Spring Migration Birding In Texas

On March 16th we left Tucson to travel to Texas for spring bird migration. The Texas Gulf Coast/Lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the top birding areas in the US for spring migration. Many species fly from the Yucatan Peninsula or other locations in South America across the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall on the Texas coast.

We spent about seven weeks in the state. It was a whirlwind as we were usually out early morning until 4 to 6pm. So we barely had time for all the chores and stuff that needs to get done. Each evening I tried to cull through my photos so I didn’t fill up my laptop hard drive.

I am finally getting through processing the photos I kept. So here are a few to share.

Our first stop was Balmorhea State Park. The main attraction at this park is the artesian San Solomon Springs, which currently flows at the rate of 15 million gallons per day! It was cold and windy during our visit, but there were still a few visitors that swam in the pool. The water temperature was around 72F. Unfortunately other than the day use area around the springs, the remaining areas of the park were closed for renovation. So it wasn’t very productive for birding but we enjoyed our visit anyway.

Next we went to South Llano River State Park near Junction, TX. We spent three nights in the park campground. We were there to see the endangered and rare Golden-cheeked Warbler. It winters in Mexico and South America and in spring migrates to the juniper-oak woodlands of central Texas. It nests exclusively in this central Texas habitat. The biggest threat to its survival is loss of habitat. The protected area of the state park is a primary nesting area. We were there a little early in the season but were glad that some individuals had arrived. We saw several males that were singing and establishing their territory.

We continued our journey east towards the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We spent ten days in Mission, TX where there is a wealth of public lands and private reserves. Among the places we visited were Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Butterfly Center. These were all wonderful places. Estero Llano and Santa Ana offered guided bird walks led by park volunteers. They were both very enjoyable and yielded many species of birds.

I will take a moment to comment on how impressed I was with the Texas State Parks. Each facility we visited was very well-maintained. The facilities were well-planned and they offer a lot to visitors. The annual parks pass has to be one of the best bargains around. The cost is $70 and allows entry to up to four people. There is usually a day use fee of around $10 to enter a park. We covered the cost of our pass with our visits to Balmorhea and South Llano River. And we spent many more days at other parks.

From the city of Mission, we headed to the coast. We stayed five nights at an RV park in Port Isabel which is the location of the causeway to South Padre Island. A good part of our time was spent on the Island. We particularly enjoyed birding at the convention center on their Laguna Madre Trail and at the mud flats next door. We saw many shorebirds as well as some warblers.

From Port Isabel, we continued up the coast with stops in Victoria, Freeport and finally in Port Arthur. We spent many days on Galveston Island and High Island on the Bolivar Peninsula. There were so many birds, it was amazing.

From the coast, we went to College Station in central Texas. We stopped there in order to visit W.G. Jones State Forest near the city of Conroe. This forest is managed to provide habitat for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We did see two of the woodpeckers so it was a great way to top off our tour of Texas. This was my first time visiting the state. It was a lot of fun and we had great success. We saw 271 species of birds and 68 of those were life birds for me (meaning the first time I had seen one). I look forward to a return visit in the future.

On May 6th we left College Station and in three days drove to Cheyenne, WY. There was a several day window of good weather and we wanted to get north of Colorado as soon as we could. Right now we are in Shelby, MT, about 35 miles south of the US-Canada border. Tomorrow we hope to cross into Canada to drive the Alaska Highway. We plan to spend the summer in Alaska, returning to the Lower 48 in September.

This is my first trip to Alaska and I know it will be amazing! I hope to have some great photos to share with you soon.

10 Comments on “Spring Migration Birding In Texas

  1. Wow, what a whirlwind of travel. I recognized several of those places. I sure do miss our trips to TX. Great collection of bird images. I look forward to tagging along on your adventure to Alaska.


    • Thanks Ingrid! Look forward to having you along. We had an uneventful border crossing this morning. We are now in Calgary to stock up on groceries and other errands. Continuing northward tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Debra, thanks for this great blog. Wonderful pictures!!!!! of beautiful birds!!!!! Great camera work. There are so many beautiful pics. John Rhodes

    Liked by 1 person

      • Deb, forgot to mention. I hope your travels to/in/from AK go great I’m envious. I’ve loved my trips in AK – no place like it in my mind.


      • I’m sure we will love our time in AK. We arrived in Dawson Creek today. Tomorrow we officially start the Alaska Hwy. So excited!


  3. South Llano RIver SP is one of my favorites. The last time I was there they had really nice bird blinds with water fountains.
    😉😉 I hope TPWD doesn’t read your comment about the park pass!!!!!!
    I’ve been expecting them to raise the price of the pass. It really is a great deal at $70. With the pass, your second nights camping fee is half off too.
    Have a great time in Alaska.


    • Hi Brian, They still have the 4 bird blinds with water drips and feeders. Other than when I was up the Agarita trail looking for the Golden-cheeked Warblers I was at one of the blinds. I liked South Llano River and also Estero Llano Grande.


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