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Altamira OrioleSOUTH TEXAS!
RIO GRANDE VALLEY WINTER RARITIES
& SPECIALTIES TOUR
February 12 - 20, 2022

Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

Trip Cost & Travel Planning>     Registration Form>

Tour Registration Details, Terms and Cancellation Policies>

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 wintering groups of the charismatic Whooping Crane along with the many other wonderful birds that call this region home: Roseate Spoonbill, Gull-billed Tern, Snowy Plover, White-tailed Hawk, and Sedge Wren.

 

Green JayAs we head south, we will find some of the more festively adorned avian regulars – garrulous Green Jays, raucous Great Kiskadees, and stunning Altamira Orioles. We will also seek out other 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.

 

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, Morelet's 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!  It's birdy and tons of fun!

 

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 San Antonio, Texas
We will meet at the airport in San Antonio (Airport code: SAT) and head to Corpus Christi and Rockport to check in to our hotel and enjoy our welcome dinner.


Day 2: Corpus Christi/Rockport/ Harlingen
The diversity and abundance of birds that winter in southern Texas is impressive. We'll begin our tour at the famous Hazel Bazemore State Park in Corpus Christi, home to a wide variety of habitats and South Texas specialties including Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical and Couch's Kingbirds, Sedge Wren, raptors and water birds. 

 

Next, we'll search 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 Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Gull-billed Tern, and loads of Black Skimmer. Other possibilities include the flashy Pyrrhuloxia , noisy Great Kiskadee, and gaudy Green Jay. We’ll also be on the lookout for any Aplomado Falcons reported locally.

In the late afternoon, 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. Other local specialties we hope to see during the day may include Golden-fronted Woodpecker, White-winged and Inca Doves, Loggerhead Shrike, Brewer’s Blackbird, Bewick’s Wren, and Black-crested Titmouse. Night Harlingen.


 
Gray-crowned YellowthroatDay 3: Laguna Atascosa NWR / South Padre Island
Heading 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 Atascosa and nearby South Padre Island, 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. Gull-billed and Sandwich Terns are also possible. 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, 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 species!

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 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: the 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 Rio Grande River itself support a variety of waterfowl, including both Whistling Duck species 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-species flocks which can include a variety of warblers and such goodies as Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Groove-billed Ani has 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 County Park to focus on finding raptors. We’ll search for Gray and Zone-tailed Hawks and hope to spy 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 Morelet's 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 Morelet's 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 park's fields provide good habitat for sparrows and other open-country species. The center's feeders are known for attracting such goodies as Audubon's Oriole and Clay-colored Thrush. 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 a famed rest area 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 visit a sod farm to search for Mountain Plover and/or to look for scrub-loving birds such as Cassin's Sparrow or the elusive Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. 

It's then on to San Antonio where we will have time to freshen up before heading for a celebratory dinner. Night San Antonio.
 
Day 9:  Departures from San Antonio.
 


LEADER: Frank Gallo     Questions? Contact [email protected]

Roseate SpoonbillSOUTH TEXAS
February 12 - 20, 2022
  Registration Form>
Contact [email protected] to reserve your space!

TOUR PRICE: $2245.00 per person based on double occupancy from San Antonio, Texas (Airport code: SAT).  Price is based on 6 passengers. A small group surcharge $150.00 will be assessed for a group of 4-5.
Single supplement: $495.00 per person, subject to availability.

DEPOSIT: $500.00 per person. Tour deposits can be paid by check or 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 San Antonio, insurance, drinks, laundry, tips, and items of a personal nature.   Also, any and all costs arising from pandemic or Covid-19 related issues are not included in the tour cost and are the sole responsibility of the traveler. These include, among others, the costs of Covid treatment, hospitalization, medical fees, transport, meals and accommodation in case of illness or quarantine, and the costs of any Covid tests needed before, during and after the tour.

RESERVATIONS: To reserve your place on this tour:

1) Contact Gina Nichol at [email protected] to confirm availability and hold your place.

2) Review the Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)>

3) Complete the Registration & Release Form (pdf)> and mail it with your deposit of US$500.00 per person to Sunrise Birding, LLC within two weeks to secure your place. 

>Download & print the Registration Form (pdf download).
Instructions are on the form.

Reservations are held with a paid deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.


Final payment is due December 12, 2021. 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 (we try for local eateries) 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:
Please review our Terms and Conditions of Booking (pdf download)> prior to registering for this tour. All cancellations must be made in writing. 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. Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour.

 

TRIP INSURANCE:
Sunrise Birding LLC strongly recommends that you consider purchasing a travel protection plan to protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected in case of delay, injury or illness prior to or during a tour. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Loss and Delay, Emergency Medical Transportation, Pre-existing Conditions, and more.

 

There are many trip insurers. Here are two options to consider:

CSA Travel Protection
CSA TRAVEL PROTECTION>
CSA offers coverage for pre-existing conditions if you purchase your policy before making your final payment for a tour. Please be sure to use Sunrise Birding's producer code: 20201123
when purchasing your policy.
Insuremytrip
INSURE MY TRIP>
Insure My Trip is a web site that allows you
to compare trip insurance plans
to find the right plan for you.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • Insurance policy requirements vary and the timing of your purchase can affect coverage. Some insurance providers require that for coverage of pre-existing conditions, a policy must be purchased within 7-14 days of booking. Others, like CSA, offer policies that cover pre-existing conditions as long as the policy is purchased prior to making your final payment for the tour.

  • Trip insurance policy premiums may be non-refundable, but they may be able to be amended or transferred. Check with your insurer. It is important to be sure that the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate before you purchase trip insurance.

  • Pay attention to coverages provided by your policy. Be aware of the requirements of country or destination can change, so check often. Some policies are now offering Covid related coverages so check with your insurer.

  • US medical insurance plans (including Medicare) often do not provide coverage outside the US. The US State Department strongly advises Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Consult with your insurer prior to your trip to ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider directly or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Be sure to get and keep all documentation of any expenses incurred.

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