Trip report: Upper Texas Coast (April 2013) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Cameron Cox. This was a set departure tour.

The Upper Texas Coast and, particularly, High Island are long intertwined with legends of spring migration and with the magical word “Fallout”! With good reason as this area is probably the most exciting place to watch birds during April and early May in all of North America. It’s not just the possibility of fallout, with warblers, tanagers, buntings, and orioles dripping from the trees, which makes it so exciting. Overall it is the diversity, the shear numbers, and close encounters with birds that sets this area apart. Gorgeous Roseate Spoonbills and Reddish Egrets work the coastal estuaries, Piping and Wilson’s Plovers are found on the sandy beaches, the marshes are full of rails, wading birds, and yapping Black-necked Stilts, many species of terns patrol the air, Seaside Sparrows whisper from clumps of Spartina grass, flashy Purple Gallinules strut their stuff, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers chatter from fence lines. It is an avian extravaganza not to be missed!

Our tour was based primarily in Winnie, a small community a short ways north of the internationally famous, among birders at least, hamlet of High Island. While most of our focus was on High Island and the neighboring Bolivar Peninsula we also ventured out to Galveston Island, Sabine Woods, Beaumont, and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. We also spent a night in the East Texas Pineywoods and mopped up many southeastern specialties like Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Swainson’s Warbler the following morning. Our final day we explored areas southwest of Houston like Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge and the Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary before end the trip near the Houston Airport. In all we totaled 224 species of birds, including 25 species of warblers, 33 species of shorebirds, and 16 species of wading birds! One of the highlights was finding a Whimbrel of the European subspecies, the first record in Texas for that taxa! In all it was an outstanding trip where the excitement of birding in Texas during migration was witnessed in full force!

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