 956/580-4241. US-83 west of Mission to Goodwin Road/FM 492 exit (at H.E.B. Food Store). Turn left (south) onto FM 492 and go about 1 mile to Business 83 (at blinking light). Turn right (west) onto Business 83 and go about 0.8 miles toward where the road curves northwestward. At the curve, go straight onto blacktop road parallel to the railroad track for about 0.1 miles. Preserve entrance is on the left, where the blacktop road crosses the railroad track. [LTC-70]. THIS SITE WILL BE BLOCKED OFF BY THE BORDER WALL - not sure of current status however it was open at least part of 2010.
La Sal de Rey tract: North on US 281 to the intersection of TX 186. Go east on TX 186 to USFWS La Sal del Rey tract of LRGVNWR. In winter, Lark Buntings along the shoulders of TX 186. A public information map of this tract is posted 2.3 miles west of Brushline Rd. on TX 186 near the GTCBT site sign. Entry points are off of TX 186, Chapa Rd., Brushline Rd., and an unnamed dirt road that T's into Brushline Rd. An extensive network of trails east of Brushline Rd. A map indicating access points may be obtained from the Santa Ana NWR HQ. In winter, pre-dawn at the public information spot on TX 186 - early morning exodus of roosting Sandhill Cranes (4-10K), Snow Geese (100-10K), up to 3K Long-billed Curlews (they leave while it is still dark). At dusk, at the northernmost entry site on Brushline Rd. and hike to the lake where you'll be able to see curlews, cranes and geese return, silhouetted against the sunset over the lake. Also good for wintering Say's Phoebes. White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara etc year-round.
Roma Bluffs is on the south-west side of Roma and appears to just be an overlook rather than a walk-into site (although there are a lot of birds on the checklist, which may be more "theoretical"). Take US-83 Business to downtown Roma. At the intersection of US-83 Business and Lincoln Ave. turn West onto Lincoln Ave. Travel West to the intersection of Lincoln Ave. and Portscheller. Take Portscheller South to Convent. The World Birding Center is located on the Southeast corner of the intersection of Portscheller and Convent. There are brown signs along US-83 pointing to the turn off in the older western part of Roma. This has proven to be a decent area to look for Red-billed Pigeon, and the elusive Muscovy Duck, both of which are better in spring. Winter is less productive, but there are no longer regular reports from here to the TEXBIRDS list, so hard to tell. The town square has a old Western feel to it. [LTC-77].
Santa Margarita Ranch - not found specific online info on this site, but is on the river access to the south of Salineno - TX birding trails maps contain the relevant info. [LTC-79]
Salineno - DeWind's are no longer making the trip to Salineno each winter, but as of winters 2007/8-2009/10 there was some occupancy of the site by another couple. In Nov 2006 there were Audbon's and Altamira Orioles. I hardly ever get to this site when there's occupancy anyway, so my first visit to the DeWind's trailer was my last. [LTC-80] Salineno was very productive on the April 2008 trip with the best bird being Hook-billed Kite.
El Rio RV Park at Chapeno - no recent sightings of Brown Jay, formerly regular here at the feeding station (most recently near Salineno). ACCESS HERE HAS CHANGED because the property has changed hands. Access is now far more restrictive - with potentially no river access. The LRGV RBA sometimes gives details - probably not worth turning up here w/o confirmation of the current situation. [LTC-81]
San Ygnacio Bird Sanctuary: At end of Washington street in San Ygnacio - this is a rather small and unobtrusive street. TX Lower Coast Birding Trail # 87, P.O. Box 100; San Ygnacio, TX 78067 Tel. 956-765-8468. White-collared Seedeater can sometimes be seen here, but tends to be rather elusive (I've seen it once out of 6 visits). San Ygnacio is about 2 hours from McAllen. [LTC-87]