USA

TEXAS | High Island & Houston Woods

A 9-day, small group birdwatching tour to Texas

Our April birdwatching tour to Texas focuses on the spectacle of spring bird migration around famous High Island, on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Prepare to be bedazzled and bewitched by a whole rainbow of North American warblers and other migrants - including up to 30 species of wader - and all looking at their sharpest now. But that’s not all... in spring, our Texas bird tours begin with a foray into the forests north of Houston, a wonderful spot to find the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the localised Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird and Yellow-breasted Chat. Expect to see in the region of 200 species on this Texas birding tour!

Tour Dates & Prices

Sat 10th April 2021

Sun 18th April 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 9 Days from £2795* inc return flights from London Heathrow

Deposit: £400Single Supp: £395*Land Only: £2345*Group Size: 7Leaders:  Chris Charlesworth
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* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Heathrow-Houston, nonstop with British Airways
  • 7 nights accommodation in Texas, at comfortable hotels of good North American standard
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees and permits
  • All tour-based tips (inc. gratuities for meals) and taxes
  • Map and checklist of birds for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks & other items of a personal nature. ESTA (US $14, see our Tour Info Pack for details)

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights.

Tour Highlights

  • Two-centre tour visiting High Island and other key migration hotspots along the Gulf of Mexico
  • 'Wall-to-wall' warblers - as many as 30 different species possible on this tour!
  • Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Prothonotary, Swainson’s...
  • Up to 30 species of wader, too - plus a host of other wetland birds
  • In April, the High Island heronry will be in full swing
  • Houston Woods for specialities of the southern USA's forests
  • Small group tour - maximum 7 participants
  • Expertly led by Limosa’s North America specialist Chris Charlesworth

Outline Itinerary

  • Fly London-Houston. We may arrive in time for a little local birding nearby. Night Houston

  • We explore Jones State Forest and bird the south Texas woodlands for southeastern US forest specialities. Night Houston

  • We travel south to the Texas Gulf Coast and take in the key migration hotspots, including High Island, Bolivar Flats, Anahuac, Sea Rim and Sabine Woods. Winnie (5 nts)

  • A final check for migrants today. Overnight flight Houston to London

  • Morning arrival London

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
23717-Blackburnian-Warbler_T0B31920-BES-webck011212.jpg
The wonderful Blackburnian Warbler is among 30 species of warbler we may see on tour © Brian E. Small, briansmallphoto.com

There can be few birdwatchers anywhere who have not leafed through the pages of a North American field guide and marvelled at the rainbow variety and sheer exuberance of the continent's spring warblers - then dreamed of seeing them there! These stunning birds are a special feature of the regular falls of migrants that take place at High Island and other hotspots along the Texas Gulf Coast every April.

Even in an ‘average’ year there is so much to see, with each corner turned drawing gasps of delight as bright splashes of yellow, orange, black, green and blue flit through the freshly leafing trees and we thrill to a host of avian gems making landfall here. On our previous birdwatching tours to Texas in spring we’ve found as many as 25 different kinds of warbler in a single visit to one small wood - this really is birding with a buzz! It’s a neon display further enhanced by the likes of Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Blue and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Bunting, the gaudy Painted Bunting, and Baltimore and Orchard Orioles.

Passerine migration isn’t the only excitement that awaits birders visiting the Texas Gulf coast in spring! Bolivar’s famous tidal flats combine with Anahuac’s bird-rich marshes and rice paddies to produce up to 30 species of shorebird, including such beauties as breeding-plumaged Buff-breasted and Stilt Sandpipers. Here familiar Sanderling and Red Knot rub shoulders with scurrying parties of Semipalmated Plovers, elegant Black-necked Stilts and rusty-necked American Avocets. We’ll watch madcap Reddish Egrets chasing through the shallows, and admire snazzy Tricoloured Herons and Purple Gallinules as American Alligators ‘yawn’ beside the trail.

Come April, the breeding season will already be in full swing for many of the "Lone Star State’s" resident birds. The frenetic activity of breeding egrets, night herons and Roseate Spoonbills at High Island rookery is yet another treat in store.

As a prelude to all this excitement however, our April birding tour to Texas begins with a two-night stay in Houston, right on the doorstep of the region's great southern forests. This is woodpecker country par excellence, with the cartoonish Pileated and stunning Red-headed Woodpeckers among many to watch for as we go in search of dazzling Eastern Bluebirds and dancing Yellow-breasted Chats. We shall also be making a special effort here to find two range-restricted species that occur only in the southeastern United States: the dwindling Red-cockaded Woodpecker and elfin Brown-headed Nuthatch. This is often the only site we see Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and the smart Pine Warbler singing high in the treetops.

Our April birding tour is timed to coincide with the peak of the spring migration spectacle on the Texas Gulf Coast - just as the venerable Live Oaks are bursting into leaf and when the turnover of warblers and other migrants can be truly astounding. Everyone will have their own particular favourite: perhaps the fiery male Blackburnian, the startling 'egg yolk headed' Prothonotary or maybe the skulking Kentucky?...

Guide Chris Charlesworth lives in North America and is a veteran of numerous Texas tours. He rates the Texas Gulf Coast as his favourite birding destination in all of North America and our April 2020 birdwatching tour to Texas will be his 15th trip there for Limosa.

Wilson's Plover Texas Paul Daunter.jpg
Wilson's Plover seen well on Bolivar Flats - it has a large, heavy bill evolved for eating fiddler crabs... © tour participant Paul Daunter

Day 1
FLY HOUSTON

Our spring birding tour to Texas begins with a British Airways morning flight from London Heathrow nonstop to Houston. Chris will be waiting to welcome our arrival here this afternoon. We transfer the short distance to our first hotel, ready for dinner and the birding excitements that lie ahead! Night Houston

Day 2
JONES STATE FOREST & SOUTH TEXAS WOODLANDS

Our birding begins in fine style amid the pine and hardwood forests that lie within an easy drive to the north of Houston. The endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker and localised Brown-headed Nuthatch are key specialities to look for here - and we should come across the stunning Red-headed Woodpecker, too. Indeed, these South Texas woodlands are exceptionally rich in woodpeckers, with both Hairy and Downy, the outrageous Pileated, noisy Red-bellieds, Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker among those to watch for.

Beautiful Yellow-breasted Chats find the shrubby understorey much to their liking, and we may be lucky to see one perform its dancing spring display flight, while colourful Eastern Bluebirds and Summer Tanagers, Turkey Vulture and other southern forest breeders should ensure an exciting first day’s birding! Night Houston

Days 3 - 7
TEXAS GULF COAST: HIGH ISLAND, SABINE WOODS, SEA RIM, ANAHUAC & BOLIVAR

Leaving Houston, we head east towards our second hotel at Winnie and, from there, take a short drive south to High Island to make an afternoon check of the likeliest ‘migrant traps’.

It will be all too easy to get side-tracked along the way however, for our route to the coast cuts across the Gulf Coast’s bird-rich marshes, where (depending upon water levels at the time) our progress may be slowed by sightings of Least and American Bitterns, Marsh Wren or King, Clapper and Virginia Rails in wet ditches and pools beside the road.

For birdwatchers, High Island has become a mecca for those seeking to experience the dizzying phenomenon of migration. With its venerable spreading Live Oaks, the little town of High Island sits atop a low wooded rise, barely a quarter-mile from the sea. In April, the woods attract migrants like a magnet for the low-lying land surrounding High Island is coastal marsh in every direction, making it a true ‘island of trees’. Contrary to what one might expect, the biggest falls of migrants generally occur here in the afternoons, as travel weary passerines complete their crossing of the immense Gulf of Mexico and drop down into High Island’s welcoming woodlands.

At times, birding in the isolated coastal groves can be astonishing. Even on an "average day", when numbers of migrants are simply drifting through, there’ll be plenty to captivate and enthral us! Black-throated Green, Bay-breasted and Worm-eating Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuck-will’s-widow, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager and Baltimore Oriole are just some of the possible treats in store.

A visit to the bustling heronry at High Island adds further to the appeal of this remarkable place in spring, presenting excellent opportunities for anyone with the remotest ambition with a camera to photograph the likes of Great and Snowy Egrets, Tricoloured Herons, Roseate Spoonbills and Black-crowned Night Herons. All will be busy attending their nests - and filling the frame in our cameras and ‘scopes!

Not far along the coast from High Island, the famed Bolivar Flats offer fabulous assemblies of shorebirds. Here we may thrill to dazzling flocks of American Avocets and bizarre Black Skimmers, as well as catching up with almost all the North American plovers. Noisy parties of terns - Caspian, Royal, Cabot’s (now split from Sandwich), Black and Forster’s - come and go along the sandy shore, energetic Reddish Egrets prance madly through the shallows and groups of gigantic-looking Brown and American White Pelicans stand idly by. Along the way, we will stop at a reliable spot to look for the attractive Nelson’s Sparrow, and have good chances of finding White-tailed Kite and American Oystercatcher, too.

Inland of the Gulf coast, acres of shallow-flooded rice fields can also be teeming with migrant shorebirds in April, offering first-rate opportunities to study the likes of Black-necked Stilt, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least, Western, White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers, Wilson’s Phalarope, leggy Stilt Sandpipers and, with luck, the scarce Hudsonian Godwit. Many are looking even more alluring now, in full summer dress.

The extensive marshes of the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge lie between Winnie and the coast. Here we could find anything from the diminutive Least Bittern, American Moorhen and shining Purple Gallinules to Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants, American White and White-faced Ibises, Blue-winged Teal and crab-eating Yellow-crowned Night Herons. In April, the willows that fringe the approach to the reserve regularly harbour migrants and careful scrutiny of roadside wires might reward us with our first sightings of the immaculate Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a lemon-chested Eastern Meadowlark or perhaps a roosting Common Nighthawk. Big American Alligators are another common sight at Anahuac, basking in the warm spring sunshine beside the trail - sometimes with their massive jaws open wide!

By basing ourselves at Winnie for the duration of our stay near the coast, we shall also be within easy range of the wonderful migrant traps that lie to the east, just across the water from the neighbouring state of Louisiana. We’ll take in Sabine Woods, Sea Rim State Park and Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge, where chunky Seaside Sparrows nest in the saltmarshes, Soras ‘whinny’ and Western Ospreys calmly watch us pass from roadside telegraph poles. In April, the coastal groves here have a habit of turning up species whose main migration routes lie to the east of Texas and, with luck, we could add a stunning Cape May Warbler or perhaps the cracking Black-throated Blue to our burgeoning list of eastern North American wood-warblers - which could well run to 30 species by the end of this super tour! Five nights Winnie

Day 8
GULF COAST BIRDING, FLY LONDON

We have time today to enjoy a final morning’s birding at a favoured spot on the coast.

In the afternoon, we make the easy return to Houston for farewells to Chris and check-in for our British Airways overnight flight back to London.

Day 9
ARRIVE LONDON

Morning arrival at London Heathrow, where our spring birdwatching tour to Texas concludes.

Green Heron Texas Paul Daunter.jpg
Common in wetland areas, a smart Green Heron concentrates on its prey item © tour participant Paul Daunter

WHAT TO EXPECT
Our April birdwatching tour to Texas focuses on the spectacle of spring bird migration around famous High Island, on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Prepare to be bedazzled and bewitched by a whole rainbow of North American warblers and other migrants - including up to 30 species of wader - and all looking at their sharpest now. But that’s not all... in spring, our Texas bird tours begin with a foray into the forests north of Houston, a wonderful spot to find the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the localised Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Expect to see in the region of 200 species on this Texas birding holiday!

In April, the weather at Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast is generally warm, sunny and dry, with average daily temperatures of between 16-28°C (60-82F). There is a chance of unsettled weather with showers and overcast conditions as weather fronts move through - but these bring with them the migrants, of course!

Good photo opportunities for birds and other wildlife on this trip.

BIRDS
180-215 species

ACCOMMODATION
7 nights accommodation in Texas, at comfortable US-style hotels of good North American standard. All rooms en suite.

We begin with two nights in Houston followed by five nights in Winnie, giving easy access to key sites east and west along the Gulf Coast. 

MEALS
All main meals are included in our tour price, commencing with dinner in Texas on Day 1 and concluding with lunch there on Day 8.

Food is good, varied and plentiful. Breakfasts are usually buffet-style at the hotels. Lunches will usually be picnics though we sometimes visit a local restaurant or diner. As is the norm in the USA, evening meals will often be taken at a local restaurant since many North American hotels lack their own in-house restaurant facilities.

We provide drinking water during the day, and our tour price also includes the expected 15-20% gratuity for all meals in North America.

WALKING
Easy. Short walks over flat terrain.

Comfy walking shoes should suffice, with a pair of old trainers, sandals or ‘flip-flops’ suitable for beach birding.

TRAVEL
Return flights from London Heathrow to Houston (Texas), nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport  By air-conditioned minibus.

Little Blue Heron Texas Paul Daunter.jpg
The Little Blue Heron is actually an attractive shade of powdery indigo-blue © tour participant Paul Daunter

Tour Gallery

View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption

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