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Day 1

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Day 7

Species list

Text only

List of species seen

Least Grebe

This species only reaches the States in south-western Texas, and wasn’t quite as difficult to find as we had expected. We saw them at 3 sites – Santa Ana, Bentsen and Salineño, in different habitats. They were quite numerous at Bentsen, with 11 birds on the Resaca (oxbow lake) from Kingfisher overlook. They were in the company of some Pied-billed Grebes, where the much smaller size could be seen. At Salineño, a pair of birds were claiming territory on the fast flowing Rio Grande river, not too many feet away from our shoreline lookout position. Willow Pond at Santa Ana held a pair of birds when we first arrived

Pied-billed Grebe

These were seen at 2 sites, both on standing water. A group of 3 was on the lake at Dick Kleberg park. At Bentsen, 5 birds were on the Resaca from Kingfisher overlook. One pair had a very small chick in tow, while another had a territory directly below the observation point, and could often be seen swimming underwater chasing fish

American White Pelican

Two separate birds were at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park, one on the salt lagoon on the land side of the road, and the other flying past us towards the sea. Only other sighting was of a line of 6 birds flying along the Bolivar peninsular

Brown Pelican

Easily the most common pelican, but only seen at 2 coastal sites: ~60 were on the landward side of South Padre island, with the largest groups either on posts next to the causeway or in lines of feeding parties; ~30 were resting on the Bolivar Flats

Double-crested Cormorant

3 resting below the dam at Lake Corpus Christi; ~60 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; ~10 on the Wright Ranch lake; ~20 at Bolivar Flats

Neotropic Cormorant 

Only a handful were seen at 2 sites: 3 birds were very close at the lake next to the State Farm office at Brownesville; 3 at Bentsen


3 on the Wright Ranch lake; 2 at Lake Corpus Christi; 2 at Bentsen

Great Blue Heron

Surprisingly few seen, with singles at Lake Corpus Christi and Bolivar Flats (the latter catching and eventually managing to swallow a huge fish from the shallows next to the beach), and 4 at various sites on the second day

Great Egret

Seen on most days (apart from in the Edwards Plateau area) in small numbers, apart from day 1, when ~40 were present throughout the day

Reddish Egret

Of the two birds seen on South Padre island, 1 was a white phase bird, the other the normal dark colour. Another of the latter phase birds was on the Bolivar Flats

Tricoloured Heron

At this time of the year, the plumes of this bird make it a very attractive and slightly built species. The most interesting bird was a very close individual at the sea end of the boardwalk of the South Padre island Convention Centre, which was seen to catch a fish. After some juggling, it swallowed the fish, which could be seen clearly wriggling half way down the narrow neck of the bird. Others were: 3 on South Padre island; 1 at Brownesville; 1 at Bentsen; 6 during day 6 around High Island area

Little Blue Heron

1 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 2 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 on South Padre island; 4 on day 6

Snowy Egret

2 below the dam at Lake Corpus Christi; 1 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 2 on day 6

Cattle Egret

Seen every day apart from the last morning of day 7 in varying numbers. Most were on day 6 with ~100

Green Heron 

2 on the lake at the Wright ranch; 1 at Bentsen on the resaca; 1 on Prothonotory Pond at High Island

Black-crowned Night-Heron

A group of 4 flew downriver at Salineño; 5 at Anahuac, including one group of 4

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Surprisingly only 1 seen – a very close bird which stood almost motionless for some time below the boardwalk at the South Padre island Convention Centre

Least Bittern

This stunning little bird was seen very well at both the boardwalk of South Padre island Convention Centre (2 males & 2 females), and also Anahuac (also 2 males & 2 females). None of the birds seemed to be paired. One of the males at the boardwalk looked seriously sick, with glazed eyes and a crooked lower mandible, although it did seem to be making an effort to feed

American Bittern

2 birds seen at Anahuac on the loop drive around Shoveler Pond. The first was only briefly in flight from the boardwalk. The second was motionless just the other side of the trackside vegetation for some time, before slowly moving off into the denser areas

White Ibis

2 in the boardwalk marshes at South Padre island Convention Centre; 3 at Santa Ana; 1 at Salineño; 3 at Anahuac; 2 at High Island

White-faced Ibis

Many dark ibises were seen, but none closely enough to distinguish from the unlikely Glossy Ibis (even though the latter are now annual, the numbers seen would indicate that all, or almost all, were White-faced)

Roseate Spoonbill

A bit of a surprise was finding a nesting colony of at least 25 birds inland on the lake at the Wright ranch, West of Corpus Christi. They were amongst a colony of Great Egrets

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Only seen at Anahuac (~20). They are very distinctive in flight, with rufous body and unmarked dark wings, which is just as well since all were seen flying

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Quite a common duck: 5 at Lake Corpus Christi; 2 at the Wright Ranch; 5 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 20 at the South Padre island Convention Centre; 15 around Brownesville (including 4 on the shore of the lake at the State Farm office); 8 at Santa Ana; 2 over WG Jones State Forest

Muscovy Duck 

Despite our familiarity with this common farmyard duck, it is quite a difficult bird to see, having increased in small numbers as a result of successful breeding using nest boxes in Mexico. It is also a black duck with the only white being on the wings when truly wild. We saw 2 over our heads at Salineño, with a third swimming across the Rio Grande upriver from our lookout position


Only 2 definite birds of this species seen at Lake Corpus Christi

Mottled Duck

Again, there were probably more than the 3 at South Padre island Convention Centre, 3 at Salineño, and 8 at Anahuac, but not all were closely checked for separation from Mexican Mallard

Blue-winged Teal

The commonest duck seen: ~10 on the Wright Ranch lake; ~10 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; ~10 at Dick Kleberg park; 6 at South Padre island Convention Centre; ~20 on Pintail Lake and Willow Pond at Santa Ana; ~50 at Anahuac

Northern Shoveler 

4 at South Padre island Convention Centre; 1 at Santa Ana

Black Vulture 

These were quite common and seen on 5 of the 7 days. Most birds were around the dam at Lake Corpus Christi

Turkey Vulture

By far the most common bird of prey, seen on every day with anywhere between a small amount of birds and an abundance on other days


1 over with fish at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 3 at Laguna Atascosa, including 1 resting on the shore; 2 over South Padre island Convention Centre; 2 over Bolivar Flats

Black-shouldered Kite

First 3 were along Hawk Alley; 3 along route 77 towards Harlingen; 1 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 in the Brownesville area; 2 along Bolivar Flats peninsular

Northern Harrier

2 female ringtails seen: 1 along route 77, and the other hunting over the reedbeds at Anahuac

Cooper's Hawk

1 only circling in the general vicinity of the Wright Ranch

Harris' Hawk

This was a species that we had missed out on in Arizona, and despite its common position as a falconry bird in the UK, were keen to see it in the wild. We had thought that they would be difficult to see, and so were pleased at finding our first two skimming the treetops along Hawk Alley, with a 3rd bird perched on telegraph wires next to the highway. However, they proved an easy bird both to find and to approach (in the car) with some more or less directly above us on wires. 3 at Hawk Alley; 6 along Route 77; 7 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 at Santa Ana; 10 between Salineño and Falcon Dam; 1 at Lost Maples

Red-shouldered Hawk

The only bird seen was an individual perched on a telegraph wire on the outskirts of Houston (next to the Business 80) after leaving the airport

Swainson's Hawk

A regularly seen Buteo, and they have a very distinctive flight shape, with rather pointed wings and longish tail. All the birds that we saw were light phase. 4 along Hawk Alley; 4 along Route 77; 1 at Laguna Atascosa; 6 at Bentsen (including 4 together at one time); 8 between Salineño and Chapeño; 1 in the Lost Maples area

White-tailed Hawk

Another distinctive Buteo in flight, with the adults having a very short white tail, and the overall bird looking very light. 3 along Hawk Alley (including 1 perched near to the highway); 2 along Route 77; 1 circling over the car at Laguna Atascosa

Red-tailed Hawk

Only seen on the first day, between Lake Corpus Christi and Harlingen on Route 77, with 3 over the lake itself, and another 3 along the main highway

Crested Caracara

Some of the birds seen were very obliging, such as the 1 along Hawk Alley which had found a road kill (bravely attacking the remains of a bread bun), and was quite happy to let us watch it from the car on the other side of the road, and the two on low trees in the Wright Ranch area. Despite our impression that these were widespread and easy to see, they were only recorded on 3 days of the trip: 5 along Hawk Alley; 10 along Route 77; 8 at Laguna Atascosa, and 4 between Salineño and Chapeño

American Kestrel

A male was above us on telegraph wires when we failed to find a non existent track to the base of Falcon Dam (the border guards were watching us watching the birds at the time), and a pair of birds were on a dead tree, supplanting a Red-headed Woodpecker, from the main office of WG Jones State Forest. The female was clutching on to a lizard at the time

Aplomado Falcon

These birds were only very rare vagrants from the North-east of Mexico until 20 years ago. This was when a reintroduction scheme was begun, initially at the King Ranch further North, but within the last 10 years, many have been released into the Laguna Atascosa reserve. The bird we saw was banded, so its origin could not be in dispute (as with its “tickability”), but the views we got on the 15 mile loop drive at Laguna Atascosa were sublime, with the bird perched in a bush directly above us

Plain Chachalaca

When in the right habitat, this bird is difficult to miss, not just because of its size and approachability, but it is also one of the noisiest species in the region. After the first party passed in front of the car on the 3 mile approach drive to Laguna Atascosa visitor centre, they seemed almost everywhere around the centre itself, including the bathing area in front of the hides. ~50 were seen over the whole of the reserve. They do tend to keep to the bushy and treed areas. The only other place we saw them was the lower Rio Grande valley, with ~50 at Santa Ana, and 6 at Bentsen

Wild Turkey 

A group of ~20 birds were in a field next to Route 77 on the late afternoon journey to Harlingen

Northern Bobwhite 

Only 1 seen briefly – a dapper bird around 100m from the car on the loop drive at Laguna Atascosa

Clapper Rail

We had been looking forward to the boardwalk at South Padre island Convention Centre for some time, not least of which was the fact that it had a reputation for a good variety of rails in good view. While the birding there was still hugely enjoyable, we failed to see either of the two large rails. This was surprising, since we saw plenty of Soras, and others had seen Virginia Rail (both predominantly winter visitors). The two larger rails are supposed to breed along the South Texas coast. We needn’t have worried, since we saw and heard at least 10 birds along the drainage ditches and marshes bounding Yacht Basin road along the Bolivar Flats peninsular. Many of these were very close, including one that ambled over the road in front of the car, and 3 calling at once from one small area. To complete, another bird was close to along Tuna Road, which is a little further down from Yacht Basin Road

King Rail

No such luck with King Rail (as compared with Clapper Rail) on the Bolivar Flats peninsular, but we did catch up with the bird at Anahuac. We had been told of a breeding pair on arrival but the directions given were (quite rightly) rather vague – somewhere on the 2½ mile Shoveler Pond loop. We had almost completed the drive when we spotted a small black chick wandering over the water vegetation, with a parent in attendance seconds later. A second bird was heard calling from the reeds opposite


The lack of other rails below the boardwalk at South Padre island Convention Centre was more than made up with by 4 dapper birds of this species. As expected, very close views could be had from above, with no notice taken of our presence

American Purple Gallinule

Only 3 seen: 1 along the reed edges from the boardwalk at South Padre island Convention Centre; and 2 between the reeds at Anahuac

Common Moorhen

~10 at South Padre island Convention Centre; 5 at both Santa Ana and Bentsen

American Coot 

6 at Santa Ana; 2 at Salineño; 6 at Anahuac

Black-necked Stilt

3 at Dick Kleberg park; 5 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 3 at South Padre island Convention Centre; 3 at Laguna Atascosa; 5 at Santa Ana

American Avocet 

2 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 1 from Rollover Pass at Bolivar Flats peninsular

Grey Plover

All birds seen were in almost full breeding plumage: 3 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 1 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 on Bolivar Flats

Wilson's Plover

1 among the wader flock at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; a pair which may have been defending a nesting territory in the Least Tern colony on Bolivar Flats


2 at Dick Kleberg park; 10 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 1 at Bentsen; 2 at Falcon Dam; 2 at Anahuac; 1 on Bolivar Flats

Short-billed Dowitcher 

A group of 3 birds was in the drainage ditch next to the track on Tuna Road, along the Bolivar Peninsular

Long-billed Dowitcher 

All the birds seen were fortunately in full summer plumage and seen well, so could be identified as this species, although the bill lengths could be seen to be varied (not a good identification feature): 1 among the wader flock at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 12 on the pools at Laguna Atascosa; ~50 on Swallow Pond at Anahuac

Hudsonian Godwit

As with the dowitchers, all the birds seen were in full summer plumage. All ~60 seen were on the pools with other waders on the seaward side of the road at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park


17 birds of the dark rumped “Hudsonian Whimbrel” were in a line flying over Laguna Atascosa, with a further single bird on the Bolivar Flats

Long-billed Curlew

Only 1 seen at Laguna Atascosa

Greater Yellowlegs

The single bird seen was in a small pool next to the entrance of Anahuac, and was found at twilight as we were leaving the reserve

Lesser Yellowlegs

This wader is very common throughout: 10 on a pond half way along FM70; ~20 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; ~20 at Laguna Atascosa; 3 at South Padre island Convention Centre; 10 at Santa Ana; ~20 around Anahuac

Solitary Sandpiper

The solitary individual (no pun intended) was found with the Greater Yellowlegs just before sunset at Anahuac, on a small pond near to the entrance

Spotted Sandpiper 

All seen were in smart full breeding plumage and on their own at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park, Farm Office lake at Brownesville, Santa Ana, and Salineño


6 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 6 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 at South Padre island Convention Centre; ~20 on Bolivar Flats

Ruddy Turnstone

6 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 3 at Bolivar Flats


3 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; ~200 on the shoreline at Bolivar Flats

Semipalmated Sandpiper

1 at Dick Kleberg park with 5 Least Sandpipers; 3 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park amongst a large feeding wader flock

Least Sandpiper 

5 at Dick Kleberg park; ~60 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park amongst a large flock of feeding waders; 10 from the boardwalk at South Padre island Convention Centre

Baird's Sandpiper 

6 were in the flock of feeding waders on the seaward side of the road at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park

Pectoral Sandpiper 

1 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 2 at South Padre island Convention Centre (1 below the boardwalk on the marsh, the other in the saltmarsh along the shore)


1 on the Bolivar Flats

Stilt Sandpiper 

We were pleased to see the 6 on the freshwater pool at Laguna Atascosa, as they were also amongst the closest waders to the car, but a little disappointed that they were still in non-breeding plumage

Ring-billed Gull 

3 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park

American Herring Gull

10 of various ages (from 1st winter to adult) among the gulls and terns on Bolivar Flats

Laughing Gull

A very common gull, particularly in sites near to the coast

Gull-billed Tern 

2 over the lagoon at Dick Kleberg park; 2 on the beach at Laguna Atascosa; 5 on South Padre Island

Sandwich Tern

~20 in the gull and tern flock on Bolivar Flats

Royal Tern

1 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; ~20 at South Padre island Convention Centre; 5 at Laguna Atascosa; ~35 resting in the gull and tern flock on Bolivar Flats; 3 at Anahuac

Forster's Tern

~25 in the gull and tern flock on the beach at Bolivar Flats

Least Tern

6 flew over the lagoon at Dick Kleberg park; ~15 flying around Kaufer-Hubert memorial park; 2 at Laguna Atascosa; and the closest birds in a fenced off breeding colony on Bolivar Flats

Black Skimmer

The only birds seen were resting amongst Laughing Gulls, with ~20 at the South Padre island end of the causeway, and another ~20 on the beach in front of the South Padre island Convention Centre. A single bird flew past the boardwalk at the Centre

Red-billed Pigeon

Another species at the edge of its range in this part of the States, which can be the only reason why it is sought after. It is fairly plain, although can show an almost attractive sheen in good light, and the red bill is actually mostly yellow. They are also a little shy, so we were pleased to see a single bird flying over us at Salineño, followed by 3 perched together in a dead tree on the opposite bank of the Rio Grande, and a final bird fairly close to again perched at the top of a tree

Mourning Dove

Extremely common throughout

White-winged Dove

Quite common, and seen every day except the last morning in the WG Jones State Forest, with a maximum of ~50 on the first day

Common Ground-Dove

Al birds were seen flying: 2 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 at Chapeño

Inca Dove

6 around the old camping area at Bentsen; 6 at Chapeño; 3 near the entrance to High Island

White-tipped Dove

There were ~50 of these predominantly pot-bellied ground dwelling birds at Laguna Atascosa, with a good number visiting the artificial water holes in front of the hides. In addition, we saw ~15 at Bentsen and 6 at Salineño

Green Parakeet

Due to the contentious origin of this species and also Red-crowned Parrot, we didn’t go out of our way to find them. However, the closure of Sabal Palms at 17:00 had left us with some spare time before sunset, and we also saw what were probably a small group of these birds flying over the State Farm office in Brownesville. We were encouraged to at least have a quick look at the known wintering site at the junction of Honeydale Road and Los Ebanos Boulevard. When we arrived, some of the locals happily told us of the appearance of parrots half an hour earlier, just outside their houses, which had subsequently left. We searched the area for 10 minutes, and spotted one of the parrots behind us, which then flew in the direction of the flavoured tree. When we arrived back, there was a mixed flock of parrots and ~10 Green Parakeets

Red-crowned Parrot

As above with the Green Parakeets, a late search at the known wintering site in the North of Brownesville found a mixed party of ~10 of these and also Green Parakeets. Their origin was even more in question when one of the parrots could be seen to be of a different species (dirty white/yellow above the bill and no red crown)

Greater Roadrunner 

Always a pleasure to see this unique and querky bird, 1 ran across the drive to the visitor centre at Laguna Atascosa. What may have been the same bird was basking next to the same stretch of road when we exited the 15 mile loop drive, and eventually stood on the nearby sign before disappearing. Another bird crossed the track around Santa Ana, with the last bird seen sneaking around the scrub only a metre or two away from us while we were looking rattlesnakes at Bentsen

Barn Owl

The single bird seen was the last of the day at Anahuac, flapping around in the wind at the top of a tree next to the entrance

Barred Owl 

The only sighting of this species was a strange one – a bird perched on one of the crash barriers in the central reservation of the Interstate 77 at dusk when travelling from the airport on the first evening

Lesser Nighthawk

1 was perched on a fencepost in the fading light at Anahuac as we were leaving, and this and another 2 birds were then flying up and down the track, often over the car

Common Nighthawk

Even though Sabal Palms reserve was closed when we arrived (with the less than welcoming message that trespassers would be prosecuted after opening hours), we still walked around the outside of the track a little way, and saw what was presumably a migrating party of 6 moving through overhead

Chimney Swift

1 at Hawk Alley; 6 along Route 77; 1 at Laguna Atascosa; 6 at Bentsen

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

This is predominantly a Mexican species, with the best spot in Texas reputed to be the feeders at Santa Ana. On our trip, this proved to be the case. There is a hummingbird feeder situated directly in front of the seat at the visitor centre reception, and this did indeed form a magnet for 3 of these hummers. They generally only landed and fed on the feeder for a matter of seconds, but one of the birds was a little more obliging and landed a metre or two to the rear

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

A female hummingbird, which was presumed to be of this species, landed on the newly created warbler bushes in front of the “whale wall” at South Padre Island Convention Centre. At Santa Ana, we had 2 males which landed briefly along the dyke, as well as 3 females, whose flight action separated them from Black-chinned. At Lost Maples, 2 female Ruby-throats were among the more abundant Black-chinned, and ~8 (a mix of males and females) were at High Island

Black-chinned Hummingbird

The only location that we saw these was at Lost Maples, and this on the hummingbird feeder at the visitor centre. The males were quite easy to discern in good light, but all those identified also showed the characteristic tail bobbing while hovering. In addition, the whistle of the males wings could occasionally be heard on flypast

Belted Kingfisher

Only 2 seen – the first was seen briefly flying over the lake at Dick Kleberg park. The second much more satisfying, since it was perched on a large post at the end of Yacht Basin Road

Ringed Kingfisher

As with Belted, only 2 seen, both at Salineño. The first was perched about 100 metres distant on the other side of the Rio Grande, but we had excellent views through the telescope. The second was a more distant bird, flying over the water upriver from our position

Green Kingfisher 

We had previously only seen this species briefly in Trinidad last year, when one flew in front of the boat we were travelling in. The views we had from Kingfisher Overlook at Bentsen were thus hugely satisfying. The first bird was inadvertently disturbed from a perch directly in front of the overlook, but only flew a short way along and landed in view. We were able to relocate it from the shore, where it was only about 20 metres distant. We then realised there were 2 birds when 1 flew past us, with another in the distance. A third bird was seen on the pond at Lost Maples, where it briefly landed opposite us

Red-headed Woodpecker

We didn’t see too many woodpeckers at WG Jones State Forest, but of those seen, this was the most numerous, with 2 separate pairs making nest holes in dead trees, and a fifth on its own when we first arrived – at the top of a dead tree to the near to the office (and subsequently replaced by a pair of American Kestrels)

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Over the whole week, this was by far the most common woodpecker, but was only seen on the first 4 days (~30 on the first 3 days, and ~15 between Salineño and Chapeño on day 4). They could be approached quite closely

Red-bellied Woodpecker

We may have seen more than the single bird along the side of road before the junction with Farm Road 70, just after leaving Lake Corpus Christi, but all other birds of the this type seemed to be Golden-fronted

Ladder-backed Woodpecker 

These were seen on the first 5 days of the trip, with the first pair amongst the first birds of the day, sharing a dead tree near to the dam at Lake Corpus Christi, and a third bird on the opposite side of the road to the parked car. Subsequent birds were: 1 along Farm Road 70; 1 at Dick Kleberg park; 1 at Sabal Palms; 3 at Santa Ana; 4 between Salineño and Chapeño, and the last at Lost Maples. They could generally be seen at very close quarters, even when on foot

Downy Woodpecker 

1 over the marsh at High Island, and 2 at WG Jones State Forest

Red-cockaded Woodpecker 

Even though the distribution of this species is over much of the South and East of the States, its particular habitat requirements mean that its numbers are declining, and seeing it is a challenge bearing in mind the threatened status. WG Jones State Forest is one of the better locations in Texas to see them, with quite a few marked clusters. The park staff tend to mark the trees with green rings around the base, and surround the entrance hole with metal to deter Pileated Woodpeckers from evicting the rightful tenants. We spent 3 hours searching the more active clusters behind the headquarters before finally locating one eventually not far from the start of the track. Another was then found a short distance further back

Eastern Wood-Pewee

These were more often heard than seen, but we did eventually pin 3 birds down in the woods of Lost Maples

Ash-throated Flycatcher

All Myiarchus flycatchers were checked (for Brown-crested & Great-crested), but all turned out to be the rather common Ash-throated: 1 at Dick Kleberg park; 2 at Laguna Atascosa; ~20 at Santa Ana; 6 at Bentsen; 1 at Salineño; 1 at Chapeño; 2 at Lost Maples

Great Kiskadee

2 at Dick Kleberg park; 2 at the lake behind the State Farm office in Brownesville; 10 at Santa Ana; 6 at Bentsen; 4 at Salineño; 6 at Chapeño; 2 at Falcon Dam

Tropical Kingbird

Only one definite bird – at the lake behind the State Farm office in Brownesville

Couch's Kingbird

Both noisy and commonly seen. The short stout bill (as compared with the longer bill of Tropical Kingbird) could be easily seen on most: 1 at Sabal Palms; 1 at Laguna Atascosa; ~20 at Santa Ana; ~10 at Bentsen; ~40 in the Salineño to Chapeño area; 6 at Lost Maples

Eastern Kingbird

After a single bird in trees behind the visitor centre at Santa Ana, we had to wait until the end of the week at Anahuac before we saw a number of birds. ~15 were in the reeds surrounding Shoveler Pond and the bushes along the track to the South

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Another species that we had only seen once before – a poorly marked individual at the end of our Mexican sojourn 5 years earlier. The abundance and beauty of these birds was well worth waiting for, from the first couple of birds that we saw from the car shortly after leaving the airport (and still within the Houston city area) to the last ones on the journey from San Antonio to Houston on day 6. In addition, they could be very approachable, usually by using the car as a hide, but even on foot. Maximum number was ~50 on the first day, minimum 4 between Salineño and Chapeño. Other days found between 10-30


2 birds were on the exposed salt marsh on the 15 mile drive at Laguna Atascosa, and another 2 were feeding amongst the Least Tern colony at Bolivar Flats

Purple Martin

2 along Farm Road 70; 2 at Laguna Atascosa; 4 at Santa Ana; 6 at Salineño; 2 at High Island

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

~50 birds were over the Rio Grande at Santa Ana

Cliff Swallow 

Literally hundreds of birds were seen on some days – they seem to have taken to the artificial nest sites that have been provided, secondarily as road bridges, throughout the state

Cave Swallow 

This is another of the predominantly Mexican species that sneaks into Texas, and when good views are had, can be reliably separated from Cliff Swallow. We saw ~20 birds at Dick Kleberg park, and 6 at Bentsen. We probably saw a lot more, but it would have taken time to split all the Cliff & Cave Swallows seen

Barn Swallow 


Cedar Waxwing

~10 feeding on a berry tree adjacent to High Island reserve

Cactus Wren

A single bird was seen singing briefly near to the Rio Grande at Salineño. The best, and only other, site that we saw them was at Falcon Dam, where the drier and more arid conditions were much more to their liking. We even found a pair of birds building a nest here

Canyon Wren

The only bird seen, at Lost Maples, was first picked up on song. It was singing between small bushes at the top of a small cliff within the woods, half way along the track to the pond. After locating the bird, it flew down past us and showed briefly, still singing, next to the stream

Carolina Wren 

As with Canyon Wren, the only location that we saw this species was at Lost Maples. 2 birds were very close to us in low bushes adjacent to the pond. The first bird found was singing quite happily only metres away from where we stood

Bewick's Wren 

2 at Laguna Atascosa; 1 at Falcon dam; 1 at Lost Maples

House Wren

1 at Laguna Atascosa; 1 at Santa Ana; 1 at Lost Maples

Sedge Wren

These birds are much drabber than Marsh Wrens, and both were seen at Anahuac. However, they were in totally different habitats – the 3 Sedge Wrens were in low bushes and grasses along the long track to the South within the reserve, and were picked up on song. They tended to be quite elusive, seen only briefly on occasion, but patience was eventually rewarded with good close views

Marsh Wren

A single bird was seen from the boardwalk at South Padre island Convention Centre. Despite the fact that it was only a few feet from us and singing, it was very difficult to see, although we did locate the bird on occasions. The main site for this species was at Anahuac, where copious birds could be heard singing from the reeds. Only one was seen half decently, although others were glimpsed on our slow drive around the Shoveler Pond

Grey Catbird

Only seen at High Island. Despite the weather being against decent migration, these seemed to be spread through the reserve, with at least 10 birds seen (assuming they were migrating, which is likely)

Northern Mockingbird

Very common throughout

Brown Thrasher

2 birds were seen at High Island

Long-billed Thrasher 

The breeding ranges of these two very similar Thrashers (the other being Brown) tend generally not to cross, although when seen even half reasonably, the more grey-brown back and clean black on white striping of Long-billed is fairly easy to identify. Most of the birds seen were singing, and this is a treat to hear. 4 were at Laguna Atascosa; 5 at Santa Ana; 1 at Bentsen; and 1 at Falcon Dam

Curve-billed Thrasher

The best find was perhaps the bird sitting on a nest directly above where we had parked the car at Falcon Dam. A total of 4 were seen here, as well as 1 at Kaufer-Hubert memorial park, and 2 at Laguna Atascosa

Eastern Bluebird

2 pairs were at WG Jones State Forest, both in the vicinity of the park office, with at least 4 immature birds with them

Swainson's Thrush

A single bird was seen briefly at Santa Ana

Clay-coloured Robin

This is another of the Mexican species that barely pops its claws into the States by the odd bird being found in Texas. While not exactly a rarity, we found a bird singing above a pool within the forest at Santa Ana. 2 more birds were found at Bentsen. We had also been told of a bird visiting the drinking pools at the visitor centre of Laguna Atascosa

American Robin

1 only seen at High Island

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

~12 at Lost Maples; 6 at Kerr Wildlife Management Area; 1 at WG Jones State Forest

Carolina Chickadee

1 at Lost Maples; 3 at WG Jones State Forest

Tufted Titmouse

Only 1 of this previous superspecies (with Black-crested Titmouse) at WG Jones State Forest

Black-crested Titmouse

Although very similar to Tufted Titmouse, the black crest on all the birds that we saw was quite obvious: 1 at Laguna Atascosa; 6 at Lost Maples; 2 at Bentsen; 2 at Chapeño; 10 at Lost Maples; 4 at Kerr Wildlife Management Area

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Having seen Pygmy Nuthatch previously in California and Arizona, it is probably a saving grace that there is no range overlap between these two species, since they look very similar in the field. WG Jones State Forest is supposed to host quite a large population of these birds, but we only saw 2, both near to the park office


2 on one of the walks around Laguna Atascosa, and 2 at Falcon Dam. Both were in a very dry and arid habitat

Loggerhead Shrike

These were very commonly seen on the first two days, and became less obvious after this, with only 2 in the between Salineño and Chapeño, with 2 in the High Island to Anahuac area

Blue Jay

~6 were at High Island, and ~20 at WG Jones State Forest

Green Jay

These stunning birds proved to much easier to see than on previous trips to the West of the country and to Mexico. Following singles at Dick Kleberg park and Kaufer-Hubert memorial park, the place to see these in any number and close to was at Laguna Atascosa, where they regularly came to drink at the man made pools in front of the hides. Additional birds were ~10 at Santa Ana; 6 at Bentsen; 4 at Salineño; 4 at Chapeño (the latter site also finding close birds coming to food put out by the owners)

Brown Jay

Chapeño is reputed to be one of the best places in the state, and in fact the States, to see this bird, due in part to the feeding by the owners. On parking the car, we saw 2 birds visiting the feeding area in front of the windowed hide. Some patience found 3 regularly returning birds here. We also found an additional 2 birds lower down, visiting feeders next to the Rio Grande

American Crow

Fairly common from Lake Corpus Christi to Harlingen, as well as in the lower Rio Grande valley from Brownesville to Chapeño

Common Raven

Singles at Laguna Atascosa and Lost Maples

European Starling


House Sparrow


White-eyed Vireo

1 singing bird at Laguna Atascosa, and 4 at Lost Maples

Black-capped Vireo

This is arguably one of the most attractive of vireos, with the white eye mask contrasting sharply with the black hood. It also has very particular habitat requirements, and this limited breeding range within the state (to the Edwards Plateau). This makes a 4 hour journey from both the Rio Grande valley and Houston well worth while, to look for these and Golden-cheeked Warblers. One of the best (but not only) places to see them is Kerr Wildlife Management Area. There was a turkey shoot on when we arrived, but we were advised that many birds resided up Schumacher Road, only about 1 mile down from the main entrance. It was also drizzling with rain – omens weren’t good. However, it only took us about an hour to see a total of 5 birds, at the top of the track near to the disused windmill. Listening for their song is a must – all were seen only after hearing them

Yellow-throated Vireo

1 at Lost Maples

Warbling Vireo

2 separate birds at Santa Ana

Red-eyed Vireo

1 at Santa Ana, and 2 singing birds at Lost Maples

Yellow-green Vireo

Judging by the reaction of the American bird race members when we informed them that we had seen this species, it ranks amongst the rarest of those species seen during the week. Odd individuals are known to occur in the far South-west, often in the Brownesville and South Padre Island area, and it was at the latter that we saw our bird. Flying into a lone bush next to the longer boardwalk for a short time, the bland facial markings, greenish back, and lemon yellow flanks were quite obvious

House Finch

Only 4 seen – 2 males and 2 females – on the feeders at Lost Maples

American Goldfinch

2 at Santa Ana and a male at Salineño

Tennessee Warbler

3 seen at Santa Ana

Orange-crowned Warbler

They were only seen at Lost Maples, but were the most common wood warbler there, with total sightings of around 8 birds

Nashville Warbler 

The most regularly seen of the wood warblers, although still in relatively small numbers: 2 males and 4 females at Santa Ana, mostly around the confluence of the tracks A and B; 2 at Salineño; 3 at Lost Maples

Tropical Parula

Despite the fact that the breeding range of Northern Parula falls into much of eastern Texas, with the migrating range covering the rest, the only Parula that we saw was a singing Tropical Parula, in the canopy of trees in Santa Ana, around the confluence of tracks A and B

Golden-cheeked Warbler

This species is the only true endemic that we saw, since its entire breeding range is within the Edwards Plateau of central Texas. Along with Black-capped Vireo, it thus also provides a very valid reason for diverting to this area to look for both birds. There are quite a few sites to see this species in its restricted breeding range, but Lost Maples is reputed to be one of the most reliable, with numbers into 3 figures. It is also a good site for other birds as well. We were told that they could be seen on the East trail, and it took us until over half of this was covered to find our first bird. Of the 5 seen, probably the best spot for close views and also reliability was in the area adjacent to the pond

Black-throated Green Warbler 

2 at Santa Ana

Pine Warbler

2 were seen at WG Jones State Forest, but many more were heard there while looking for woodpeckers

Louisiana Waterthrush

Although we had seen many Northern Waterthrushes on our travels, this species had managed to elude us until we visited Lost Maples. Following the loud song of an unfamiliar bird, we found a male at the very top of a bare tree, about 20 metres high. Showing the characteristics of Louisiana well, it eventually flew down to sing next to the stream below

Kentucky Warbler 

As with Louisiana Waterthrush, this species had also managed to elude us over the years (including a trip to Point Pelee in Canada where we missed it despite seeing 34 other wood warblers). Its appearance was still a surprise – we had been walking Santa Ana for 6-7 hours, and were resting in front of the hummingbird feeders at the visitor centre, when a striking male appeared at the base of the low bushes in front of us. It continued to appear and reappear for around 10 minutes, somehow managing to hide despite its proximity

Common Yellowthroat

4 at South Padre island Convention Centre; 1 at Santa Ana; 1 at High Island

Hooded Warbler

The female seen, and seen well, at Santa Ana was found near the visitor centre due to our continued searching for the Kentucky Warbler. It also favoured the ground for feeding, but was happier to let us watch it in less dense cover. The male at High Island very briefly visited one of the artificial water holes in front of the photographic hide

Yellow-breasted Chat

1 male singing at WG Jones State Forest

Scarlet Tanager

Singles of male and female at High Island

Summer Tanager

Lost Maples was the only site for these, with at least 3 separate males and a single female

Olive Sparrow

These understated sparrows are usually easier to hear than to see. When we first entered the woods of Santa Ana, we heard a high pitched “chipping” call that sounded like a cross between a wood warbler and a hummingbird. Since we couldn’t find the perpetrator at eye level, where the call seemed to come from, we looked down to find a couple of Olive Sparrows in and out of view amongst the leaf litter. We eventually saw ~8 in the reserve, with a further 2 at Salineño

Chipping Sparrow

Not perhaps as commonly seen as expected, the best place to see them was at Lost Maples. After one or two birds in the trees next to the pond, around half a dozen were visiting the feeders at the visitor centre. The only other bird was one at Salineño the previous day

Clay-coloured Sparrow

As with Chipping Sparrow, all but one of these were seen at Lost Maples. They did briefly visit the feeders, but most of the ~20 were in a small flock near to the pond. 3 had also been seen at the start of the day, in trees next to the beginning of the east trail. A single bird had been at Falcon the previous day

Lark Sparrow

These were surprisingly common, and seen on every one of the first 5 days. They were also fairly evenly distributed throughout the South-west of the state. 40+ were in the Lake Corpus Christi to Kingsville area; ~20 around Laguna Atascosa and South Padre island Convention Centre; only 2 at Santa Ana; common but not counted in the Salineño to Chapeño area; 2 at Lost Maples; 2 at Kerr Wildlife Management Area

Savannah Sparrow 

Good numbers of these were passing through, with flocks of 6 and ~12 along FM70 on the first day; singles at Laguna Atascosa and South Padre island Convention Centre; and ~30 spread throughout Anahuac

Seaside Sparrow

After failing to find any of these along the supposed reliable Yacht Basin road, we tried Tuna Road a little further down the Bolivar peninsular, and found 2 singing birds in the low marshy grass

Grasshopper Sparrow 

A single bird seen early on at Lost Maples

Song Sparrow

2 at Salineño and 1 at Falcon Dam

Lincoln's Sparrow

A single bird was feeding in low grass at the start of the East trail, Lost Maples

Northern Cardinal

As usual with Cardinal, they could be quite common and were seen on every day: ~20 at Lake Corpus Christi; 2 at Laguna Atascosa; 2 at Santa Ana; 6 at Salineño and Chapeño; 4 at Lost Maples; 12 in the High Island area; 6 at WG Jones State Forest


Only 3 seen, all singing males, with 2 at Salineño, and 1 at Falcon Dam

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

2 males and 2 females at High Island

Blue Grosbeak

All birds seen were males: 2 at Laguna Atascosa; 1 at Sabal Palms; 1 at Chapeño; 2 at Lost Maples

Indigo Bunting

A female was at WG Jones State Forest on the last day, but all other birds seen were males: 1 at Santa Ana at the confluence of trails A and B; 2 at Lost Maples, including a very close bird on the feeders briefly; 1 at Bolivar Flats; 1 at Anahuac

Painted Bunting

2 males were seen, 1 in a small party of mixed passerines passing through the meeting area of trails A and B at Santa Ana, the second much closer on the feeder briefly at Lost Maples

Red-winged Blackbird

Very common, but not seen on every day, being absent on the Edwards Plateau and WG Jones State Forest

Eastern Meadowlark

5 of what were only presumably this species were seen on the first day, but with definite Easterns at Laguna Atascosa (1) and Anahuac (8)

Boat-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackles had been checked sporadically throughout the week for this species, which can be told apart in Texas by the dark eye of Boat-tailed (white in Great-tailed and the Florida race of Boat-tailed). It was only at Anahuac that we had our only definite Boat-tailed Grackles, where they were quite common

Common Grackle

The only one seen was on one of the lawns in front of the entrance to High Island. The race in this part of the States has a much browner back, which contrasts sharply with the shiny black head, than more eastern birds

Great-tailed Grackle

Extremely common throughout

Bronzed Cowbird

These far surpassed Brown-headed Cowbird as the most common cowbird, and were seen in good numbers on each of the first 4 days, being seemingly absent away from the South-west

Brown-headed Cowbird

Fairly common from Lake Corpus Christi to Kingsville; small numbers at Laguna Atascosa, and ~8 at Chapeño

Altamira Oriole

Small numbers were seen in the Lower Rio Grande valley, with the first being a pair at Bentsen. 5 more were seen on the following day, with 3 at Salineño, and 2 at Chapeño, visiting the lower feeding area next to the river

Hooded Oriole

1 along Route 77 on the first day, when we had stopped to observe a flock of turkeys; a pair on the telegraph wires at Sabal Palms; 4 at Chapeño; 2 at Falcon Dam; and 2 while looking for Cassin’s Sparrow near to Falcon

Baltimore Oriole

1 at Anahuac, and 1 at High Island

Bullock's Oriole

1 seen at Dick Kleberg park, another at Chapeño

Orchard Oriole

1 at Laguna Atascosa; ~10 at High Island; ~20 at Anahuac


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Day 1

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Day 7

Species list

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