*          *          *


April 19 - 27, 2014

Well, where do you start with a summary of the highlights of the MBWeek with the largest-ever species total? By my count we came up with a grand total of 269, no fewer than 31 species more than on this trip in 2012! The total of 238 on that MBWeek had been our previous record; runners-up were the 230 species on the one-week California-Arizona MBW in 2010, and 228 on the 2012 South Texas MBW. (There have also been totals of 250 on both the 2011 and 2012 California & Arizona MBWeeks, but that was over two weeks.)

The Houston-Big Thicket-High Island-Bolivar Peninsula-Beaumont area portion of this trip through the morning of April 24 yielded 214 species (there were "only" 198 in this region in 2012), and no fewer than 124 species on the Hill Country portion from the afternoon of April 24 on (26 more than the 96 species here in 2012). I suppose part of this year's improvement was due to a couple of changes in the itinerary: staying in Jasper rather than Houston the first night gave us more time in the Big Thicket, and basing the Hill Country portion in Uvalde rather than Kerrville made for shorter drives to Garner State Park (my favorite!), Neal's Lodge, the bat cave, Cook's Slough, and Chalk Bluff Park.

It's also curious that we were able to see so many birds given that the weather was not in our favor. True, there was virtually no rain and the winds were on the light side, but at the same time there were no "fall-out" conditions to ground warblers and other passerines at High Island or Sabine Woods. And despite that we still managed to come up with no fewer than 35 warbler species! In addition, though there was only one known flooded rice field around the Winnie area, we listed an impressive total of 34 shorebirds! Note as well that it was too hot in the Hill Country (the Thursday to Sunday highs in Uvalde were 97, 93, 88, and 97 degrees), but the birding there was much better than in 2012 as noted above.

I readily admit that birding success is often a matter of luck, and by my count there were about 35 species on our long list that were represented by a single individual, so that our total could easily have been more modest. And certainly not everyone in the group saw all 269 of them – there are always individual misses on any birding trip, and I counted a dozen or so that I missed myself. Another number worth noting is that our total of "non-Minnesota" species was 83 (see those boldfaced below).


Of the 34 shorebirds we found, I suppose that Ruff at Anahuac had to be the best of these, while the Worm-eating, Swainson's, Golden-cheeked, and Rufous-capped were probably the highlights in our list of 35 warblers. Other special highlights were finding both Mississippi and Swallow-tailed kites near Liberty and the Trinity River; hearing both Common Poorwills and a Chuck-will's-widow after our visit to the bat cave; simultaneously seeing Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Bachman's Sparrows, and Brown-headed Nuthatches in a patch of piney woods near Jasper; the cooperative pair of Black-capped Vireos at Neal's Lodge, along with 5 singing males along the Davis' road; and our private tour of the Beaumont sewage treatment facility to see Fish Crows and other birds.

Special thanks are first due to Paul and Betty Rae Davis, of course, for our day with them on the 26th – hosting our lunch at their "rustic-cabin-in-the-woods", providing their 4-wheel drive vehicle for our drive farther up the driveway, and certainly as we were their guests for dinner at The Laurel Tree! We also thank George Newsome in Beaumont for showing us around the sewage treatment plant.


April 19: Meet at IAH car rental center at 2:30 pm, brief visit to Jesse Jones Park, and drive to Jasper; mediocre dinner at Casa Olé and night at Super 8. 

April 20: Morning at CR-54 Red-cockaded colony near Sam Rayburn Reservoir and at Martin Dies State Park; afternoon at Gore Store Rd and Big Thicket Visitors Center; drive to Winnie for first of 4 nights at Days Inn (and first of 3 dinners at Al T's).  

April 21: Morning at Anahuac NWR and afternoon at High Island's Boy Scout Woods & Smith Oaks. 

April 22: Fairview Road, Smith Oaks at High Island, Bolivar Peninsula, and return to Boy Scout Woods & Hooks Woods at High Island. 

April 23: Sabine Woods, Sea Rim State Park, Beaumont sewage plant, Tyrrell Park, FM 1941 rice field, and final return to High Island.

April 24: Morning at pastures/crayfish ponds near Nome and successful kite searches at Liberty/Trinity River & vicinity; afternoon drive to Uvalde via lunch at Joel's BBQ in Flatonia, mediocre dinner at Napoli's, and first of 3 nights at Quality Inn in Utopia.

April 25: Morning at Garner State Park (old entrance road) and Neal's Lodge; afternoon along FM 2690 and Cooks Slough, return to Neal's for early dinner, and evening tour at Frio River bat cave.

April 26: Lost Maples State Natural Area, Paul & Betty Rae Davis' "cabin", Utopia City Park & vicinity, and dinner at The Laurel Tree. 

April 27: Morning along Hwy 55, Chalk Bluff Park, and return to Cooks Slough; afternoon drive to San Antonio for return flights home (well, I'm told a few of you made it home before midnight!). 


- HI = seen/heard on High Island portion of MBWeek, April 19 – April 24 (morning)

- HC = seen/heard on Hill country portion of MBWeek, April 24 (afternoon) – April 27  

- boldfaced species = "non-Minnesota" species (i.e., absent/accidental/casual on MN list) 

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck      HI,HC

Fulvous Whistling-Duck      HI (especially at Anahuac NWR)

Wood Duck      HI

Gadwall      HI

American Wigeon      HI

Mottled Duck      HI

Blue-winged Teal      HI,HC

Cinnamon Teal      HI (a write-in at Anahuac)

Northern Shoveler      HI

Green-winged Teal      HI

Northern Bobwhite      HI,HC (Bill's #1 target species)

Wild Turkey      HC

Pied-billed Grebe      HI,HC       

Neotropic Cormorant      HI,HC (incl nests at High Island)   

Double-crested Cormorant      HI   

American White Pelican      HI

Brown Pelican      HI

American Bittern      HI (Anahuac)

Least Bittern      HI (or was this Bill's #1 target?)

Great Blue Heron      HI,HC

Great Egret      HI     

Snowy Egret      HI

Little Blue Heron      HI

Tricolored Heron      HI

Reddish Egret      HI

Cattle Egret      HI   

Green Heron      HI,HC

Black-crowned Night-Heron      HI,HC

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron      HI

White Ibis      HI

White-faced Ibis      HI,HC

Roseate Spoonbill      HI (also nesting at High Island)

Black Vulture      HI,HC

Turkey Vulture      HI,HC

Osprey      HI,HC

Swallow-tailed Kite      HI (3 at the "usual spot" along Hwy 90!)

Mississippi Kite      HI (best sighting at Liberty)

Northern Harrier      HI

Cooper’s Hawk      HC   

Harris’s Hawk      HC

Red-shouldered Hawk      HC

Broad-winged Hawk      HI,HC

Swainson’s Hawk      HI,HC 

White-tailed Hawk      HI (thanks to a tip from VENT) 

Zone-tailed Hawk      HC (seen twice)

Red-tailed Hawk      HI,HC

Clapper Rail      HI (Yacht Basin Rd)

King Rail      HI (standing on the lawn at Anahuac; also babies near Nome!)

Sora      HI

Purple Gallinule      HI (Anahuac)

Common Gallinule      HI

American Coot      HI,HC

Black-necked Stilt      HI

American Avocet      HI

American Oystercatcher      HI

Black-bellied Plover      HI

American Golden-Plover      HI

Snowy Plover      HI (Sea Rim State Park pair)

Wilson's Plover      HI

Semipalmated Plover      HI

Piping Plover      HI

Killdeer      HI,HC

Spotted Sandpiper      HI,HC

Solitary Sandpiper      HI

Greater Yellowlegs      HI

Willet      HI

Lesser Yellowlegs      HI

Upland Sandpiper      HI (pastures near Nome)

Whimbrel      HI

Hudsonian Godwit      HI (at the only flooded rice field)

Marbled Godwit      HI

Ruddy Turnstone      HI

Red Knot      HI (1 at Bolivar mostly in winter plumage)

Ruff      HI (difficult but diagnostic view at Anahuac)

Stilt Sandpiper      HI

Sanderling      HI

Dunlin      HI

Baird's Sandpiper      HI (Sea Rim)

Least Sandpiper      HI

White-rumped Sandpiper      HI (briefly at Sea Rim)

Pectoral Sandpiper      HI

Semipalmated Sandpiper      HI

Western Sandpiper      HI

Short-billed Dowitcher      HI

Long-billed Dowitcher      HI

Wilson’s Phalarope      HI (= 34 shorebird species!)

Bonaparte's Gull      HI

Laughing Gull      HI

Franklin's Gull      HC (1 at Cooks Slough)

Ring-billed Gull      HI

Herring Gull      HI

Glaucous Gull      HI (unexpected fly-by at Bolivar)

Least Tern      HI

Gull-billed Tern      HI

Black Tern      HI

Common Tern      HI

Forster's Tern      HI

Royal Tern      HI (but no Caspians)

Sandwich Tern      HI 

Black Skimmer      HI

Rock Pigeon      HI,HC

Eurasian Collared-Dove      HI

White-winged Dove      HI,HC

Mourning Dove      HI,HC

Inca Dove      HI,HC

Common Ground-Dove      HC

Yellow-billed Cuckoo      HI,HC

Greater Roadrunner      HC

Eastern Screech-Owl      HI (heard-only at Jones Park)

Great Horned Owl      HC (2 babies at Lost Maples)

Lesser Nighthawk      HC (fly-bys near Uvalde)

Common Nighthawk      HI

Common Poorwill      HC (heard well near the bat cave)

Chuck-will's-widow      HC (ditto)

Chimney Swift      HI,HC

Ruby-throated Hummingbird      HI,HC

Black-chinned Hummingbird      HC


Belted Kingfisher      HI

Green Kingfisher      HC (1 seen by Bill at Cooks Slough)

Red-headed Woodpecker      HI

Golden-fronted Woodpecker      HI,HC (incl 1 out-of-range at Sabine Woods)

Red-bellied Woodpecker      HI

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker      HI

Ladder-backed Woodpecker      HC

Downy Woodpecker      HI

Red-cockaded Woodpecker      HI (cooperative staked-out pair)

Northern Flicker      HI (heard-only)

Pileated Woodpecker      HI

Crested Caracara      HI,HC

American Kestrel      HI   

Merlin      HI (1 at Anahuac)

Eastern Wood-Pewee      HI,HC

Acadian Flycatcher      HI,HC

Least Flycatcher      HI

Black Phoebe      HC (Neal's Lodge)     

Eastern Phoebe      HC     

Vermilion Flycatcher      HC

Ash-throated Flycatcher      HC (imitating Brown-cresteds?)     

Great Crested Flycatcher      HI

Brown-crested Flycatcher      HC (best at Cook's Slough)

Couch's Kingbird      HC (incl 1 in the Quality Inn parking lot)

Western Kingbird      HC         

Eastern Kingbird      HI

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher      HI,HC (Bernice's favorite?)

Loggerhead Shrike      HI

White-eyed Vireo      HI,HC

Bell’s Vireo      HC

Black-capped Vireo      HC (best at Neal's; plus 5 singing males on the Davis' land)

Yellow-throated Vireo      HI,HC

Blue-headed Vireo      HI,HC

Hutton’s Vireo      HC (incl a nest at Lost Maples)

Warbling Vireo      HI

Philadelphia Vireo      HI

Red-eyed Vireo      HI,HC

Blue Jay      HI,HC

Western Scrub-Jay      HC

American Crow      HI,HC

Fish Crow      HI (thanks to George at the sewage treatment plant)

Common Raven      HC

Purple Martin      HI,HC

Tree Swallow      HI

Northern Rough-winged Swallow      HI,HC

Bank Swallow      HI

Cliff Swallow      HI,HC   

Cave Swallow      HC (best at the bat cave)

Barn Swallow      HI,HC

Carolina Chickadee      HI,HC

Tufted Titmouse      HI

Black-crested Titmouse      HC

Verdin      HC (best at Cooks Slough)

White-breasted Nuthatch      HI (heard-only)

Brown-headed Nuthatch      HI (at the Red-cockaded/Bachman's spot)

Canyon Wren      HC (heard-only)

House Wren      HC

Sedge Wren      HI (several heard-only)

Marsh Wren      HI

Carolina Wren      HI,HC

Bewick's Wren      HC

Cactus Wren      HC

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher      HI,HC   

Ruby-crowned Kinglet      HI

Eastern Bluebird      HI,HC

Veery      HI

Gray-cheeked Thrush      HI

Swainson's Thrush      HI

Wood Thrush      HI   

Gray Catbird      HI

Brown Thrasher      HI

Curve-billed Thrasher      HC (along Hwy 55)     

Northern Mockingbird      HI,HC

European Starling      HI,HC

Cedar Waxwing      HI,HC

Ovenbird      HI

Worm-eating Warbler      HI (finally seen by Pete at High Island)

Louisiana Waterthrush      HI,HC

Northern Waterthrush      HI

Golden-winged Warbler      HI

Blue-winged Warbler      HI (only seen once by a few at Sabine Woods)

Black-and-white Warbler      HI,HC

Prothonotary Warbler      HI

Swainson's Warbler      HI (best at Martin Dies State Park)

Tennessee Warbler      HI,HC

Orange-crowned Warbler      HC (1 lingering at Neal's)

Nashville Warbler      HI,HC

Kentucky Warbler      HI

Common Yellowthroat      HI   

Hooded Warbler      HI

American Redstart      HI

Cerulean Warbler      HI

Northern Parula      HI,HC

Magnolia Warbler      HI

Bay-breasted Warbler      HI (1 at Sabine Woods)

Blackburnian Warbler      HI

Yellow Warbler      HI,HC

Chestnut-sided Warbler      HI

Blackpoll Warbler      HI

Palm Warbler      HI (1 lingering at Sabine Woods)

Pine Warbler      HI

Yellow-rumped Warbler      HI

Yellow-throated Warbler      HI,HC

Prairie Warbler      HI (Gore Store Rd only)

Golden-cheeked Warbler      HC (especially at Garner and at the Davis') 

Black-throated Green Warbler      HI

Rufous-capped Warbler      HC (species #269 at Chalk Bluff Park)

Canada Warbler      HI

Wilson's Warbler      HI

Yellow-breasted Chat      HI,HC (= 35 warbler species!)

Olive Sparrow      HC (best at Neal's)

Spotted Towhee      HC

Eastern Towhee      HI (heard-only)

Rufous-crowned Sparrow      HC (Lost Maples)         

Cassin’s Sparrow      HC

Bachman's Sparrow      HI (singing in the shadows of the Red-cockaded pines) 

Chipping Sparrow      HC     

Clay-colored Sparrow      HC

Field Sparrow      HC (heard-only)

Lark Sparrow      HC

Black-throated Sparrow      HC (along Hwy 55)

Savannah Sparrow      HI

Grasshopper Sparrow      HC

Seaside Sparrow      HI (close views on Tuna Rd)

Lincoln's Sparrow      HC

Swamp Sparrow      HI,HC

White-throated Sparrow      HI

White-crowned Sparrow      HI,HC

Summer Tanager      HI,HC     

Scarlet Tanager      HI

Northern Cardinal      HI,HC

Pyrrhuloxia      HC (also along Hwy 55)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak      HI

Blue Grosbeak      HI,HC

Indigo Bunting      HI,HC

Painted Bunting      HI,HC

Dickcissel      HI,HC

Red-winged Blackbird      HI,HC   

Eastern Meadowlark      HI

Common Grackle      HI (where was Jeff?)

Boat-tailed Grackle      HI

Great-tailed Grackle      HI,HC       

Bronzed Cowbird      HI,HC

Brown-headed Cowbird      HI,HC         

Orchard Oriole      HI,HC     

Hooded Oriole      HC (chasing the kingbird at Quality Inn)

Bullock's Oriole      HC (1 elusive bird at Cook's Slough)

Baltimore Oriole      HI

Scott’s Oriole      HC (Lost Maples)

House Finch      HC

Lesser Goldfinch      HC

House Sparrow      HI,HC

*          *          *


April 23 - May 1, 2016

"There are no good snakes or bad snakes. A snake is just a snake.”

                                                 –Ranger Amy, Martin Dies State Park, April 24, 2016

So, I wonder if you could say the same thing about birding tours. Neither good nor bad. A tour is just a tour. I’ll have to think about that….

I suppose there were some things that didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, but offhand I can only think of a couple, and I doubt that “bad” is the way to describe them. The bland weather during our days in the woods at High Island/Sabine Woods failed to provide many migrant passerines, and I think we had only 17 warblers there. And the 5-6 Black-capped Vireos we heard in the Hill Country were frustrating and elusive, but unfortunately this is the norm when a couple of those in a group never manage to get a clear view of this most secretive species.

But that was about it. One might be tempted at first to think of our final species total of 249 as disappointing compared to the 269 on the 2014 MBW, but it was still a decent number and more than the 238 we had in 2012. And while migrant warblers were scarce at High Island, we did eventually manage a total of 28 species in all – though less than the amazing total of 35 in 2014, this was only a few shy of our 31 species in 2012. As for shorebirds, we came up with a respectable total of 31 species: a few less than in 2014 (34), but a couple more than in 2012 (29).

As might be expected, the first five days of this MBWeek in the High Island region (from Jesse Jones near IAH to Edith Moore Sanctuary in Houston) had the most birds: 201 species, while the last three days in the Hill Country (from our arrival in Uvalde to the SAT airport) listed 110 species with far fewer water birds available for us to see. Note that 139 of the birds on our list were only found on the High Island portion, while 48 were only in the Hill Country portion.

With so many birds on our list, there was certainly a long list of highlights. Dawn on our first morning in the Piney Woods featured Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and some uncharacteristically elusive Bachman’s Sparrows, and later that day at Martin Dies State Park and elsewhere in the Big Thicket we found Swainson’s Warblers surprisingly easy to see.

The next day at High Island may not have turned up many warblers, but the rookery at Smith Oaks was most entertaining with its nesting spoonbills, egrets, and cormorants, along with our first Purple Gallinule. The nearby Bolivar Peninsula provided us with lots of shorebirds (especially Wilson’s, Snowy, and banded Piping plovers), along with fuzzy black Clapper Rail chicks, and both Seaside and Nelson’s sparrows on Tuna Road. And at least three invisible Black Rails called clearly by day from the marshes at Anahuac NWR, while elsewhere in and around the refuge both whistling-ducks and King Rails were seen.  

Our drive west to the Hill Country was highlighted by a stop at Liberty Municipal Park where at least three Mississippi Kites appeared close at hand just as we were about to leave the park, including a copulating pair and the male bringing sticks to its nest. Meanwhile, our only Swallow-tailed Kite of the trip happened by as well.

Our first Hill Country day featured many memorable birds: great looks at Golden-cheeked Warblers plus Hutton’s Vireos at Garner State Park; our first uncooperative Black-capped Vireo, more singing Golden-cheeked Warblers, a surprising White-tipped Dove, and several other species of note at Lost Maples; an unexpected Tropical Parula in full song interrupting our checklist session outside Neal’s Dining Room; and the usual spectacular flight that evening at the Frio Bat Cave – not only were there countless numbers of bats, but Cave Swallows circled above the cave, and we were serenaded by Chuck-will’s-widows and Common Poorwills after dark.  

The next day began at Cook’s Slough where we found Olive Sparrow, Green Kingfisher, and other noteworthy species; then a drive up Highway 55 out of Uvalde provided an impressive array of birds characteristic of arid grasslands (including skylarking Cassin’s Sparrows); a lunch stop at Paul and Betty Rae Davis’ private ranch followed (with still more vocal and invisible vireos), and the Davises’ generous hospitality extended even farther as we (along with the VENT group) were all their dinner guests at the unique and elegant Laurel Tree Restaurant.

….No, come to think of it, Ranger Amy’s philosophical view on reptiles doesn’t really apply to birding tours. This tour was a MBWeek and, as usual, it was a good one!


April 23 – Meet at IAH, with time for most at nearby Jesse Jones Park, then drive to Lufkin for the night; dinner at Ralph & Kacoo’s.

April 24 – Pre-dawn departure for Piney-Woods specialties along Boykin Springs Rd, Martin Dies State Park, Gore Store Rd, Big Thicket Visitors Center, and sod farm N of Nome; dinner at Al-T’s and first of 4 nights in Winnie.  

April 25 – French Rd rice paddies, Boy Scout Woods & Smith Oaks in High Island, and Bolivar Peninsula; dinner at Steve’s Landing.

April 26 – Anahuac NWR, Sabine Woods, and Tyrell Park; dinner at Tony’s Barbecue.

April 27 – FM 1986 & Anahuac NWR entrance, return to High Island and Bolivar Peninsula; dinner at Al-T’s.

April 28 – Liberty Municipal Park and Edith Moore Sanctuary; afternoon drive to Uvalde for the first of 3 nights; dinner at Herradero de Jalisco.

April 29 – Garner State Park, Lost Maples State Natural Area, birding & dinner at Neal’s Dining Room, and Frio Bat Cave.

April 30 – Cook’s Slough, Highway 55, and Paul & Betty Rae Davis’ property; dinner at Laurel Tree (as guests of Paul & Betty Rae).

May 1 – Drive to SAT for return flights home, plus visits to Frank Madla Park (more Golden-cheeked Warblers) and Crownridge Canyon with John, Brian, and Jeff who had later departures.

Bird List

• HI = High Island & vicinity (April 23-morning of April 28; incl Piney Woods/Big Thicket region)

• HC = Hill Country (late afternoon of April 2 -May 1)

  (species not annotated HI or HC were seen on both portions of MBWeek)

boldfaced species = “non-Minnesota” birds (i.e., absent, Accidental, or Casual in MN)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Fulvous Whistling-Duck     HI

Wood Duck     HI

Mottled Duck     HI

Blue-winged Teal

Northern Bobwhite

Wild Turkey

Pied-billed Grebe     HI       

Neotropic Cormorant     HI   

Double-crested Cormorant     HI  

Anhinga     HI

American White Pelican

Brown Pelican     HI

American Bittern     HI

Least Bittern     HI

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret     HI     

Snowy Egret     HI

Little Blue Heron     HI

Tricolored Heron     HI

Reddish Egret     HI

Cattle Egret     HI  

Green Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron     HI

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron     HI

White Ibis     HI

Glossy Ibis     HI

White-faced Ibis     HI

Roseate Spoonbill     HI

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Osprey     HI

Swallow-tailed Kite     HI

White-tailed Kite     HI

Mississippi Kite     HI

Bald Eagle     HI

Northern Harrier     HI

Cooper’s Hawk     HI  

Harris’s Hawk     HC

White-tailed Hawk     HI

Red-shouldered Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Black Rail     HI (heard-only)

Clapper Rail     HI

King Rail     HI

Sora     HI (heard-only)

Purple Gallinule     HI

Common Gallinule     HI

American Coot

Black-necked Stilt     HI

American Avocet     HI

American Oystercatcher     HI

Black-bellied Plover     HI

American Golden-Plover     HI

Snowy Plover     HI

Wilson's Plover     HI

Semipalmated Plover     HI

Piping Plover     HI

Killdeer     HI

Spotted Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper     HI

Greater Yellowlegs     HI

Willet     HI

Lesser Yellowlegs     HI

Upland Sandpiper     HI

Whimbrel     HI

Long-billed Curlew     HI

Marbled Godwit     HI

Ruddy Turnstone     HI

Stilt Sandpiper     HI

Sanderling     HI

Dunlin     HI

Least Sandpiper     HI

White-rumped Sandpiper     HI

Pectoral Sandpiper     HI

Semipalmated Sandpiper     HI

Western Sandpiper     HI

Short-billed Dowitcher     HI

Long-billed Dowitcher     HI

Wilson’s Phalarope     HI

Laughing Gull     HI

Ring-billed Gull     HI

Herring Gull     HI

Least Tern     HI

Gull-billed Tern     HI

Caspian Tern     HI

Black Tern     HI

Common Tern     HI

Forster's Tern     HI

Royal Tern     HI

Sandwich Tern     HI

Black Skimmer     HI

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Inca Dove

White-tipped Dove     HC (heard-only)

White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove

Black-billed Cuckoo     HI

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Greater Roadrunner     HC

Great Horned Owl     HI

Common Nighthawk

Common Poorwill     HC (heard-only)

Chuck-will's-widow     HC (heard-only)

Chimney Swift

Ruby-throated Hummingbird     HI

Black-chinned Hummingbird     HC


Belted Kingfisher     HI

Green Kingfisher     HC

Red-headed Woodpecker     HI

Golden-fronted Woodpecker     HC

Red-bellied Woodpecker     HI

Ladder-backed Woodpecker     HC

Downy Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker     HI

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker     HI

Crested Caracara

Peregrine Falcon     HI

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Acadian Flycatcher

Black Phoebe     HC      

Eastern Phoebe     HC     

Vermilion Flycatcher     HC

Ash-throated Flycatcher     HC      

Great Crested Flycatcher

Brown-crested Flycatcher     HC

Couch's Kingbird     HC

Western Kingbird       

Eastern Kingbird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Loggerhead Shrike     HI

White-eyed Vireo

Bell’s Vireo     HC

Black-capped Vireo     HC

Yellow-throated Vireo

Hutton’s Vireo     HC

Warbling Vireo     HI

Philadelphia Vireo     HI

Red-eyed Vireo

Green Jay     HC

Blue Jay     HI

Western Scrub-Jay     HC

American Crow

Fish Crow     HI

Common Raven     HC

Horned Lark     HI

Purple Martin

Tree Swallow     HI

N. Rough-winged Swallow     HI

Cliff Swallow  

Cave Swallow     HC

Barn Swallow

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse     HI

Black-crested Titmouse     HC

Verdin     HC

Brown-headed Nuthatch     HI

Canyon Wren     HC

House Wren     HC (heard-only)

Sedge Wren     HI (heard-only)

Marsh Wren     HI

Carolina Wren

Bewick's Wren     HC

Cactus Wren     HC

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher     HC  

Eastern Bluebird     HI

Veery     HI

Gray-cheeked Thrush     HI

Swainson's Thrush     HI

Wood Thrush     HI  

American Robin     HI

Gray Catbird     HI

Curve-billed Thrasher     HC

Brown Thrasher     HI

Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing

Ovenbird     HI

Louisiana Waterthrush     HC

Northern Waterthrush     HI

Blue-winged Warbler     HI

Black-and-white Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler     HI

Swainson's Warbler     HI

Tennessee Warbler     HI

Nashville Warbler     HC

Kentucky Warbler     HI

Common Yellowthroat     HI  

Hooded Warbler     HI

American Redstart     HI

Northern Parula     HI

Tropical Parula     HC

Magnolia Warbler     HI

Bay-breasted Warbler     HI

Blackburnian Warbler     HI

Yellow Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler     HI

Blackpoll Warbler     HI

Pine Warbler     HI

Yellow-rumped Warbler     HC

Yellow-throated Warbler

Prairie Warbler     HI

Golden-cheeked Warbler     HC

Black-throated Green Warbler     HI

Yellow-breasted Chat

Olive Sparrow     HC

Rufous-crowned Sparrow     HC    

Canyon Towhee     HC     

Cassin’s Sparrow     HC

Bachman's Sparrow     HI

Chipping Sparrow     HC    

Clay-colored Sparrow     HC

Field Sparrow     HC (heard-only)

Lark Sparrow     HC

Black-throated Sparrow     HC

Savannah Sparrow     HI

Grasshopper Sparrow     HC

Nelson's Sparrow     HI

Seaside Sparrow     HI

Lincoln's Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow     HI

White-crowned Sparrow     HC

Summer Tanager    

Scarlet Tanager     HI

Western Tanager     HI

Northern Cardinal

Rose-breasted Grosbeak     HI

Blue Grosbeak

Indigo Bunting

Painted Bunting


Red-winged Blackbird  

Eastern Meadowlark     HI

Common Grackle     HI

Boat-tailed Grackle     HI

Great-tailed Grackle     

Bronzed Cowbird     HC

Brown-headed Cowbird       

Orchard Oriole    

Baltimore Oriole     HI

Scott’s Oriole     HC

House Finch

American Goldfinch     HI

House Sparrow


A partial list of signs (compiled by Mary):

Goody Goody Liquor Store

Joy Juice Liquor Store

Best Coffee on the Interstate (on back of gasoline truck)

Broken Life Repair Shop (Baptist Church)

Casters & Blasters Ministry to Outdoorsmen

Cowboys for Christ

Red Neck Snack Shack

Redneck Riviera RV Park

Dust Bunnies Corner

Buy Shrimp Here. I Need Money.

Pyroshack Fireworks

Happy Chaps Exxon

Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Anahuac NWR, 2014  (KRE photo)

Roseate Spoonbill, Smith Oaks, 2016  (KRE photo)

Mississippi Kite, Liberty Municipal Park, 2016  (KRE photo)

King Rail, Anahuac NWR, 2014  (KRE photo)

Clapper Rail chicks, Bolivar Peninsula, 2016

Zone-tailed Hawk, Chalk Bluff Park, 2014

Purple Gallinule, Smith Oaks, 2016

Least Tern, Bolivar Peninsula, 2014  (KRE photo)

Wilson's Plover, Sea Rim State Park, 2014  (Roy Zimmerman photo)

American Oystercatcher, Bolivar Peninsula, 2012  (KRE photo)

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Jasper CR 54, 2014

Black-capped Vireo, Neal's Lodge, 2014

Brown-headed Nuthatch, Boykin Springs Rd, 2016

Swainson's Warbler, Taylor’s Bayou, 2012  (KRE photo)

Tropical Parula, Neal’s Lodge, 2012  (KRE photo)

Golden-cheeked Warbler, Davis' ranch, 2014  (Roy Zimmerman photo)

Rufous-capped Warbler, Chalk Bluff Park, 2014

Seaside Sparrow, Bolivar Peninsula, 2014  (Roy Zimmerman photo)

Painted Bunting, 2016

*          *          *


(photos by Jeff Stephenson unless otherwise noted)

Black-chinned Hummingbird, 2023

Limpkin, Sheldon Lake State Park, 2023

leucistic Lesser Yellowlegs, 2023

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 2023

Long-billed Thrasher, Cook's Slough, 2023

Scaly-breasted Munia, Houston, 2023

Also see the PHOTO GALLERY

following the summaries of the 2023, 2016, and 2014 MBWeeks



April 18 - 26, 2023

This MBWeek has always been one of my favorites – typically featuring 30 or so warbler species plus other passerines migrating through High Island and elsewhere along the Texas Gulf Coast...about the same number of shorebirds at nearby sod farms, rice fields, and Bolivar Flats...and the nesting specialties of the Big Thicket region (especially Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown- headed Nuthatch, Bachman’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Warbler) and of the Hill Country (Black-capped Vireo, Golden-cheeked Warbler). What’s not to like about a trip list approaching – or even exceeding – 250 species in just over a week?

And this year’s High Island & Hill Country trip was no exception. So, it seems odd to describe a MBWeek as a bit below average when it lists 31 shorebirds, 29 warblers, and an overall total of 243 species. But that could be one way to characterize this April trip, our fourth HI & HC MBWeek. The first time we tried this was in 2012 when our inaugural species total was 238, we then somehow found no fewer than 269 species (!) in 2014, and we came up with 249 in 2016. With this year’s total, that works out to an average of 250, a lofty and impressive number that was a bit beyond our reach this time.

But given the less-than-cooperative weather, it wasn’t too surprising that our numbers were off a little. The conditions were decidedly bland and generally not conducive to grounding migrants at High Island and vicinity, since there was rain only once on one night, and no cold fronts to speak of to concentrate birds. Then on the days when we were in search of nesting birds (e.g., in the Thicket, Houston, and the Hill Country), many were not singing and thus harder to find due to mostly cool and overcast weather.

As always, there were a lot more species in the High Island region (HI) at the beginning of the MBWeek than during the last few days in the Hill Country (HC). As the HI and HC annotations show in the list below, this disparity was mostly due to the potential for so many more water birds and migrant passerines being present at HI. Note that all 31 of our shorebirds were found there, while only 2 of these were seen in HC, and the scores on gulls/terns (11 in HI, 0 in HC) and waders (14 HI vs 2 HC) were  similarly lopsided.

And, as expected, there was a big difference in the warbler totals: 29 in HI compared to only 10 in HC (including Golden-cheeked, however). But at least the Hill Country did better on sparrows than High Island: 11 HC species vs just 4 in HI (though these included Bachman’s and Seaside). And the Hill Country scenery has much more to offer than High Island and vicinity. (About the only memorable scenery in the HI region came as we drove around and under that labyrinth of petroleum pipelines in Port Arthur!)    

With well over a couple hundred birds to choose from, where do you start to single out the highlights? Perhaps some would say the number one highlight was non-avian: i.e., the literally millions of bats emerging from their Frio River cave at dusk! But I suppose Jeff and I might have to choose our time in Houston when we each added 3 new birds to our Texas lists on that single day: 4 Limpkins at Sheldon Lake (hardly any TX records until the sudden irruption of them this year and last), and those now “countable” munias and bulbuls on the campus of Rice University. (Our thanks to Jodi Henricks for providing the coordinates to the exact site, and to local expert Cin-ty Lee who chanced to be there as we arrived to show us around.)

Thanks, of course, is also due to Paul & Betty Rae Davis who again generously provided access to their private ranch property, even though they were unable to be with us this time. This always provides MBWers (and VENT clients) with some very productive birding all to ourselves. We’ll be sure to stop by again the next time we do this MBWeek – when 270 species should be no problem.


April 18 – Arrival at IAH @10:00 am; drive to Lufkin via Jesse Jones Park and Big Sandy Unit of Big Thicket (aka Thick Bigot); night in Lufkin.

April 19 – All morning in Boykin Springs Recr Area & vicinity, followed by lunch at Elijah’s in Jasper (!); afternoon at Martin Dies State Park, Kirby Trail, and Nome sod farms en route to Winnie; first of 4 nights in Winnie.

April 20 –  High Island @Boy Scout Woods, and Bolivar Peninsula (incl Rollover Pass, Yacht Basin & Tuna roads, Bolivar Flats).

April 21 – Tyrrell Park & Cattail Marsh (better than Anahuac this year), Texas Point NWR/Sabine Pass/Sabine Woods, and High Island @Smith Oaks.

April 22 – Fairview & Pear Orchard roads, Anahuac NWR, and return to High Island.

April 23 – Drive to San Antonio via Nome area pastures/sod farms, Liberty area, Sheldon Lake State Park, and Houston (incl. the Woodland & Stude parks - Houston Heights corridor, and Rice University); night in San Antonio.

April 24 – Drive to Leakey via Eisenhower Park, Crownridge Canyon, US 90 rest area, Cook’s Slough, and Hwy 55 & FM 334; first of 2 nights in Leakey.

April 25 – Utopia City Park, the Davis’ driveway & ranch house, Lost Maples State Natural Area, and evening at Frio Bat Cave.

April 26 – Return to San Antonio for flights home via old Garner State Park entrance and Neal’s Lodge.

Bird List

boldfaced species = “non-Minnesota” birds (Casual, Accidental, or Casual in MN)

• HI = High Island region, April 18 - 23: incl Big Thicket area, Bolivar Peninsula, Anahuac NWR area, Tyrrell Park/Cattail Marsh, Sabine Woods area, Nome/Liberty area, Houston

• HC = Hill Country region, April 24 - 26: incl San Antonio, Cook’s Slough/Uvalde, Hwy 55/FM 334

  (species not annotated HI or HC were found in both areas)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck        HI

Fulvous Whistling-Duck        HI       

Wood Duck       

Blue-winged Teal

Northern Shoveler

Mottled Duck        HI

Northern Pintail        HI

Ruddy Duck        HI

Northern Bobwhite        HC        

Wild Turkey        HC    

Pied-billed Grebe

Rock Pigeon     

Eurasian Collared-Dove

White-tipped Dove        HC

White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove

Greater Roadrunner        HC

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  

Common Nighthawk        HI  

Chuck-will’s-widow        HC

Chimney Swift

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird        HC

King Rail        HI

Clapper Rail        HI      

Virginia Rail        HI

Sora        HI

Common Gallinule        HI  

American Coot

Purple Gallinule        HI

Limpkin        HI

Black-necked Stilt        HI  

American Avocet        HI

American Oystercatcher        HI  

Black-bellied Plover        HI    

American Golden-Plover        HI


Semipalmated Plover        HI

Piping Plover        HI

Wilson’s Plover        HI

Snowy Plover        HI

Upland Sandpiper        HI

Whimbrel        HI         

Hudsonian Godwit        HI

Marbled Godwit        HI

Ruddy Turnstone        HI

Red Knot        HI

Stilt Sandpiper        HI

Sanderling        HI

Dunlin        HI

Least Sandpiper        HI

White-rumped Sandpiper        HI

Pectoral Sandpiper        HI

Semipalmated Sandpiper        HI

Western Sandpiper        HI

Short-billed Dowitcher        HI

Long-billed Dowitcher        HI

Spotted Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper        HI

Lesser Yellowlegs        HI

Willet        HI

Greater Yellowlegs        HI

Laughing Gull        HI

Ring-billed Gull        HI

Herring Gull        HI    

Least Tern        HI

Gull-billed Tern        HI

Black Tern        HI

Common Tern        HI

Forster's Tern        HI

Royal Tern        HI

Sandwich Tern        HI

Black Skimmer        HI

Anhinga        HI

Double-crested Cormorant        HI     

Neotropic Cormorant

American White Pelican        HI

Brown Pelican        HI

American Bittern        HI

Least Bittern        HI

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret        HI

Snowy Egret        HI

Little Blue Heron        HI  

Tricolored Heron        HI

Reddish Egret        HI  

Cattle Egret

Green Heron        HI

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron        HI

White Ibis        HI  

White-faced Ibis        HI

Roseate Spoonbill        HI  

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Osprey        HI

Swallow-tailed Kite        HI    

Northern Harrier

Cooper's Hawk

Bald Eagle        HI

Mississippi Kite        HI

Harris's Hawk        HC    

Red-shouldered Hawk        HI

Zone-tailed Hawk        HC       

Red-tailed Hawk  

Eastern Screech-Owl

Barred Owl        HI  

Belted Kingfisher

Red-headed Woodpecker         HI  

Golden-fronted Woodpecker        HC

Red-bellied Woodpecker         HI

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker        HI

Downy Woodpecker        HI  

Ladder-backed Woodpecker        HC

Red-cockaded Woodpecker        HI

Pileated Woodpecker        HI  

Crested Caracara

American Kestrel

Peregrine Falcon        HI

Ash-throated Flycatcher        HC

Great Crested Flycatcher

Western Kingbird        HC

Eastern Kingbird        HI

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher        HC

Eastern Wood-Pewee        HI

Acadian Flycatcher        HI

Eastern Phoebe        HC

Vermilion Flycatcher        HC

Black-capped Vireo        HC

White-eyed Vireo

Bell's Vireo        HC

Hutton's Vireo        HC

Yellow-throated Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo        HC

Red-eyed Vireo

Loggerhead Shrike

Blue Jay

American Crow

Fish Crow        HI

Common Raven        HC

Verdin        HC

Carolina Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse        HI

Black-crested Titmouse        HC

Bank Swallow        HI

Tree Swallow        HI

Northern Rough-winged Swallow        HI  

Purple Martin

Barn Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Cave Swallow        HC

Red-vented Bulbul        HI     

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Cedar Waxwing

Brown-headed Nuthatch        HI

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Canyon Wren        HC

Bewick's Wren        HC  

Carolina Wren

House Wren

Sedge Wren        HI  

Marsh Wren        HI  

Gray Catbird        HI     

Brown Thrasher        HI

Long-billed Thrasher        HC

Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

Eastern Bluebird

Veery        HI

Swainson's Thrush        HI

Hermit Thrush        HC

Wood Thrush        HI       

American Robin

Scaly-breasted Munia        HI

House Sparrow    

House Finch         

Lesser Goldfinch        HC

Cassin's Sparrow        HC

Bachman's Sparrow        HI  

Grasshopper Sparrow        HC

Olive Sparrow        HC

Lark Sparrow        HC

Chipping Sparrow        HC

Clay-colored Sparrow        HC

Field Sparrow        HC

White-crowned Sparrow        HC

Seaside Sparrow        HI

Savannah Sparrow        HI

Lincoln's Sparrow  

Rufous-crowned Sparrow        HC

Spotted Towhee        HC

Yellow-breasted Chat     

Yellow-headed Blackbird        HI  

Eastern Meadowlark

Orchard Oriole

Hooded Oriole        HC

Bullock's Oriole        HC

Baltimore Oriole        HI

Scott's Oriole        HC     

Red-winged Blackbird     

Bronzed Cowbird        HI

Brown-headed Cowbird

Common Grackle    

Boat-tailed Grackle        HI            

Great-tailed Grackle

Worm-eating Warbler        HI

Louisiana Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush        HI

Blue-winged Warbler        HI

Black-and-white Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler        HI

Swainson’s Warbler        HI

Tennessee Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler        HC  

Nashville Warbler        HC

Kentucky Warbler        HI  

Common Yellowthroat        HI

Hooded Warbler        HI  

American Redstart        HI     

Cerulean Warbler        HI     

Northern Parula  

Magnolia Warbler        HI

Bay-breasted Warbler        HI    

Blackburnian Warbler         HI    

Yellow Warbler    

Chestnut-sided Warbler        HI    

Black-throated Blue Warbler        HI

Pine Warbler        HI

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler    

Prairie Warbler        HI  

Golden-cheeked Warbler        HC

Black-throated Green Warbler         HI    

Canada Warbler        HI

Summer Tanager

Scarlet Tanager        HI

Northern Cardinal


Rose-breasted Grosbeak        HI

Blue Grosbeak

Indigo Bunting

Painted Bunting