Texas: High Island Migration short tours

This is a short version of our Upper Texas Coast tour that can be run upon request in April. Keep in mind that April is a busy time, and bookings should be made a long time in advance to ensure guide availability.

Day 1: Arrival in Houston. The tour begins at Houston Bush Airport at 2:00pm. We’ll head straight for Brazoria NWR and hopefully pick up some coastal prairie species like White-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara, and White-tailed Hawk. Then we take the ferry across from Galveston to the famous Bolivar Peninsula, where thousands upon thousands of terns, gulls, and shorebirds come to roost each evening. The pace of the birding could be frantic as we comb these massive mobs on the shoreline for our target species: elegant American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. We’ll continue on to our hotel in Winnie.

Days 2 – 4: High Island, Anahuac, and the Bolivar Peninsula. We head down and start the day at Boy Scout Woods, Houston Audubon Society’s outstanding reserve on High Island. High Island is one of the absolute hotspots for spring migration on the Upper Texas Coast. This oak woodland atop a hill caused by a rising salt dome is surrounded by coastal prairie. After the roughly 600-mile, 18-hour flight across the Gulf of Mexico, this is the first patch of woodland the birds see. Most of the birds touch down in the mid-afternoon, and our guides will have spent the night at the Tropical Birding High Island Information Center getting the lowdown on what super-hot target birds have arrived. We’ll hope for a few rarities amongst loads of small passerines including Mourning Warbler, Painted Bunting, Swainson’s Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo. In the middle of the day, when many of last night’s wave have left, we continue up to Anahuac NWR, a fantastic site for shorebirds and waterfowl. We’ll be on the lookout for Long-billed Dowitcher, Hudsonian Godwits, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers alongside more common birds Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, and five rail species. By 3 pm, we head back towards High Island, where we expect the next wave of birds to have just arrived, and we’ll bird the Smith Oaks Reserve until dark. We’ll finish the day with swarms of Common Nighthawk hunting over the town of High Island. Return to Winnie for the night.

Day 5: Pineywoods and departure. We’ll set out early in the morning, heading for a known spot for one of the area’s rarest, most-wanted birds: the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Other birds we’ll look for here are Bachman’s Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Summer Tanager and Brown-headed Nuthatch. Depending on our luck with these, we may hit another area where the targets include Louisiana Waterthrush, Worm-eating, Prairie, Swainson’s Warbler and maybe even a Swallow-tailed Kite. After lunch we head to Bush Airport, where the tour ends at 3pm.