A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Texas Coast Migration Spectacle I 2021

April 10-16, 2021 with John Coons & Bret Whitney guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Judie Dunn captured this brilliantly plumaged Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Sabine Woods.

It was so great to be doing the first Field Guides tour in over a year with all of you, and thank you so much for being there for our return. We had a wonderful week of birding in the Piney Woods and along the Upper Texas Coast where there is a surprising amount of habitat diversity in a relatively small area. Our birding started with a bang as we encountered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Pine Warblers at our first stop. Venturing east into the Big Thicket, we located a number of breeding warblers in full song which included Prothonotary, Northern Parula, Hooded, Worm-eating, Swainson's, Yellow-throated, Prairie, and Kentucky. Heading to the coast for four days, we enjoyed finding newly arriving migrants each day. Though the first couple of days were slow for new arrivals, we made up for it the last two days where we were kept busy in the woods seeing a lot of birds. On those early days when the woods birding was slower we made trips to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, the nearby rice fields, the incredible rookery at High Island, and Bolivar Flats to see the plethora of shorebirds. In the various woods we visited, the highlights included Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-throated Vireos, Brown Thrashers, five species of brown-backed thrushes, Summer and Scarlet tanagers, and many additional warblers such as Ovenbird, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Tennessee, Black-throated Green, more Swainson's, Cerulean, and Blackburnians.

The marshes and wetlands yielded great looks at King and Clapper rails just minutes apart, American and Least bitterns, Sedge Wren, and Seaside Sparrow plus all those herons, egrets, and spoonbills at the Smith Oaks rookery. Shorebirds in the nearby pastures, rice fields, and near the coast included great views of all four single-banded plovers (Semipalmated, Piping, Snowy and Wilson's), tons of American Avocets tipping up to feed, Upland Sandpipers, and a field full of Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American Golden-Plovers. Eight species of terns including sharply marked Sandwich Terns as well as Black Skimmers were another highlight. Of course, another highlight was our sighting of two Whooping Cranes in a field off the highway to Port Arthur. These birds are from an introduced Louisiana population that has just recently expanded into east Texas.

The morning we first headed to the Bolivar Peninsula we were surprised to find flooded coastal lowlands as the stiff south winds had caused waves to crash over the seawall below High Island and across the road washing a lot of detritus as well as water onto the highway. We decided to head the other way and it worked out well since we ended up at Sabine Woods for a great afternoon of migrants. We returned to the peninsula the next morning where there was hardly any sign of the high water.

We also got to experience the culture of east Texas, where none of us could claim to have gone hungry. Bret and I thoroughly enjoyed birding with all of you and we hope to do it again soon.


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)

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One of our warbler highlights was seeing a few Golden-winged Warblers at High Island and Sabine Woods. Photo by guide Bret Whitney.

FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna bicolor)

There were a few at Cattail Marsh near Beaumont.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

A pair of these beautiful waterfowl were perched in a pine at Jones State Forest on our first morning.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)

This specialty of the southeast US was seen a few times near the Coast.


We saw a late winter holdover at Rollover Pass.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

This is a rather uncommon species in the High Island area.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

We saw a few in the Woods at High Island and Sabine and heard them vocalizing as well.

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

Bret had a single individual at Sabine Woods that disappeared before we got over to him.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

One was flying around the parking lot of the motel in Winnie in the early morning.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

We saw these migrants most days in the woods along the Coast.

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Tricolored Herons in full breeding regalia were nesting at the Smith Woods rookery. This individual seems to be making a few final adjustments to the nest. Photo by participant Patricia Paddison.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans)

We had a great experience with an individual that walked along the edge of the road at Anahuac NWR giving us wonderful views.

CLAPPER RAIL (GULF COAST) (Rallus crepitans saturatus)

Not long after we saw the King Rail, we had a near identical experience with this similar species with a gray cheek at Anahuac. This species prefers saltwater marshes to the freshwater areas of King Rail.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

These were quite numerous at Anahuac.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

We saw a single bird at the rookery at Smith Woods.

Gruidae (Cranes)

WHOOPING CRANE (Grus americana)

After a couple of attempts to see this bird earlier, we spotted two individuals along Hwy 73 where they are presumably nesting. These birds are from an introduced population in Louisiana that have expanded into Texas in the last couple of years. They are huge birds!

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

We saw several during the week.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

We had a great show of more than a thousand individuals of these colorful shorebirds at Bolivar Flats.

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

We ended up seeing about five individuals on the morning we spent along the Bolivar Peninsula.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

We saw a good number along the coast with some beginning to get some black on the belly.

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica)

A fair number were in the grassy pastures just north of High Island.

SNOWY PLOVER (Charadrius nivosus)

We spotted one of these on the beach at Bolivar Flats as we were driving to the sanctuary part of the coast. This is a rather uncommon species here.

WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia)

We ended up seeing about six individuals at Boliver Flats.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

These were in good numbers at Bolivar Flats.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

A threatened species due to its need for the same beaches that humans enjoy; we saw a handful at Bolivar Flats.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)

We saw about 15 in a field north of High Island. Another sought after species on the Upper Texas Coast.

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

One field we checked on our first day near the coast had over 500 individuals. A great sight.

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

We saw one individual. Most had headed north by now.

HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica)

While birding the rice fields, Bret spotted a flying individual that we followed until it flew out of sight. The lack of flooded rice fields hurt our chances of seeing a group of these.

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

A handful were feeding in the tidal areas of Bolivar Flats and the Bolivar Peninsula.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

Some of these were in nice colorful breeding plumage.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

We saw about five individuals, all in winter garb, at Bolivar Flats.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

On our last morning as we searched for wet rice fields we found a group of about four in breeding plumage.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

There were hundreds on the beaches.

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At Anahuac NWR we had a great experience with this Clapper Rail that showed so well just after we had a similar sighting of a King Rail. Photo by participant Judie Dunn.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

At Bolivar Flats there were well over a hundred individuals with some showing nice black belly patches.

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii)

A single individual was by itself on the beach at Bolivar Flats which seemed odd, the majority of these usually come through a bit later in the month.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (Calidris subruficollis)

We had a great experience with a large group in a cattle pasture north of High Island. We saw 42 with the first visit and over 100 individuals at the same place the next day. This is always a highly sought after species here.

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

We saw several individuals on a few days.


A handful were seen well at Bolivar Flats.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

These were a bit more common than Semipalmated at Bolivar Flats.

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

This species tended to be a bit less common than the following species in the rice fields.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

We had a fair number that vocalized for us and others that showed good field marks in breeding plumage.

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

A single individual, a nicely marked female, was found in a wet field on our last morning before we headed to the airport.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Some had nice spots.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

These were fairly common in some areas.

WILLET (EASTERN) (Tringa semipalmata semipalmata)

We encountered a couple of individuals of this subspecies that showed heavily-marked breasts.

WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)

By far, the majority of Willets we encountered were of this form.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

This species outnumbered Greater Yellowlegs in the areas we visited.

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The bottomland forests with bald cypress trees were great areas for seeing Northern Parulas and Prothonotary Warblers. Photo by guide Bret Whitney.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)


A quite uncommon species on the Texas Coast that has become more numerous in recent years. We saw a summer adult and a winter plumage adult on the same morning.

LEAST TERN (Sternula antillarum)

The smallest North American tern. We saw our first at Rollover Pass before encountering hundreds at Bolivar Flats.

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

We saw this marsh species on a few of the days.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Only a couple were encountered along the coast.

BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)

This species has become more common on the Upper Texas Coast in recent years. We saw a handful of molting and fully black individuals along the beaches.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

A fair number of these were still present, they would be heading north soon.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

This was the common small tern we saw over the marshes at Anahuac and along the coast.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

These were quite common.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

A sharply marked tern, we had great looks at the mustard-tipped bill at a few locales.

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

At Rollover Pass and Bolivar Flats we had nice looks at this odd species.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

At the rookery at Smith Woods, Bret spotted a flying bird that came into the pond and landed atop a dead tree providing a nice scope view.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

These were all over, including big numbers at the nesting rookery at Smith Woods.

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Much less common than the preceding species, we saw a few individuals here and there.

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We saw a lot of Gray Catbirds in the ripening mulberries and scratching on the ground in all the migration woods during our week. Photo by participant Judie Dunn.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

We saw a few individuals along the coast here and there.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

This species disappeared from Texas for several few years due to DDT poisoning decades ago but they have made a strong comeback and are quite common along the coast.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)

We saw a couple of individuals in marshes, with our first good view at Anahuac.

LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis)

We saw a couple of these great little guys in the marsh at Anahuac NWR.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

There were a big number nesting at the rookery and some had small chicks and some had blue eggs.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

There were amazing colors on the bill, face and legs of these birds that were in full breeding condition at the rookery at Smith Woods.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

We saw a fair number, mostly in fresh water situations.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

We saw these building nests at the rookery at High Island.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

We had great views of this handsome egret at Bolivar.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

We saw a fair number at Anahuac.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

I have never seen as many of these birds in one place as we did at Anahuac NWR. There were at least 100 individuals in all stages of dress.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Our first ones were a group of 13 flying over at Cattail Marsh at the park near Beaumont. Then we saw many more in the marshes near the coast.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

These were in good numbers in some places.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

We had fabulous looks at nesting birds at the rookery at High Island. The bright orange colors on the tail and exaggerated colors on the head and neck made this bird seem prehistoric.

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This pair of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Jones State Forest was the highlight of our first birding stop of the trip. We watched these two move from tree to tree as they worked the bark of the pines. Photo by participant Patricia Paddison.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

This bird really moved into the Bolivar Peninsula after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

There were a few seen on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

We saw one flying and hovering on the peninsula.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A fair number were seen in the more open areas we visited. These are lingerers from the winter.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

We saw one in the Piney Woods and another at Sabine Woods where it is not at all common as a migrant.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

We had nice views of about three individuals in the rice fields and pastures.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

There was one hanging out at the small lake at Smith Woods and we saw another on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)


There were at least two late-remaining individuals that we saw at Sabine Woods.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

We heard more than we saw but had a nice look at a couple here and there.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

A few were seen in the Piney Woods and at Sabine Woods.

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates borealis)

We ended up with great looks at a pair of these very uncommon woodpeckers at Jones State Forest on our first morning in the field. They didn't seem to be hanging around a nest but were working through the pines and chipping bark off the trunks.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

We finally caught up with this big guy on our last morning before we made the final dash to the airport.

NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus auratus) [*]

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)

We used to be lucky to see one of these strange birds but we encountered several this year in the rice fields and along the Bolivar Peninsula.

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

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An adult and immature Brown Pelican sail past some swimming American Avocets in the waters at the well-known Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. Photo by guide Bret Whitney.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

It was odd to see this bird standing in the field at the town park at Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

Bret spotted one flying over the van when we stopped to make a call at High Island.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

A few were seen in the woods, with some of them giving their distinct vocalizations.

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)

We had at least three individuals singing along a creek in the Big Thicket, which was perfect breeding habitat for this species. We ended up seeing another, as a migrant, at High Island.


We heard this bird giving its loud call in the Piney Woods, at Sabine Woods, and at High Island. I'm not sure we ever laid eyes on one.

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

These appeared in pretty good numbers by the end of the week.


What a spectacular bird! We had wonderful views of a handful in the open country north of High Island and along the Bolivar Peninsula.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

We saw or heard these every day with a few good looks at this skulker.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

We had a nice view of a calling bird in the Big Thicket area.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus) [*]

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

There were a fair number encountered, including a couple that came into the water drip at High Island which gave us nice looks.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

I think this species is the prettiest of the North American Jays.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

This species has expanded in East Texas in recent years. We saw and heard them in the town of Silsbee and at the Cattail Marsh near Beaumont.

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Our visit to the rookery at Smith Oaks at High Island gave us great views of intense breeding colors on the nesting birds, including these Great Egrets with vivid green lores. Photo by participant Patricia Paddison.
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

This dainty little chickadee afforded nice looks in the Piney Woods.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

One was seen in the upper beach vegetation at Bolivar Flats, which is the only site on our route where we have a chance of seeing this widespread species.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

A handful were flying around over a few bodies of water we visited.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

These were seen daily in the towns we visited where there were martin condos set up.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

An impressive number (100's) were seen perched in the reedy vegetation at Anahuac NWR.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Quite common and we saw them building nests at Anahuac.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Some of the larger bridges we passed had impressive numbers of nests being built.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) [*]

One was heard on our first morning at Jones State Forest where this was a lingering winter species.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)


We had great views of this tiny species and specialty of the pine woods of the southeast US. The Pygmy Nuthatch of the west is its closest relative.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) [*]

We heard one singing away at Sabine Woods.

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus platensis)

We had nice looks of this skulker at Anahuac NWR.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

We also saw this one well at Anahuac NWR.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Seen or heard numerous times each day of the trip.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

These were quite common in the woods at High Island.

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While some of the Roseate Spoonbills at the rookery at Smith Woods seemed to be incubating, others were still finalizing their nests. This brightly colored individual has found the perfect floor covering for its home. Photo by participant Judie Dunn.

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

We saw a couple of these great looking thrashers.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

A male was seen near a nest box at Jones State Forest on our first morning in the field.

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)

On our last day we finally found one of these subtle beauties.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)

Another species that showed up at the end of the week in High Island.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

We saw a fair number of these during the week.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

This species normally is well north of the Texas Coast by mid-April but Bret and others found an individual at Smith Woods at High Island.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

Patricia spotted our first but we ended up seeing several more, including more than 10 one day, during the week.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

A few birds that were lingering from the winter were heard and seen in the pines at Jones State Forest.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

A couple of late individuals were at Jones State Forest on our first morning.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Another late-lingering species. We saw it at Smith Oaks.

SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammospiza maritima)

We had great views of a few individuals on a calm morning in the coastal prairie at Anahuac NWR.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

These were quite common along the roadsides at Anahuac.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

A brief one at Anahuac NWR got away soon after it was spotted.

EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

A female showed up at the water drip at Boy Scout Woods which was a surprise as they are usually well gone by April. We later heard one singing.

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We enjoyed great views of this Cerulean Warbler at Sabine Woods, where there were at least three individuals singing in the trees. Photo by guide Bret Whitney.
Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)

YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens) [*]

One was singing in the Big Thicket but we could not lure it out of hiding.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

These showed up in good numbers by the end of the week.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

We saw a fair number by the end of the week including brightly colored males.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

We spotted a male individual at Anahuac NWR where it is an uncommon species.


COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

Ths interesting species was only seen near its native habitat of coastal prairie marshes.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Tis species is widespread near human habitation.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

We saw a couple of these working the ground on our final day at High Island.

WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)

We saw a good number of these interesting warblers, including a singing bird on the breeding grounds in the Big Thicket. We also had nice views of a couple at the water drips at High Island.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

We saw a few at both Smith Oaks and Sabine Woods.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

We did well with this gorgeous species a few times.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)

A fair number were encountered on a couple of our days.


PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

This bottomland forest denizen lit up the woods with its bright yellow plumage along the Trinity River. Then we saw several more as migrants near the coast.

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Showing all of the pertinent field marks, white undertail spots, rufous in the primaries, AND a yellow bill, this Yellow-billed Cuckoo seemed directly out of the field guide. Photo by participant Judie Dunn.

SWAINSON'S WARBLER (Limnothlypis swainsonii)

We had great views of a singing individual in the Big Thicket area. We then saw two others as migrants near the coast where the majority have already passed through and they are notoriously difficult to see.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

Our first individual came to the water drip at Boy Scout Woods then we saw a handful later in the week with "good" weather conditions.

KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa)

Ths is another species we saw very well on the breeding grounds before encountering more at the migration traps.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

A familiar species to most; we saw a few along the course of our travels.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

After seeing our first in the Piney Woods and Big Thcket where they were singing up a storm, we had a fair number as migrants on the coast.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Surprisingly, we only found one individual during the week.

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

At least three individuals were singing in the same general area at Sabine Woods where we had very nice views. This is always a much sought-after species on the Texas Coast.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

We encountered this species several times during the week.


This was one of the first birds we saw when we arrived at Sabine Woods. We ended up seeing a couple more there and the next day.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

There were a couple of these well-known warblers seen but they slipped away before we could get on them.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

A very common voice of the tall pines inland from the coast; we had nice views on our first morning in the field.

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

A species that is typically gone from the southern US by mid-April; there were still a few hanging around at High Island and Sabine Woods this year.

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

We saw a male at Sabine Woods that had been hanging around for a few days. This is a quite uncommon form here.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

Two individuals gave us good views in the Big Thicket area before we saw a couple more as migrants at High Island.

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

We had great views of a singing bird in a regenerating pine plantation in the Big Thicket area, where we also heard a few more in the area.


Surprisingly, this species didn't show up until our last day at High Island.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

We saw a lot of these during the week.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A warbler overhead at Sabine Woods has captured our attention once again. Photo by guide Bret Whitney.

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)

Always a dazzler! There were good views at Sabine Woods and at High Island.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

This species decided to show up later in the week.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

There were eight individuals seen at once as they fed with Indigo Buntings in the yard next door to Boy Scout Woods.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

A good number were seen during the week.

PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris)

A male popped up for us at Sabine Woods.

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana) [*]

We heard one singing on our first days in the rice fields and we never had another.


VIRGINIA OPOSSUM (Didelphis virginianus)

We saw a couple of these interesting critters along roadsides.

EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

One was seen in the Big Thicket area.

SWAMP RABBIT (Sylvilagus aquaticus)

This was the fairly common large rabbit that was in the woods at High Island.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

On our final morning, we spotted one of these in a yard in the piney woods near Lake Charlotte.

MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica)

We saw one at Anahuac in the pond where Nutrias used to be common.

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)

We had pretty fair views of a few at the mouth of Galveston Bay.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

We encountered one in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

Totals for the tour: 198 bird taxa and 8 mammal taxa