phil jeffrey:: Texas, April 2018 trip report


Texas, April 2018

Despite concerns about the mid-term effects of the devastating Hurricane Harvey I did a third consecutive April TX trip for the start of spring migration with my usual m.o. of splitting attention between the Upper Texas Coast (UTC) and the Lower Rio Grande Valley (RGV). Recent trips involving Texas in spring:

Distances and Times

Sunrise, Sunset at Houston is 7am (twilight 6:30am), 7:45pm for April 10th.
Sunrise, Sunset at McAllen is about 15 minutes later.

Galveston-Bolivar ferry wait times.


Because I always end up recalculating these...
High Island - HOU 82 miles 1:30 hrs:mins
Winnie - HOU 64 miles 1:15 hrs:mins
Anahuac NWR - HOU 76 miles 1:30 hrs:mins
High Island - Boykin Springs 135 miles 2:25 hrs:mins
SPI - HRL 42 miles 1:10 hrs:mins
McAllen - HRL 40 miles 0:50 hrs:mins
McAllen - SPI 70 miles 1:40 hrs:mins
Mission - Salineno 58 miles 1:30 hrs:mins
Salineno - San Ygnacio 48 miles 1:00 hrs:mins

TX Birding Site Internet Resources

(RGV = lower Rio Grande Valley)

Other site notes:

Brownsville Sanitary Landfill is open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and is closed on Sundays and holidays. Check in at the weigh station and give the number of birders chasing the Tamaulipas Crows they're well aware of (and tolerant of) our presence.

Tides4Fishing for Gilchrist.
Good tide options (low lows) for Gilchrist TX (Rollover Pass)
Date Height  
Apr 9 0.3 10:15am flat minimum 6-11:30
Apr 10 0.3 11:21am flat minimum 8-noon
Apr 11 0.3 12:17pm small dip 11-1pm
Apr 12 0.4 1:03pm small dip 12-2:30pm
Apr 14 0.5 2:25pm small dip 12:30-3pm
Apr 16 0.8 3:45pm small dip

Airlines and Rental Cars

Non-stop flights from EWR to HOU/IAH have become elusive and expensive, involving either the accursed United (the evil airline of last resort) or Jet Blue from JFK. In the event I found much cheaper one-stop flights via SouthWest, the only airline for which I still hold a rewards card. About $300 round trip EWR-HOU-EWR and about $230 HOU-HRL (but bought with points) - in the end I changed the outbound flight to avoid the worst of a snow storm, so the net fare cost more. For rental cars I lean towards Enterprise and National - and check Yelp for local performance, e.g. I dropped Dollar/Thrifty as an option since they seem to be systematically mismanaged, Budget at HRL is a horror.


UTC: America's Best Value Inn at Winnie - I've been going there for a few years and often it's actually cheaper than the Motel 6 - but is another one of these "deferred maintenance" hotels for which unqualified recommendations aren't possible due to wear and subtle malfunctions. You may prefer something a little higher-end with less issues. The major downside about Winnie is that food options are limited and Beaumont really isn't all that close. Upside is that it's very close to High Island and Anahuac and well-positioned for Sabine Woods. RGV: tend to stay on South Padre Island on the cheaper weekdays and in the Weslaco-Mission axis when I'm staging for the upriver Salineno trip or spending more time at (e.g.) Estero Llano. The Super 8 on South Padre was a good basic choice, the Texas Inn in Pharr similarly so. The Texas Inn in McAllen (on Route 115/s.23rd St) is worth skipping - this place has gone through multiple owners and seems to get a little worse every time I visit there. It is a little cheaper than most other places but it's also out of the way - and when I passed it this time roadwork was snarling traffic. My gamble on a hotel this time around - Clarion Inn in central McLaren - was underperforming and not recommended either.

Sat Apr 7th: Travel Day

I bumped the original relaxed 3:15pm departure for an early 6:15am one to avoid a forecast snow storm, which then did not put in an appearance. Nevertheless it did yield some additional birding hours generating 65 species on Saturday afternoon.

The circuitous flight route took me EWR-STL-MSY-HOU and about 12 hours net traveling from the time that I left Princeton. Two pieces of luck sped my exit from the airport - my bag was on the carousel as I walked up to it and the Enterprise shuttle was right outside the door. Neither of those things are common at HOU. So I was on the road a little before 2pm. A storm front had not long passed and it was windy with heavy overcast and relatively cool. White-winged Dove was the first trip bird, right over the Enterprise location. Great-tailed Grackles were around the airport. That cold front was the cause of drop-out conditions that were to influence birding over the next few days.

I headed for the San Jacinto Battleground park in Harris Co which had some eBird records, although nothing rare, and had Battleship Texas docked there (a WW-I and II era battleship not one of the truly massive ones). Weather was heavy overcast, 50 degrees, windy almost entirely eliminating passerine activity (two Savannah Sparrows, Northern Cardinal, flock of Common Grackles). Water birds were a little more cooperative: Great and Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Laughting/Ring-billed/Herring Gulls, a Neotropic-ish Cormorant, Caspian Tern and a couple of raptors: Osprey and Red-shouldered Hawk. The marsh came with a "don't eat the fish" warning, so perhaps the lack of evident rails was for a reason.

After checking into the hotel (Scottish Inn and Suites, Baytown, TX - entirely adequate) I bee-lined it for the Anahuac area since the northerly winds made me think that there was potential for a drop-out. I made a quick visit to the rookery on the Trinity River: Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Great and Snowy Egrets, many Little Blue Herons. The rookery is much less dense and has fewer birds than High Island but was my only Anhinga for the trip. I visited the boat ramp in Anahuac (as in 2017) briefly but nothing of interest but a large flock of Chimney Swifts were circling over Anahuac city hall (200-ish) also trying to roost in the chimney. I tracked along Fairfield Rd east of Anahuac in search of shorebirds initially to no avail, and just as I thought it would be a bust I spied some small groups and eventually found a field with American Golden-Plover in it, along with two Buff-breasted, which then were joined by a flock of Buff-breasted and two Upland Sandpipers. So although activity was limited, I found the target shorebirds. However the number of flooded fields and general shorebird activity was reduced over 2017, at least judging from one afternoon, and this was the only significant "grasspiper" encounter on the first weekend in the UTC. South Pear Orchard Road - productive last year - was devoid of shorebirds and contained a lone Eastern Kingbird. Probably I should focus more on shorebirds on the second UTC leg of the trip, when they are more numerous.

I skipped Anahuac NWR in favor of High Island in case of a fallout, and while this never fully materialized the birding at Hooks Woods was quite decent, albeit in bad light: several Northern Parulas, a couple of Blue-winged Warblers, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, 2 male and 2 female Hooded Warblers, Black-and-white Warbler, brief glimpses of Orchard Oriole, Great Crested Flycatcher and a partially molted Summer Tanager. Another large swift flock was milling around over High Island. By 6:30 things were fairly murky so I headed for Anahuac NWR to do a circuit of Shoveler Pond before dusk - this got abandoned because a lot of folorn swallows were resting on the road just past the visitor center and I didn't want to keep flushing them. Mostly Tree Swallows, which should handle the cold but really didn't like the cold temps and very windy conditions at all. A few Barn, Cliff and Northern Rough-winged mixed in. Overnight temperatures dipped into the 40's, very low for a UTC trip.

Sun Apr 8th: UTC - migrant fallout

Sunrise 7am, on the road by 6:30am. Retracing briefly via the town of Anahuac the Chimney Swifts had apparently roosted overnight at the town hall as they were milling around the building at dawn. Overcast again, I eschewed any dirt roads and drove past Anahuac NWR straight to High Island. Although the walk from the parking lot to the entrance to Boy Scout Woods was suspiciously quiet, things proved fairly active. Cedar Waxwings and a chattering flock of Orchard Orioles in the same spot as Indigo Buntings and a less exciting Chipping Sparrow. White-throated Sparrow and Northern Waterthrush at the drip/pond, and then a less familiar song - yes, that really was a Swainson's Warbler. Heavy overcast didn't to anything to enhance the normally dark conditions within Boy Scout Woods ("birding in a cave"), but numerous Hooded Warblers were entirely happy with that, as was one unobtrusive Kentucky Warbler foraging trail-side. Although it's interesting listening to flocks of Orchard Orioles foraging above your head, the inability to see them led me out of the body of the woods to the trails on the south side. Small flocks of migrants - things like Northern Parula, Indigo Bunting, Black-and-white Warbler, House Wren darted about. A few Yellow-breasted Chats sang from deep cover - I saw only one. One mixed flock held Yellow-throated Warbler and a male Blackburnian Warbler. Heading back in on the boardwalk sections towards the "amphitheater" a Swainson's Warbler popped up in front of me, atypically at eye level, and following it slowly down a trail I came across another Kentucky. After losing track of the Swainson's I then found two more (or it and a friend) with another Kentucky - in fact at one point all three in one field of view. But waaaaay to dark for photography (see above under "cave"). After putting a few birders on the Swainson's I decided to do a little shorebirding.

At Rollover Pass the tide was probably rising, with not that much mud. Initially Sanderling, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover and Willet were on the near shoreline but some latterly arriving birders tended to flush them. I called one birder back from an incautious trundle up the beach because they had improbably not noticed the Pomarine Jaeger sat on the beach. Perhaps I should write "Pomarine" because there are some interesting features to this bird. It did have an extensive black cap that extended below the bill, but it completely lacked a dark breast-band and the bill was generally dark (brown base to bill, blackish tip). I don't think there was much danger of it being a Long-tailed due to the sheer mass of the bird - quite barrel-chested with a very dark (albeit barred) belly through vent and close to the size of a Herring Gull. Clearly the same individual that had been reported from Bolivar and Rollover, it's this bird:
ebird report from Apr 5th
and remains a little enigmatic based on coloration but Pomarine-like based on heft. Unsuprisingly, it scared the bejesus out of terns and shorebirds when it took off. eBird reports universally regarded it as Pomarine when I checked in June 2018, so I marked it down on the trip list and year list as a Pom.

Decent tern showing at Rollover: mainly Royal, some Sandwich, a few of Common, Forster's and Least but no Black Terns. Other birds included both Pelican species, American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Neotropic Cormorant, one Magnificent Frigatebird - never the commonest bird on these trips and more often missed by me than seen - the first Green Heron of the trip, the distant heron rookery in the heat haze.

I deferred going to Sabine Woods and headed to Anahuac instead via checking some fields - one grassy field held a dispersed flock of American Golden-Plovers, a flooded field with no direct sight lines held many shorebirds near South Pear Orchard Rd but they were only visible when a Northern Harrier flushed them - getting my first Whimbrel of the trip. A pair of Swainson's Hawks were investigating trees near there and Northern Harriers continued to put in a strong showing. I spied one particularly pale Red-tailed Hawk perched out in a bush in the fields - consistent with Krider's, and even paler than the Harlan's/Krider's-like bird I'd seen a few miles north the previous day. Eastern Kingbirds and a few Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were the main evidence of migration. At the entrance to Anahuac NWR the partly-flooded field held Long-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts and a single Wilson's Snipe. Two tours around Shoveler Pond were moderately productive: two Least Bittern sightings, American Coot, Common Gallinule (Moorhen) and 3 Purple Gallinules, mainly Boat-tailed Grackles but a couple of Great-tailed, White-faced Ibis and an interesting but subadult Ibis that may have been Glossy, vocalizing King Rail and Marsh Wren that both resolutely remained invisible, and the rest of the heron crowd including one Black-crowned and one Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. A few shorebirds adjacent to the tour route included Long-billed Dowitchers, Stilt Sandpipers, Least Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs. In the duck department Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal were in the majority, some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Mottled Ducks but less diversity than in 2017. Back down near the HQ the flooded field there held quite a lot of herons and ibis, and some Northern Shovelers, Mottled Ducks and Blue-winged Teal.

After checking into the hotel I did a late afternoon sprint to Sabine Pass/Woods. As with the other UTC areas on this trip I couldn't discern any lingering damage from last fall's devastating hurricane, not even to the Valero plant in Port Arthur that the road to Sabine Pass transects. I spent a little time exploring the area south of Sabine Pass, in particular finding a small exquisitely blue flock of Indigo Buntings with one Blue Grosbeak and one Painted Bunting on the lawn at the entrance to the park - Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site - promptly flushed by the caretaker who was closing the park at 5pm. A Summer Tanager flew by, adding to the primary colors on display. Further down this road (South 1st Ave) to the end of the drivable part I spied Seaside Sparrow and most of a predictably skulking but singing Sedge Wren along with vocalizing Sora and Clapper Rail (the latter by habitat). Late day migrant arrival was clearly happening - Texas Point NWR parking lot held chattering Orchard Orioles and a Hooded Warbler feeding in the grassy lot. At Sabine Woods there were a lot of migrants, so much so that it took me a while to even get past the kiosk area - Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Warbler, multiple Hooded Warblers, Northern Parula, Black-and-white Warbler, Summer Tanager. Everywhere you went there were migrants, and many of those migrants were Hooded Warblers, giving me a total of over 100 - and more like 150 - for the day. Cerulean Warbler, multiple Worm-eating Warblers, Prothonatory Warbler, 3 more Swainson's Warblers, another Kentucky, both Waterthrushes, a few Tennessee and the first Ovenbirds. More Summer Tanagers, more Orchard Orioles, Great Crested Flycatchers, Swainson's Thrushes, Wood Thrushes. And this was in 1.5 hours of steadily darkening overcast. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were coming in over the marsh in singles, clearly recent arrivals since there was nothing in the direction they were coming from that would otherwise attract them. Many of the migrants were obviously tired, with good odds of them persisting the following morning. After stubbornly remaining in the high 40's for most of the day it had got up to 58 by sunset, which hopefully improved the lot of some of the migrants. The previous day's storm front had provoke a bona-fide drop-out.

Mon Apr 9th: UTC

Overcast expected, but the off-and-on drizzle during the day was not part of the forecast. Sabine Woods at 7:15am and it was pretty active: birds at entrance gate included White-eyed/Yellow-throated/Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, Hooded Warblers, Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula. Hooded Warbler and Parula put in a strong showing during the day, even if Hooded numbers were down a little. Blue-winged, Summer Tanager, first of 5-6 Kentucky then the first of 6 Swainson's, the third of which was chasing a Hooded Warbler, 4 and 5 were together, sixth was near the kiosk. At the drip: Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, Prothonotary Warblers, MORE Hooded Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckooo. Fields on the north side of woods: many Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeak, one Painted Bunting, Cattle Egret, Prairie Warbler. Swainson's Thrush, Hermit Thrush (1), Wood Thrush. Black-and-white Warbler. Acadian Flycatcher seen well (greenish, long primary projection, weak eye ring), Eastern Wood-Pewee (1), several Great Crested Flycatchers and a few Eastern Kingbirds.

Finally left Sabine Woods around lunchtime for Cattail Marsh at Tyrrel Park nr Beaumont: Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals, Mottled Duck, Cinnamon Teal, American Crow, American Coot, Common Gallinule, Wilson's Snipe, Stilt Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, apparently both Dowitchers, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Savannah Sparrow (incl. road kill). Heard Sora but none of the rails on the early part of the trip were cooperative.

Through Winnie to Bolivar - Rollover was at high tide as it was for the remainder of the day. At Bolivar: Black-necked Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper along Rettilon, but the beach was windy and the surf churning away. Royal/Sandwich/Forsters/Least Terns flocks on the beach, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone, one Neotropic Cormorant on pilings, both Pelicans. Bumped into local birders who indicated an Iceland Gull on beach - seen - also the four target plovers (Piping, Snowy, Wilson's, Semipalmated), some Western Sandpipers approaching alternate plumage, one Baird's Sandpiper already well-marked. Dunlin, Red Knot, American Avocet in good numbers, one very tie-dye pink Franklin's amongst the Laughing, Gull-billed Tern over marsh, Northern Harrier, Swainson's Hawk, a migrant flock of Northern Shoveler over the gulf. Little Blue Heron and Reddish Reddish Egret rounded out the total

Back to Boy Scout Woods in High Island - Summer Tanager, Orchard Orioles, the now-inevitable Hooded Warbler along road, dark in the "cave" and not much going on along south side - flowering honeysuckle fragance was intense (many hummingbirds - assumed Ruby-throated), White-eyed Vireo, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat singing, a few birds bombing around resisting ID in murky conditions.

On to Anahuac NWR towards dusk. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, many Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Blue Heron, American Bittern, one fly-across Least Bittern, all the gallinules, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, peeps, Pect Sandpiper, Indigo and Tennessee, saw Marsh Wren, heard King Rail. Down towards the end of road - more Sedge and Marsh Wrens, one Rail across road (at the Clapper-x-King("Kling")-King boundary and in very bad light - frustrating), Short-eared Owl over Rail Prairie which held elusive Seaside and Kekking Clapper-ish rails. Northern Harrier. Compared to 2017 the roadside verge was grown up so I didn't get roadside Sora.

Tue Apr 10th: UTC

Dawn-ish at Rollover Pass with low tide and the usual suspects. The only new bird was Double-crested Cormorant fly-by. I think Rollover was the only place I saw Double-crested on the UTC. No Black Terns, once again. Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, (Short-billed) Dowitchers, unidentifiable small peeps, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, assorted herons including Reddish Egret, and both Pelicans.

Back-tracked to Sabine Woods where it was fairly birdy but slower than the previous day. Blue-headed, Red-eyed, White-eyed, Warbling Vireos but no Yellow-throated Vireo, still multiple Kentucky (6-ish), several Swainson's Warblers (4-5), both Waterthrush, Prothonotary, Parula, Black-throated Green, Black-and-White, Blue-winged, Worm-Eating, Hooded, Ovenbird. Quite a decent haul. Hooded Warbler numbers down to 0.5-0.3x the peak from Sunday, which corresponds to 20+. Summer Tanager and Indigo Bunting numbers were also down but still there with a few Blue Grosbeaks. Swainson's and Wood Thrushes, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Acadian Flycatcher again. Late morning they'd taken to feeding roadside in the flowers, mostly Orchard Orioles and the "blue" birds, but also one Painted Bunting and one Dickcissel. Also roadside Yellow-throated Warbler, Tennessee and Summer Tanager.

Down towards Sea Rim SP a few Indigo Buntings were milling around, American Avocet in some marsh near the State Park, nothing additional. Back through Winnie and the search for shorebird fields - coming up woth nothing apart from Killdeer and 3 flyby Whimbrel. After a few thousand Whimbrel in 2017 I saw less than 40 total on this trip. Most fields were dry so this reflected mostly the lack of habitat scannable from the road. A submerged field near South Pear Orchard - good in 2017 - had a few Ibis in the air but did not drain during my entire trip so had no exposed mud. Raptors: American Kestrel and Northern Harrier. Common passerines like Indigo Bunting and Orchard Orioles sometimes appeared in the roadside bushes.

At Anahuac NWR also the usual suspects - the "cuh" of a male Least Bittern calling and vanishing into reeds after flying over the dike, a single American Bittern hunting in the reeds near the boardwalk, no Black-bellied Whistling-Duck but several Fulvous, usual ducks including Northern Shoveler but zero diving ducks, Pectoral, Stilt Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher on the shorebird front. I was starting to get a little paranoid that every Yellowlegs I saw was a Lesser and I was skipping over the Greaters, but the Lessers >> the Greaters on this trip at least 10-to-1 and it wasn't just my eyes. One Wilson's Snipe. Glossy Ibis (single adult with the full set of ID diagnostics). Northern Harrier drowning a Blue-winged Teal. Purple Gallinule.

Back at High Island and Smith Oaks: Roseate Spoonbill, Great and Snowy Egrets, Neotropic Cormorant, Tricolored Heron at the rookery amid the usual cacophony. One isolated chick had fallen from nest awaiting it's fate from the Alligators (apparently myopic) - it was guarded by an adult for while, before finally being left to fend for itself. That wasn't going to end well. Nearby a dubiously-planned Common Gallinule nest at ground level near the water seemed primed for scavenging by any number of reptiles. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper were other species of interest. Hooks Woods did not have a lot of volume but Swainson's Warbler at the kiosk, 4-5 Kentucky, Hooded Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Brown Thrasher and Gray Catbird. Cliff Swallow colony at the international waterway concrete bridge as usual (not Cave as reported in at least some eBird reports).

Wed Apr 11th: UTC/RGV

Dawn at Rettilon Road at Bolivar - Scissor-tailed Flycatchers chattering at the start of the road, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Pectoral Sandpiper along the grass verge. Sanderling, Dunlin abundant on the beach, Iceland Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull near pylons. Wilson's and Piping Plover, Willet and Lesser Yellowlegs, Red Knot, Marbled Godwit, Avocet, both Pelicans, Black Skimmer, Sandwich and Royal Terns, Forster's and Common's Terns, Semipalmated Sandpiper and a few less determinate peeps, Black-bellied Plover. 3-4 Reddish Egret. On exit, more Pectoral/Willet/Yellowlegs along Rettilon Road, Horned Lark.

On the way back towards High Island: Tuna Road: Seaside Sparrow, (heard) Sedge Wren, Forster's Tern, probable but again not definitive Nelson's Sparrow, Least Bittern. Rollover Pass at lowish tide, lots of the usual suspects but no Black Tern. A pale Red-tailed (Krider/Harlan's) at bridge over intracoastal waterway.

I ran out of time at/near High Island and repacked hastily - returning the rental car to Enterprise and flew from HOU to HRL. Hugh Ramsey Park near the Harlingen airport held some interesting eBird reports so I stopped to check it out. Mesquite thornscrub with some water features - quite productive for Valley regulars even in mid-afternoon: Least Grebe, Great Kiskadee, Curve-billed Thrasher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse, two Plain Chachalaca, Verdin. Also migrants: Yellow-breasted Chat, Indigo Buntings, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Red-eyed Vireo.

I took a rather indirect route to Laguna Atascosa because of road work - they closed the section of road that is productive for White-tailed Hawk and Bobwhite. Not super-productive but still: Long-billed Thrasher, Couch's Kingbird (vocal), Bronzed Kingbird. Osprey overlook had a few herons, Roseate Spoonbill, Northern Shoveler, Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Dowitcher sp, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Stilt Sandpiper, Common Ground-Dove fly-by.

South Padre Island Convention Center had a moderate number of migrants: Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Tennesee Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Northern Parula. No audible Rails. Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Neotropic Cormorant, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer. The tide was very high so little/no exposed mud for rails and shorebirds.

Thu Apr 12th: RGV

This was a day where I bumped into one of those "single serving birder friends" - a CT birder that I first met at South Padre, bumped into again at Brownsville dump and ended the day looking at uncooperative parrots with in Oliveira Park. We are, after all, all going to the same places for the most part.

South Padre, especially my usual Convention Center "anchor leg", held moderate migrant volume: many Orchard Orioles, Tennessee Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, plus Worm-eated Warbler, Northern Parula, Hooded Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Indigo and female Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Lincoln's Sparrow, tidal pool: (heard) Sora, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs. Some exposed mud at the end of the boardwalk: all the herons/egrets except Snowy and Night-herons, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Loon (2 in basic) far out in the bay, Royal/Sandwich/Least Terns, Black Skimmer, 3 Whimbrel, many Dunlin, Sanderling, 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover. I spent enough time at the Convention Center that I skipped the Valley Land Fund lots.

I also skipped the Aplomado site along TX-100 due to road construction, but saw one Chihuahuan Raven with the pale feather bases showing in the wind. Old Port Isobel Road was in decent condition (a relative statement) and most importantly actually dry - Cassin's Sparrow at the start and end of the dirt road, Aplomado Falcon perched near the road, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Crested Caracara. On only my second-ever visit to the Brownsville Sanitary Landfill (the dump): aforementioned CT birder amongst usefully a group of other experienced birders (more eyes = more success), abundant gulls (Laughing, one Franklin's), Crested Caracara, White-tailed Hawk, and after a little searching found two Tamaulipas Crows on a small pile of debris a little downhill from the main dump - the other birders were concentrating on areas that had been highlighted in previous reports so I looked elsewhere. Not a very tough ID given that American Crow is not within a 200 miles of Brownsville and Chihuahuan Raven is much larger, but Great-tailed Grackle is of comparable size (albeit different structure). I also one heard one giving the "strangled toad" call while driving back down. They were very accommodating to birders at the landfill, which is good of them considering how absurd the hobby actually is when 8 of us are perched on a wind-blown pile of wood chips and garbage looking for crows. The dump surely doesn't handle all the garbage from Brownsville - it seems too small for that. This was only my second sighting ever of Tamaulipas Crow - the first one being many years ago at the NOAA airport site (2001 on the April TX-AZ road trip).

After that excitement, Frontera Audubon was slow: White-tipped and White-winged Dove, fly-over Swainson's Hawk, Great Crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, a pair of Green Kingfishers, White Ibis, Snowy Egret, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Olive Sparrow, Golden-fronted Woodpecker - but otherwise missing many valley regulars in hot mid afternoon. Estero Llano Grande SP: many water birds - mostly Blue-winged Teal, a few Cinnamon, Black-bellied Whistling and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Shoveler, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, Cave Swallow, White-winged Dove, White-tipped Dove, Inca Dove, Belted Kingfisher, typical range of herons, Semipalmated (1), Western (3), Least (severl) Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Sora (heard-only, still evading me), Least Grebe, Plain Chachalaca. The Pauraques had moved their roost site and were on the nest, so proved to be elusive.

I did a pass through Rangerville for the sod farm but struck out, doubtless not helped by the hunting White-tailed Hawk. I only saw Horned Lark. The nearby "Cannon Rd loop" was more birdy with Couch's and Tropical Kingbirds, Lark Sparrow. A traditional dusk visit to Oliveira Park in Brownsville proved to be the third CT birder encounter of the day, but the actual target was Red-crowned Parrot. Also saw Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and heard a Tropical Kingbird but this is not a site known for its diversity. Perhaps because of the wind, the parrots were not all that cooperative and did not perch up on the wires before going to roost in the palms. Heavy overcast conditions didn't help with the lighting either so I was only certain about Red-crowned Parrot despite the likely presence of a number of other parrot species in small numbers.

Back to South Padre for the night.

Fri Apr 13th: RGV

Friday morning I started at the Convention Center and the migrant levels were clearly lower. Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and the only Orange-crowned Warbler for the trip. Yellow-headed Blackbird, one Lincoln's Sparrow, a few Indigo Buntings, one Summer Tanager. I finally actually saw a Sora at the marsh (also probably chasing Virginia Rail) along with Least, Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers, American Golden-Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Royal/Sandwich/Least Terns, Black Skimmer. At the Valley Fund lots - Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, a heard Tropical Kingbird and a Lesser Nighthawk that flew over the lots, and then landed in a tree on the south side long enough for photos and a definitive ID before birders flushed it.

Over the bridge to the mainland and Laguna Atascosa NWR: Bronzed Cowbird, a less than entirely healthy Green Jay slumped on the small fence near the visitor center, Greater Roadrunner, Olive Sparrow, Black-crested Titmouse, snake in tree. Osprey Overlook: Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck rafts, Mottled Duck, various herons and Roseate Spoonbill.

On Friday it was 94 degrees high mid-valley, so being the bright spark that I am I went to Santa Ana NWR so I could get cooked in the heat: Great Kiskadee, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Couch's and Tropical Kingbirds, heard a Parula (likely Tropical given the location), Brown-crested Flycatcher, three singing (and 1 seen) Clay-colored Thrushes, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, American Coot, swallows including Northern Rough-winged and Cliff. The usual anecdote of Clay-colored Thrush once being a relevant rare bird is relevant here, given that a quick eBird search will show you that they are now findable from mid-valley up through Salineno.

McAllen Green Parakeets were at 10th/Dove and then off to Bentsen - Cave Swallow, Black Phoebe, Spotted Sandpipers, singing Clay-colored Thrush and two Elf Owls. Fly-over nighthawk sp (likely Lesser) and two barely visible but vocal Common Pauraques in the parking lot, plus one over the irrigation canal.

Sat Apr 14th: RGV

Saturday was the designated Salineno upriver day - a front was moving through, very windy at 6am - lightning in the distance from a storm front. Still cloudy, but clearing, at the Rio Grande river at Salineno which was as high as it was in recent Aprils. Red-billed Pigeon - first two of four - seen from boat ramp, perched up on the island upstream. Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole otherwise not much initially. At the end of the trail near the island - Audubon's Oriole, Bullock's Oriole, Northern Rough-winged and Bank Swallows, Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cassin's Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, two Morelet's Seedeaters (pair) flying in from the island to the bank then downstream. [Former White-collared Seedeater, name change June 2018]. Not found again despite some searching. After a little more time I added Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Summer Tanager, a vocal Ringed Kingfisher, Gray Hawk. Temperatures were much more reasonable - mid-80's high - than Saturday. One Black-chinned-ish Hummingbird female was seen - highly likely since Ruby-throated sightings are rare this far upriver but simply not quite enough of a view to be definitive about although it was pumping its tail. Mallard (Mexican ssp, white borders on speculum) apparently paired with Mottled Duck (no white). No other ducks. Assorted herons/egrets moving up and down the river.

Despite some early morning rain I tried Salineno Cutoff ("dump") Road - not much except Black-throated Sparrows, Lark Sparrow. Falcon/Starr County Park had the usual run down vibe - (the?) Cactus Wren singing from thin flagpole that seems to be standing in for the fallen yucca stalk, Hooded Orioles, Vermilion Flycatcher, more Lark Sparrows, two vocal Ash-throated Flycatchers. Another singing Cassin's Sparrow on the northern fence line (along Falcon State Park approach road) which also had Bullock's Oriole, Cactus Wren on wires. Bullock's Orioles and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were making some migration move but hawk migration wasn't in evidence - one Swainson's Hawk seen along with Osprey.

Falcon State Park had Verdin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Osprey, Pyrrhuloxia, White-eyed Vireo, various doves. Nothing much happening apart from the only Pyrrhuloxia for the entire trip. Notably no Roadrunner, quail of any type. Slacker-like I took a couple of hours out in the early afternoon to recover from encoraching tiredness.

Sun Apr 15th: RGV/travel

On the final RGV day I went to Santa Ana NWR at 8am - Tropical Parula on the trail on the north side of Willow Lakes - moving around quite a lot but centered at the water control structure/dike, also Eastern Screech-Owl in a nest-box, Tropical and Couch's Kingbirds, singing Clay-colored Thrushes, Long-billed Thrasher, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Bullock's Oriole and some distant Altamira, two Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Swainson's Hawks and a Mississippi Kite in a very limited hawk lift-off, some of which seen from the tower, plus local Harris's Hawk and Gray Hawk over the parking lot. Least Grebe at Willow Lakes along with Blue-winged Teal, Long-billed Dowitcher, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mottled Duck, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. Not all that much at Pintail Lakes - a few ducks, Greater Yellowlegs and Black-necked Stilt, no kingfishers.

Progresso Sod Farm, which I prefer to visit on a Sunday, was quite productive: American Golden Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper on wet sod; American Golden Plover, Buff-bellied and Baird's Sandpiper on the drier side, plus Horned Lark, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Estero Llano Grande SP: standards including Pectoral Sandpiper, Cinnamon Teal, Roseate Spoonbill and a vocal Northern Beardless-Tyrranulet but no sign of an of the three targets: Bewick's Wren (heard?), Lesser Goldfinch or Pauraque. Did have two Yellow-billed Cuckoos with some vocalization.

The vicinity of Old Port Isabel Road held White-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk. It's my usual route to check South Padre before heading to the airport so back at the Convention Center: Cerulean Warbler plus some evidence of arriving birds: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Lincoln's Sparrow, Sora at the seed cast around the lawn, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Waterthrush. Sheepshead Lots: Wood Thrush, Northern Waterthrush, Painted Bunting in a very brief visit. Then I returned the car to National and flew the short hop from HRL to HOU on SouthWest, arriving after dark and making a late arrival into Winnie.

Mon Apr 16th: UTC

Sabine Woods was slow at dawn, so the sunny weather was met with declining migrant numbers on the coast. One Hooded, Blue-winged, Parula, Worm-eating, multiple Black-and-white Warblers, one Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-headed/Red-eyed/Yellow-throated/White-eyed Vireos, Brown Thrasher, Indigo bunting and one Painted Bunting male, Orchard Oriole, Great Crested Flycatcher. Heard Sora and Clapper Rail from the saltmarsh across the road. Although there is a trend of increasing numbers of migrants from early to mid April, the weather patterns are a huge modulator of that trend.

Back to the Winnie area. Anahuac NWR: Least Bittern, Stilt Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper plus the usual suspects. Agricultural fields in the general area of the NWR had Eastern Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher as token migrants. Agricultural fields were drier, if anything, than the five days previously so it wasn't going to be an epic shorebird experience (see 2017). Like the passerines, shorebird numbers should be greater in mid- than early- April but that doesn't mean you'll be surrounded by them at any site.

Rollover Pass at mid-low tide had a good variety including, finally, Black Tern. Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Forster's/Sandwich/Royal/Caspian Terns, both Pelicans, Piping/Snowy/Semipalmated/Black-bellied Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Red-breasted Merganser. Tuna Rd: Seaside Sparrow, White-tailed Kite, Forster's Tern, Clapper Rail bathing in a puddle in the middle of the road and calling repeatedly (a hormonal male?) and the inevitable potential Nelson's fly-bys that refused to perch up. More White-tailed Kites seen back towards High Island, inevitably, since I had finally seen my first one. Nelson's Sparrow numbers appear to peak in late April and seem to be migrants here more so than overwintering birds.

Hooks Woods was deathly slow: Wood Thrush, Summer Tanager. Boy Scout Woods a little better with Orchard/Baltimore orioles in one tree with Cedar Waxwings, Indigo Bunting and Orchard Oriole plus Gray Catbird at the drip, Northern Parula, Indigo Bunting and Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the more open southern edge. Upland Sandpiper at Whites Ranch Road in a cow pasture, and more Upland at Fairview Road with American Golden Plover. At Herbert Road they were repaving the road but I still saw several Buff-breasted Sandpipers with American Golden Plover along this road. A kekking King Rail was in the ditch at S. Pear Orchard Rd.

Anahuac NWR at dusk: Least Bittern, Orchard Oriole, Common Nighthawk.

Tues Apr 17th: UTC/travel

Fairview Road at dawn for Upland Sandpiper (also Killdeer, Swainson's Hawk). Paving acitivity on Hebert Rd and nothing of interest the cattle field nearby. Bolivar beach was relatively voluminous with Least, Common, Sandwich, Royal, Forster's and a couple of Black Terns, shorebirds dominated by Sanderling, Dunlin. Piping, Snowy, Semipalmated Plovers and a heard Wilson's. Breeding plumage Red Knot, Black-bellied Plover, Marbled Godwit, many fewer gulls but the bazillion Least Terns made up for it. A couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers but no Westerns. Improbably a Glaucous Gull was at the bollards on my return to the car. No Pectorals along Rettilon but Yellowlegs/Willet/Meadowlark.

Checked out of the hotel and went to Anahuac NWR - where the usual suspects plus Bald Eagle and Least Bittern. Rollover - had a plague of birders and a lot of terns - nothing new here. I spent the final part of the birding time at Smith Oaks rookery and then repacked and headed to Houston Hobby.

Trip List

253 species is a new personal best for any birding trip, topping the 2016 TX April trip (242 species) and the CO-NM-TX 2014 trip (236) species by a significant margin. My 2006 AZ-NM-CO trip had 244 species and the similar trip in May/June 2018 had 251. In recent trip lists I count heard-only birds that I'm confident of (e.g. King Rail in the right habitat where it does not overlap with Clapper Rail).
Species Scientific Where
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis uncommon widespread
Fulvous Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor Anahuac NWR and Estero Llano Grande SP
Blue-winged Teal Spatula discors common widespread
Cinnamon Teal Spatula cyanoptera Anahuac NWR and Estero Llano Grande SP
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata uncommon widespread
Gadwall Mareca strepera uncommon widespread
American Wigeon Mareca americana Laguna Atascosa NWR
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos "Mexican" Mallard at Salineno
Mottled Duck Anas fulvigula RGV and UTC
Northern Pintail Anas acuta one at Laguna Atascosa NWR
Green-winged Teal Anas crecca uncommon
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis one at Estero Llano Grande SP
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator one at Rollover Pass (UTC)
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis one at Estero Llano Grande SP
Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula various RGV
Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus Hugh Ramsey, Santa Ana
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps widespread, common at Anahuac NWR
Rock Pigeon Columba livia widespread
Red-billed Pigeon Columba flavirostris four at Salineno
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto widespread uncommon
Inca Dove Columbina inca a few in RGV
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina RGV
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi RGV
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica common to abundant (Santa Ana NWR)
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura common to abundant
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus uncommon but several locations UTC and RGV
Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus Laguna Atascosa NWR
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis South Padre Sheepshead lots, prob. in flight at Bentsen
Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor one at dusk over Anahuac NWR
Common Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis heard and seen at Bentsen SP
Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica Anahuac town, High Island
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris SPI and UTC
Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis Frontera Audubon and Estero Llano SP
Clapper Rail Rallus crepitans heard coastal saltmarsh (but not SPI), seen Tuna Rd
King Rail Rallus elegans heard at and near Anahuac NWR
Sora Porzana carolina seen at Anahuac NWR and SPI, heard other locations
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinicus Anahuac NWR
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata locally common (Anahuac)
American Coot Fulica americana locally common (Anahuac) but widespread
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus uncommon widespread
American Avocet Recurvirostra americana locally common on UTC
American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus a few at Rollover Pass
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola uncommon RGV and UTC
American Golden-Plover Pluvialis dominica locally common on UTC, sod farms on RGV
Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus Bolivar beach
Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia Bolivar beach
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus UTC (Bolivar, Rollover) and RGV (SPI)
Piping Plover Charadrius melodus UTC (Bolivar, Rollover) and RGV (SPI)
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus widespread common
Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda UTC pastures
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus <50 total, UTC and RGV
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa several at Bolivar beach and Rollover Pass, a few at SPI
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres a few at Bolivar beach and SPI
Red Knot Calidris canutus a few at Bolivar beach
Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus uncommon
Sanderling Calidris alba common to abundant coastally
Dunlin Calidris alpina common to abundant coastally
Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii UTC (Bolivar Beach) and RGV (Progreso sod farm)
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla uncommon
Buff-breasted Sandpiper Calidris subruficollis UTC (pastures) and RGV (sod farms)
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos UTC and RGV
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla a few at Bolivar beach
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri a few at Bolivar beach
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus uncommon to common, saltwater
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus uncommon to common, freshwater
Wilson's Snipe Gallinago delicata a few on UTC
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia three;
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria a few
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes common
Willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus common
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca uncommon surprisingly
Pomarine Jaeger Stercorarius pomarinus Rollover Pass
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla abundant
Franklin's Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan mostly as singles UTC and SPI, one small flock Laguna Vista
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis uncommon coastally
Herring Gull Larus argentatus uncommon coastally
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus one at Bolivar beach
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus one at Bolivar beach
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides one at Bolivar beach
Least Tern Sterna antillarum common to abundant coastally
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica uncommon
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia uncommon
Black Tern Chlidonias niger a few at Rollover Pass and Bolivar Beach
Common Tern Sterna hirundo common on beach areas
Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri common on coastal bays
Royal Tern Sterna maxima common coastally
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis common coastally
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger common coastally
Common Loon Gavia immer two basic plumage at SPI
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens one at Rollover Pass
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus common widespread
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus two at Rollover Pass
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga a few at Trinity River (Wallisville) UTC
American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos uncommon
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis common
American Bittern Botaurus lentiginosus total of 3 at Anahuac NWR
Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis several at Anahuac NWR, two at SPI
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias uncommon
Great Egret Ardea alba common
Snowy Egret Egretta thula common
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea uncommon
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor common at Anahuac NWR, otherwise uncommon
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens SPI, Rollover, Bolivar beach
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis common
Green Heron Butorides virescens uncommon
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax uncommon, SPI and Anahuac NWR
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Nyctanassa violacea uncommon, SPI and Anahuac NWR
White Ibis Eudocimus albus uncommon but widespread
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus one at Anahuac NWR
White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi common on UTC at/near Anahuac NWR, several on RGV
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja uncommon widespread
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus common
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura common
Osprey Pandion haliaetus uncommon widespread
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus ~5 on UTC near High Island
Mississippi Kite Ictinia mississippiensis one at Santa Ana NWR
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus one at Anahuac NWR
Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius at times common on UTC, one or two RGV
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus a few RGV
White-tailed Hawk Geranoaetus albicaudatus RGV coastal prairie and Weaver Road sod farm
Gray Hawk Buteo plagiatus Salineno and Santa Ana NWR
Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus two on UTC
Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni uncommon but widespread
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis UTC
Eastern Screech-Owl Otus asio Santa Ana NWR (McCall's?)
Elf Owl Micrathene whitneyi Bentsen SP
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus Anahuac NWR at Yellow Rail prairie
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata Salineno
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon uncommon widespread
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana Frontera Audubon
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons uncommon RGV
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus Sabine Woods
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Dryobates scalaris uncommon RGV
Downy Woodpecker Dryobates pubescens Sabine Woods
Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway uncommon widespread
American Kestrel Falco sparverius one or two UTC
Aplomado Falcon Falco femoralis Old Port Isobel Road
Green Parakeet Psittacara holochlorus McAllen 10th/Dove
Red-crowned Parrot Amazona viridigenalis Oliveira Park in Brownsville
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet Camptostoma imberbe Santa Ana NWR
Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens two at Sabine Woods
Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax virescens two at Sabine Woods, one at SPI
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans one at Bentsen SP
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus Falcon CP
Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens Falcon CP, probably at Salineno
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus High Island and Sabine Woods
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus a few at Santa Ana NWR
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus widespread RGV
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus several pairs RGV: Cannon Rd loop, Santa Ana, Sheepshead lots on South Padre
Couch's Kingbird Tyrannus couchii widespread RGV
Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis one at SPI
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus RGV and UTC
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus RGV and UTC
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus uncommon widespread
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus uncommon widespread
Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons a few, Sabine Woods, one at SPI
Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius a few, Sabine Woods
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus uncommon RGV, UTC
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus uncommon RGV, UTC
Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas widespread RGV
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata Sabine Woods, High Island
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos UTC (two heard vocalizing)
Tamaulipas Crow Corvus imparatus two at Brownsville landfill
Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus one along TX-100 near Aplomado site
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris a few, especially Progreso Sod Farm
Purple Martin Progne subis uncommon
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor common in UTC
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis uncommon
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia Salineno
Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota widespread uncommon UTC and a few in RGV
Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva Bentsen SP and Estero Llano Grande SP
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica widespread common
Black-crested Titmouse Baeolophus atricristatus RGV
Verdin Auriparus flaviceps Salineno, Falcon CP, Hugh Ramsey
House Wren Troglodytes aedon a few UTC and RGV
Sedge Wren Cistothorus platensis uncommon and elusive UTC and RGV, seen once near Sabine Woods
Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris uncommon and elusive UTC, marginally more cooperative SPI
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus uncommon RGV and UTC
Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus Falcon CP
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea a few
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula one or two only
Swainson's Thrush Catharus ustulatus a few at Sabine Woods
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus one or two at Sabine Woods, High Island
Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina a few at High Island, Sabine Woods, SPI
Clay-colored Thrush Turdus grayi singing at Bentsen SP and Santa Ana NWR
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis uncommon
Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre Falcon CP
Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum Sabine Woods
Long-billed Thrasher Toxostoma longirostre RGV uncommon
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos common
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris widespread
Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum High Island
House Sparrow Passer domesticus urban
Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus RGV
Cassin's Sparrow Peucaea cassinii Old Port Isobel Road and Salineno
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina one or two UTC
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus uncommon in RGV, a few at Sabine Woods
Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata Salineno "dump" road
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis common to adundant, especially on UTC
Seaside Sparrow Ammospiza maritima territorial at Tuna Rd, Bolivar peninsula
Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii uncommon in RGV, very uncommon in High Island
Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana a few in UTC
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys a few stragglers at High Island
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens uncommon but singing, RGV and UTC
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus individuals at SPI
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna uncommon UTC and RGV
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius common at High Island and SPI
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus Salineno
Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii Salineno, SPI
Altamira Oriole Icterus gularis Salineno
Audubon's Oriole Icterus graduacauda Salineno
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula UTC and RGV
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus common and widespread
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus uncommon RGV
Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater uncommon widespread
Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula uncommon in grassy suburban areas in UTC
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major common breeder at Anahuac NWR
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus abundant throughout
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus a few at Sabine Woods
Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorus several at Sabine Woods, one or two at SPI
Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla UTC, particularly Sabine Woods
Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis uncommon at UTC+RGV
Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora cyanoptera a few UTC+RGV
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia uncommon but widespread
Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea a few on UTC
Swainson's Warbler Limnothlypis swainsonii 16 in 3 days on UTC
Tennessee Warbler Oreothlypis peregrina frequent at SPI, less common on UTC
Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata one (!) at SPI
Nashville Warbler Oreothlypis ruficapilla a couple at RGV sites
Kentucky Warbler Geothlypis formosus several per day on UTC, individuals at SPI
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas widespread uncommon
Hooded Warbler Setophaga citrina at times abundant (100-150 on one day!)
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla two at SPI
Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea one at Sabine Woods, one at SPI
Northern Parula Setophaga americana several (UTC, RGV)
Tropical Parula Setophaga pitiayumi singing male at Santa Ana NWR
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca one at High Island
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia male and female at SPI (non-Mangrove)
Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata a few stragglers
Yellow-throated Warbler Setophaga dominica a few (UTC, RGV), particularly Sabine Woods
Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor one at Sabine Woods
Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens < 10 (UTC, SPI)
Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla one at SPI
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra uncommon widespread
Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea two at Sabine Woods
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis widespread
Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus one at Falcon SP
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus two individual males (SPI, High Island)
Blue Grosbeak Passerina caerulea a few singles at SPI, Sabine Woods
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea widespread common migrant
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris a few singles at SPI, Sabine Woods
Dickcissel Spiza americana one at Sabine Woods
Morelet's Seedeater Sporophila torqueola Salineno
Close, but no cigar:
I believe I saw each of these species but their ID is not quite definitive enough to make it onto my year list
Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri Salineno - feeding female pumping tail
Virginia Rail Rallus limicola in flight chased by Sora at SPI
Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii probable at Laguna Atascosa NWR
Bewick's Wren Thryomanes bewickii probably heard at Estero Llano Grande SP
Nelson's Sparrow Ammospiza nelsoni probable at Tuna Rd

eBird Hotspot Locations

This is for the RGV only. For the UTC I basically focus on 5 hotspots so it doesn't matter that much what is reported from them. Imperfect since most locations are really a cluster of hotspots - in those cases I choose the more generic one. Hotspots March, current year. Note the usage of current year which might throw you off if you check this in January. Sorted very roughly east to west in RGV:

eBird Targets

These are for more semi-regular - but potentially still scarce - birds whose locations are more likely to turn up in eBird as compared to rare bird alerts. Otherwise BirdsEye or the eBird Alert system is often more effective for genuine rarities. Again this is the current year, 2018 but inspection of the URL should allow you to make a revised link for other years (see byr and eyr values). I also still use the BirdsEye app to look for recent records of target species when I'm in the area. But it's mining the same database, for the most part.