PO Box 9021, Wilmington, DE 19809, USA
E-mail: font@focusonnature.com
Phone: Toll-free in USA 1-888-721-3555
 or 302/529-1876

 

A Focus On Nature Tour

in 
TEXAS 

 In the LATE WINTER,
EARLY SPRING 

FOR
bIRDS
including the 
Whooping Crane 

Also
BUTTERFLIES
& OTHER NATURE


From rockport on the gulf
to the lower rio grande valley
 

March 14-22, 2016 

(tour FON/TX-1 '16)

 
To include, at a prime-time for Texas birding,
 many birds. 


Among the specialties: 
the GOLDEN-CHEEKED WARBLER, GREEN JAY, 
and BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD. 

Notable birds in the southern Texas during recent years have included
these normally seen in Mexico:
Crimson-collared Grosbeak, White-throated Robin, Social Flycatcher,
Rufous-capped Warbler, Golden-crowned Warbler, Tropical Parula, 
Blue Bunting, and Green-breasted Mango
(Some birds such as these may be seen during this tour)

Tour to be led by Armas Hill



A Drawing of Whooping Cranes at Aransas in Texas,
given as a gift to Armas Hill from the illustrator, Charles Gambill

 

Links:

A List & Photo Gallery of Texas Birds in 2 Parts: 
Part #1: Quails to Becard     Part #2:  Flycatchers to Buntings  

Lists of Other Texas Wildlife 
(each with some photos)
Mammals
    Butterflies   
Dragonflies & Damselflies    Amphibians & Reptiles

Marine Life  (inc. fish, corals, jellyfish, mollusks (shells), & arthropods: crustaceans & echinoderms) 

Texas Wildflowers    Plants of the Desert & some nearby habitats (with some photos)

Tour Registration Form




Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
(photo by Howard Eskin)



Itinerary
(price follows):

Mon: Mar 14  Arrival in Corpus Christi, Texas. Travel north to the coastal town of Rockport, to be our base for the first few days of the tour.
In the afternoon, we'll visit the the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (a place renowned for Whooping Cranes from fall thru spring). The refuge, of over 50,000 acres, is on the Blackjack Peninsula, and incorporates a number of different habitats wooded sand dunes, brushlands, oak "mottes", grass meadows, cordgrass prairies, tidal marshes, freshwater ponds, and marine bays. About 8,500 acres is open to the public, and there is a 16-mile auto loop-road.
Nesting birds on the refuge include: Pauraque, White-tailed Hawk, Northern Crested Caracara, Purple Gallinule, Wilson's Plover, and Cassin's Sparrow.
Other wildlife of the refuge include: American Alligator, White-tailed Deer, Collared Peccary (Javelina), Armadillo, and Coyote. The first of two overnights in Rockport. 

Tue: Mar 15  This morning, a boat-ride in the marshes near the Aransas Refuge for another look at the Whooping Cranes. We should get a good, close look. A number of birds, of various sorts, will also be seen from the boat.
After the boat-ride, we'll go inland to visit the refuge of the Welder Wildlife Foundation, west of Rockport. Encompassing nearly 8,000 acres, the refuge contains various habitats where, cumulatively, 372 species of birds have been recorded. Nearly a hundred of those species either nest or have nested.
 
Typical South Texas nesting birds include: Wild Turkey, Common Ground Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Painted Bunting, and Cassin's Sparrow.
Birds that may be at the ponds and lakes can include: Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Purple Gallinule, and Least Grebe. Overnight again in Rockport.


 
male Painted Bunting
(photo by Clair de Beauvior)

Wed: Mar 16  Before we leave Rockport, we'll visit Goose Island State Park, where we could see Reddish Egret, Least Bittern, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Clapper Rail, Gull-billed and Sandwich and other Terns, and Seaside Sparrow.

At all of the places that we'll be visiting during this tour in Texas, in addition to the birds and mammals along the way, we'll be noticing some early butterflies and dragonflies & damselflies
Firstly, in the Gulf Coast area, and then in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas, and the Edwards Plateau further north and west, we'll be noting what we find, so that by the end of the tour there will have been, in addition to the birds, an assortment of these often colorful and interesting insects that are so much a part of the Texas landscape, along with some of the early wildflowers in the various habitats.          



In the Gulf Coast region of Texas, 
one of the more common butterflies is the Pipevine Swallowtail
(above).

Mid-day this day, we'll travel south and west to Kingsville, where we'll do some birding at the King Ranch, said to be the largest privately-owned ranch in the world, with more than 800,000 acres.
Among bird species in the Kingsville area, near the northern limit of their nesting range, are White-tailed Hawk, Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Audubon's Oriole, and Buff-bellied Hummingbird. Other nesting species in the area include: both Black-chinned and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Common Ground-Dove, and Hooded Oriole.
From the King Ranch, we travel south along Highway #77, with some birding stops enroute, to Weslaco, where we'll spend the night.
Along Highway #77, we should, along the way, see some nice raptors along with White-tailed Hawk, there should be the Harris' Hawk and the Northern Crested-Caracara.

Northern Crested Caracara
(photo by Howard Eskin)

Thu: Mar 17  This day, we'll be birding at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, east of Harlingen. It is a large refuge of over 45,000 acres with a variety of habitats including mostly coastal prairie with grass and cacti in the low places, and thick brush on the higher ground. 7,000 acres of the refuge are ponds and marshes.
Various species of geese and Sandhill Cranes can be present in large numbers, and about two dozen species of ducks occur, including, regularly, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Mottled Duck, and rarely, Masked Duck. Particularly plentiful can be Redheads.
In addition to waterfowl, the refuge also hosts shorebirds, and herons and egrets, including the Reddish Egret.
Other birds found in the refuge include: Harris' Hawk, Pauraque, Great Kiskadee, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, and Olive Sparrow, just to name a few.
Our second of three overnights in Weslaco.           
  
Fri: Mar 18  Birding in the the Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the foremost areas of the US for birds. We'll see many, some of which only spill over a relatively short distance from Mexico.

In Brownsville, for example, Red-crowned Parrots and Green Parakeets occur. At the infamous Brownsville Dump, we'll look for the Tamaulipas (formerly Mexican) Crow. It may not be easy to find there, but Chihuahuan Ravens should be common. 
Two places renowned for birding the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

The Santa Ana Refuge has been called the "Gem of the National Wildlife Refuge System". 
Some of the "Mexican species" of birds that occur there are easy to see such as the Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca (also easy to hear!), and White-tipped Dove
Other "Mexican birds" that are normally across the border can occur as "accidentals", including Masked Duck, Northern Jacana, Rose-throated Becard, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Rufous-backed Robin, Yellow-green Vireo, and Blue Bunting.
More likely to be seen are Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Harris' Hawk, Purple Gallinule, Pauraque, Great Kiskadee, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Parula, and Bronzed Cowbird. Hook-billed Kite, Gray Hawk, and Clay-colored Robin can also be seen in the area.

Some of these birds also occur at the Bentsen State Park, which we'll visit in the afternoon. But there are some birds at easier to see at Bentsen than at Santa Ana. These include Red-billed Pigeon and Elf Owl. Groove-billed Anis can be quite common. Rarities at Bentsen have included: Roadside Hawk, Masked Tityra, and Ruddy Quail-Dove. As at Santa Ana, Hook-billed Kite and Blue Bunting can also occur.
After a bird-filled day, overnight again in Welaco.

Sat: Mar 19  After some additional birding at Bentsen, in the morning, we'll go further west in the Rio Grande Valley, to the bird in the area of the Falcon Dam and nearby Falcon State Park. Enroute, we'll stop at the Santa Margarita Ranch to look for the Brown Jay.
The Falcon Dam is the place in the US to see 3 species of Kingfishers, including the Ringed and the Green. Also possible to find there is the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl - in addition to both Altamira and Audubon's Orioles, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, and Olive Sparrow.
At the Falcon State Park, some semi-desert birds can include: Scaled Quail, Inca Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Verdin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, and Chihuahuan Raven. Of course, a number of these birds would become common as we'd travel further west, but, of course, seeing them for the first time during the tour will be fun.
A bird we'd probably not see further west would be the White-collared Seedeater, which we'll look for in either Zapata or San Ignacio (or both). Our overnight will be just a bit further west in Laredo.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl  (above), 
Greater Roadrunner  (below)


Sun: Mar 20
  We'll do some morning birding this day (as we like to do morning birding every day) in Laredo at the grounds of the Laredo Junior College and the nearby Lake Casa Blanca Park. 
But then we'll be driving north from Laredo toward the Edwards Plateau,  where our prime birding objective with be a specialty of that region of junipers and oaks, the Golden-cheeked Warbler
The overnights of Thu Mar 6 & Fri Mar 7 to be in Uvalde, near the Edwards Plateau. 
After dark, during either one, or both of these nights, we'll look for various nocturnal birds, mammals, and other wildlife.

Mon: Mar 21  A full-day of birding in the Edwards Plateau, where the avian specialty just mentioned, the Golden-cheeked Warbler, arrives in early March, from Mexico and Central America, coming to Texas to breed. Not only is the Edwards Plateau "the place" for them in Texas, it's "the place" for them in the United States.
This day we should enjoy seeing an assortment of wildlife, with birds of various kinds, some animals, butterflies, and maybe an amphibian or reptile in addition to a variety of plants.   

Tue: Mar 22
  After some early-morning birding, our last for the tour, we'll head for the airport at San Antonio for our afternoon departure for home.

  

Price: $1,795 per person, based upon double occupancy
Single supplement: $215 

Includes:
All overnight accommodations.
Meals, except dinners.
Ground transportation in Texas.
Services of the birding guide.

Does not
  include: Dinners. Drinks. Items of a personal nature.
                  Air fare. Airport tax. Gratuities.

A deposit of $500, per person,
is required to assure a place on each or either of the tours.