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TEXAS

Tuesday 11th April - Wednesday 26th April 2017

MIKE WATSON

Golden-cheeked Warbler (Mike Watson).

Golden-cheeked Warbler (Mike Watson).

Our latest tour of the Lone Star State produced a very respectable total of 306 bird species, including 65 Birdquest ‘diamond’ species (regional endemics or specialities) and 37 species of American wood warblers! Amongst these were some of the USA’s most sought-after birds. Our journey started down in the palms and subtropical woodland of the Lower Rio Grande Valley with a quartet of Northeast Mexican regional endemics - Red-crowned Parrot, Green Parakeet, Black-crested Titmouse and Long-billed Thrasher. Other birds of a southerly distribution, whose ranges just cross the Mexican border into the USA included Plain Chachalaca, Least Grebe, Zone-tailed, White-tailed and Grey Hawks, Red-billed Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Elf Owl, Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Aplomado Falcon (reintroduced here), Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Green Jay, Clay-coloured Thrush, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles and White-collared Seedeater. On the Upper Texas Coast we were lucky to experience a ‘fall out’ of Trans-Caribbean migrant passerines right at the end of our stay at High Island, one of world birding’s true Meccas, where a sparkling line-up of 20 species of wood warblers included two Ceruleans. The marshes and shores around Galveston Bay held Fulvous Whistling Duck, King Rail, Piping Plover, Hudsonian Godwit and Upland Sandpiper. We even managed a ‘write-in’ to this very long-established tour here in the form of a Long-tailed Duck. While dodging thunderstorms in the lovely Pineywoods of Angelina State Forest near Jasper, we enjoyed some great encounters with Red-cockaded and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine, Prairie, Prothonotary and Swainson’s Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat and Bachman’s Sparrow. In the west of the state, the pretty Hill Country hosts another selection of regional specials and Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo were the highlights here. Further west in the Trans Pecos, ‘mountain island’ forest habitat allows more Mexican birds to extend their range into the USA and the delightful Colima Warbler, Mexican Jay, Blue-throated Mountaingem, Painted Whitestart, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Crissal Thrasher and Black-chinned Sparrow were all added to our list. The mountains of this region also represent the most easterly US outpost of western species like Acorn Woodpecker, American Grey Flycatcher, Western Bluebird and Hepatic Tanager. A visit to Carolyn Ohl’s Christmas Mountain Oasis feeding station was another highlight, adding Lucifer Sheartail, Virginia’s Warbler and Varied Bunting amongst others. We saw some other interesting western warblers on their northward migration in the mountains such as Hermit, Townsend’s and Wilson’s. Finally the Davis Mountains of West Texas produced the desired Montezuma Quail and Phainopepla of particular note. The only blot on our copybook was the earlier than usual northbound departure of the wintering Whooping Cranes, which had left Aransas NWR before our tour started. With a long and varied bird list, wonderful scenery, good accommodations and roads, tasty food and a very pleasant climate a spring tour of the ‘big state’ is our premier US birding itinerary.

Lucifer Sheartail (Mike Watson).

Lucifer Sheartail (Mike Watson).