A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Texas's Big Bend & Hill Country 2023

April 22-May 1, 2023 with Chris Benesh, Eric Hynes, & Alex Sundvall guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Driving into the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. The scenery alone is breathtaking, and the anticipation of wonderful birding adventures begins to build. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

April saw the return of Field Guides to Big Bend National Park, the scenic Davis Mountains, and the beautiful Texas Hill Country, providing an opportunity to explore a diverse range of habitats and experiences. The trip began in San Antonio for a quick pickup and departure west to Del Rio. Our arrival was met with dramatic, storm-filled skies and a few of our first species, including Lesser Nighthawk. Our first full day began with cool temperatures and gloomy skies, but we saw a multitude of species around the Rio Grande. These included a few south Texas specialties, such as Long-billed Thrasher and Olive Sparrow, as well as Couch's Kingbirds. After lunch in Del Rio, we were distracted temporarily by a flooded field full of various shorebirds, Franklin's Gulls, and dozens of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. After picking through these, we continued on westward, making a stop at the mighty Pecos River overlook. After taking in the views there and another brief birding stop in Langtry, we headed on to Big Bend National Park.

Our first full day in Big Bend National Park was a bit cool and misty. The views were dramatic with clouds clinging to the the peaks, spilling over Casa Grande. We decided to visit the water treatment plant's overflow area, a marshy area with standing water, attractive to species in an otherwise parched landscape. We managed to connect with a male Lucifer Hummingbird and Varied Bunting along with others. That afternoon we visited Panther Junction, the terrific Fossil Exhibit, and finally Dugout Wells. While things were kind of quiet at the wells, Alex spotted an Elf Owl that had started to call spontaneously in the daylight.

Our second full day included a drive through the park southeast to Rio Grande Village and Daniel's Ranch. Our our way down there, we saw what appeared to be a nightjar sitting on the median strip of the road. Backing up for a second look, sure enough it was a Lesser Nighthawk that must have been stunned by traffic. Alex moved it off to a safe spot and we continued on our way to the river. Surprisingly, the black hawks were not evident around the nest site, so we headed over to Daniel's Ranch where we connected with Gray Hawk and a surprise Least Grebe on one of the small ponds there. A singing Lucy's Warbler was a treat. As we were wrapping up there, Eric spotted the Common Black Hawks flying west over the river! Less exciting but surprising was a Gray Catbird in the quieter section of the campground. That afternoon we visited the Old Sam Nail Ranch, a tiny oasis in the middle of Chihuahuan Desert. It was pretty quiet except for Bell's Vireos and Yellow-breasted Chat. We did have a nice though brief encounter with a migrant Virginia's Warbler there. We decided to head on to Cottonwood Campground after this. In addition to another pair of Gray Hawks, we enjoyed seeing a couple of nests, Black-chinned Hummingbird and Vermilion Flycatcher. Our only Green-tailed Towhee was here.

Our third day was the big hike day. We headed up the Pinnacles Trail roughly three miles to the first accessible Colima Warbler spot. Early on, we lucked into a great mammal sighting, a Black Bear attempting to topple an agave stock. Arriving at the Colima site, a bird was singing persistently, but it took some patience before the bird moved to a spot where it could be easily seen. But great views were eventually had by all. At this point, Alex continued on to Boot Spring with Stacey and Heather, Eric hiked with a few to the top of the Pinnacles, and I hiked back with those wishing to turn around at the three mile mark.

On our last morning in the park, we decided to pay a second visit to the water treatment plant, which was nice with about 36 species seen. Then it was off to Alpine for lunch and then to the Davis Mountains for an evening searching for Montezuma Quail. On our way there, we spotted a few Chihuahuan Meadowlarks, a recent split from Eastern Meadowlark. Our evening search failed to find quail, but we did pick up some interesting birds, including a huge flock of Pinyon Jays and a couple of Lazuli Buntings.

The next morning we had a nice picnic breakfast in the Davis Mountains with an exciting sighting of Montezuma Quail on the way to our breakfast spot. At the picnic site we enjoyed a pair of Gray Flycatchers and both Hepatic and Western tanagers. Then it was on to Lake Balmorhea, a spot that there never seems to be quite enough time to explore. The south end of the lake was hopping with birds. We ended up seeing 61 species of birds there! Then came the long drive east to the Hill Country and Utopia, along with a nice dinner and pie and the Lost Maples Cafe.

The next morning was spent at Lost Maples State Natural Area, one of the most amazing birding sites around. A splendid mix of east meets west, and host to such desired species as Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Tropical Parula, Acadian Flycatcher, and Yellow-throated Warbler. We ended up with close to 50 species during our morning there. That afternoon, we visited a couple of spots north of Utopia. Field and Clay-colored sparrows were among the highlights there.

Our last full day of the trip found us heading west toward Bracketville to seek out Gray Vireo, Dickcissel, and others. After a bit of searching we did connect with the vireo as well as another great view of Black-capped Vireo. A pair of day-flying Common Nighthawks were also a treat. Then we explored Fort Clark Springs a bit. Here Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great Kiskadee, MacGillivray's Warbler, and Indigo Bunting were among the highlights. We made a heat-of-the-day visit to Cook's Slough that was unsurprisingly quiet, and then it was on to the Frio Bat cave for our picnic dinner and evening with the free-tailed bats emerging from the cave. Thanks to Christine and Travis for providing the yummy BBQ feast!

Then it was time to say our farewells back in San Antonio. These trips are made special by the composition of the group, and this was a wonderful one. On behalf of Eric and Alex, I want to thank you all for joining us on this Texas adventure. You made it one to remember! Good birding to all.


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

A few quick looks around Del Rio and another at Cook's Slough.

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We were fortunate to have several wonderful encounters with colorful Painted Buntings beginning on our first morning birding in Del Rio. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

One at Lake Balmorhea was a surprise. There are still a few places in North America where this species is not yet a plague.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Our best views were those at Lake Balmorhea.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

Eight of these were in the teal mix at Balmorhea.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

A relatively recent split from Mallard; we had some nice views of them at Lake Balmorhea.


BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

A few of these were at Lake Balmorhea.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

NORTHERN BOBWHITE (Colinus virginianus)

Three were seen briefly north of Bracketville.

SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata)

Several sightings in Big Bend NP following decent rains there recently. Another was seen at Lake Balmorhea briefly.

Field Guides Birding Tours
No single bird is as sought after in the Chisos Mountains as the Colima Warbler. Its US breeding range is restricted to these mountains. Alex captured this shot of one that showed well for us.

MONTEZUMA QUAIL (Cyrtonyx montezumae)

What a relief to track down this highly desired species in the Davis Mountains. Recent years of drought have made it increasingly difficult to find.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)

One in Big Bend NP near Daniel's Ranch was a surprise as this species is a rare visitor to the park.

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)

WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

A couple of these were at Lake Balmorhea, though well outnumbered by Clark's Grebes.

CLARK'S GREBE (Aechmophorus clarkii)

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

A sprinkling of this tiny dove species.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

This iconic desert species did not disappoint. We had many memorable sightings along the way.

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While hiking up the Pinnacles Trail the Mexican Jays were our frequent companions, often quite confiding. This one was photographed by Eric.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

A few seen at dusk in Del Rio and then our memorable encounter with a stunned bird inside Big Bend NP that we rescued from the median strip of the park road.

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

One was at our lodging in Utopia and another pair were flying by day north of Bracketville.

COMMON POORWILL (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) [*]

CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW (Antrostomus carolinensis) [*]

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae) [*]

Its distinctive voice could be heard from our lodging in the Chisos Mountains.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

A male was seen by the trio that hiked to Boot Springs.

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer)

A male paid a quick visit to the overflow from the WTP in the basin.

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

One was at the WTP overflow and another on the Pinnacles Trail.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

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Eric also got this shot of the tiny Elf Owl peering back at him at Dugout Wells.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

A tight flock of some 30 birds was at Lake Balmorhea.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica)

There were a couple of big godwit surprises at Lake Balmorhea including three that Alex spotted that took off soon after.

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

Also rare in west Texas; Alex spotted this one as well.

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii)

Several encounters with this migrant species that was on its way to the high Arctic of Alaska and Canada.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

As many as ten were in the flooded ditch right outside of Del Rio.


WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

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Linda Rudolph snapped this shot of the Lesser Nighthawk rescued from the park road median on our way to Rio Grande Village.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

FRANKLIN'S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

Nice to see four of these handsome birds in the flooded ditch near Del Rio.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

A couple of immature birds were hanging out with Ring-billed Gulls at Lake Balmorhea.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

A big number of these were roosting on the shore of Lake Balmorhea.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

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Eric photographed this Black Bear that he spotted as we were starting up the Pinnacles Trail. When first spotted, it was trying to topple an agave plant.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus)

Eric saved the day spotting two AWOL black hawks flying over the Rio Grande to the west of Daniel's Ranch. For some reason they were not attending their nest that morning.

HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Surprising to see one at the Frio Bat Cave attempting to hunt bats. This was my first sighting at this location despite many visits over the years.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

Good fortune with this species with sightings at Daniel's Ranch and again at Cottonwood Campground.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

Two were seen with one at Daniel's Ranch and another at Lost Maples SNA.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

We had four really good sightings of this species. Its dark coloration, shape, and behavior make it an excellent Turkey Vulture mimic.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Strigidae (Owls)

EASTERN SCREECH-OWL (MCCALL'S) (Megascops asio mccallii)

Nice views of one at our lodging in Utopia. Birds in this part of Texas are sometimes considered worthy of being treated as full species.

ELF OWL (Micrathene whitneyi)

One started calling spontaneously during our visit to Dugout Wells one afternoon, and Alex managed to spot it through a tiny window in the vegetation!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Down in Rio Grande Village, this Coyote paid us no mind as it wandered searching for food. Photo by Chris Benesh.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes aurifrons)


NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


This large, long-distance migrant was seen at Daniel's Ranch.

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)

GRAY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax wrightii)

A nice encounter with a pair of birds at our picnic spot in the Davis Mountains.

DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

One was seen at Boot Spring by Stacey and Alex. As of July 2023, this is now a subspecies of Western Flycatcher, Empidonax difficilis, following a re-lumping.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw a lot of flycatchers on this trip. Two of the most similar ones are seen here in a composite of Eric’s images. At left is the slightly larger Brown-crested Flycatcher and at right, an Ash-throated Flycatcher.

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

Surely one of the most attractive of the flycatchers found in the United States.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

A good trip for these Myiarchus flycatchers. We had ample opportunity to compare Ash-throateds and Brown-crested.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

This mostly tropical species is at the edge of its range on this tour. We connected with it in Del Rio (heard), Fort Clark Springs, and Uvalde at Cook's Slough.

COUCH'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus couchii)

Several nice studies of this species in Del Rio and then seen again at Fort Clark Springs.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

Well seen in the Davis Mountains where it is the common breeding kingbird.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)


This is quite a flashy kingbird, and we enjoyed many of them over the course of the tour.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BLACK-CAPPED VIREO (Vireo atricapilla)

Some nice sightings of this species at Lost Maples including a nesting bird seen, thanks to a tip from Laura Keene. Nice to see this species becoming a bit more plentiful in recent years.

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

Quite a few of these heard at Lost Maples with a few seen well.

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

Plentiful in scrubbier habitats.

GRAY VIREO (Vireo vicinior)

This one took a bit of searching, but we connected well with one north of Bracketville. Another was heard in the Basin.

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A few nests featured prominently at Cottonwood Campground as photographed by Eric. At left, a Black-chinned Hummingbird nest, and at right, Vermilion Flycatcher nestlings.

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

A couple of these were on the Pinnacles Trail.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

Several sightings, including one at Daniel's Ranch in Big Bend NP where it is a rare visitor.

CASSIN'S VIREO (Vireo cassinii)

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

Seen at the WTP in the Chisos Basin and again at our picnic spot in the Davis Mountains.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

Several of these were heard and seen at Lost Maples.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

A massive flock of some 160 birds was seen near Fort Davis. This species is irruptive in nature and is seldom found in Texas.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

MEXICAN JAY (COUCH'S) (Aphelocoma wollweberi couchii)

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

BLACK-CRESTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus atricristatus)

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

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Alex’s close up of a handsome Juniper Hairstreak as seen on the Pinnacles Trail.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

Most of the ones seen were in Del Rio close to the Rio Grande.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

CAVE SWALLOW (Petrochelidon fulva)

Our best views of this species came right at the end at the Frio Bat Cave.

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (Psaltriparus minimus)

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura)

Singles at Dugout Wells and Rio Grande Village.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

Our only one was seen while out looking for quail near Fort Davis.

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)

Though we heard its distinctive song in various locations, I think the only ones seen were by the trio that did the Boot Spring hike.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) [*]

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We did a bit of black lighting one evening near the lodge and came across this scorpion, Centruroides vittatus. The form here, chisosarius, is known only from the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

This large, charismatic wren was seen daily in Big Bend NP.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

One at the Rio Grande Village Campground was unusual.

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

LONG-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma longirostre)

Seen and heard in Del Rio and again at Fort Clark Springs.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

The only one seen was at the Utopia River Retreat.

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi)

It was a good year for this species in the western United States and in addition to the birds seen in mountainous areas we had one in Del Rio where it would not normally be expected.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

Most memorable was the cliff face foraging bird seen in the Chisos Mountains.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Cedar Waxwings were also widespread this winter and a big flock in Del Rio was likely part of that movement.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the big highlights of our time in the Davis Mountains was coming across this handsome male Montezuma Quail. The back view illustrates how well this species can blend into a background of dry grass and round rocks. Photo by Chris Benesh.
Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

A female nesting in Langtry was a surprise.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

CASSIN'S FINCH (Haemorhous cassinii)

Alex spotted a female bird near the start of the Pinnacles Trail hike. This is another irruptive species and ours was likely a lingering bird.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)


Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii)

OLIVE SPARROW (Arremonops rufivirgatus)

Another "South Texas" specialty seen well in Del Rio and again at Fort Clark Springs. Its accelerating song is distinctive.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)

Our only one was a well-studied bird north of Utopia one afternoon.

BREWER'S SPARROW (Spizella breweri)

There was a lingering flock of birds hanging out at Lake Balmorhea.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

A stunning desert sparrow well seen in Big Bend NP and north of Bracketville.

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Our amazing morning at Lost Maples featured a number of highlights, but none better than the Golden-cheeked Warblers that put on quite a show. Photo by Alex Sundvall.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys)

We encountered a big flock of these at Lake Balmorhea.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Several of these were hanging out at the overflow at the water treatment plant.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

The only one seen was in the Chisos Campground.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

Quite a few of these were in the reeds in the overflow area, and their hormone levels were elevated to the point of inspiring several to sing.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

One was in the WTP overflow and another was at Dugout Wells.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


This is a great tour for this species and we had some memorable encounters beginning in Del Rio. Now considered to be in its own avian family.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

It was a banner tour for this species with several sightings including nearly 100 at the flooded roadside stop near Del Rio.

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Another highlight from Lost Maples was this Black-capped Vireo sitting on its nest. Photo by Alex Sundvall.

CHIHUAHUAN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella lilianae lilianae)

We spotted a handful of these recently split meadowlarks in grassland habitats near Alpine and Fort Davis, and Balmorhea.

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

This is a good trip for orioles and we saw several species. The Orchards we saw were mostly around Del Rio and Fort Clark Springs.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

Not only is this a colorful species, but its melodic song was a wonderful part of the Big Bend soundscape.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)


BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

The only ones seen were those at our first rest stop along Hwy 90 the first afternoon.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

Most of the group connected with this species singing on territory at Lost Maples.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

One at Lost Maples was a migrant.


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The Hill Country was also home to a multitude of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, such as this one photographed by Chris. We never grew tired of watching them.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

COLIMA WARBLER (Leiothlypis crissalis)

It was a good year for Colima Warbler and after a bit of patience we connected with the singing bird on the Pinnacles Trail. The three that went on to Boot Spring saw an additional bird.

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

A lucky encounter with one singing near the campground at Rio Grande Village. This is about as far east as this species occurs.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

Great looks at one for most at the Sam Nail Ranch where it is a migrant.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

A singing bird was all too briefly seen at Lost Maples.

TROPICAL PARULA (NORTHEAST MEXICO) (Setophaga pitiayumi nigrilora)

After some patience we were rewarded with great looks at a singing bird at Lost Maples.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

The Hill Country has a good population of this attractive species and its lilting song could be heard frequently there.

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi)

A few were seen in the Chisos Mountains with all but one seen by the intrepid trio.

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Our final evening was set aside to enjoy the spectacle of free-tailed bats emerging from the Frio Bat Cave. Raptors have learned to take advantage of the resource. Alex caught this dramatic moment a Red-tailed Hawk lurched for a bat.

GOLDEN-CHEEKED WARBLER (Setophaga chrysoparia)

A big highlight of our wonderful morning at Lost Maples. This species breeds entirely within the state of Texas in the Hill Country.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

Quite a few migrants seen at various locations.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

Seen by the intrepid trio (Alex, Heather, and Stacey) at Boot Spring.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

Best seen for most during our picnic breakfast in the Davis Mountains.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

Well seen in the Chisos Mountains and at our breakfast spot in the Davis Mountains.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

A couple of birds visiting feeders in the Davis Mountains were a treat.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

Relatively tough to see this time around, but we did eventually connect with it at Lost Maples and Fort Clark Springs.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

A couple of nice encounters with this versicolored species in the basin wetlands spot.

PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris)

A splendid species that we were fortunate to see on several occasions beginning in Del Rio.

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And finally, Eric’s evocative shot of the river of bat launching into the evening sky. A spectacle never to be forgotten!

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

We encountered a big group of these singing in grassy fields and the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

SPOTTED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus spilosoma)

Currently known as Rio Grande Ground Squirrel, Ictidomys parvidens.

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

BLACK BEAR (Ursus americanus)

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

WILD BOAR (Sus scrofa) [I]

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

Several seen in the campground at Rio Grande Village.

SPOTTED DEER (Axis axis) [I]

Small numbers seen in the Hill Country.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)

BLACKBUCK (Antilope cervicapra) [I]

Totals for the tour: 226 bird taxa and 15 mammal taxa