Texas Hill Country and Coastal Bend Spring Migration Hotspots

Search for Black-capped Vireo, Golden-cheeked Warbler and Trans-Gulf Migrants

April 15-19, 2023

American Serengeti Series

Black-capped Vireo - Stock

New for 2023! Get to know Texas’s diverse landscapes and habitats and their associated wildlife in this 5-day American Serengeti Series trip.

Our birding and wildlife expedition begins with a stop in San Antonio before continuing to the Central Texas Coast also known as the “Coastal Bend” to search for breeders and trans-Gulf migrants. This region is home to a myriad of habitats. The expansive Gulf prairie and marshes are interspersed with hackberry and oak motte habitat islands that provide safe landing to birds that left the Yucatan Peninsula the night before, as well as those that hug the coast during spring migration.

Birding stops include the busiest Hawkwatch in Texas, where Green Jays and other more southerly breeders can occasionally be found, and migrant traps on North Padre, Mustang and Goose barrier islands, as well as Rockport, Port Aransas, Portland, and Corpus Christi. Our goal is to fill your days with color and wonder. 

Most of our time will be in Nueces County, the county that competes with Los Angeles and San Diego counties for the coveted America’s Birdiest County competition.

Two of the most iconic endemic or near-endemic Texas breeders – Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo – are found in the middle of Texas on the Edwards Plateau. Our trip ends with a search for “THE vireo” and “THE warbler” plus other Hill Country specialties. 

With more than 500 bird species recorded in the region, this trip is sure to delight birders and nature lovers of all levels as we explore habitats that once supported bison and other extirpated and extinct prairie species all the way to the Gulf Coast.

Join Chip Clouse, Reefs to Rockies’ Lead Birding Guide, for Spring Migration in the Texas Hill Country and Coastal Bend!

Conservation Impact: The Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), founded in 1998, creates and protects a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, ensuring a future for native flora and fauna. A donation to SPLT to aid in their land acquisition efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.

ITINERARY

Day 1 (Sat, Apr 15) ~ Early afternoon arrival to San Antonio International Airport (SAT).  Chip Clouse, our guide, will meet the group at the airport upon arrival.  Afternoon birding in San Antonio will start at Mitchell Lake Audubon Center before driving to Corpus Christi, TX. We will also shoot for a stop at Indian Point on Corpus Christi Bay if time allows. Plan to arrive to San Antonio International Airport (SAT) by 1:30 pm today.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites – Corpus Christi I-37

Meals: Lunch in San Antonio and Welcome Dinner in Corpus Christi

Day 2 (Sun, Apr 16): Our first full day of Texas birding begins at Hazel Bazemore County Park and their famed Hawkwatch. We will bird the lower areas first before mid-morning updrafts fuel soaring migrants including Swainson’s, Broad-tailed, and White-tailed hawks and others at the Hawkwatch. Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Vermilion Flycatchers, White-tipped and Inca doves, and migrant waders and shorebirds can also be found. We will visit other inland hotspots and migrant traps like Pollywog Pond (Least Grebe etc.), Hilltop Community Center, Blucher Park, and Rose Hill Cemetery depending on recent sightings this afternoon. The live oaks and hackberries at these hotspots attract breeders including White-eyed Vireo and Carolina Wren, as well as migrant flycatchers, tanagers, orioles, and warblers galore.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites – Corpus Christi I-37

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 3 (Mon, Apr 17): Today we hit the coast. We’ll visit migrant traps like Suter Wildlife Refuge on Oso Bay, Packery Channel Park on North Padre Island, and Mollie Beattie Coastal Habitat on Mustang Island before hitting Port Aransas hotspots including Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port A Jetty, and Port Aransas Nature Preserve. Songbird migrants (warblers, anyone?), gulls, terns, pelicans, plovers, sandpipers, and more are on the agenda today. We might even see a gator or two! After a short ferry ride back to the mainland, time allowing, we will head up to Goose Island State Park north of Rockport.  The live oaks around the campground can be dripping with birds in the right afternoon conditions. 

Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites – Corpus Christi I-37

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 4 (Tue, Apr 18):  Today we have some ground to cover, but the birding en route should be top-notch. We’ll stop first at Choke Canyon State Park which has harbored incredible rarities including Northern Jacana and the first US record of Spotted Rail. It is also known for birds including Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Verdin, Pyrrhuloxia, Green Jay, Olive Sparrow, and Audubon’s Oriole plus lots of Neotropic Cormorants and other water birds. Next will be a stop in Cibolo, TX at Warbler Woods Bird Sanctuary. This privately-owned bird haven offers feeding stations, drips, and trails through productive habitat for multiple migrants, as well as breeders including Hooded Warbler and Summer Tanager. From here, we’ll head up into the Hill Country through oak forest and savanna along I-10. If time allows, we will stop again in or around Kerrville for any intriguing recent sightings.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express – Junction

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Day 5 (Wed, Apr 19): Our last day in Texas begins at South Llano River State Park with a search for Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler, iconic Hill Country species. The endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler’s entire breeding range is in Texas and this is one of the best places to find them. The near-threatened Black-capped Vireo breeds mostly in Texas with small pockets in Oklahoma, as well. This park also harbors Northern Bobwhite, Purple Martin, Black-crested Titmouse, Black-throated Sparrow, and more. The change of habitat from the Gulf prairie to drier juniper, oak and mesquite savanna will inspire. This shift in landscape is a wonderful way to wrap up our expedition as we head back to San Antonio International Airport (SAT) for afternoon flights home. Plan to depart SAT at 4:30pm or later.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

DETAILS

Price: $1735* per person based on two people sharing double occupancy accommodations. Add $289* if you prefer private, single occupancy accommodations.

Inclusions: accommodations, meals as listed (4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 2 dinners), private ground transportation in 12-passenger or similar van, full-time driver/guide with spotting scope available, and entrance fees.

Exclusions: flights, travel insurance, alcohol, optional activities, hotel gratuities, 2 dinners, and items of a personal nature.

*Price is based on payment by check. Credit card fees, if applicable, will be assessed at time of payment based on card used.

Group size: 6-8 participants + guide

Guide: Chip Clouse

Level of Difficulty: While there are some mild elevational gradients at South Llano River State Park, most of the trip will involve walking on mostly flat and level trails, beach, and boardwalks at a birder’s pace. Even in the Hill Country, we will be walking on well-maintained trails and visiting birding blinds, though we may walk 1.5 to 2 miles that morning in search of our targets. Other days should usually involve .25 to 1 mile walks at a time with drives to the next stop allowing some rest between walks. Many scheduled stops offer trailside resting benches or chairs at a bird blind. Total walking per day should not surpass 3-3.5 miles.

Important Note: Stops on specific days are subject to change based on migration radar reports, weather conditions, and recent sightings. We prefer to maximize your experience with real time information instead of sticking to a predetermined plan when a fallout or other exciting viewing opportunity arises. Flexibility in a group setting and in the field is key to your enjoyment.