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2024 field Trips

Field Trips
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The Coastal Bend of Texas is a region on the bucket list of many birders!

 

South Texas is home to many species that are found nowhere else in North America.  The jaw-dropping abundance and variety of birds found here is best demonstrated during Spring migration. 

 

Our Field Trips with this Festival have been planned to give the best opportunities to see the special endemic birds, as well as to visit those locales that harbor the greatest opportunity to experience our amazing Spring bird spectacle.  Include with that our local experts, who will guide you to their special places and you have the best of all birding trips.

Water and snacks provided on all trips!!

Remember to bring your own bug spray and sunscreen!!

Departure times are listed – plan to arrive 15 minutes early.

All field trips leave from South Texas Botanical Gardens.

Check-in tent (unless otherwise stated).

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FULL DAY TRIPS

King Ranch

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Situated at the confluence of several migratory pathways, the Ranch is a virtual highway for migrating birds in both Fall and Spring.  With 825,000 acres of varied habitat, the King Ranch is a haven for birds and birdwatchers alike.  Named as a site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, the ranch boasts a bird list of more than 370 species.

 

Vast tracts of habitat are home to a variety of South Texas specialty birds, including Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Tropical Parula, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Audubon’s Oriole, Botteri’s Sparrow, Green Jay, White-tailed Hawk, Olive Sparrow, and much more.  Over the years, the ranch has also hosted a large number of rare birds including Double-striped Thick-knee, Jabiru, Eurasion Pigeon, Masked Duck, Apolomado Falcon, and Garganey.

 

 

King Ranch Norias Division

This portion of the King Ranch, the southernmost part, has an extensive upland coastal habitat that can attract many Spring migrants.  This is the division of the ranch that has vast tracts of habitat that are home to a variety of South Texas specialty birds.  This trip will provide the best chance of seeing the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

PLEASE NOTE

Considered one of the Most Popular Field Trips - Sells Out Quickly

 

BOX LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED

MAXIMUM 18 PEOPLE PER DAY

WEDNESDAY – APRIL 24 and FRIDAY – APRIL 26

5:30 AM – 3:30 PM

$195 Per Person

Northern Areas of King Ranch

This Field Trip combines a visit to the two northern divisions of King Ranch, Santa Gertrudis and Laureles divisions. 

 

We will visit the Santa Gertrudis division first in the morning.  This area is known for its extensive areas of mesquite/huisache (acacia) brushlands and grasslands and has several freshwater reservoirs and ponds.  Some of the South Texas specialty birds that can be found here include Least Grebe, White-tipped Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Green Jay, Long-billed Thrasher, and Olive Sparrow.  May even get lucky and spot an Audubon’s Oriole.

 

The Laureles Division, the largest division of the King Ranch, will be visited after lunch.  On the west side we will explore extensive agricultural fields looking for various species of migrating shorebird, like American Golden-Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  Will also be on the lookout for resident or migrating hawks, like White-tailed Hawk or Swainson’s Hawk.  As we move east through this division we will visit where the Petronila Creek merges with the upper portions of Alazan Bay.  This area provides the of waterbirds that like the combination of freshwater and saltwater.

 

As we near the end this Trip, we will visit more grassland and brushy areas for more upland species, which could include a variety of hawks, flycatchers, and brush land birds.  

 

BOX LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED

MAXIMUM 18 PEOPLE PER DAY

THURSDAY – APRIL 25 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27

6:30 AM – 3:30 PM

$135 Per Person

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BARNHART Q5 RANCH
& NATURE RETREAT

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Family owned and operated, this ranch has been designated with the Lone Star Land Steward Award in recognition of its wildlife and land conservation efforts.  Situated within the Tamaulipan scrub brush ecosystem of South Texas, the land is rich in shady old oak trees, lots of thorny brush, wondrous cactus, and fields of wildflowers and grasses.  The ranch management philosophy is to conserve our natural habitat for the benefit of wildlife and livestock.  Cattle are one way they fund the ranch, guest housing is another, birding, and photography yet another.  

 

Twice annually bird populations ebb and flow during the Spring and Fall migrations, while birders and photographers flock to the ranch.  Seed and nectar feeders are filled constantly, and drip watering is intense.  The Ranch maintains 12 miles of hiking trails and two viewing blinds on its ponds.  In addition to the abundant birdlife, the Ranch plays host to a wide diversity of other wildlife, including bobcat, coyotes, armadillos, Texas Horned lizards, Indigo snakes, and a multitude of other animals.

 

Some of the notable birds are Green Jay, Great Kisskadee, Crested Caracara, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks to name a few.  The resident birds make room for them, and the brush lines become a living environment of color and activity.

A Box Lunch will be provided:  

Ham, Turkey or Vegetarian (please specify)

 

THURSDAY – APRIL 25 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27

6:00 AM – 3:30 PM
$125 Per Person

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GDWMA

Guadalupe Delta Wildlife Management Area

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The Guadalupe Delta WMA consists of approximately 6200 acres of marshes.  It is basically a freshwater marsh subject to flooding from the Guadalupe River and its adjacent bayous.  All the water, coastal prairies, and marshes make the Guadalupe Delta a favorite place for birders and photographers.  With more than 400 different species of birds, this site is also one of the Top 5 Christmas Bird Counts in the nation.  This Trip includes a drive through freshwater marshes and a walk thru the lush riparian forest of the Guadalupe River floodplain.

SPECIAL NOTE – this field trip site has limited public access and has granted special permission only to Festival registrants.

Our target species for this Trip are Fulvous Whistling Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Least Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Anhinga, Yellow-crowned Heron, Barred Owl, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Prothonotary Warbler, and migrant flycatchers, thrushes, and warblers.


SPECIAL NOTE – in 2023 festival participants in this trip were pleasantly surprised when FOUR Black Rails were spotted.

BOX LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED – HAM or TURKEY or VEGETARIAN

(Please Specify)

MAXIMUM 10 PEOPLE PER DAY

THURSDAY – APRIL 25 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27 (Sold Out)

6:00 AM – 3:30 PM
$115 Per Person

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BigDay

Big Day- FULL DAY TRIP

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In the birding culture, there’s something of a tradition in doing a “Big Day”.  Participants of this Trip try to identify the greatest number of species, via sight or sound, over a 10-hour period.  Many birders consider a Big Day a must-do during a Spring migration.  We will cover as many spots as time allows, based on where the best birds have been spotted by our team of bird scouters.  A 2023 Great Texas Birding Classic Big Day competitive team scored 217 species in the area covered by this trip.  With good weather and a little luck, this adventure could earn participants a coveted spot in the “150 Club”.

 

LUNCH (NOT INCLUDED) WILL BE FLEXIBLE – MAY STOP FOR LOCAL FARE, AS A MIDDAY BREAK WILL BE MUCH NEEDED


MAXIMUM 20 PEOPLE 

THURSDAY – APRIL 25

5:30 AM – 3:30 PM

$130 Per Person

ANWR

Aransas National

Wildlife Refuge

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This refuge north of Rockport is a bit “off the beaten path,” but is an important stopover for many migrants.  On their journey between North and Central America, warblers concentrate on the refuge from mid-April to early May.  This 70,000-acre nature and wildlife preserve is home to almost 400 species of birds.  Large tracts of natural coastal prairie and Live Oak mottes provide habitat for the Spring migrants and resident birds.  Whether driving the 16-mile auto tour, walking up the observation towers, or taking time to stretch your legs along several miles of walking trails within the Refuge, there are various opportunities to see migrant passerines, such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, various thrushes, thrashers and orioles.  

 

The ANWR is best known for being the wintering grounds of the once critically endangered Whooping Crane.  Although it is rare for any to stay as late as the Festival, one and two were seen the past two years.  A few other great birds seen on this field trip have been Purple Gallinule, Piping Plover, Le Conte’s Sparrow and Swainson’s Warbler (there are records they have nested in the refuge in years past).

 

Our target species include Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, White-faced Ibis, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Mottled Duck and Least Grebe.

 

BOX LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED – HAM or TURKEY or VEGETARIAN 

(Please Specify)
 

MAXIMUM 11 PEOPLE 

FRIDAY – APRIL 26

6:00 AM – 3:30 PM

$105 Per Person

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Lake Choke Canyon State Park

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This 1400-acre park is divided into two units and hugs the shoreline of the Choke Canyon Reservoir.  The lake is located north of Corpus Christi, at the edge of thorn-brush desert which hosts a somewhat different suite of birds.  The abundance of quality habitat combined with the surrounding water, make it one of the best birding hot spots in this area.  The diversity here is terrific, with a hundred species being possible.  eBird has recorded 325 species in Choke Canyon.

 

The target species include Audubon Oriole, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, Black Phoebe and Vermilion Flycatcher.  The lake can provide lingering ducks, waders, and other birds associated with water.

 

BOX LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED – HAM or TURKEY or VEGETARIAN 

(Please Specify)
 

MAXIMUM 22 PEOPLE PER DAY

FRIDAY – APRIL 26 

6:00 AM – 3:30 PM

$115 Per Person

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Rockport-Fulton

Hot Spots

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Located just across a narrow bay from Padre Island on the Gulf Coast in southern Texas, Rockport is home to several of the top birding spots in the nation.  The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail runs through the Rockport area in Aransas County and is brimming with world class birding sites.  This area is known as a paradise for birders, as hundreds call the area home year round, while many more migrate through here.  This field trip has it all, beaches, coastal prairies, freshwater ponds and marshes, oak mottes and so much more.  Shorebirds, waders, sparrows, and of course neotropic migrants are abundant.

 

BOX LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED – HAM or TURKEY or VEGETARIAN 

(Please Specify)

MAXIMUM 11 PEOPLE 

FRIDAY – APRIL 26 

6:30 AM – 3:30 PM

$105 Per Person

HALF DAY TRIPS

Half day

JOE FULTON
CORRIDOR & HILLTOP Community Center

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A hidden gem for discovering birds, this industrial corridor is not easy to bird for those not familiar with it.  It is mostly refineries on one side and a wonderful saltwater marsh with some open water on the other side.  Luckily your leader Clay Taylor, a local expert, is very familiar with all this site has to offer.  This is by far the best spot for the number one target species of the Festival, the Seaside Sparrow.

 

We will also search for shorebirds, waders, gulls, and terns (including the Gull-billed Tern).  Roseate Spoonbills are also common.

 

Located nearby the Hilltop Community Center is a habitat that is extremely different.  The mile and a quarter, paved hiking trail goes through grassy areas, scrub-thorn brush, and riparian along the creek.  This site is very popular for most land birds, including warblers, sparrows, thrashers and much more.

 

Target species here are Groove-billed Ani, Pyrrhuloxia, and Olive, Swamp, and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

MAXIMUM 11 PEOPLE PER DAY

FRIDAY – APRIL 26 and SUNDAY – APRIL 28

6:30 AM – 11:30 AM

$75 Per Person

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CWAOM

Chasing Warblers and other Migrants!

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In the Coastal Bend, April is what Spring migration is all about.  It is an enjoyable and sometimes exhausting time to chase migrating land birds that flit and feed throughout the area.  We lessen the challenge by narrowing down the places to look.  The leaders for this Trip know the most likely hot spots to find the species you want to see.  Their route will be determined by weather conditions, birding reports, and years of experience.  During this time of year, you truly never know what species will turn up.  On a good day, 20 plus species of warblers are possible….plus buntings, grosbeaks, tanagers, orioles and more.

 

AM – MORNING FIELD TRIP

WEDNESDAY – APRIL 24 and FRIDAY – APRIL 26 and SUNDAY – April 28

7:00 AM – 12:00 PM

$75 Per Person

 

PM – AFTERNOON FIELD TRIP

PM Trips can offer different warblers and shorebirds than AM depending upon weather and tides

NOTE – afternoon trips are one hour shorter

THURSDAY – APRIL 25 and FRIDAY – APRIL 26 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27

1:45 PM – 5:45 PM

$60 Per Person

PORT ARANSAS HOT SPOTS

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Port Aransas hosts many must-see lookouts for avid birders and wildlife photographers.  Boardwalks and observation towers are built over wetlands with vegetation pockets specially designed to attract birds.  From the natural wetlands, inlets, and 18-miles of natural beaches and dunes to the rock jetties, piers and marinas, Port Aransas offers dozens of vantage points to view migrating birds.  The woodlands surrounding brackish inlets are notorious for producing warblers, vireos and other colorful passerine migrants coming in for a much-needed rest.  It is fairly easy to see over 100 species in a single day.  Driving on the beach while looking for shorebirds and seabirds is a treat for those who do not live near the ocean. 

 

Target Species for this area include Purple Gallinule, Sora, plus Clapper, Virginia’s and King Rails.

 

 

MAXIMUM 11 PEOPLE PER VAN

 

AM – MORNING FIELD TRIP 

WEDNESDAY – APRIL 24 and THURSDAY – APRIL 25

7:00 AM – 12:00 PM

$75 Per Person

 

 PM – AFTERNOON FIELD TRIP

PM Trips can offer different warblers and shorebirds than AM depending upon weather and tides

NOTE – afternoon trips are one hour shorter

FRIDAY – APRIL 26 

1:45 PM – 5:45 PM

$60 Per Person

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Shorebirds of the Coastal Bend

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The Coastal Bend holds an enviable number and variety of shorebirds.  This Field Trip is designed not only for people with a fascination and curiosity for water birds, but who also may find identifying them difficult.  This is the perfect opportunity to hone your skills, particularly if you have taken the Shorebirds ID Workshop.  

 

You can expect to see and learn about the Snowy and Piping Plover, Reddish Egret, and American Oystercatcher, among other species.  You will be able to observe the subtle physical and behavior traits of these birds to better distinguish the species.

 

SPECIAL NOTE – The Trip Leader is our Keynote Speaker Cameron Cox
 

MAXIMUM 11 PEOPLE PER VAN

THURSDAY – APRIL 25 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27

7:00 AM – 12:00 PM

$75 Per Person

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Knolle Jersey Farm-River Pasture

Local birders have long known about this area of rolling hills, open pastures, and Nueces River riparian habitat.  The enchanting forest of towering ancient oaks, dripping with Spanish moss creates an idyllic setting.  This former dairy farm stretches for more than 300 acres along the Nueces River and is now a cattle and hunting ranch.  The river corridor is a historical path for passerine migrants making their way south and is followed by raptors on their migration as well.  We will complete our tour at the Knolle’s Bed and Breakfast property, which includes a large pond and numerous Live Oak trees. 

 

The target species for this Trip is Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Pyrrhuloxia, Verdin, Greater Roadrunner, Bewick’s Wren, Cactus Wren or Say’s Phoebe.  

MAXIMUM 22 PEOPLE PER DAY

FRIDAY – APRIL 26 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27

6:30 AM – 12:00 PM

$75 Per Person

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HAZEL BAZEMORE COUNTY PARK & POLLYWOG POND

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Best known as HawkWatch International’s raptor migration count site, Hazel Bazemore Park hosts the largest and most diverse convergence of migrating raptors in the United States each Fall.  This 77-acre park sits along the Nueces River and provides a range of habitats, including grass fields, marshes, ponds, scrubland, and woodland.  

 

Nearby Pollywog Pond is a heavily wooded area containing old settlement ponds used in the past by the City water treatment plant.  It is a passerine migrant hotspot with its numerous mulberry, willow and hackberry tress, along with fresh water.

 

The target species are Green Jays, Kiskadees, White-tipped Dove, Couch’s and Tropical Kingbird, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and Clay-colored Thrush.

MAXIMUM 22 PEOPLE 

SATURDAY – APRIL 27

7:30 AM – 11:30 AM

$75 Per Person

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Texas Scramble

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A “scramble” is a field trip designed to capitalize on the most coveted birds seen during preceding field trips throughout the Festival.  If there is a fallout, the trip will concentrate on neotropical migrants.  If a particular rare bird was spotted earlier, we will hunt for it.  If you need a certain species for your Life List, let your guide know, we will seek to satisfy as many requests as possible.

 

AM – MORNING FIELD TRIP 

SUNDAY – APRIL 28

7:00 AM – 12:00 PM

$75 Per Person

PM – AFTERNOON FIELD TRIP

PM Trips can offer different warblers and shorebirds than AM depending upon weather and tides

NOTE – afternoon trips are one hour shorter

SATURDAY – APRIL 27

1:45 PM – 5:45 PM

$60 Per Person

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U-DRIVE TRIPS

U Drive

OSO BAY WETLANDS PRESERVE

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The Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve & Learning Center is a 162-acre facility owned and operated by the City of Corpus Christi.  The Learning Center and main parking lots opened in March 2016, making this one of the newer places to explore in our area.  Join us on 20 miles of nature trails for birds, butterflies, and much more.  This site has a nice mix of mesquite uplands, limited prairie, and wetland habitat which increase the variety of species.  This preserve is known for numerous sightings of Groove-billed Ani, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher and Painted Buntings.

 

DIRECTIONS:  Field Trip times start and end at the Preserve.  It is only 4.9 miles from La Palmera Mall and close to most of the hotels.  From South Padre Island Drive, exit Ennis Joslin/Paul Jones.  Take a right onto Paul Jones, once you cross the intersection with Holly Road the street turns into North Oso Parkway.  The Preserve’s main parking lot is located on the left, look for the 24-foot tall heron sculpture.

 

SPECIAL NOTE:  For those that sign up for the Wednesday trip, you can pick up your registration packets at the Botanical Gardens in the afternoon.

 

MAXIMUM 15 PEOPLE PER DAY

WEDNESDAY – APRIL 24 and THURSDAY – APRIL 25 and FRIDAY – APRIL 26

7:30 AM – 11:30 AM

$25 Per Person

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Fennessey Ranch

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Fennessey Ranch is located just outside of Refugio, Texas.  This ranch is a rich network of meadows, brush, prairie, freshwater wetlands, natural lakes, and riparian woodlands.  This 3261-acre wildlife oasis is host to numerous types of birds, plants, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals.  Here is your chance to enjoy an authentic Texas Hayride while birding, a truly unique experience.

 

Fennessey Ranch is in the heart of the Central Flyway and provides world class birding opportunities.  More than 420 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded on the ranch.  The ranch has several custom-built birding and photography blinds.  Each blind is strategically placed in areas of high bird activity and generally near water sources.

 

The target species for this ranch are Painted Buntings, Green Jays, Swallow-tailed Kites, White-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles.

 

DIRECTIONS:  From Corpus Christi take TX 35 through Portland, then left on FM 136, continue onto (no turn) FM 2678.  After passing through the small town of Bayside, in a few miles look for the main gate to the Fennessey Ranch on the left, marked by Ranch banner and colored flagging tape.  

 

MAXIMUM 22 PEOPLE 

FRIDAY – APRIL 26

7:30 AM – 11:30 AM

$60 Per Person

SBT
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Skimmer Boat Tour

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Join Captain Tommy Moore on the Skimmer for this comfortable four-hour Springtime spectacular.  You will visit four rookery islands filled with colonial waterbirds to observe their magnificent Spring rituals.  These displays will include some of the birds’ quirkiest behaviors performed while courting, sparring, mating, and nesting.  Bring a camera to capture these crazy antics.

 

Target birds will include egrets, herons, pelicans, spoonbills, terns, skimmers, and a variety of other shorebirds.

 

This tour departs from Fulton Harbor in Rockport-Fulton, which is about an hour’s drive from the Botanical Gardens.  Meet the Skimmer at Fantasy Charters in Fulton Harbor in Rockport.  215 North Fulton Beach Road.

 

From Corpus Christi, take TX-35 through Portland, then turn right to stay on TX-35 all the way to Rockport.  Continue to Broadway Street and take left on Fulton Beach Road.  The Harbor is on the right.

 

MAXIMUM 30 PEOPLE – MINIMUM 15 PEOPLE

FRIDAY – APRIL 26 and SATURDAY – APRIL 27

SUNDAY – APRIL 28  (BACK UP IN CASE WEATHER CANCELLATION ON FRIDAY OR SATURDAY)

8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

$125 Per Person

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