The Gulf Coast & the Rio Grande Valley

March 26 - April 4, 2015

Experience an amazing blend of Mexican specialties, spring migration, and coastal treasures at one of the continent’s most popular birding destinations. We’ll be there at the peak time for diversity, when an overwhelming abundance of migrants mix with the many tropical species found nowhere else in the United States. Over 200 species are likely on this trip through diverse habitats like barrier beaches, tall-grass savannahs, and native palm trees. And to top it off, one or more incredible Mexican rarities show up almost every year.

We’ll start off along the Gulf Coast, an area that hosts the rare Whooping Crane and the largest raptor migration in the United States, involving hundreds of thousands of birds. A wide selection of waterfowl, shorebirds, and waders will also add to the excitement, with incredible views of Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, and much more. Migrant traps along the coast may also turn up songbirds whose movements are already underway. Our passage inland on the way south to the Valley will provide an opportunity for a variety of different species and for the study of unique raptors like Crested Caracara. We will keep our eyes open for the breathtaking beauty of a Vermillion Flycathcer or a hard-to-find Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, the unbelievable sight of hundreds of American White Pelicans wheeling through the sky, and common migrants like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Entering the Lower Rio Grande Valley is like stepping into another birding world, with tropical species at many locations. We will be greeted by Plain Chachalacas, Green Jays, Chihuahuan Ravens, and Great Kiskadees while searching for gems like Hook-billed Kite, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Ringed Kingfisher, Least Grebe, Aplomado Falcon, Brown Jay, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Tropical Parula, White-collared Seedeater, Olive Sparrow, and so many more!! And the number of Mexican rarities to grace this region is phenomenal, with unbelievable sightings such as Crane Hawk, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and White-throated Robin, and the likes of Blue Mockingbird, Green-breasted Mango, Slate-throated Redstart, and Golden-crowned Warbler recorded in recent  years. This is a trip that a birder will treasure for a lifetime!

Day One: Arrive at the Corpus Christi airport by mid-afternoon and take a shuttle to our nearby accommodations. We’ll meet and get acquainted at 5:00 p.m., and then we’re off to experience an introduction to the birdlife and habitats of the Gulf Coast and a relaxing dinner. Overnight in Corpus Christi.

Day Two: We will start the morning traveling to Fulton and proceeding by boat into the Aransas Bay area of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This is the wintering grounds of the endangered Whooping Crane, whose world population only numbers around 500. We’ll also be afforded excellent views of the many wading birds, including the stunning Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, and White Ibis, as well as Gull-billed Tern, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, and other herons, egrets, ibises, terns, and shorebirds. Mid-day will be spent searching for passerines, shorebirds, waterfowl, and seabirds in the varied coastal habitats of the Rockport and Port Aransas areas. The rest of the afternoon will find us birding the barrier beaches of Mustang Island, where we hope to see Snowy Plover, Piping Plover, Least Tern, Sandwich Tern, and others. Overnight in Corpus Christi.

Day Three: Today we will start working our way south and begin exploring the oak mottes and mesquite grasslands of ranch country. We’ll be greeted by species associated with this change in habitat, and our first taste of specialties like Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, and Olive Sparrow. We expect to encounter the noisy Black-crested Titmouse, recently given full-species status in a split from Tufted Titmouse. Raptors will be very much in evidence, especially as we traverse an area known as Hawk Alley, and we should encounter Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, and Crested Caracara - the “Mexican Eagle”. The afternoon will find us in the borderlands, where we’ll search for White-collared Seedeater, before settling into our accommodations in Zapata.

Day Four: We will concentrate our efforts in the Falcon Dam area today. Away from the river, this region is characterized by rolling hills and mesas covered with mesquite, cacti, and other brushland plants. Some of the expected bird species include Northern Bobwhite, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Lark Sparrow, while the uncommon Black-tailed Gnatcatcher is also possible. A Zone-tailed Hawk may be found amongst the many Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures patrolling the area. We will make several stops along the river around Salineno and Chapeno. Target birds include rarities like Muscovy Duck, Red-billed Pigeon, Brown Jay, and Audubon’s Oriole. Hook-billed Kite and Gray Hawk have also been known to occur in this area. We will finish the day searching for Green Parakeets and Red-crowned Parrots coming to their nighttime roosts in McAllen. Overnight near Alamo.

Day Five: A birding gem along the river will be our starting point this day - Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. We will explore several trails, resacas (ox-bow lakes), and the famous trailer loop in our continued search for the Valley’s specialties. Amidst the calls of the common Plain Chachalacas, Green Jays, White-tipped Doves and others, we will try for the secretive Green Kingfisher and the brightly colored Altamira Oriole. Remarkably, Clay-colored Robin and Blue Bunting have been seen here almost annually in recent years, while Ruddy Ground-Dove, Roadside Hawk, and Masked Tytira (first U.S. record) are just three of the exceptional vagrants that have turned up in the park. Afternoon will find us in nearby Anzalduas County Park. The park grounds may have an assortment of regularly occurring species like Inca Dove, but is also another site to look for Hook-billed Kite, Gray Hawk, Clay-colored Robin, and other sought-after birds. After dinner, a return to the Bentsen area for night birds should turn up Common Pauraque and Eastern Screech-Owl, while Lesser Nighthawk, Common Poorwill, Elf Owl, and Barn Owl are uncommon possibilities. Overnight near Alamo.

Day Six: The first part of the day will be spent at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a paradise for birders and a highlight of any trip to the Rio Grande Valley. This lush area of undisturbed riparian forest and small lakes has nearly 400 species on its checklist, including specialties we will be seeking, such as Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Anhinga, Hook-billed Kite, White-tailed Kite, Gray Hawk, Cinnamon Teal, Mottled Duck, Common Ground-Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Tropical Parula. We may encounter a “push” of migrating raptors, with thousands of Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, and Mississippi Kites a possibility, among others. There is also an amazing list of Mexican rarities recorded in the refuge, and we can hope for the likes of a Northern Jacana, Short-tailed Hawk, Tropical Kingbird, White-crowned Robin, or Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. We’ll spend the afternoon visiting several hotspots around Weslaco for a wide range of valley specialties. Overnight near Alamo.

Day Seven: Our birding will start at National Audubon’s Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary. This unique treasure contains the largest remaining stand of old growth Sabal Palm, and hosts many of the region’s specialties, such as  Least Grebe, White-tipped Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Groove-billed Ani, and Hooded Oriole. We will explore areas around Brownsville in hopes of locating the rare Tamaulipas Crow, Botteri’s Sparrow, and Tropical Kingbird, before settling into our relaxing accommodations in Los Fresnos.

Day Eight: The barrier island of South Padre will greet us in the morning, with stops for marsh birds, migrant passerines, and seabirds of the Gulf of Mexico. We may be rewarded with the likes of Clapper Rail, Least Bittern, American Bittern, Yellow-throated Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Magnificent Frigatebird, and more! We will bird our way back to the mainland and head for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, with a chance at Aplomado Falcon along the way. This refuge has hosted more species than any other single area, with a checklist exceeding 400 species. We will hike several trails and explore the auto loop in our search for its bounty, such as White-tipped Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Long-billed Thrasher, Cassin’s Sparrow, and Bronzed Cowbird. Overnight in Los Fresnos.

Day Nine: We will spend our final morning in the Valley in search of species which may have eluded us so far, including a special effort for Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. By late morning we will be heading north to Corpus Christi. A visit to the North Padre National Seashore will round out our enjoyment of this spectacular area, with a mix of waterfowl, wading birds, and passerines. Overnight in Corpus Christi.

Day Ten: Participants can depart at any point during the morning, with shuttle service available for the airport. Checkout of the rooms is before 11:00 a.m. Have a safe trip home!

Tour Details

Tour Pricing: $2495.00 per person based on double occupancy. Single occupancy supplement is $545.00

Tour Services: This tour includes nine nights of comfortable accommodations at hotels or guesthouses. All meals, from dinner on Day One to breakfast on Day Ten, are included, excluding any alcoholic beverages. Ground transportation throughout the tour, starting at and returning to the accommodations in Corpus Christi, will be provided, as well as any charter or entrance fees. This tour does not include airfare to/from Corpus Christi, special gratuities, or items of a personal nature.

Also included are professional guide services for the duration of the tour. Brett M. Ewald will be the tour leader on this exciting excursion.  As well as being an accomplished birder, naturalist, and biologist, Brett has traveled and birded extensively in North America, including time spent birding and leading tours in South Texas. He looks forward to sharing the wonders of South Texas with you!

Terms and Conditions

A $600.00 deposit is required at time of booking. Any balance due is required January 15, 2015. Confirmation and an informational packet, including details and directions, will be sent upon receipt of deposit. Make your check or money order payable to Lakeshore Nature Tours. If the tour is full, a waiting list will be taken, and filled according to the date of registration. A $75 service fee will apply to cancellations before January 15, 2015. Cancellations between January 15, 2015 and February 28, 2015 will forfeit the entire $600.00 deposit. After February 28, 2015, no refund will be available.

To register for this tour please complete the registration form. (Viewing the registration form requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have Acrobat Reader please click here for the free download.)

For more information, call, email or write:

12398 Platten Road
Lyndonville, NY 14098
(716) 628-8226