A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


April 22-28, 2023 with John Coons & Sam Wilson guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
This white morph Reddish Egret was “dancing” in a tidal pool at Bolivar Flats in an attempt to attract small fish towards its shadow. Photo by Sam Wilson.

We enjoyed a great week of birding in East Texas, seeing a bunch of local breeding birds in the piney woods and Big Thicket and then a slew of migrants along the Gulf Coast. Our trip started at Jones State Forest, where we enjoyed great views of the extremely local Red-cockaded Woodpecker, one of the least common birds in North America. Here we also had nice views of Pine Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Red-headed Woodpecker. We then headed east, stopping at a few places to find some local breeders. In the lowland forest and drier pines we found a number of breeding warblers that were singing away on territory; Hooded, Prothonotary, Swainson's, Kentucky, Parula, Worm-eating, Prairie, Yellow-throated all were seen well, as was our old friend Yellow-breasted Chat and a daytime Barred Owl.

We then headed to the Gulf Coast, where we encountered an American Redstart, Black-and-white, and two Bay-breasted warblers just as we arrived at the parking lot at Boy Scout Woods at High Island. Over the next several days we birded the woodlots at High Island, Sabine Woods, nearby rice fields, Anahuac NWR, and the Bolivar Peninsula, including the famous Bolivar Flats. We found a pretty good migration happening every day. The highlights included both King and Clapper rails at Anahuac, great views of Snowy, Wilson's, and Piping plovers, Upland Sandpiper, three Hudsonian Godwits, a couple of mostly breeding plumage Red Knots, nine species of terns, great looks at Least Bittern, all those egrets, herons, and spoonbills at the Smith Woods rookery, wonderful Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Sedge Wren, a very very Veery day, several Nelson's Sparrows, a group of Bobolinks, good numbers of Orchard and Baltimore orioles, Summer and Scarlet tanagers, and scope views of a male Painted Bunting. For migrating warblers we had a nice comparison of Northern and Louisiana waterthrushes, three Golden-winged Warblers, an early Mourning Warbler, nice Cerulean Warblers, a handful of Magnolias and Blackburnians, and a quite uncommon Canada Warbler among the 28 species we saw.

During the week we also experienced the unique East Texas culture and cuisine. It was great to travel with all of you and to co-lead this trip with Sam. I look forward to birding with all of you again.


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)

After our first at Jones State Forest we ended up seeing this species everyday.

FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna bicolor)

We saw a fair number of these at Anahuac NWR.

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

A couple of us saw a few. of unknown origin, flying over.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa) [*]

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

This was the most common duck we encountered during the week.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

There were a few in the marsh at Anahuac.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

One was seen in a roadside pond but its origin may be in question.

MOTTLED DUCK (Anas fulvigula)

We saw a single individual in a marshy pond along the Bolivar Peninsula.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

We saw a handful at Cattail Marsh then one or two at Anahuac.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Bay-breasted Warbler is usually one of the later migrant warblers to arrive along the Texas Coast, but we saw a good number of them during the week. Photo by Sam Wilson.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

We saw our first on a power line in High Island then again near Sabine Woods.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

We saw these daily.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

One at Sabine Woods got away before we could get a look.

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

We heard one vocalizing in the piney woods on our first day in the field.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

We had a couple of good views with Ann spotting one on a fence post for our first one.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

We saw these each day of the trip.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

We saw a few during the week and, I believe, each day.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans)

We heard a calling bird and saw it fly up and away from the edge of the side road.

CLAPPER RAIL (GULF COAST) (Rallus crepitans saturatus)

After hearing a few at Anahuac we had nice looks at Rollover Pass.

SORA (Porzana carolina) [*]

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

There were a good number seen at Shoveler Pond.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)

This colorful bird was seen several times with our first observed at Cattail Marsh.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Cerulean Warbler is always one of the more sought-after species on the Texas Coast, and we saw this one, about to grab a small prey item, the day we arrived at High Island. Photo by Sam Wilson.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Several were spotted.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

There were a good number seen at the end of the walk at Bolivar Flats.

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Our only one was at Rollover Pass.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

There were a fair number on the beaches and in various degrees of winter and breeding plumage.

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica)

Sam spotted a distant bird in a rice field west of Winnie that we scoped.

SNOWY PLOVER (Charadrius nivosus)

One showed well for us at Bolivar Flats. This is usually the least common of the "banded" plovers.

WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia)

We ended up seeing about four individuals at Bolivar Flats.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Most had already moved through on their way north but we still saw a fair number along the coast.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

This threatened shorebird was seen well at Bolivar Flats.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

We saw these each day.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)

Our first was a single individual in the sod farm north of Winnie.

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

Several of these large shorebirds were found in the various areas we birded.

HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa haemastica)

We managed to scope about three of these nicely marked shorebirds in the pond at Anahuac NWR.

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

This species is pretty much confined to the coast in the areas that we visit.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

A sharply marked species, we saw several in full breeding plumage.

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This Clapper Rail really showed off for us in a coastal marsh during our visit to the Bolivar Peninsula. Photo by Sam Wilson.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

Sam managed to find two birds close to full breeding plumage amongst the gull and tern flock at the end of the walk at Bolivar Flats.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

We had nice views of a handful with most in breeding plumage.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

There were certainly a good number of these on the beach at Bolivar Flats.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

Many of those we encountered had their nice black bellies.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

This was the most common of the small peeps we encountered.

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

Our only ones were three birds at the sod farm on the day we headed to the Gulf Coast.


There were a few scattered here and there with the other peeps on the beaches.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

A couple were seen in the larger shorebird flock at Bolivar Flats.

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

We saw and heard a fair number near the coast.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

Most of these sightings were in the freshwater areas a bit inland from the coast.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

On a side road near Sabine Pass we flushed one from the edge of a field and it flew zig-zagging away.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

We saw one at the edge of the pond at Anahuac.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Surprisingly, we only came across a couple during the week. They were far outnumbered by Lessers.

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)

Many were found at Anahuac and along the coast.

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Getting superb views of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers was a highlight on our first morning. This individual posed below eye level at one point. Photo by Sam Wilson.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

These were common birds in appropriae habitat during the week.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

This was the most common gull we saw on the trip, by 1000 times.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

This species was only seen a few times on the coast.

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)

Sam spotted one swimming about just offshore at the jetty on the Bolivar Peninsula.

LEAST TERN (Sternula antillarum)

A good number were on the beach and flying in the beach vegetation at Bolivar Flats.

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica)

We scoped a pair in the coastal marsh just before getting to the beach and Bolivar Flats.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Only a couple or three were seen with our first one circling the same route over Shoveler Pond at Anahuac.

BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)

We had our best views on the Bolivar Peninsula where some of the individuals were in full black plumage.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

The majority of these would have headed north but we had scope views of a handful that were still on their way.

FORSTER'S TERN (Sterna forsteri)

This was the common smallish tern we saw on the coast and over the inland marshes where they breed.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

Many of these were seen in flocks along the coast.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)

One of the prettiest of the North American terns we had nice scope views and saw a couple of pairs displaying and mating.

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

There were probably about 200 individuals seen the day we went down the Bolivar Peninsula.

Ciconiidae (Storks)

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

Usually a rather late spring or summer bird along the Upper Texas Coast it was a surprise to see a flock of 34 flying north over Kountze, Texas as we left the lunch restaurant on our first day of birding.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

A few were seen around the pond at Smith Oaks and we spotted one on a nest at the rookery.

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Summer Tanager sightings were a daily occurrence in the woodlots and added much color to our surroundings. Photo by Sam Wilson.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

This species is far outnumbered by the following. We only saw one or two in the entire week.

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

These were very common and we saw a good number on nests at the heron and egret rookery at Smith Woods.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Our only sightings were those on one of the small dredge islands along the shipping channel that we saw from Rollover Pass.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Good numbers were encountered as soon as we got to the Gulf Coast.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)

A single bird was seen flying over the coastal prairie at Anahuac.

LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis)

We had our first at Cattail Marsh near Beaumont, then nice looks at a few more at Anahuac.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

We saw many on nests at the rookery at Smith Woods.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Many of the individuals at the rookery had intense orange feet instead of yellow, a condition these birds may only have for a week during the peak of the breeding season.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

All of our sightings were of birds on freshwater ponds.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)

This species was also seen in fine breeding plumage at the rookery.

REDDISH EGRET (Egretta rufescens)

There were at least three individuals along the Bolivar Peninsula including one white morph bird at Bolivar Flats.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

We saw several of these daily including some at nests.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

A fair number were seen overall during the week.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Our first ones were at Tyrrell Park where they were hunting for crawfish in the ditches. We had several more nearer the coast.

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The canopy walkway at Smith Woods at High Island gave us an opportunity to see many canopy birds, such as this Red-eyed Vireo, at eye level. Photo by Sam Wilson.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

A few flocks were seen with some scoped during the week.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

All of the dark ibis we could ID were this species.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

Always a favorite, we saw many on nests at the High Island rookery where they were in fine breeding regalia.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

We saw several everyday.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Many were encountered.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

We only saw one during the week.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis)

On our last morning Sam spotted one soaring above the piney woods and we jumped out of the van and had nice looks at a probable migrant.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A few were seen in the open pastures and marshes.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

An adult flew over while we were heading out from birding the rice fields before we continued to the airport.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

Our first one showed pretty well as it perched on the power line in the piney woods.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

Another migrant, we saw one above the forest at Lake Charlotte on our final morning.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

We saw a few well during the week, most were found in the rice fields.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Strigidae (Owls)

BARRED OWL (Strix varia)

We scoped a daytime individual that came in along the creek in the Big Thicket.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

We had a couple of sightings along the Bolivar Peninsula.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here is our avid group at High Island overlooking the heron, egret, and spoonbill rookery on a windy afternoon. Photo by participant Jane Gawin.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

We had a scope view on our first morning at Jones State Forest, then a couple more in the Big Thicket the next day. A truly great looking woodpecker.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

We heard them in the piney woods but I don't think we saw them until we got to Sabine Woods.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

Also seen at Sabine Woods after hearing a few in the piney woods.

RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER (Dryobates borealis)

One of the early trip highlights was getting great looks at this quite rare and range restricted species. We ended up seeing a few and hearing a few more at Jones State Forest. As we were about to head back to the van one of the birds flew down nearly to the base of a tall pine quite close to us for even better views.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

This large and favorite woodpecker was seen well a couple of times.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

We only had a couple of individuals along the Bolivar Peninsula.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

Sam saw one shoot over the rookery pond at Smith Woods but I'm not sure anyone else got on it.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

We heard or saw these migrants each day of the trip.

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)

Our first were seen in the Big Thicket area where they were local breeders then we saw a fair number as migrants along the coastal woodlots.


We encountered a few with one calling a lot at Sabine Woods.

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Fair numbers were seen in the High Island area.


Another favorite, these well-known birds were seen a handful of times, usually on fence wires right next to the road.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

This is a bird we heard everyday and it probably took several individuals before everyone caught up with it. One that came to Don's Drip at Smith Woods was one of the better views.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

We saw one on our first afternoon in the Big Thcket where they breed then again later in the week as a migrant.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

One was seen briefly at Sabine Woods.

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Several Chestnut-sided Warblers moved through the coastal woodlots during our visits to High Island and Sabine Woods. Photo by Sam Wilson.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

One was seen at Sabine Woods. They were in very low numbers this year.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

This was a common voice in he piney woods and we saw several in the migration areas.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Only a couple were seen.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

The prettiest of the jays, we saw or heard them daily.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

We only found these on our first day in the field northeast of Houston and again at Lake Charlotte when we were headed back to Houston on our final day.

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

This species has been slowly spreading inland over the last 15 years. We saw them around Silsbee and Kountze and, at least, heard them at High Island.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

CAROLINA CHICKADEE (Poecile carolinensis)

We saw a few in the piney woods at the beginning of the trip.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

This species was often hanging around the same areas as the chickadees.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

We saw a couple of these in the vegetated area of the beach at Bolivar Flats.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

A few were flying about at Cattail Marsh.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

We saw these each day of the trip with the first ones at the nesting condo in Kountze.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

There were a good number of these some of the days that were migrating through.

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

We saw about ten birds at Cattail Marsh that we watched from the boardwalk.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Seen daily once we got to the coast.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

There were a good number flying out from under the bridge over the Trinity River and we saw one or two later in the week.

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By the end of the week we saw several Acadian Flycatchers. This one was enjoying a tasty morsel it had just snatched from the air. Photo by Sam Wilson.
Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

We saw a late wintering bird at Boy Scout woods.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)


We had nice looks at this southeast US specialty at Jones State Forest on our first morning.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

There were a few seen vocalizing in the piney woods.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)

A bird showed fairly well in the shrubs along the roadside at Anahuac NWR.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

We saw one along the boardwalk at Cattail Marsh then heard a few more in the marshes later in the week.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

We saw or heard these daily. There was one going to a nest box at Smith Woods.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

This was a commonly seen bird in the woodlots along the coast.

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

There were a few of these handsome birds seen poking about on the ground at Boy Scout and Sabine Woods.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

A well-known bird, these were recorded each day.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

Everyone likes a bluebird. We had good views of males and females near nest boxes at Jones State Forest.

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)

Our second day at High Island was a very Veery day with several individuals seen.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)

We saw a few on each of the last three days at the woodlots.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

A fair number were moving through the woods on some of the days.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

We heard a few giving this lovely song. And, it is a great looking bird as well.

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Sam Wilson captured this iconic image of a Black Skimmer “fishing” in the calm water at Rollover Pass.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

This species is quite uncommon this late in the spring. A couple of folks saw one in the courtyard of the motel in Houston.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

A lot of these were around this spring in many of the habitats we birded.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

SEASIDE SPARROW (Ammospiza maritima)

We saw a few and scoped them quite closely in a saltmarsh on the Bolivar Peninsula.

NELSON'S SPARROW (Ammospiza nelsoni)

About 4-5 birds showed quite well in a marsh on the Bolivar Peninsula, then we had a couple more the next day near Sabine Pass. These are late-wintering birds that have a long way north to go.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

These were quite common along the roadside at Anahuac NWR.

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


Now the sole member of its family, this familiar species was seen very well on our first morning. We had two individuals quite close to us at one point.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

We heard, then saw, about six of these late migrants at Anahuac. This is another great bird of the eastern US.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

We saw a few during the week with our first ones at Anahuac.

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

A fair, but not huge number were seen during the week.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

These were enjoying feeding on the mulberries.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

A lot were seen each day we were close to marshes.

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

A male and female were with the grackles on the athletic field at High Island high school. This is a quite uncommon bird in the High Island area.


COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

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Blue-winged Warbler was only seen a few times during the week but this one showed well as Sabine Woods. Photo by Sam Wilson.

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major)

This speies was only seen in its natural coastal marshes.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

We saw two or three each day we were in the woodlots.

WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)

A singing individual on its breeding ground was scoped on our return visit to the Big Thicket. We saw a few more during the week in the coastal woodlands.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

Both this and the following species greeted us soon after arriving at High Island. It was good to get a comparison of the two near each other.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

This was one of our first birds after entering Boy Scout Woods on our first visit. Then we saw a few more during the week.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

On our final day, we saw at least three individuals at Sabine Woods. This is usually one of the more sought after warblers along the Upper Texas Coast.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)

A few were encountered during the week.


We saw a fair number of these on some of the days along the coast.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

We had nice views of a singing individual in the Big Thicket area but also saw a few late migrants at High Island and Sabine Woods.

SWAINSON'S WARBLER (Limnothlypis swainsonii)

Great views were obtained of this southeast US specialty on our first morning when we got to the Big Thicket area. It was really singing up a storm.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

We saw a good number during the week.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

It was a bit of a surprise to see one at Sabine Woods. This species is an early migrant and most have passed through by the time of our trip.

MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia)

There were two individuals at Sabine Woods on our final full day that we saw. Both were skulking in the undergrowth but I think most of us got a look at this late-spring migrant.

KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa)

This was another species we saw on the breeding ground on our first morning. We then encountered another two or three at the coastal woodlots.

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This pair of Eastern Bluebirds appears to be taking very good care of the young in the nest box at Jones State Forest. Photo by Sam Wilson.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

We heard a lot more than we saw.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

We had a nice look at a singing bird on our first day in the piney woods then saw more during the week with at least eight individuals on our final day at Sabine Woods.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Most of the ones we saw were adult males in nice black and orange plumage.

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

On our first day at High Island we encountered two individuals, this is another of the more sought-after species here and a real beauty.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

A singing bird was right above us in the cypress trees in the Big Thicket and we ended up seeing several more during the week.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

About four or five of these often uncommon birds we seen during the week. All were males in nice plumage.

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)

One of the later migrant warblers to move through High Island, we had a number of good views with our first seen along the street as we walked to Boy Scout Woods.


Always a dazzler, we saw a few with one even seen inland at Lake Charlotte on our final stop before heading to the airport.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

We saw a mixture of females and males at all the woodlots.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

Another beauty, there were a few seen during the week at all of the woodlots.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

We only saw these on their breeding ground in the piney woods and we heard many more than we saw. On our first morning at Jones State Forest we had nice looks including one that was quite low to the ground.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

This is a local breeder in the Big Thicket area and we had a nice look on our first afternoon. Somewhat surprisingly, we did not see this early migrant in the coastal woodlots.

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

A singing bird in a regenerating pine plantation showed very well for us on our first morning.


A handful were seen with this being one of the last migrants we saw when we encountered the mini-fallout at Lake Charlotte on our final morning.

CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)

As I was putting lunch together, Sam and the group had nice looks at a female at Sabine Woods.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw several breeding warblers in the piney woods of East Texas before arriving at the coast. These birds were already on territory and belting out their songs like this Hooded Warbler. Photo by Sam Wilson.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

There were a good number of migrants seen but our first were encountered on the breeding ground at Jones State Forest on our first day.

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)

Another beautiful bird, we saw several during the week with some snatching up mulberries at Smith Woods.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Many. This is the mascot of High Island High School.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

These migrants were in good supply all week long.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

We saw a female on our first day then a couple of males during the week.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

We saw a few each day of the trip.

PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris)

Just before leaving the appropriate habitat, Sam spotted a male on a power line and we backed up and got nice scope views of this dazzler.

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

On our final morning we had scope views of a singing male along a side road north of Winnie.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

We saw one in the piney woods on our first morning.

SWAMP RABBIT (Sylvilagus aquaticus)

This is the fairly common larger rabbit we encountered several times in the woods at High Island.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

We saw a few in the piney woods and again at Smith Woods.

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

Tyrrell Park is a good place to see this local species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Shorebirds were also on the agenda for our visit to the Gulf Coast, and this classic-looking Least Sandpiper was one of many we saw very well. Photo by Sam Wilson.

Totals for the tour: 197 bird taxa and 4 mammal taxa