This trip was made with a friend between El Paso and Houston
along the Rio Grande River and the coast of Texas. It would probably
have beenbetter to make this trip one week later because a few
migrant birds had not arrived.
Roissy - Houston. it took us 2h30 to pass the customs because
of the new security rules. Unfortunately we had only 1h30 before
our flight to El Paso. We were on the waiting list for the next
flight and after a few hours of anxiety, we finally took it at
the end of the afternoon. We spent our first night in a Motel
in El Paso.
- Early in the morning we drove to "Balmorhea
Lake" by the HW-10. We deviated towards Fort Hancock
and we made our first observations.
- We stayed at "Balmorhea
Lake" until the beginning of the afternoon.
- In the evening we arrived in "Mount
Davis SP" where we found a room for the night. We made
our unique observation of a Raccoon when we arrived in the parking.
- The morning was devoted to the discovery of the park. We
tried to find the Montezuma Quail without success. We spend a
little time near a feeding place for birds and we visisted a
- We drove to the Mount Davis Observatory and then we went
on "Madera Canyon Picnic Area" where we made a few
- At the end of the morning, we drove to the "Big
Bend NP" direction.
- We stopped at a picnic area close to a small swamp on the
road 118. Hundreds of Pine
Siskins were here with a few other species.
- At the end of the afternoon, a Swainson's
Hawk fell upon a prey just in front of the car. After a short
time which seem to be a fight with its prey, the Hawk flew empty-handed
to a stake and finally went away. We did not understand immediatly
what had happened but a sight in the scrub thorn enlightened
us. A Greater Roadrunner
was killing a mouse or a gerbil. However we do not know if the
Hawk had tried to catch the Roadrunner
or the rodent. Anyway, the Roadrunner was well protected by the
scrub thorn. Few minutes after our arrival it had eaten the rodent
which seemed to weigh almost 25 percent of its own weight. I
had never thought before that this bird could be a predator of
such big rodents.
- We arrived in the campground of Big
Bend at night and consequently, we had some problems finding
a good place!
- We started the day at Daniel Ranch. We climbed to
a view-point which overlook the Rio
- Then we drove to the Chisos Basin where we ate before walking
in the forest around.
- We went back to the campground at sunset.
- In the morning, we walked on the "Nature Trail"
behind the campground.
- After that, we quickly visited the beautiful "Boquillas
Canyon" before driving to "Los Maples SP".
- We did not find any Motel in Vanderpool, and we had to go
- After breakfast, we went for a small walk along the river
just behind the motel.
- Then, we went to "Los
Maples SP". This forest park is well known for two endemic
species of Texas: Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler.
We did not see the Vireo, only one singer was present this day.
However, this place was very pleasant and was a big changed from
the semi-desert area we visited before.
- At the end of the afternoon, we drove to our next destination.
After a dinner in Sabinal, we had the good idea to choose road
187 in the direction to Batesville and Cristal City where we
slept. On this road, we saw several Nighthawks (Common
or Lesser, we could not
identify them), a Skunk and a Great horned Owl hunting.
- Our final destination was "Bentsen
SP" but we stopped before in San Ignacio. We made several
interresting sights around an ox-bow of the Rio Grande River
although the vegetation was very dense. We had a picnic in a
small garden especially fitted up for ornithologists.
- We wanted to camp in "Bentsen
SP" but as we had missed the last shuttle, we would
have had to walk one mile with all our luggage because the park
was forbidden for car. Finally we only found an expensive hotel
a few miles away; the motels were in fact in the direction of
Edinburg as we see it the day after.
- When we arrived at "Bentsen
SP" early in the morning, we saw a very big group of
Broad-winged Hawks in migration:
may be 200-300 in a quarter of an hour.
- This park was mainly forested with a big lake. There were
a lot of feeding places with observatories which allowed very
good sights and good pictures of birds and animals. We made our
most amazing observation of the trip in one of these places:
a Bobcat tried to catch a Squirrel
less than 2 meters in front of us!
- We finished the day at "Edinburg Scenic Wetland Trails".
On this Saturday, this small but interesting birding site was
close to a fun fair. Not really pleasant, but we made some really
good observations, in particular Least
Hummingbird and Water
- We began the day at "Santa
Anna NWR". Unfortunatly, the reserve seemed to suffer
a lot from lack of water. Out of three tracks, only the small
one was interesting. Some volunteers showed us a nest of a Great
horned Owl with young birds. We also tried to see a singing Tropical
Parula with more than one dozen of ornithologists without any
- Then we drove to South
Padre Island with a stop at the "Frontera Audubon Center".
Two rarities had been seen here before: the Crimson-collared
Grosbeak and the Elegant Trogon. We saw only the former eating
at a feeding place.
- For the next day, we chose South
Padre Island because a couple of birders told us that they
had seen more than 100 species in a day. The arrival at the island
was a shock because of the density of buildings in the Southern
part of this very long island (more than 50 kilometers). After
a few sights we met some other birders again who told us that
the next day would be very good for birding because of the wind.
Though we did not like this Island, we decided to stay here that
- This day was really fantastic. We did not see thousands of
birds but an incredible variety with an amazing quality of observations;
for example: Tricolored Heron,
Lesser Nighthawk, Common Nighthawk, Brown-crested
Warbler, and in particular Painted
Bunting. We discussed with some birders who helped us a lot
to the identification of some fugitive birds.
- We spent all the day on the Island and we finished at the
swamp close to the "Convention
Center" where we saw easily Clapper
Rail, Sora, and
our first Alligator.
- We spent the morning in "Laguna
Atascosa NWR" to look for the Aplomado Falcon without
any success. This place offered quite a variety of environments.
We saw the Bobcat for the second time. It tried to cross the
road just in front of us but when it saw us, it turned back...
- In the middle of the afternoon we began driving in the direction
of Houston and finally stopped at a motel in Refugio.
- In the morning, we visited "Arensas
NWR". We learnt that a couple of Whooping Crane which
usually spent its winter in the reserve was still here but we
did not see it. This Crane is territorial and only one couple
is usually in the accessible area. During the picnic, an Armadillo and a Collared
Paccary joined us...
- At the end of the afternoon we drove to the East of Houston.
We stopped in the small village of High Island where we were
lucky to find the last room available for our last three nights.
- High Island is a well known place because of its two high
spots for birds in migration: "Boy
Scout Woods" and "Smith
Oaks Bird Sanctuary". Birds which cross the Mexico Gulf
were exhausted and were attracted by the few woods in this area.
A great diversity of species was visible in the months of April
- We started by "Boy
Scout Woods". There were not a lot of birds this
morning but all the same, we saw several new species. We met
a Canadian couple who drove us to "Smith
Oaks Bird Sanctuary". hundreds
Egrets and Cormorants nest here.
- After lunch, we went to Port
Bolivar where we saw plenty of waders. The swamps along the
road were interesting too, particulary in the evening when rails
came out. We even saw a couple of Clapper
Rails mating at less than 5 meters from the car!
- We started again by "Boy
Scout Woods" but there were fewer birds than yesterday.
We returned to "Smith
Oaks Bird Sanctuary" to finish our visit of this park.
Concerning birds, this site was very quiet too but we learnt
that more than 20 species of warblers could be seen in an other
woodland called: "Sabine Woodland".
- After less than one hour driving, we arrived in the park
in the afternoon. This change was very profitable. There were
many more birds and we met a Californian group which was led
by Jon Dunn, a specialist of warblers. Thanks to him and his
team, we saw a Cerulean Warbler and some others interesting species.
We really appreciated the kindness and the availability of all
the guides of this groups: thanks to them again.
For our last morning, we went to "W. G. Jones State Forest"
which is only half an hour by car from the airport. This site
is well known for woodpeckers. We saw some new species of passerines
too. We took our plane to Paris in the afternoon...