A male Golden-cheeked Warbler pauses briefly in the Edwards Plateau near Concan. Photo: Rich Hoyer
The oaks and limestone hills of the Edwards Plateau form a cool, green boundary between east and west Texas. Here amidst a profusion of spring wildflowers and a varied array of eastern and western birds, we’ll look especially for the region’s two special summer residents, Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo.
After a day and a bit on the Edwards Plateau we’ll travel west to Big Bend National Park where tall mountains rise out of the arid west Texas plains. In this scenic region birds from Mexico and the Rocky Mountains converge and include some highly sought-after species such as Lucifer Hummingbird, Gray Vireo, and Colima Warbler.
This tour can be taken in conjunction with our tour, Texas: The Upper Coast.
Day 1: The trip begins at 4:00 pm at San Antonio International Airport. Night in Kerrville.
Day 2: While in the heart of the limestone hills of the Edwards Plateau we’ll look particularly for the two most celebrated plateau residents, Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler. The region provides delightful east-west contrasts as, for example, when one stands along a cypress-fringed stream listening to Eastern Wood Pewee and Great Crested Flycatchers, Carolina Wren, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Yellow-throated Warbler, their voices mingling with those of Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Western Scrub-Jay, Canyon Wren and Rufous-crowned Sparrow filtering down from the adjacent dry hillsides and rocky outcroppings. We also have a chance at seeing Green Kingfisher and Louisiana Waterthrush. The Texas hill country seems anything but Texan in its cool lushness, and some of the areas we’ll visit, such as Lost Maples State Park, are very beautiful. I the evening we’ll visit a local bat cave, where we’ll witness the mind-boggling exodus at dusk of literally millions of Brazilian Free-tailed Bats. Night in Uvalde.
Day 3: This morning we’ll begin the long drive to the Chisos Mountains. Perhaps the most notable feature of the day will be the dramatic change to the arid landscapes of west Texas. En route we’ll stop to admire Cave Swallows and any Crested Caracaras, Harris’s Hawks, or Lark Buntings we come across, and scan through the ever-present Turkey Vultures for Zone-tailed Hawk. We’ll stop briefly at Langtry, the location of Judge Roy Bean’s tavern, where he dispensed frontier justice near the turn of the last century. Here we usually see Cactus Wren and the very localized and intensely orange nominate race of Hooded Oriole. Night in Big Bend National Park.
Days 4-6: Bordering the sculptured canyons of the Rio Grande, the Chisos Mountains rise out of Big Bend National Park in a broken mass of colored sandstone reaching to almost 8000 feet. The range supports a variety of interesting birds including Lucifer and Blue-throated Hummingbirds, Gray Vireo, Varied Bunting, Black-chinned Sparrow and Scott’s Oriole, but Colima Warbler is the major attraction since it can be seen nowhere else in the United States. We must make a long climb to find the warbler, but the scenery is dramatic, and our pace will be slow, punctuated by Acorn Woodpecker and Mexican Jay and perhaps a few migrants. All of one day will be devoted to this objective.
Big Bend provides delightfully varied birdwatching, and in addition to the mountains and high desert we’ll visit the Rio Grande floodplain, where cottonwoods and giant mesquites attract an entirely different set of birds. Vermilion Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Summer Tanager and Painted Bunting are common and, in recent years a pair of Common Black-Hawks have nested near Rio Grande Village. Other scarce species we may encounter include Cordilleran Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Crissal Thrasher, Lucy’s Warbler and Painted Redstart. At this season there may be a fine collection of migrants, perhaps including something quite unexpected. On at least one evening we’ll search for Lesser Nighthawk and Elf Owl, both fairly common here. Nights in Big Bend National Park.
Day 7: After a final morning in Big Bend we’ll drive to Fort Davis, Texas. Night in Fort Davis, Texas.
Day 8: We’ll spend the morning in the vicinity of Fort Davis State Park, looking particularly for Montezuma Quail that sometimes come to drink at the Park’s springs, and for Common Black Hawk that occasionally nest along a nearby stream. We’ll plan to stop at Lake Balmorhea, a magnet for waterbirds in this parched land. Western and Clark’s Grebes are likely to be present along with a number of shorebirds, and rarities have included Pacific Loon and Reddish Egret. In the afternoon we’ll continue to Midland. Night in Midland.
Day 9: The tour concludes this morning in Midland, Texas.
Updated: 26 March 2013
- 2013 Tour Price : $2,850
- Single Occupancy Supplement : $550
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
This tour is limited to seven participants with one leader.
Anyone wishing to return to San Antonio on Day 9 with the WINGS leader may do so.