Sunrise Birding LLC - Birding & Wildlife Tours
Home | Tours | Trip Reports | News |  Team |  Calendar | Links | Contact | Store | Mailing List
Altamira OrioleSOUTH TEXAS!
RIO GRANDE VALLEY WINTER RARITIES
& SPECIALTIES TOUR
February 15 - 23, 2020


Trip Cost & Travel Planning>     Registration Form>
Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!


South Texas in February is the perfect destination for birders hoping to add some special species to their North American bird list while enjoying a little winter sun. This birdy, relatively easy paced tour offers a wealth of remarkable birds including many that only inhabit the US in this tropical little corner of Texas. Our adventure starts in the Corpus Christi area as we search for winter congregations of the charismatic Whooping Crane along with the other wonderful birds that call this region home: Roseate Spoonbill, White-tailed Hawk, and Sedge Wren.

 

Green JayAs we head south we will find among the more festively adorned avian regulars – garrulous Green Jays, raucous Great Kiskadees and stunning Altamira Orioles. We will also seek out other sought after local specialties that only irregularly find themselves on the US side of the border: Brown Jay, Red-billed Pigeon and Hook-billed Kite. Perhaps the main draw of a visit to Texas at this time is the lure of southern vagrants that are found wintering along the Rio Grande each year such as Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Blue Bunting and White-throated Thrush. Part of the excitement is that one never knows what rarities each winter here will produce, and our trip has the flexibility built in to go find them. Join us for a winter birding escape to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley!

 

Ladder-backed WoodpeckerSome species possible on this tour:
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, Mottled Duck, Plain Chachalaca, Northern Bobwhite, Least Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Reddish Egret, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, White-tailed Kite, Hook-billed Kite, Harris's Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Gray Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Whooping Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Red-billed Pigeon, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Groove-billed Ani, Common Pauraque, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Red-crowned Parrot, Green Parakeet, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Couch's Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Green Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Cave Swallow, Black-crested Titmouse, Verdin, Sedge Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Clay-colored Thrush, Curve-billed Thrasher, Long-billed Thrasher, Sprague's Pipit, Painted Redstart, White-collared Seedeater, Cassin's Sparrow, Olive Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, Bronzed Cowbird, Altamira Oriole, Audubon's Oriole, Hooded Oriole, and Mexican rarities.

Join us for a winter birding escape to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley!

 

Trip Cost & Travel Planning>     Registration Form>           Questions? Contact [email protected]


ITINERARY  (This is a necessarily flexible itinerary subject to change depending upon the birds!)

Whooping CraneDay 1: Arrival in Corpus Christi
We will meet at the airport in Corpus Christi and head to Rockport for our hotel to check in and enjoy our welcome dinner.


Day 2: Rockport/ Harlingen
The diversity and abundance of birds that winter in southern Texas are impressive. We begin our tour searching out one of North America’s rarest bird species: Whooping Crane. The coastal marshes and pastures of Rockport support these iconic cranes and a host of other coastal species including shorebirds, gulls, terns, waders, and land birds. Other highlights here may include such beauties as Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Gull-billed Tern and loads of Black Skimmer. Other possibilities include the flashy Pyrrhuloxia , noisy Great Kiskadee, and a the regal Couch’s Kingbird. We’ll also be on the lookout for any Mountain Plovers reported locally.

After our morning’s explorations, we’ll journey south to Harlingen. On our way, we’ll keep our eyes open for raptors. We may well find a White-tailed Hawk perched atop a yucca or other southern specialties such as Harris’s Hawk and Crested Caracara. Our drive south will also take us to famous rest areas that have a history of attracting rarities such as Tropical Parula and Painted Redstart. Although neither species can be guaranteed, we will certainly run into other local specialties such as Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Green Jay, White-winged and Inca Doves, Loggerhead Shrike, Brewer’s Blackbird, Bewick’s Wren, and Black-crested Titmouse. Other stops may include wetlands where both species of whistling ducks have occurred. Night Harlingen.
 
Day 3: Laguna Atascosa NWR
Gray-crowned YellowthroatHeading east from our base in Harlingen to the famous Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, we’ll cross coastal prairies that support both White-tailed Hawk and Crested Caracara; our focus today is on finding a real beauty, the rare Aplomado Falcon. Although this stunning falcon ranges from the southern tip of South America all the way to the U.S., it can only reliably found in the U.S., at a handful of spots in the very southernmost tip of Texas. Happily, it has also recently been elevated to countable status by the ABA.

The wealth of waterfowl at Laguna includes thousands of Redheads and other ducks, notable numbers of waders including Reddish Egret and White-faced Ibis, and wintering shorebird goodies such as Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew, and Stilt Sandpiper. Land birds we may encounter in the area include Couch’s and Tropical Kingbird, Sedge Wren, Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrashers, and Cassin’s Sparrow. Dryer areas can hold the likes of Verdin and Cactus Wren. With a little luck, we might uncover a Sprague’s Pipit or a Groove-billed Ani.

Harlingen and Weslaco are known for hosting communal roosts of parrots and blackbirds. Tonight, we will end our evening enjoying the amazing spectacle of both parrots (mainly Green Parakeets and possibly Red-crowned Parrot) and blackbirds (mainly Great-tailed Grackles and Bronzed Cowbirds) as they come into town to roost. The cacophony is something to behold and the spectacle is an integral part of any tour to this part of the world.

Every day in the Rio Grande Valley holds the possibility for something rare and exciting to show up, so we will be keeping our ear to the ground for something like Blue Bunting, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Rose-throated Becard, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, or who knows what else to throw an exciting wrench into our day’s plans!  Night Weslaco.
 
Day 4: Santa Ana NWR / Weslaco Area
Black-bellied Whistling DuckWe have two full days to explore the McAllen/Weslaco Area. Here we’ll visit such renowned places as Santa Ana NWR, home to species like Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, and Plain Chachalacas and Green Jays. In addition, a host of Mexican rarities have seen here over the years. We’ll also visit exciting newer sites, such as the beautiful and birdy Estero Llano Grande and Frontera Audubon Centers, as well as some of the smaller off the beaten path spots that make Rio Grande Valley birding so rewarding. At these lovely oasis’s, we hope to sweep up specialties such as Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Common Pauraque, Neotropic Cormorant, Least Grebe, Green Kingfisher, White-tailed Kite, Black Phoebe, White-tipped Dove, Vermillion Flycatcher and many others.

The impoundments at Estero Llano Grande are known for attracting waders, shorebirds, and waterfowl, including Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Cinnamon Teal, Tri-colored Heron, White-faced Ibis, and a many of other species. Sora and Virginia Rails are seen here regularly, as are American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and Wilson’s Snipe. The park’s thickets have produced Clay-colored Thrush, the rare White-throated Thrush, Tropical Parula, and Western Tanager, as well as other rarities. This small park’s bird list tops 345!

Frontera Audubon’s thickets and ponds are always a joy to explore and anything is possible here. Rarities seen include Blue Bunting, Tropical Parula, and Crimson-collared Grosbeak.

One of our afternoon goals will be to scan the skies from the hawk-watch platform at Santa Ana NWR along the Rio Grande for more tropical raptor species, such as Gray and Zone-tailed Hawks. We will also keep our eyes peeled and fingers crossed for a sighting of the rarest of Southern Texas raptors: Hook-billed Kite. Other local specialties here include Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Long-billed Thrasher, and Clay-colored Thrush.

Long-billed ThrasherSanta Ana’s many ponds and the river itself support a variety of waterfowl, including both Whistling Duck species, and the refuge’s bustling feeders often attract such goodies as Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, White-tipped and Inca Doves, Black-crested Titmouse, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. This is a great place to enjoy the often raucous antics of the Plain Chachalaca flocks. Santa Ana’s bird list tops 400 species and the rarities seen include some whoppers, such as Blue Mockingbird, Roadside Hawk, Slate-throated Redstart, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, and Blue Bunting. Night McAllen.

Day 5: Bentsen RGV State Park and Anzalduas County Park
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Anzalduas County Park offer more opportunities for us to find additional prized Valley specialties. First, we’ll visit the hallowed grounds of Bentsen RGV State Park. The site has been blessed with myriads of incredible rarities including Roadside Hawk, Amazon Kingfisher, and Stygian Owl!!! Feeders here attract a nice mix of specialties including Plain Chachalaca, the incredible Green Jay, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole, Inca and White-tipped Dove, even the occasional Blue Bunting. We’ll explore the grounds mixed flocks which can include a variety of warblers and such goodies as Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Groove-billed Ani have occurred here in winter, so we’ll keep our eyes and ears open.

As the morning warms up and raptors become active, we’ll head to Anzalduas CP to focus on finding raptors. We’ll search for Gray and Zone-tailed Hawks and with hopes of finding a Hook-billed Kite. The park may also provide us with sightings of such lovelies as Vermilion Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Verdin, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Who knows what may show up in the mixed flocks of warblers, but previous years have provided some interesting species. Anzalduas is a renowned site for wintering Sprague’s and American Pipits, Western and Eastern Meadowlarks, Cave Swallows, Tropical Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, and also provides river access to scan for kingfishers and ducks. Night McAllen

 

Day 6: McAllen / Zapata
Today, we will make an early start and wing our way northwest along the Rio Grande to the tiny town of Salineño nestled on the river’s banks. Scanning from the river overlook gives us our best chance to find wild Muscovy Ducks and Red-billed Pigeons and with great good fortune, perhaps a Black Hawk, Brown Jay, or Collared Seedeater. The famous feeding station here offers opportunities for looks at Audubon’s Oriole, and a wide array of species, including Altamira and Hooded Orioles, Scaled Quail, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and Blue Grosbeak.

As we leave Salineño and head further northwestwards, we’ll start to encounter drier and more desert-like habitats. At places like Falcon Dam State Park and Starr County Park, we’ll search for species such as Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Vermillion Flycatcher, Scaled Quail, Greater Roadrunner and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. Other exciting South Texas specialties to be found include Audubon’s Oriole, and both Red-billed Pigeon and White-collared Seedeater. Night Zapata.

 

Day 7: Zapata / McAllen
The towns of Zapata and nearby San Ygnacio are the most reliable spots in the US to find the little White-collared Seedeater. We’ll spend the early morning in search of these diminutive seedeaters before slowly working our way back south along the Rio Grande towards McAllen. We’ll concentrate on finding any birds that we may have missed: whether dry habitat species or the more tropical species we encounter further south. We will also be keeping a close eye on reports of rare birds that we might chase. Night McAllen.
 

Day 8: McAllen Area / Corpus Christi
We will start our morning following up leads and exploring a couple of the smaller sites in McAllen. Depending on what’s needed, we may visit parks such as the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands which attract a wide array of water birds, or Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center, another world-class birding site with a nice mix of habitats and species. If time allows, we’ll stop at the wonderful NABA Butterfly Center, where one can witness an incredible array of multicolored Lepidoptera that are often found in few other places in the US. Edge habitat here can be productive for woodland birds and the fields provide good habitat for sparrows and other open country species. After chasing down anything that we may have missed we’ll head north out of the valley back toward Corpus Christi.

After we depart the Rio Grande Valley, stops are planned at the famed rest areas to look for Tropical Parula and other warblers, and we will keep our eyes peeled raptors including specialties such as White-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, and Crested Caracara. Depending on our chosen route back to Corpus Christi, we may have a chance to hit a shorebird site to look for things like Roseate Spoonbill and Sedge Wren, or to visit a sod farm to search for Mountain Plover.

Once in Corpus Christ, we will have time to freshen up before heading for a celebratory dinner. Night Corpus Christi.
 
Day 9:  Departures from Corpus Christi
 


LEADER: Frank Gallo     Questions? Contact [email protected]

Roseate SpoonbillSOUTH TEXAS
February 15 - 23, 2020
  Registration Form>
Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

TOUR PRICE: $1995 per person based on double occupancy from Corpus Christi, Texas (Airport code: CRP).  Price is based on 6 passengers. A small group surcharge $155 will be assessed for a group of 4-5.
Single supplement: $425.00 per person, subject to availability.

Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise [email protected] when you have made payment. 

Included in cost: Accommodation in /double twin rooms, all meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 9, group airport/hotel transfers, ground transport throughout, all taxes, entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary.

Not included: Flight to and from Corpus Christi, insurance, drinks, laundry, tips, and items of a personal nature.

RESERVATIONS: Contact [email protected] to reserve your space! 
Then follow up with your completed registration form and deposit of $500 per person per tour within two weeks to secure your place. Credit card deposits are possible with no added fees.   Please inquire.   Reservations are held with a deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.   
>Download & print the Registration Form 


Final payment is due December 15, 2019. Check or bank transfer are preferred but credit card payments are possible (surcharges of up to 5% are added depending on amount to cover credit card company fees). To make credit card payment arrangements, contact [email protected]


Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. To see a good amount of specialties you need to be prepared for some walking and for full days. We will generally start early and either have an early breakfast or return for breakfast. Lunches will be either picnic or fast food places depending on our schedule. We can expect all types of weather from warm and hot to cool and showery. Please be prepared for this.


Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in their local currency), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds:  All cancellations must be made in writing.  In the event that you must cancel your booking at any stage, all payments you have made to Sunrise Birding, LLC will be retained by us, except at our discretion. Please ensure that you take out adequate insurance to cover this and any other eventuality as early as possible. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur.

There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. 

Insurance: Sunrise Birding, LLC recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more.

For more information on the available plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 07-0025.

The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. 11.17 E7N

Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected].com