Trip Report for PAS Birding Tour of High Island, Texas

At the end of our 3 ½ day birding tour in High Island, Texas and surrounding areas, everyone agreed that it was one mighty fine adventure!

Steve Gabbert arranged for local birder and photographer, Greg Lavaty, to guide us around the area, and Greg surely knew his birds! On our first morning out with Greg we made a roadside stop that netted us the #1 bird of the trip, and a lifer for all eleven of us—a Black Rail!! We could not have been more excited! Thanks to the fast actions of one of our talented photographers, Tsaiwei Olee, we have gorgeous photos to document this monumental sighting! Even though our guide had seen this bird before, this was the best and the longest look he had ever had! How lucky are we?

Following the sighting of the Black Rail, everything else was gravy! But what excellent gravy it was! Right off the plane, we voted to spend several hours birding WG Jones State Forest, in Houston, where we picked up four species of woodpeckers, including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We also got to see the Brown-headed Nuthatch, which was another lifer for most of us.

On our first day with our guide we birded Boliver Flats Shorebird Sanctuary and surrounding roads, where we got our Black Rail, huge flocks of American Avocets, Black Skimmers, Mottled Ducks, Reddish Egrets, Laughing Gulls, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

At Anahuac NWR we saw Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Beautiful Purple Gallinules shining in the sunlight. We saw White-faced Ibis in breeding plumage, Orchard Orioles and magnificent Roseate Spoonbills. We saw Least Bitterns, Indigo Buntings and a King Rail!

We returned to High Island to the fabulous Smith Oaks Sanctuary and Rookery where we were amazed by the beautiful, nesting Tri-colored Herons with their blue bills! The trees were filled with nesting Snowy, Great and Cattle Egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills! And we started seeing warblers; Black and White, Prothonotary, Tennessee, Hooded, and American Redstart!

On our last day, we hit it big at Sabine Woods! We were having such good luck that we spent the whole day there, and only left in time to catch our 8:00 pm flight back to San Diego. As our guide said, “Let’s keep on fishing where the fish are biting”! We had 49 species before lunch and 32 species after lunch at this one location! Highlights included Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Golden-winged Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler and possibly best of all, a Lawrence’s Warbler! We also got a Kentucky Warbler, a Cerulean Warbler, a Magnolia Warbler, a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Chuck-will’s Widow!

When all was said and done, we had some very tired but happy birders. Steve Ellis did our eBird checklists which included 18 checklists and a total of 161 excellent species observed! Our talented photographers; Cathie Canapé, Gail DeLalla and Tsaiwei Olee took photos for us, some of which are included in this report.

eBird Report: 

Many thanks to all who participated! We had a wonderful group of travel companions and birding friends. We all agreed that this is definitely a birding tour that PAS should offer again!

Photos attached: King Rail, Least Bittern, Tri-colored Heron, Black Rail, Our group with guide, Greg Lavaty on right in green shirt, Reddish Egret eating fish, Roseate Spoonbill, Our Group at Tia Juanita’s for dinner, BBQ Brisket—what would a trip to Texas be without it? American Avocets, Mottled Ducks, Black Skimmer



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