Welcome to Birdquest
Tuesday 16th April - Thursday 2nd May 2013
Texas is an enormous state, covering a larger area than the whole of the United Kingdom. With a wealth of different biomes and avifaunas separated across such a huge landscape it is often easier to separate birding these areas shorter manageable trips. As such the Birdquest Texas trip was very much a tour of two halves. Heading for the coast we stopped first at nearby Long-leaf pine forests where we encountered the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow as well as a variety of woodland birds. The rest of our first week was spend watching a dazzling array of migrants and shorebirds passing through the famous coastal sites of High Island and Sabine Woods. Here, we eagerly anticipated changes in the weather and noticed by-the-hour differences in the birds concentrated into a tiny area. One the second part of our trip we travelled West of San Antonio, across the Edward’s Plateau where the topography and Live Oak- woodland was reminiscent of Mediterranean cork-growing regions. Here was encountered two incredibly beautiful species almost endemic to Texas - Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. As we moved further west the scenery became gradually drier and we moved into open desert country. In a bleak but spectacular landscape of Big Bend National Park the Chios Basin is a single huge caldera which rises out of the desert providing an oasis of woodland.
Our first week was largely focussed on migrants and on some days we recorded as many as 20 species of warblers! After the right conditions some of the coastal migrants traps were a profusion of colour as Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeaks, Prothonotary Warblers and Hooded Warblers, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers flitted around as streaks of blue, yellow and red. Creeping through the understory we found Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, catharus thrushes and a variety of Geothlypis warblers. Freshwater wetlands at Anahuac NWR harboured gave us wonderful views of Yellow, King and Sora Rails, whilst the coastal lagoons and mudflats along the Bolivar Peninsular were alive with incredible numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl. Nearby turf farms also provided a wonderful bonus of both Buff-breasted and Upland Sandpiper.
During our second week we traversed the Hill Country of the Edward’s Plateau. Here we found a wide range of breeding birds of central Texas. The biggest highlights here were Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler, both near-endemic to Texas as breeding birds. However was also recorded several other tough and interesting species including Yellow-headed Blackbird, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, Hutton’s Vireo, Brewer’s Sparrow, Vermillion Flycatcher, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Great Horned Owl and Cave Swallow. A stop at a local wetlands produced even more waders and several late waterfowl we hadn’t recorded along the coast. Moving further west we reached the at Del Rio, where Couch’s Kingbird, Green Jay, Green Kingfisher and Great Kiskadee were among the ‘South Texas Specialities’ we found right on the fringes of their ranges.