Naturalist Journeys is pleased to return to the beloved Texas Hill Country again this spring, with senior guide Pat Lueders. This Texas Hill Country birding tour really does have it all. Here are our top 5 reasons to join us.
The Golden-cheeked Warbler is the only species of bird that nests only in the state of Texas—amazing, right? On our 2019 Texas Hill Country birding trip, the group had several successful encounters with the Golden-cheeked Warbler.
At the Frio Bat Cave, witness anywhere between 1-10 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats soar into the sky at sunset! An incredible site, this is the second largest bat population open to the public in the world.
The Black-capped Vireo is a vulnerable bird species and has an estimated population of only 20,000. The group that went on our Texas Hill Country birding trip last year got fantastic looks, right on the grounds at Neal’s lodge.
4. Stunning Butterflies
When visiting the Lost Maples Nature Area on our Texas Hill Country birding tour, the kaleidoscope of butterflies that can be seen is magical—over 140 species have been spotted here. From previous Texas Hill Country birding trips, Nysa Roadside-Skipper, Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, and Pipevine, Spicebush, and Giant Swallowtail have flourished in numbers.
This small kingfisher, with a disproportionately long bill, can be spotted on this Texas Hill Country birding tour and Texas is one of the only hotspots it can be seen in the US.
Bonus: Stay at Neal’s Lodge–Unpack and Relax
Neal’s Lodge, located in Concan, Texas, is our comfortable accommodation for the week. Neal’s grounds host birds from the Eastern and Western U.S., as well as the Lower Rio Grande Valley. This area has been a bucket list destination for naturalists for decades!
If you opt to pair this Texas Hill Country tour with our Texas Big Bend tour, we’ll reimburse your connecting flight up to $100.
In April of 2019, Naturalist Journeys returned to the south Texas coast for a fun week during spring migration. On this Texas migration tour, our group of 10, plus guides Bob Behrstock and Robert Gallardo tallied an impressive 23 species of warblers! What fun.
Black-throated Green Warbler A bold black throat, this showy warbler, though not very green, is known for its ceaseless buzzy song. We listen for this beauty on our Texas migration trip.
Blackburnian Warbler Oh-so bright and beautiful, you won’t forget your first sighting of a Blackburnian Warbler on our Texas migration trip.
Cerulean Warbler Aptly named, the Cerulean is another treetop denizen, flashing its sky blue head. The Cerulean flies from the Andes to get to its US nesting territory.
Chestnut-sided Warbler This jaunty little warbler looks quite handsome with its golden cap, black mask, and chestnut sides.
Common Yellowthroat So, so bold and beautiful, the Common Yellowthroat’s markings are always a favorite. That black racoon mask is just so vivid.
Golden-winged Warbler Another black masked beauty, this mostly grey warbler’s sunny yellow shoulders and cap make it stand out.
Hooded Warbler We’re suckers for the Hooded Warbler. It’s bright yellow body is offset by greenish-gray tinged wings. And the black hood … swoon! Watch for flicks of white tail feathers in the understory.
Kentucky Warbler Another bright and sunny warbler, its yellow belly and throat can’t be missed. The Kentucky Warbler is loud and much easier to hear than see.
Magnolia Warbler One of our favorites, by name and by markings, the drama of gray, black, yellow, and white make the Magnolia a stunner. Watch for them feeding at the very ends of branches.
Northern Parula Almost a seal-blue on top with a burnt orange necklace, the Northern Parula’s breeding range interestingly skips a large swatch of the upper Midwest before starting back up again in Canada.
Northern Waterthrush Big and not brightly patterned, it’s the Northern Waterthrush’s song that’s so attractive. Look for them at water’s edge as they hunt insects and sometimes even salamanders. Not your typical warbler!
Ovenbird Also not a bright warbler, the Ovenbird does have a boldly striped chest and belly. Why “Ovenbird”? Their name comes from the covered nest the female builds.
Pine Warbler Almost never seen in any tree but a pine (what else), the Pine Warbler makes us work as it works the tops of the trees.
Prairie Warbler A chestnut-colored triangular patch at the nape of the neck and streaky belly help with ID. Fun Fact: The female Prairie Warbler eats her eggshells after they hatch. Crunch.
Prothonotary Warbler Everybody loves a Prothonotary Warbler. Their full yellow head and gray back end are a giveaway, and they are a flash of bright as they work the understory.
Swainson’s Warbler This one boasts quite the belly! Brown and basic, it’s range doesn’t reach usually reach past the Mason-Dixon line.
Tennessee Warbler The Tennessee is a small warbler and is happiest breeding in the boreal forests of Canada. Their favorite food? Spruce budworm.
Yellow Warbler Brilliantly bright yellow with gentle vertical stripes, the Yellow Warbler can be seen throughout the United States and up into Canada and Alaska during breeding season.
Yellow-throated Warbler Lucky for birders the Yellow-throated’s throat is bright! They like to hang out at the top of the canopy, so we look for flits of yellow on this Texas migration trip.
We’ve described each species’ male in breeding plumage.
Look no further than the breathtaking mountains on this Southeast Arizona birding tour for a New Year getaway—so good we have two trips in January with popular guide, Bob Meinke.
A January Southeast Arizona birding tour is a fascinating experience. Enjoy warmer weather (fingers crossed!) and the fascinating birds and wildlife of the Arizona Sky Islands.
Highlights from our Southeast Arizona Birding Tour
We enjoy plenty of opportunities to marvel at many wintering species of warblers, raptors, and sparrows, as well as tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that call Southeast Arizona home for the winter. See Vesper, Grasshopper, and Baird’s Sparrows, as well as Horned Lark, and possibly Longspurs as they enjoy these productive wintering grounds. Raptors are also a highlight in the Sulphur Springs Valley.
There are an abundance of trails for exploring paired with gazing views of the sky islands in the sea of desert. Popular hotspots like Ramsey and Miller Canyons, Ash Canyon, and the San Pedro River are on the agenda for those keen. Choose to do as much or as little as you like—simple!
5 of Our Favorite Birds on this Southeast Arizona Birding Tour
The Montezuma Quail is super interesting in its behavior! It will wait till the very last minute when it feels threatened, and bursts into flight if danger comes too close for comfort! It can leap around 2 meters straight up, even with clipped wings!
The Sandhill Cranes that winter here number in the tens of thousands. We watch them as they feed in ponds and fields during the day. We make special time to see them fly into roost for the night—a real spectacle!
Our tour is based out of the lovely Casa de San Pedro, our favorite, most comfy place to stay for a Southeast Arizona birding tour. Grab yourself a slice (or 2!) of the famous homemade pie.
By Peg Abbott, Dodie Logue & Lynn Tennefoss, Portal, AZ
Southeast Arizona in the spring is a birder’s paradise. Mexican species flow across the border in April and May to court and nest in the stunning, mountainous sky islands, lush riparian zones, and remnant grasslands of Southeast Arizona, alongside resident species not seen further north. Complementing Arizona’s signature birds are lovely weather, nationally acclaimed lodges, and delicious food!
To help birders focus on specialty species of the area, Naturalist Journeys has recently updated a popular handout listing the 25 signature species by habitat, targeted by birders visiting the region. Additionally, a dozen more species seen a bit more broadly in Arizona and Texas and five highly-prized (though infrequent) specialties are listed along with five widely-recognized sub-species seen in the region. Enjoy our handy list of Arizona’s signature birds below.
People travel far and wide to see tropical rain forests, but our expert guides like Woody Wheeler rank time in the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest just as highly. Picture towering, half-century-old Sitka Spruce, Hemlock, Cedar, and Douglas Fir trees skirted by lush layers of ferns, wild berries, and other vegetation iconic to the Olympic Peninsula. On this tour, naturalists share expertise on hikes through several of these leafy green “cathedrals” near Lake Quinault and in the Hoh River rainforest. Look and listen for Pacific Wren, Vaux’s Swift, Varied Thrush, Northern Spotted Owl (very rare), and Roosevelt Elk.
Migration is fascinating! The mass movement of songbirds crossing our hemisphere each spring and fall is the best reminder that nature is amazing. So, take a break and join us to witness the wonders of the natural world.
1. Join a Great Leader Our friend and colleague Bob Behrstock has led groups, private clients, and nature festival tours in the Texas Hill Country since 1980, so he knows the region like his own backyard (P.S. Have you seen Bob’s list of backyard birds? Amazing!). Bob is also a photographer and writer — he’s even prepared several family accounts for The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. His expertise in birds, damselflies, and butterflies makes this a well-balanced journey.
Our British group greatly enjoyed their tour of the Southwest National Parks.
By Guide Pat Lueders
Sharing five of our magnificent Southwest National Parks with visitors from Great Britain was the hidden pleasure of leading Naturalist Journeys’ September Southwest National Parks trip to Utah and Arizona. The 2016 tour was shared by three couples that weren’t acquainted at the beginning of the trip, but they became great friends by the conclusion of this exciting adventure. The beauty of the scenery, the discovery of new bird species, the sighting of unusual mammals, and the variety of reptiles we saw kept the British group in a constant state of excitement. Continue reading Naturalist Journeys Explores the Southwest National Parks→
Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone – an account from a recent Naturalist Journeys adventure
By Guide Woody Wheeler
When it comes to fall colors, the eastern half of our country has the reputation for the most colorful displays. Another less-heralded display occurs in the west that combines brilliant fall colors with a major river, abundant wildlife, a backdrop of spectacular mountains and more than half of the world’s thermal features. Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone. Continue reading Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem→
“The great pointed paw of the state of Florida, familiar as the map of North America itself, of which it is the most noticeable appendage, thrusts south, farther south than any other part of the mainland of the United States. Between the shining aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the roaring deep-blue waters of the north-surging Gulf Stream, the shaped land points toward Cuba and the Caribbean. It points toward and touches within one degree of the tropics.” — Marjory Stoneman Douglas
In this eloquent passage, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of The Everglades: River of Grass, beautifully captures the essence of Florida’s unique geography within the United States. Due to its closeness to the tropical Caribbean and the warm Gulf Stream, this peninsula harbors several unique plant communities found nowhere else in the USA. One of these is tropical hardwood hammock, a dense stand of hardwood trees of primarily Caribbean origin (sometimes over 90% of native species present). These rich and diverse forests with such evocatively named trees such as gumbo limbo, cocoplum, and wild cinnamon are important for a number of South Florida’s Caribbean birds that reach the northern end of their range in here: White-crowned Pigeon, Mangrove Cuckoo, and Black-whiskered Vireo. They are also an important wintering ground for a wide variety of songbirds.
White-crowned Pigeon is a handsome, large pigeon that depends on these hardwood forests to feed. During spring and early summer, these birds can be seen streaming overhead into Florida Bay by the hundreds in the afternoon at Flamingo in Everglades National Park. They can also be seen throughout the year in suburban Miami where they have taken a liking for ornamental fruiting trees in people’s yards! In spring, the nasal call notes of Mangrove Cuckoo and repetitive song of Black-whiskered Vireo can be heard in healthy tropical hardwood hammocks in South Florida — the former is partially resident while the other flies all the way from South America to spend the summer here. Of course, all three of these species are among the most desired of South Florida’s Caribbean birds to see for the visiting birdwatcher.
In fall and winter, these forests become even more active! Mangrove Cuckoos fall silent and Black-whiskered Vireos depart for the true tropics, but a couple dozen species of warbler, vireo, tanager, oriole, and flycatcher spend the winter in South Florida in this habitat. While the rest of the country lies in winter’s grip, January and February are a great time to observe “summer” birds in Miami and the Keys: Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-throated and Blue-headed Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Painted and Indigo Bunting, and diverse flocks of warblers that can include everything from Worm-eating to Yellow-throated to Black-throated Blue. Winter is also the best time to see Short-tailed Hawk, a striking South Florida specialty often missed on spring tours, soaring high overhead.
In conclusion, South Florida and its unique tropical hardwood hammocks always have something to offer, whether it is a spring tour to catch up with uncommon summer breeders or a winter tour for the sheer diversity of wintering songbirds. Please consider joining us for either the winter or spring version of our Florida tour!
A special thank you to Carlos Sanchez for such a well-written and informative post on South Florida’s Caribbean birds. Recently, Carlos gave a talk entitled “Following Birds to the Heart of Brazil” to the Linnaean Society of New York at the American Museum of Natural History. What an honor!