A relaxed 14-day birdwatching and butterflying tour showcasing the best of Texas, visiting the iconic reserves of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas Hill Country, and an unforgettable boat cruise to view endangered Whooping Cranes.
Texas is one of the most exciting states in the United States for birdwatching and butterflying. From the Hill Country north of San Antonio to South Padre Island on the coast and the Rio Grande Valley in the south, this region is prized among birders and naturalists as a premier place to see birds and butterflies found nowhere else in the United States. Subtropical habitats along the lower Rio Grande showcase bird and butterfly life characteristic of northeastern Mexico. An explosion of butterfly gardens throughout the Valley, including the National Butterfly Centre, has resulted in more species of butterfly being recorded here than in any other region of the United States. Most of the world’s population of Whooping Cranes gather along a small stretch of the Texas coast to the north of the lower Rio Grande Valley. Our visit to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is a chance to see and photograph these magnificent birds at close range from a boat, and to enjoy the abundance of birds, butterflies and mammals that use the rich central Texas coastline during the winter months. Our visit to Texas Hill Country, an area that is much drier with vegetation more typical of western deserts such as junipers and cacti, introduces us to a completely different selection of birds and butterflies, including Texas’s only breeding endemic, the gorgeous Golden-cheeked Warbler.
Présente le lundi, mardi de 8h30 à 15h30 et jeudi de 8h30 à 15h00.
Présente le lundi, mardi de 8h30 à 15h30 et jeudi de 8h30 à 15h00.
Prix : 6795 euros par personne
Supplément single: 0 euros
du 25 Mar 2023 au 7 Avr 2023
Durée: 14 jours / 13 nuits
- Flights from London
- Accommodation: We stay in comfortable accommodation throughout, including three famous ‘birding inns’: Knolle Farm Ranch, The Alamo Inn and The Inn at Chachalaca Bend. All rooms have en-suite facilities, except for two bedrooms at both The Alamo Inn and Chacahalaca Bend, which share a bathroom between them. One of these rooms at each inn will be taken by your tour leaders, and the other, depending on the group size, may be allocated to our group. Single occupancy is available at a supplement, though many rooms do have two queen sized beds, making sharing a room a comfortable experience! The inns are well set up for birders and natural history enthusiasts, with easy trails, feeders and sometimes butterfly gardens too.
- Food: We have chosen to include breakfasts only on this tour; lunches and dinners will be payable locally. This means you can order according to your appetite each day, rather than taking on three course set menus with American-sized portions for every meal! We suggest budgeting around $15 per day for lunch and $35 per day for dinner; approximately $50 per person per day in total would be sensible. We will enjoy breakfast at our accommodation each morning, and eat dinner either here or a nearby restaurant in the evening. During the day, we will enjoy a mixture of local restaurants and the occasional picnic.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Day 1 Fly Austin
We depart London Heathrow a direct British Airways flight to Austin, Texas. On arrival in Austin we will transfer a short distance to a convenient hotel for the night. There is a restaurant for dinner and breakfast (though please note that dinner on the first night will be at your own leisure and expense).
Day 2 Hornsby Bend and Rockport
We begin our tour in Austin, Texas’ capital, where we will enjoy a morning becoming acquainted with the common wildlife of this diverse state. At Austin’s premier wildlife-viewing area, Hornsby Bend, nutrient-rich ponds alongside the Colorado River attract a wide diversity of migrating and resident birds and butterflies. Coyote, Spiny Softshell Turtle, and Western Diamondback Rattlesnake join White-Tailed Deer, Bobcat and a host of other wildlife. The native flower garden and plants along the shores of the ponds and river provide excellent butterfly and dragonfly viewing. This site will provide our first introduction to many common birds of the region. Our first Texas specialities could include Black-crested Titmouse, Cave Swallow, Vermillion Flycatcher, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Ringed Kingfisher and Neotropic Cormorant. Nine-banded Armadillo can be found at Hornsby Bend. Lunch will be at Barnhart Q5 Ranch, Berclair. The ranch was awarded Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Lone Star Land Stewardship Award “In Recognition of Outstanding Efforts in the Conservation and Enhancement of Wildlife Habitat in Texas” in 2004. It has over 18 miles of trails through rolling South Texas brush country. Located within the intersection of the southern and northern migratory paths, the ranch will introduce us to a number of specialities of the including Greater Roadrunner, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Crested Caracara, Green Jay, and potentially Audubon’s Oriole. White-tailed Deer, Bobwhit
Day 3 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
The Central Coast of Texas is the only place in the world for viewing the endangered Whooping Crane at this time of year. We will take a morning boat trip to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for up-close views of these special birds, along with a wide array of other species such as Roseate Spoonbill, American Oystercatcher, Mottled Duck, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Caspian, Royal and Forster’s Terns, American White and Brown Pelicans, and Black Skimmers. While on the boat we may also encounter Bottlenose Dolphin that frequent these waters. A late lunch will be enjoyed at a traditional American diner, after which we will explore Goose Island State Park. On the southern tip of the Lamar Peninsula, this park is renowned for its shorebirds and spring migrants. A huge variety of species is possible, including gulls, terns, herons, duck, and waders such as look for Grey, Wilson's, and Piping Plovers, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short- and Long-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, and Willet. We will take our time exploring the park for any migrant warblers that may have just arrived after their crossing of the Gulf of Mexico. While unpredictable and weather-dependent, warbler species at this time of year could include Worm-eating, Blue-winged, Prothonatory, Black-throated Green, and Hooded, all in their stunning breeding plumage.
Day 4 King Ranch
After breakfast we drive south via the vast King Ranch. The Lone Star State’s largest ranch is one of the best areas in Texas for birds, reptiles, butterflies and other wildlife. The patchwork of grassland, wetland, thornscrub, and live oak woodland makes the Norias Unit of the ranch a superb habitat for a variety of coveted South Texas species, and our private tour will guide us through its most productive areas. The species list is extensive, and the ranch is home to the largest known population of Ferruginous PygmyOwls in the United States. This tour will be our best chance of seeing these elusive predators, along with a chance of speciality birds such as Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Tropical Parula, grassland birds such as Sprague’s Pipit. We may encounter our first Alligators and Javelinas, and butterflies could include a large variety of Sulphurs, Skippers, Swallowtails, Common Mestra, Queen, and Monarchs. Lunch will be packed for a picnic at King Ranch. After our tour, we continue south to Brownsville and the “lower” section of the Rio Grande Valley for a 3-night stay. Our hotel, located on the beach opposite the World Birding Center on South Padre Island, makes for a great base to explore the “lower” Rio Grande Valley. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 5 – 6 “Lower” Rio Grande Valley
Our time in the “Lower” Rio Grande Valley will be focused on exploring unique habitats found in two separate regions of this portion of the Valley. The first are north of Brownsville, the City at the mouth of the Rio Grande. We will visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the largest Javelina protected area of natural habitat left in this area. More than 250,000 ducks use the refuge in November: an estimated 80% of the North American population of Redheads winter here. It is also well known for its raptors, especially the Aplomado Falcon. This medium-sized raptor was once extirpated in the United States but is making a comeback and can be seen hunting the refuge’s grasslands. Coastal prairie attracts butterflies such as Crimson and Bordered Patch, Monarch, Theona Checkerspot, Clytie Ministreak and Blue Metalmark. Other bird specialities we could see at the feeders and water features could include Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, BuffBellied Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee, Olive Sparrow, Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Common Pauraque, Groove-billed Ani, and Plain Chachalaca. American Alligators are also to be found here. We will also visit South Padre Island. This, the longest barrier island in the world, provides excellent shorebird habitat and we could see Reddish Egret, Grey, Snowy, Wilson’s, and Piping Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and Marbled Godwit as well as having a chance at rails such as Clapper, Virginia and Sora Rails. South Padre also attracts songbird migrants such as Louisiana Waterthrush and Indigo bunting. Butterflies are excellent and we will keep our eyes out for species such as Ceraunus Blue, White Peacock, Fiery and Eufala Skippers, Western Pygmy-Blue, and Southern Skipperling. For the second region we will visit sites South and West of Brownsville. Sabal Palm Sanctuary is one of only 2 remaining Sabal Palm groves in the United States and it has a variety of specialist butterflies such as Fawn-spotted and Double-dotted Skipper, Zebra Heliconian, plus Variegated and Gulf Fritillaries. Birds also find this habitat attractive, and the local residents could be complemented by wintering warblers that could include Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Wilson’s, Black-throated Gray, Yellowthroated and Common Yellowthroat. Wetland species such as Least Grebe, Solitary Sandpiper, Ringed and Green Kingfishers could also be found. Later, we’ll spend the afternoon at Resaca de la Palma State Park and World Birding Center, which boasts the largest tract of native habitat in the World Birding Center network. The tract includes mature woodlands as productive as any in the Valley, Tamaulipan thorn-scrub and mesquite thickets. The property’s dense ground-level vegetation is especially attractive to species like Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, and White-eyed Vireo, and there is a chance to see most of the Valley specialties here. We will explore the extensive system of trails that wind through the resacas (ox-bow lakes), lomas (hillocks), and forests that make up the park, making good use of the four decks that overlook the resacas. For the butterfly enthusiasts, the butterfly garden here is excellent, with over 200 species recorded, including the stunning Mexican Bluewing. Finally, with the waning light of day, our best chance of seeing hundreds of Red-crowned Parrot and Green Parakeet is as they come into their traditional roosts in Brownsville.
Day 7 – 8 “Middle” Rio Grande Valley
Next, we will move further inland to the “middle” section of the Rio Grande Valley where we will be based for the next 2 nights at The Alamo Inn Bed and Breakfast, famous among US birders and butterfliers. Some of the premier butterflying and birding destinations in the country are located Yellow-throated Warbler in this area, many of which we will visit over our days here. The days will be spent walking trails, exploring butterfly gardens, relaxing while watching animal and bird feeders, viewing heron rookeries, gazing from canopy-level hawk towers, and taking photographs from hides in places such as Estero Llano Grande State Park, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Anzalduas County Park. A particular highlight of this region is that it is home to the headquarters of both the National Butterfly and World Bird Centers. Many species of butterflies and birds have been recorded in these reserves, and some species nowhere else in North America. We will flex the itinerary to visit the most productive sites based on what has been reported recently. The list of potential butterflies and birds that could be found here is extensive, and we will be especially interested in butterflies such as Pipevine Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Great Southern White, Ceraunus Blue, Reakirt's Blue, Fatal Metalmark, Red-bordered Metalmark, Gulf Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, Theona and Vesta Crescents, Elada Checkerspots, South Texas Satyr, Texas Powdered Skipper, Laviana White-Skipper, Desert Checkered-Skipper, and Brown Longtail. Many of the valley’s special birds are common in this area: White-tipped, Common-ground and Inca Doves; all 3 kingfishers; Green Jay; Altamira Oriole; Clay-colored Thrush, and Long-billed Thrasher. These residents will be complemented by a large diversity of sparrows, wildfowl, warblers, tanagers, vireos, flycatchers and raptors. We will also visit a day-roost for an Eastern Screech-Owl. Mammals may also be seen at the various hides and feeders including Fox Squirrel, Bobcat, Javelina and Raccoon. And we will keep our eyes open for reptiles and amphibians such as the Texas Tortoise, Rio Grande Leopard Frog, Marine Toad, and the threatened Indigo Snake. Breakfast is served at our accommodation. Lunches will be at local cafes and dinner will be at local restaurants, of which there are plenty within walking distance.
Day 9 Edinburg & Knolle Farm Ranch
We will start our last morning in the valley exploring Edinburg and its vicinity. The Edinburg branch of the World Birding Center offers outstanding views of wildlife in an extensive wetland habitat, a 3.5-acre native butterfly garden, a dragonfly pond, an excellent walking trail and an interpretive center. Birds at this site include a large variety of waterfowl and other waterbirds, raptors (including Harris’s, White-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Redtailed Hawks), Green and Ringed Kingfishers, Least Grebe, American White Pelican, Lesser Goldfinch, Pyrrhuloxia, and up to 3 species of Hummingbird (including Buff-bellied, Rufous and Ruby-throated). Butterflies include Mexican Bluewing, Western Pygmy Blue, Pipevine Swallowtail, Monarch and Guava Skipper. If we are lucky, we may chance upon a Diamondback Water Snake, this being one of the few places they occur in the Valley. We must now head north towards Texas’s Hill Country. On our way we will pause for one night at Knolle Farm and Ranch. Once a large dairy farm and ranch, this historic country inn is located in gently rolling hills among hundreds of acres of ancient oaks and the Nueces River, and we’ll arrive in time for a late afternoon walk. Knolle Farm Ranch has a number of trails which lead to wetlands, Buff-bellied Hummingbird a river and small lakes. This South Texas brushland could offer views of Lark Bunting, Lark Sparrow, Green Jay, Eastern Bluebird, Vermilion and Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers, and a variety of herons, waders, geese, and ducks. Butterflies such as Bordered Patch, Gulf Fritillary, American Snout, Pipevine Swallowtail, and a variety of Skippers make the Ranch their home. Nine-banded Armadillo can also be around the ranch. Dinner and breakfast are served at this family-owned ranch, and its infinity swimming pool is a great place to relax after a day’s wildlife watching.
Day 10 Knolle Farm Ranch & Concan
After a relaxing breakfast and another walk at Knolle Farm Ranch, we drive north to the Edwards Plateau in the heart of Texas Hill Country. This is a region of extraordinary natural beauty and home to two very special endangered bird species: Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, both of which are very difficult to find. Over 140 species of butterflies have been reported in the area. We’ll be based at the rustic Neal’s Lodge for 2 nights. The lodge has many feeding stations around its grounds which are attractive to some of the stars of the Hill Country such as Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated and many other warblers, sparrows such as Clay-colored, Black-throated, Lark, White-crowned and Chipping, and many others including and various migrants. Neal’s Lodge maintains hummingbird feeders throughout the grounds. This nectar attracts numerous Black-chinned Hummingbird, a few Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and the nectar-loving Hooded Oriole.
Day 11 Kikapoo Caverns State Park and the Rio Frio Bat Cave
Our first full day in the Hill Country will take us near the dry, western edge of the Edwards Plateau. Three very different natural zones intermingle here, creating a patchwork of plant and animal life. Sprawling live oaks of the Edwards Plateau, cacti of the Chihuahuan Desert, and thorny shrubs of the South Texas plains coexist. We will explore the remote and spectacular Kickapoo Caverns State Park, with one of the highest concentrations of nesting Black-capped Vireos throughout this endangered and skulking species’ entire breeding range. Given its dryness, this spot holds a very different avifauna than other areas on the tour, with birds such as Gray Vireo, Scott’s Oriole, Cactus Wren and Bell’s Vireo joining Ash-throated Flycatcher and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. Butterflies we could see include Variegated Fritillary, Dainty Sulphur, Red Satyr, Sleepy Orange, Southern Dogface, Northern Cloudywing, American Snout, and Bordered Patch. We could encounter Nine-banded Armadillo in this area. After lunch we’ll head back to the lodge for some more birding in the grounds before heading out to Rio Frio where we’ll spend the end of the day observing one of the greatest wildlife experiences in Texas: the late afternoon emergence of 10 million or so Mexican Free-tailed Bats. As the bats head out for the night, raptors descend on them. Zone-tailed, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Swainson’s and Harris’s Hawks have all been noted feeding on the bats. The surrounding landscape is also home to Canyon and Rock Wrens. Summer Tanager
Day 12 Lost Maples State Natural Area, Kerr Wildlife Management Area
Our final full day in Texas will involve visiting two of the best areas in the Hill Country. We’ll start out at one of the Hill Country’s most beautiful birding settings, Lost Maples State Natural Area, which has a number of feeders on site. The scenic limestone hills and canyons of this wonderful area are the best place to see Goldencheeked Warbler. It is also home to Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, 5 species of vireo, Lesser Goldfinch, and several species of oriole. Later in the morning we will head out to Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Black-capped Vireo occurs within its patchy oak habitat, giving us a second chance for this hard-to-see species. Where oaks and Ashe Juniper mix is the prime breeding environment for the Golden-cheeked Warbler. We’ll also look for Field Sparrow, Carolina Chickadee, other vireos such as Yellow-throated and Hutton’s, and Yellow-breasted Chat. After we’ve had our fill, we’ll head drive south east to San Antonio. Once in San Antonio we will stay at a boutique hotel along the famous “River Walk”, the central hub of this city where opportunities abound for arts and culture, history, shopping and dining. Dinner will be in our hotel.
Day 13 San Antonio & Fly London
After a relaxing night and breakfast at our hotel in San Antonio, we will spend our last Texas morning exploring the local area and this beautiful City. Our central location is perfect for visiting the Alamo World Heritage Site (no admission fee), enjoying a little shopping, or meandering along the San Antonio River Walk. After lunch we will drive to the San Antonio International Airport in time for the flight home, where our tour concludes.
Day 14 Arrive London
We are due to arrive back in London early afternoon.
Jane was born and raised in Preston, Lancashire, and spent her childhood hiking in the Northern fells and moors with her family. Guidebooks in rucksacks, all new and interesting creatures were studied and identified. After graduating from University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, where she met her future husband, Adam Dudley (also a guide for Naturetrek), she has lived and worked in numerous countries, including Germany, United States, and India. These travels have offered fantastic opportunities for wildlife encounters and further study. During this time, Jane also developed a passion for wildlife photography, and graduated in 2012 from the New York Institute of Photography. Jane's wildlife and photography interests include butterflies, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, with a developing interest in odonata and spiders. Birds also feature highly because of her mum and husband. Since moving to California over 4 years ago, Jane has been a volunteer fieldtrip leader for the Sequoia Audubon Society, run educational courses for local organisations interested in learning more about local birds, taken part in regular bird counts, spent time butterfly monitoring for the rare and localized Bay Checkerspot, and been a regular contributor to iNaturalist. Now based in Tucson, Arizona, Jane is a keen traveller and always looking out for the next adventure.