At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. Please keep in mind that EcoQuest Travel offers many different itineraries to Texas – the trip listed below is just one example. If you are interested in Texas as a destination please contact us for further information.

Winter Birds of the Rio Grande Valley, Texas

With Optional Whooping Crane Extension

Main Trip: November 29 – December 6

Whooping Crane Extension: December 7 – 9

Itinerary

Day 1 – Thursday, November 29: Raleigh to Brownsville, Texas

We will depart from Raleigh/Durham International Airport this morning on our flight to Dallas. Once in Dallas we will transfer to our short flight to Brownsville, Texas. Please arrive at the airport no later than an hour and a half prior to our scheduled departure time. Upon arrival in Brownsville, we will find some lunch before driving to Laguna Atascosa NWR (lunch will be on our own today). Once we arrive at the refuge we will hike the Kiskadee and Mesquite Trails in search of South Texas specialties like white-tipped dove, great kiskadee, green jay, black-crested titmouse, ash-throated flycatcher, vermilion flycatcher and Altamira oriole. Mixed in with the local specialties are black and Say’s phoebe, house and sedge wrens, hermit thrush, sage thrasher, loggerhead shrike, orange-crowned and yellow-rumped warblers, lark buntings and many wintering sparrow including vesper, savannah, Lincoln’s, clay-colored, LeConte’s and grasshopper. We will also drive to Osprey Overlook to look for waterfowl such as greater white-fronted and snow geese, green-winged and blue-winged teal, American wigeon, canvasback, redhead and ruddy ducks. Along the way to Osprey Overlook we will search the small ponds for Neotropic cormorant, black-bellied whistling-duck, mottled duck and various shorebirds. In the early evening we will depart for our accommodations at the Port Isla Inn. After checking in we will have dinner at Dirty Al’s Restaurant. (D)

Day 2 – Friday, November 30: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Today we will have a full day to explore Laguna Atascosa and will concentrate our efforts along the 15-mile Bayside Loop Drive. We could see plain chachalacas and groove-billed anis near the entrance and while hiking the brushy Paisano Trail we could see greater roadrunner, verdin, long-billed thrasher and olive sparrow. After our hike the Loop Drive continues along the shoreline and could produce reddish egrets, black-necked stilt, willet, long-billed curlew, gull-billed tern, Caspian tern, black skimmer, semipalmated and piping plovers, marbled godwit, stilt sandpiper and long-billed dowitcher. The interior areas along the Loop Drive are great for raptors including white-tailed hawk and aplomado falcon. The aplomado falcons are part of a massive reintroduction program designed to bring this species back to its former range within the US. Laguna Atascosa is also famous for two of its mammal residents – the ocelot and the jaguarundi. These two small cats are highly endangered in the US and although they reside in the refuge our chances of seeing them are slim at best. After a full day of exploring and birding we return the Port Isla Inn to freshen up before having dinner at Sea Ranch Restaurant on South Padre Island. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – Saturday, December 1: Boca Chica and Brownsville

This morning we will head south to the Rio Grande River and travel along the Boca Chica Road. This dead end road runs from Brownsville to the Gulf of Mexico and numerous ponds are situated between the road and the river. These ponds provide habitat for many bird species including both black-crowned and yellow-crowned night-herons, ringed and green kingfishers, black-bellied whistling-ducks and many other species of waterfowl and waterbirds. Closer to the coast the tidal flats are alive with shorebirds and the beaches and bays offer American oystercatcher, royal and black terns, common loon, eared grebes, Bonaparte’s gull and perhaps even northern gannets offshore. After a picnic lunch we will drive into Brownsville to visit the Tamaulipas Crow Sanctuary – otherwise known as the Brownsville Landfill. This landfill is the only place in the US where this crow regularly occurs. Many gull species, Chihuahuan raven and great-tailed grackles also frequent the landfill. After, hopefully, finding the crow we will use the rest of the afternoon to try and locate the two parrot species found in and around Brownsville – the red-crowned parrot and the green parakeet. We should be able to locate them as they come in to roost in the evening. We will check into the Hampton Inn Brownsville before having dinner at Antonio’s Mexican Village. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Sunday, December 2: Sabal Palm Grove Audubon Sanctuary

Today we will spend the majority of the day exploring the Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary. This sanctuary is one of the best places to see many of the Rio Grande specialty birds. Buff-bellied hummingbirds are attracted to the feeders which also draw in plain chachalaca, white-tipped dove, green jay, olive sparrow and Altamira oriole. After checking out the feeders we will walk a short loop trail to a blind overlooking a pond where we could see least grebe Neotropic cormorant; anhinga; various ducks including black-bellied whistling-duck and sometimes masked duck; ringed, green and belted kingfishers; great kiskadee; and common yellowthroat. Some other species that we hope to see include great horned owl, pauraque, golden-fronted woodpecker and long-billed thrasher. The fields and edges near the sanctuary entrance are great for raptors such as white-tailed kite, Harris’s hawk, white-tailed hawk and crested caracara. These fields also provide habitat for Couch’s kingbird, vermilion flycatcher, curve-billed thrasher, pyrrhuloxia, bronzed cowbird, lark bunting and a variety of sparrows. Although never a sure thing, this sanctuary often has some spectacular vagrants from Mexico with golden-crowned warbler, gray-crowned yellowthroat, crimson-collared grosbeak and blue bunting seen in recent years. After a full day of birding we will return to the Hampton Inn before having dinner at Madeira Restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Monday, December 3: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

The quest for Rio Grande specialties continues today as we drive northwest following the river to Santa Ana NWR. This refuge is a mix of riparian forests, wetlands, thorn forest, Tamaulipan scrub and fields. This habitat diversity leads to a diverse community of birds. One of our target birds is the incredible hook-billed kite, but many other raptors are present including gray, zone-tailed and common black hawks. The wetlands could produce a few fulvous whistling-ducks mixed in with the black-bellied and perhaps another chance at masked duck. They also contain sora rail, green kingfisher and yellow-headed blackbird. Northern beardless tyrannulet and clay-colored robin also show up with some regularity at this refuge and we will do our best to find these two more difficult species. The refuge also has a seven-mile wildlife drive and many trails to explore so we will easily spend a full day at the refuge. We will have a picnic lunch and at the end of the day we will check into the Hampton Inn in Mission, Texas before having dinner at the Santa Fe Steakhouse. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Tuesday, December 4: Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley State Park

The Bentsen – Rio Grande Valley State Park is one of the premier birding sites in this area and we will spend the day looking for species we may have missed elsewhere as well as new species like red-billed pigeon, white-winged dove and Audubon’s oriole. This is a great park to try and find hook-billed kite – though these amazing raptors can be elusive. Masked ducks are frequently seen and northern beardless tyrannulets are more common here than at Santa Ana NWR. We will once again have a picnic lunch in the park and will once again overnight at the Hampton Inn in Mission. Dinner tonight will take place at a veritable institution in McAllen – Delia’s Tamales. Delia’s has been serving up this Mexican specialty for years and having made-from-scratch tamales will be a real treat. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Wednesday, December 5: Falcon State Park and on to Zapata

Today we will continue to travel northwest along the Rio Grande to Falcon State Park and the nearby communities of Salineno and Chapeno. Falcon State Park is dominated by Tamaulipan scrub and contains a few species new species such as scaled quail and black-throated sparrows. Regular resident birds include Harris’s hawk, Inca dove, common ground-dove, greater roadrunner, Chihuahuan raven, verdin, long-billed and curve-billed thrashers, cactus and Bewick’s wrens, pyrrhuloxia, lark sparrow and Altamira oriole. After visiting the park we will make our way to the community of Chapeno to search for brown jay and Muscovy duck. Next is the community of Salineno for red-billed pigeon and another chance at Muscovy duck. The Birder’s Colony in Salineno also has feeders which attract white-tipped dove, great kiskadee, green jay, brown jay, long-billed thrasher and both Altamira and Audubon’s orioles. At the end of the day we will drive to Zapata, have dinner at El Rincon de Los Angeles Restaurant and check into our accommodations at the Best Western Inn by the Lake. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Thursday, December 6: San Ygnacio, Drive back to Brownsville and Depart for Raleigh

Early this morning we will drive to the community of San Ygnacio. This has been the most reliable site to see white-collared seedeater and we will concentrate our efforts on finding these small tropical birds in any weedy patch. Depending on what we have seen so far we will also look for some of the scrub specialists like scaled quail, black-tailed gnatcatcher and black-throated sparrow. After a morning of birding and a picnic lunch we will depart for Brownsville. Once in Brownsville, those who are not participating on the optional whooping crane extension will transfer to the airport for a late afternoon flight to Dallas. Once you arrive in Dallas you will transfer to your flight back to Raleigh/Durham. (B,L)

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.

Optional Extension: Whooping Cranes of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Day 8 – Thursday, December 6: San Ygnacio, Drive back to Brownsville

This afternoon, after dropping those not participating on the extension off at the airport, we will check into the Hampton Inn Brownsville and have dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro. (B,L,D)

Day 1 – Friday, December 7: Brownsville to Corpus Christi and on to Rockport

Today, after breakfast, we will begin our three-hour journey north to Rockport and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Once we arrive at Rockport we will drive to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to try to get our first looks at whooping cranes, wintering shorebirds and waterfowl. We will have a picnic lunch at the refuge and will continue our explorations through the late afternoon. Once it begins to get dark we will return to Rockport and check into our accommodations at the Inn at Fulton Harbor. We will have dinner at the Fai Foo Cafe before returning to our hotel for a good night’s sleep. (B,L,D)

Day 2 – Saturday, December 8: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

We will be up early this morning to spend a full day in Aransas NWR. Although whooping cranes can be seen fairly well from the observation tower and from some of the trails, the best way to get closer views is by boat. This morning we will board our boat for a three hour trip in and around the refuge. Close views of whooping cranes is our goal, but we should also see plenty of other species as well including white pelican, roseate spoonbill, reddish egret, white and white-faced ibis, black skimmer, long-billed curlew, American avocet and black-bellied plover. After our boat trip we will return to the refuge to hike some of the trails in search of white-tailed hawk, crested caracara, American bittern, king rail, golden-fronted woodpecker, vermilion flycatcher, Couch’s kingbird, and green-tailed towhee. If we are lucky we spy could least grebe on the ponds. There are also lots of alligators in the ponds and perhaps white-tailed deer, javelina and armadillos along the Tour Loop Drive. After a full day in the refuge we will have a great dinner at Glow Restaurant before returning to the Inn at Fulton Harbor for overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – Sunday, December 9: Rockport back to Brownsville and Departure for Raleigh/Durham

This morning, after breakfast, we will drive back to Brownsville. We will have a picnic lunch along the way and we may stop to bird if enough time permits. Once we arrive in Brownsville we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Dallas and on to Raleigh/Durham. (B,L)

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.