Trip Report – April 2009
Day 1: Start in San Antonio. After 2.5 hour drive to Corpus Christi start your birding in a small urban park (Blucher Park) opposite a wonderful B&B (see below) that we recommend you stay in. Good chance of Couch’s Kingbird, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Long-billed Thrasher and many more.
Day 2: Before breakfast, start the day with a walk around Blucher Park – if you are there at the right time you should get Kentucky Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Black & White Warbler, and Chuck-will’s Widows will also be in the area.
After breakfast there are many choices for birding around the Corpus Christi area. There is the Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery nearby which offers great birding and then you can start a circle trip over to the north end of Padre Island. Stop (carefully) on the causeway and scope for shorebirds and terns. Then continue a little further to Port Aranas Community Park. more shorebirds, waders and gulls/terns .Continue on to Leonabelle Birding Center – it has a great boardwalk and between these three sights you should get a good number of the shorebirds, waders, ducks gulls and terns.
Then hit Paradise Pond – of course this isn’t normally the right time of day for passerines but during migration all you need is a fall out and it won’t matter what time of day it is. When we were there it was dripping with birds; we had 7 species of warblers including Hooded, Golden-winged and Blackpoll, both Indigo and Painted Bunting plus Philadelphia Vireo and lots of them!! When you see how small this park is you will realized how amazing that is!!!
For a bit of added interest through out your time in Texas you could also try stopping at some of the Texas Historical Trail markers and sights to tap into some of the local history.
Have dinner tonight in a typical Italian restaurant –Mama Mia’s – quite interesting!! Stay at the same B&B again tonight.
Day 3: Another walk around Blucher Park before breakfast is advised – you never know what arrived over night!
Then head south. Make a brief stop at Bishop’s City Park where Cave Swallows can be found at the far end under the bridge by the road and
then head for the King Ranch for a tour . You could see Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet and Tropical Parula. ( they only offer tours on certain days so book ahead.)
Next is another little park,and Dick Kleberg Park where we found Loggerhead Shrike and Lark Sparrow. We then tried to find Santa Gertrude’s Creek Bird Sanctuary – were never sure that we found it but birded by the road where it was supposed to be and had White-rumped Sandpiper, Eastern Meadowlark and White-tailed Hawk.
Take Hawk Alley to the west – you will get great views of Harris’ hawk. Then drive south to Edinburg Wetlands. Depending on how much water is here you could get some good birds or it could be quiet but it is worth checking out.
We then drove east to Harlingen and stayed at a Best Western You can have dinner next door at the Texas Roadhouse – you find out why American’s suffer from obesity!!!
Day 4: Leave really early, take breakfast and lunch with you and go to Laguna Atacosa. Start at the visitors Center – there is a trail behind the center Audubon’s Oriole, Olive Sparrow, Black-crested Titmouse & Green Jay are here.
You can spend all day in this park – it is vast and very interesting. Spend your morning around the Visitors Center where you can walk several trails and then take your picnic lunch and head for Lakeside and Bayside Drives.
Lakeside Drive was quiet when we were there but Bayside Drive was great – Curve-billed Thrasher, Blue Grosbeak and Roadrunner were the highlights for us. Drive on down through Port Isabel and over to South Padre Island.
Day 5: Spend the morning on the south end of Padre Island at the Convention Center which has a boardwalk and can throw up a huge number of species, including King, Yellow, Virginia and Black Rails.
After lunch, move west stopping at Sabal Palm for Buff-bellied Hummingbird, White-tipped Dove and Green Woodpecker among others.
If you stay in Welasco use the Victoria Palms Motel – it has kitchenettes which will enable you to eat a little healthier as we found it very difficult to get anything remotely healthy in a restaurant.
Day 6: Start at dawn at the Fronterra Park. If the gates aren’t open yet, wander around the outside for a while. This is tiny urban park but it is unbelievable – Carolina Wren, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Mississippi Kite, Clay-colored Robin, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, and vireos galore!
There are Green Parrot that nest in the area (ask in the gift shop for directions) and another small park Valley Nature Center that can be worth a visit. Having said that, if the weather has co-operated you could spend all day at Fronterra Park and every time you walk around you will see something new.
Day 7: Spend the morning at Esterro Llano Park .This is a fantastic wetland area – there are very knowledgeable bird guides that can tell you where the rarities are that day.You should get Fulvious Whistling Duck , shorebirds, spoonbills and maybe even Common Pauraque.
In the afternoon I would check out Fronterra again – you never know!
Day 8: Head west to Santa Ana Park – another national park which can offer views of the Rio Grande along with many species such as Groove Billed Ani and Hook-billed Kite. It was quiet when we were there but some days it is spectacular.
On the way back make a couple of stops. Firstly Hidalgo Pumphouse which is a pretty little park and can be good – we saw Black Phoebe and many of the usuals. Quinta Mazatlan is a stunning house with great grounds ( and a coffee shop) there were Eastern Screech Owl nesting there. Ansulduas Park can also be great ask if the Gray Hawk are still nesting there and check out the grassy area as you go in Upland Sandpiper maybe present.
Day 9: Drive back up to San Antonio today – stop at the rest area on 281, just south of Falfurias, there can be warblers and flycatchers in the trees around the picnic area. While we didn’t have time on this trip, we would recommend that you stay at least one night in San Antonio. There is
a quite lovely canal which has restaurants and cafes along it and is a lovely spot to wander around – not really a birding spot but an opportunity to enjoy the city before leaving.
General Comments: Getting around in Texas is very easy – normal great standard of roads you expect anywhere in the USA. Speed cops are everywhere and very diligent so watch your speed.
There are also tons of motels etc so if you want to go without any bookings ( other than at the B&B we suggest in Corpus Christi) you will probably be fine.
We went in April but it can be incredibly hot even early on the year so make sure you are properly equipped when heading into any of the larger parks.
Guides & Resources
Field Guide: Sibleys
Bird song – Stokes cds of North American
Where to Bird: There are many books available from the ABA for this area. We used: Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail by Mel White and Birding Corpus Christi by Jamie Ritter – both were very good.