A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Texas Coast Migration Spectacle II 2022

April 23-29, 2022 with John Coons guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Golden-winged Warbler is one of the most sought after of the migrants in the High Island area and we had great views of this individual at Smith Oaks. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

We had a great week of birding on the Upper Texas Coast and the Piney Woods and Big Thicket area of East Texas. Our first bird of the trip was a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck on top of a light pole as we loaded the luggage into the van at dawn. Our real birding started in the pines of Jones State Forest where we found a cooperative pair of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers as we were headed back to the van. We had an action-packed rest of the day that included seeing several of the breeding warblers of the southeast US and also hearing them sing. A Swainson's Warbler belted out its song as we also saw Northern Parula and Prothonotary Warbler nearby. After lunch, we enjoyed singing Kentucky, Yellow-throated, and Prairie warblers, as well as dynamite views of a former warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat. After a surprisingly diverse Italian dinner we were treated to great looks at a Barred Owl.

The following day we made our way to High Island after a few birding stops and enjoyed our first encounter with migrants in the woods. Just as we were heading to Smith Oaks from Boy Scout Woods, a front passed through and dumped hard rain for about 15 minutes. Soon after the sky cleared birds started arriving from the Gulf of Mexico. Several groups of 8-10 Eastern Kingbirds dropped into the tree tops and birds were popping up everywhere. We saw 5-6 Bay-breasted Warblers in a short time, along with Blackburnians, many Black-throated Greens, Magnolias, American Redstarts, Tennessees, and Blackpolls. It was great.

That night another front went through and it rained for several hours and the big numbers of migrants continued over the next 48 hours when we checked the migrant traps at High Island, Anahuac NWR, and Sabine Woods. Our morning at Sabine Woods was especially memorable as there seemed to be something to look at in every direction. In fact, we spotted eleven species of warblers in one tree at the entrance to the woods. Chestnut-sided, Golden-winged, Cerulean, 2 male Black-throated Blue warblers along with a female Cape May were all seen in these woodlots. Yellow-billed Cuckoos, thrushes, vireos, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks and Dickcissels were also seen in numbers during the week.

We also encountered a wide array of shorebirds in the rice fields and along the coast of the Bolivar Peninsula. Some of these highlights included Wilson's and Piping plovers, colorful breeding-plumaged Red Knots, hundreds and hundreds of Whimbrels in one field, Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and a couple of late breeding-plumaged Hudsonian Godwits in a flooded field that our new rice farmer friend welcomed us to enter. Eight species of terns and Black Skimmers showed well, as did a handful of Least Bitterns and King and Clapper rails in the marshes. The breeding herons, egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills at the rookery at Smith Oaks were entertaining for all. A young family of four genetically identical armadillos at Boy Scout Woods allowed for close up photos as they rooted around in the leaf litter.

Throughout the week we also experienced the entertaining culture of East Texas, which included big plates of food at a surprisingly diverse number of international restaurants, but all with a Texas flair. And, Holly kept a tally of donut shops we passed in the small towns that, I believe, totaled around ten different enterprises.

It was great traveling with all of you and I look forward to the next time we get together.


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)

We saw this unusually-colored duck every day of the trip, with our first one on a light pole outside the motel in Houston as we packed the van the first morning.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A large group of American Avocets near Bolivar Flats seemed to move as one mass as they fed in the shallows. Photo by participant Jeff Wahl.

FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna bicolor)

We saw a couple of pairs at Cattail Marsh and at Anahuac NWR.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

This was the most common waterfowl we saw during the trip.

MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)

We saw this southeastern US specialty a few times, including one with about 6-7 small ducklings in tow on the Bolivar Peninsula.


A single female was in the bay near Port Bolivar.

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)

A few were seen and a couple more heard calling here and there.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

We saw a few of these nice looking birds, with a particularly stunning one at Sabine Woods that was right in the open.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

On our last full day we found a group of 8-10 individuals flying around during the day near Rollover Pass.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

We only had a few of these.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

With up to five individuals seen on one day, I am not sure we ever encountered a male.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Clapper Rail was extremely cooperative as it walked about in the open near Sabine Pass. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans)

We had great looks at this more freshwater species in the rice fields.

CLAPPER RAIL (GULF COAST) (Rallus crepitans saturatus)

We had a couple of great looks at this species as well, including one that stood right next to us on the road.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

We saw a ton of these at Anahuac.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

Our first was at Cattail Marsh where it was directly below us from the boardwalk.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

These were seen daily once we reached the coastal areas.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

The mass of a couple of hundred of these at the jetty near Bolivar Flats was pretty great to watch as they moved like one large organism as they fed.

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

We saw a couple of pairs on the Bolivar Peninsula.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

There were a good number of these with many in breeding plumage.

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica)

We saw a few dull individuals at Bolivar Flats then a couple the next morning in the rice field that were beginning to get their golden-colored backs with a little black on the belly.

WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia)

Mary Lou spotted a couple of individuals on the higher beach at Bolivar Flats.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

We saw a fair number in the rice fields and at Bolivar Flats.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Worm-eating Warbler is a dead leaf feeding specialist; it finds spiders and insects in the curled up leaves. We saw several during the week, with a handful of those at Sabine Woods. Photo by participant Jeff Wahl.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

Near the end of Bolivar Flats we counted about 15 of these threatened birds as they fed at the shoreline with many other waders.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

We saw a good number in the rice fields, including close to a thousand individuals at the flooded field we walked to on our last morning.

HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica)

A nice breeding-plumaged pair were found in the flooded rice field on our last morning. Most of these had already passed through the area earlier in April.

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

Surprisingly, we only saw one individual.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

Good numbers were along the beach on the peninsula.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

Some friends turned us on to a site where we saw about eight individuals with at least two in nice breeding plumage. This is one of the least common shorebirds to move through here.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

We saw a handful in the rice fields with some showing the rufous cheeks of their breeding plumage.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

There were many, many along the beach at Bolivar Flats.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

These were not abundant but we saw a good many, with some showing nice breeding colors.

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii)

We had scope views of a couple of individuals along the jetty near Bolivar Flats.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

This was the most common peep we saw.

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (Calidris subruficollis)

We first saw about 15-20 individuals at the back of a wet rice field on our first morning in the High Island area, then we had two more at the flooded rice field on our final morning, This is a much sought after species along the Texas Coast.

Field Guides Birding Tours
On our first morning, we were treated to great looks at a pair of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers amongst the pines of Jones State Forest. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

We only saw a couple in the flooded field on our last morning.


SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

We had nice looks at one at the jetty that was in comparison with the following species. The dowitchers we saw in poor light on the Bolivar Peninsula were most likely this species.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

We saw and heard good numbers at a few locations.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

We saw a few here and there.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

We had a nice view along the Bolivar Flats entrance road for our best look.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

This species was far outnumbered by Lesser Yellowlegs but we still saw a fair number in the rice fields and roadside ponds.

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)

There were a lot of these on the beaches as migrants and more sitting atop fence posts at Anahuac NWR and other sites.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

We saw a lot of these.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

This is by far the most common gull we encountered.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

A few along the beaches at Bolivar.

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

We only had a few and these were all immatures.


We had scope views of a near adult-plumaged individual at Bolivar Flats. This species is more regularly seen here than even a few years ago.

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This Scarlet Tanager really put the “S” in scarlet; it was one of many we saw during the week as migrants. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

LEAST TERN (Sternula antillarum)

We saw several along the beaches. They appeared to already be paired up.

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

This species is found amongst the marshes of the Bolivar Peninsula, where it feeds by grabbing prey off the surface instead of diving into the water. We saw a couple of pairs of these, with scope views of those on the dry patch of ground along the entrance road to Bolivar Flats.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

We had at least one individual with the flock of Royal Terns.

BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)

Formerly a quite uncommonly seen species here, they have increased in recent years. We counted 43 individuals at Rollover Pass on our second visit.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

Many of these winter in the area and most would have moved north already, but we had some nice looks at individuals coming into breeding plumage with the tern flocks on the Bolivar Peninsula.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

This is a local breeding tern and we saw several delivering small fish to a mate on the Bolivar Peninsula.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

Big numbers were seen at Rollover Pass and at Bolivar Flats.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

A quite handsome tern; we saw a handful with the flock of birds at Rollover Pass.

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

There were a good number, perhaps 50-80 individuals, at Rollover Pass, and a few more seen at Bolivar Flats.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

Our first was on a fence post at Cattail Marsh near Beaumont, then we had a few more including a nest at the rookery at Smith Woods.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

A couple were at the Smith Woods rookery.

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

These were very common. Several of the nests at the rookery had babies.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

There was a large group, perhaps 80 birds, flying over the marsh at Sabine Pass.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Participant Jeff Wahl captured this Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Sabine Woods during a fallout that included many warblers and thrushes.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

We were nearly always in sight of these when we were near the coast.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)

We found one standing right next to the road at Anahuac NWR but it took off before we got to study it.

LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis)

We saw about five individuals of these wonderful little herons at Anahuac NWR.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

We saw a good number at the rookery with several nests with babies.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

We saw some at the rookery that were in full breeding regalia with plumes and brightly colored feet and bills.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

We saw surprisingly few of these during the week.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

Many were on nests at the rookery and we saw several more up and down the coast.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

We counted eleven individuals the day we went to the Bolivar Peninsula, with at least 2-3 of those being white-morphs.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

We saw good numbers everyday.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

A good number were seen at Anahuac.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Our only sighting was one standing on the beach at Bolivar Flats, which seemed a very unusual location.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

We saw a few here and there, with our first ones at Tyrrell Park at the edge of Beaumont where they were hunting crawfish.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw a fair number of Least Terns along the beach at Bolivar Flats, where several were engaged in courtship, such as this male looking to impress a female with his fish. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

There were some big numbers of these in the wet fields.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

This really is a spectacularly colored bird with a bizarre bill. The breeding colors were fabulous on those we saw so well at the rookery. None that we encountered seemed to have eggs in the nest yet.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus)

Mary Lou spotted one sitting atop a broken palm near Rollover Pass.

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis)

Jeff spotted a couple of these in different locations on our first day in the piney woods.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A couple or three late-wintering birds were still in the open pastureland and marshes.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

We saw a few in the open pastures and rice fields. These individuals are on their way further north to breed.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

This is not a common species on our route.

Strigidae (Owls)

BARRED OWL (Strix varia)

Our after dinner owling expedition didn't last long, as we had a great look at this wonderful owl that sailed in quietly about four minutes after we arrived.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Bill made the initial spot of this great bird on a wire near the end of the Bolivar Peninsula.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The rookery at Smith Oaks was home to many Roseate Spoonbills who were constantly coming and going from their nests. Photo by participant Jeff Wahl.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

This is a declining species in much of its range so it was a surprise to have multiple sightings. Our first was on a power pole right under where we parked our van at our lunch spot. We then had about four individuals cavorting along the trail in the Big Thicket.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates borealis)

We watched an individual go into a nest hole at Jones State Forest where we could see it peering out. As we were leaving the forest, we heard another and ended up with great views of two more on a pine trunk. A bird of very limited range, this is the furthest west this endangered species reaches in its range.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

We only saw a couple while we were driving through the open country.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

We heard this bird giving its distinctive call on the breeding ground, then saw a few more as migrants.

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)

We had a few calling on our first morning where they would have been breeding, then saw a couple of migrants in the High Island Woods.


This large flycatcher was seen a few times.

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

It was a great sight to have groups of these dropping into the trees at Smith Woods as we watched from the elevated boardwalk. Groups of 8-10 suddenly appeared as they had just arrived after traversing the Gulf of Mexico.


Everyone likes this snazzy flycatcher and we had a few nice looks at pairs in the open country.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

We heard many more than we saw.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

This mostly southern US species showed several times with our first, as breeders, in the Big Thicket.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Black-throated Green was a warbler we saw in good numbers on a few of the days with a handful of them heard singing on the Texas Coast. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

We saw multiple individuals with the fallout at High Island and Sabine Woods.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

A common voice of the eastern woodlands. We also saw several as they migrated onward.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

A couple of pairs were seen during our week.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

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

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

We saw, and heard, these around Silsbee and Beaumont on our way to Winnie.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

The daintiest of the chickadees. We saw this familiar species well.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

We had a nice look at Bolivar Flats, where this species nests amongst the coastal dune vegetation.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Mary Lou spotted one on our last full day of birding.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

Good numbers of these were seen at several localities.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

We saw many, including those feeding young in a nest at Cattail Marsh.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another specialty of the Big Thicket is Swainson’s Warbler, which nests in the bottomland woods and can really belt out its great song. Photo by participant Jeff Wahl.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

These were quite common under many of the bridges we crossed. On our last morning, we saw hundreds of nests along the bridge wall near the Trinity River.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)


We had great looks at this southeastern US specialty in the piney woods.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

A few were encountered in the piney woods and Big Thicket.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)

We had great looks at this limited-range species along the road side in the rice fields.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

Again, we heard more than we saw. We had a good view from the van at Anahuac NWR of one climbing the reeds across the channel of water.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

We saw a few but heard many more.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

This species is likely winning the title of most commonly seen migrant bird at High Island.

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

We finally saw one come to the water drip at Boy Scout woods. This is perhaps the prettiest of the North American thrashers.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

We saw these everyday along the roadsides.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

We had nice views of a male and female at Jones State Forest on our first morning where they were taking advantage of the provided nest boxes.

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)

We only saw a couple of these dainty looking thrushes.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)

Again, only a few were encountered.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

A fair number were seen, mostly later in the week.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Several of the warblers migrating through the Texas Coast nest in the nearby Piney Woods and Big Thicket of east Texas. It is always great to see these, like this Kentucky Warbler, on their breeding grounds where they are often in full song. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

This was the most common thrush we encountered with a handful seen each day as migrants. We also heard one or two singing in the Big Thicket area where they breed.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

A quite uncommon species in April in the areas we visit, so it was a surprise to have a few of them around the motel near the Houston airport where we heard one singing in the early morning before we headed out. Amy saw at least one in the courtyard of the motel.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

A flock of about 14 was in a small tree at Jones State Forest.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammospiza maritima)

We had nice looks at a couple of individuals sitting up in the marsh at Sabine Pass.

NELSON'S SPARROW (Ammospiza nelsoni)

After finding our first in the marsh at Sabine Pass, we ended up seeing about five individuals chasing each other around. This is a wintering species here that breeds in northern Minnesota, North Dakota and into Canada. A few seem to linger late into the spring here.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


Now considered the sole member of its family; we had nice looks at a singing bird in the Big Thicket before hearing a couple more singing at Sabine Woods.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

On our final morning, about four late-remaining individuals were seen in a tree at the edge of the flooded rice field we found. This is a quite uncommon species in the last three weeks of April.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

We saw a fair number but, surprisingly, never had a big surge of them.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

We saw this familiar species each day in the coastal woodlands but, again, not in big numbers.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

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We saw several Reddish Egrets on our morning along the Bolivar Peninsula, which included a couple of white morph individuals along with this focused dark morph. Photo by participant Jeff Wahl.


There were probably a few too many at High Island.

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

This species was essentially confined to the native coastal prairies of the area.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

We saw a lot of these.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

We ended up seeing this ground dweller just about each day in the woods with about three on our peak day.

WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)

After hearing one singing and getting a quick look in the Big Thicket area, we saw several as migrants at High Island and Sabine Woods.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

It was a surprise to see one show briefly but well at Sabine Woods, then another at Boy Scout Woods later the same day. Most of these have passed through the area by late-April.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

A couple or more were seen on a few of our days.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

We had nice looks at a stunning male at Smith Woods where this bird was elusive for awhile.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)

Surprisingly after the fallout we only saw one individual.


Good numbers of this familiar warbler were seen each day in the woodlots.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

We saw a singing individual in the Big Thicket then a couple more at High Island before seeing seven birds at Sabine Woods.

SWAINSON'S WARBLER (Limnothlypis swainsonii)

This southeastern US specialty gave us great looks in the bottomland forest in the Big Thicket. We watched it as it belted out its wonderful song.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Yellow-breasted Chat was recently determined to not be a warbler and was placed in its own family. Usually a real skulker, this individual showed well in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Photo by participant Jeff Wahl.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

Several were seen but there was not a huge push of this species as there can be.

KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa)

We had nice looks along the trail in the Big Thicket then a few more as migrants near the coast.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

The oddest sighting was a bird singing from a dead tree near the ferry landing at Port Bolivar.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

We saw, and heard, these on the breeding grounds then saw many more migrants at High Island and Sabine Woods.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

We saw many of these after the rain on Monday afternoon and again the next day after it rained much of the night. Most were adult males.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)

A female was hanging around the willows at Anahuac NWR. This is a species that mainly moves north through the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico and is quite uncommon in the areas we birded.

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

A male showed well at Sabine Woods. This is always one of the most sought after warblers on the Upper Texas Coast.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

Another species we saw as a breeder then encountered a few more as migrants.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

This beauty showed well after the rain and we estimated about 20-25 individuals seen on Tuesday where it vied with Black-and-white for the most commonly seen warbler of the day.

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)

This is usually one of the later warblers to arrive on the Upper Texas Coast. We had many good views of males and a few females with up to 12 seen one day .


We saw a couple of individuals on two days, with the first one being a female plumaged bird at Smith Woods then we had males with bright orange throats.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

Several were seen well.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

This was one of the first warblers we encountered when we entered Sabine Woods. We saw a handful on two days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We were uncertain which language this Red-eared Slider was reading when it learned it was breaking the rules. Photo by participant Sid Barritt.

BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)

We only came across a couple of these, both males.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)

Another quite uncommon species here as they also mostly migrate up the east side of the Gulf of Mexico. We saw two different males on successive days. This is one of my favorites.

PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum)

This species usually moves through earlier in April but we saw one that had been hanging around in the willows at Anahuac NWR.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

A very common bird by voice in the pines of East Texas. We had a few nice looks at this species that is rarely seen as a migrant on the coast.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

We enjoyed good views of this high-in-the-trees species in the Big Thicket.

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

A male singing from the top of a short pine afforded us wonderful looks at this local specialty.


We saw a few of these each day in the woodlots.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

A good number were encountered, with nice looks at adult males, females, and the blotchy immature males.

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)

I believe the black wings of this brilliant red bird make it more of a stunner than the previous species. We saw several at High Island and Sabine Woods, with up to 4-5 in one tree at one time.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

It seemed we saw more female plumaged individuals than males.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

A handful were seen feeding together in the mulch of a garden in High Island. The bright males were quite stunning.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

Good numbers seen, with about as many males as females.

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

This is a late-arriving species near the coast, but we saw them a few times in the rice fields. On our final morning we saw a small group come down and start feeding on the quite young rice stalks.


NINE-BANDED ARMADILLO (Dasypus novemcinctus)

One of the more engaging sightings was watching a family of four "teenaged" armadillos rooting around under the leaves at Boy Scout Woods. What a bizarre creature!

SWAMP RABBIT (Sylvilagus aquaticus)

This was the large rabbit we saw several times in the High Island woodlots.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

Quite common.

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

We saw a few of these handsome squirrels at Tyrrell Park in Beaumont.

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

At Anahuac we watched one along the roadside that appeared to be carrying a baby by the scruff of the neck.

Totals for the tour: 185 bird taxa and 5 mammal taxa