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Help in planning a couple of Texas birding trips (please move if incorrectly placed)


Caley Thomas
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Dear sirs and madams,

I'm trying to hit the ground running hard down here in Texas, am at 67 species for January thus far, and thought I might take a weekend road trip or two to round out the month with style.  To wit, other than Padre Island National Seashore and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, what would you say are another couple of top birding spots that I could hit this time of year for additional species?  My thoughts were with Big Bend National Park and/or deep south Texas, although both are challenging to fit in a weekend.  Is the Houston area worth it?  Any other ideas around central Texas?  Please advise and thanks ahead of time for any assistance you can grant me regarding this matter.

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It seems like deep south Texas would be slightly more do-able than Big Bend National Park for me on a weekend excursion (8+/- hours to BBNP versus maybe 4-5 hours for Brownsville, Texas area).  Regardless, I'm happy to take recommendations for travel within my greater region and plenty of photos along the way if anyone desires some vicarious birding to be done on their behalf in less-frozen southern locales this time of year :-).

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Have you used eBird's 'Explore Hotspots' tool?  You can adjust it to show which spots are the most relatively active over a time period.  You can see which ones have the most species over the last three months, or the total for January for the last 10 years, etc.  You can use it to see if B'ville is more active during your trip than BBNP,  or whether you should save one of them for later in the year (hint: Brownsville during hummer migration!).

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35 minutes ago, Caley Thomas said:

@Charlie SpencerI have not done that, and it does sound like an excellent idea and resource for me - thank you!

https://ebird.org/hotspots

Enter 'Texas' in the 'Location' box at top right, and then zoom in until the pixelated squares turn into distinct hot spots.  You can use the Date tool at top center to restrict the date ranges.  Clicking each hot spot will give you a species count and an option to see the spot's detailed checklists.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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On 1/19/2021 at 11:21 AM, Caley Thomas said:

It seems like deep south Texas would be slightly more do-able than Big Bend National Park for me on a weekend excursion (8+/- hours to BBNP versus maybe 4-5 hours for Brownsville, Texas area).  Regardless, I'm happy to take recommendations for travel within my greater region and plenty of photos along the way if anyone desires some vicarious birding to be done on their behalf in less-frozen southern locales this time of year :-).

If you’re going to Brownsville, I can suggest some really good places.

1: Laguna Atascosa NWR has the most bird species ever reported of any National Wildlife Refuge (400+).

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/laguna_atascosa/
 

2: Santa Ana NWR; the “gem” of the National Wildlife Refuges. (My personal favorite)

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana/
 

3: Estero Llano Grande State Park (World Birding Center).

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/estero-llano-grande

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25 minutes ago, Caley Thomas said:

thanks @Seanbirds!  I imagine all three being on my list in the near future with pictures to share!

 

 

You’re welcome! I really do hope you can go to those places sometime. It’s really worth it! As you might have guessed, my profile picture came from Laguna Atascosa NWR. The Green Jays are really friendly there.

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@SeanbirdsI may even go this weekend, to be honest...need a green jay for my lifer list, and I'm fairly confident there would be probably a few more around I need as well.  It's a 4+/- hour trip one way for me, and given COVID, I'm sticking to day trips for the time being, but still probably worth the resulting long day I'm thinking...

 

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As others have mentioned, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is an incredible area to bird.

If you think you'll ever care about your list and seeing rare birds, you really should consider going to Choke Canyon to see the Spotted Rail.  It is the first ever live and wild Spotted Rail that has been seen in the USA.  Lots of other birds are there, too.

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18 minutes ago, Caley Thomas said:

@guy_incognito wowsers!  sounds like one heck of a rarity!  Maybe only a 2 hour drive from me as well....decisions, decisions...also, aren't rails notoriously difficult to locate / more nocturnal creatures?  Good to have options, but now I'm conflicted between them heavily, lol.

That is a really Big rarity!! Merlin says it is often elusive, but also comes out in the open sometimes. It definitely seems like a once-in-a-lifetime bird. I think it would be worth it to chase it. I would.

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Yes, Rails can be notoriously difficult to see.  Sometimes this bird shows well, but other times it may not be seen for a few hours at a time.  You would definitely need to go in with the willingness to spend a few hours if needed.  That said, hundreds (if not thousands) of birders have been able to see this bird, and have traveled from all over the country to see it.

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