Category Archives: Mainland USA

5 reasons to join our Texas Hill Country Birding tour

Texas Hill Country
Golden-cheeked Warbler by Tom Dove

The endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler is a must-see on this Texas Hill Country Birding tour.

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.

1. Endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler

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.

2. Mexican Free-tailed Bat

Texas Hill Country
Mexican Free-tailed Bats by Pat Lueders

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.

3. Black-capped Vireo

Texas Hill Country
Black-capped Vireo by Tom Dove

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

Texas Hill Country
Pipevine Swallowtail by Terry Peterson
Texas Hill Country
Gulf Fritillary by Terry Peterson
Texas Hill Country
Giant Swallowtail by Terry Peterson

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.

5. Green Kingfisher hotspot

Texas Hill Country
Green Kingfisher by Tom Dove

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!

Special Offer!

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.

Naturalist Journeys’ guide Pat Lueders leads our Texas Hill Country birding trip again this year. Find all the details for our Texas Hill Country trip, April 17 – 22, 2020 here. Priced at $2090 per person, based on double occupancy.
Read the full itinerary here.

REGISTER FOR THIS TRIP

23 Species of Warblers on our Texas Migration Tour

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. 

Texas Migration Tour
Birding Jones Forest, Naturalist Journeys Stock

You can join us this April for another Texas migration tour, this year with guide James P. Smith. 

Take a look at the 23 Warbler species seen on our 2019 Texas Migration tour.

Texas Migration Tour
American Redstart by Dan Pancamo

American Redstart  This darling little bird is always a fan favorite on our Texas migration trip. Busy, busy we look for the male’s bursts of orange as it flits from branch to branch.

Texas Migration Tour
Bay-breasted Warbler by Tom Dove

Bay-breasted Warbler 
A rich brown and cream in the spring, don’t let the Bay-breasted fool you outside of breeding season … it changes drastically to green and white.

Texas Migration Tour
Black-and-white Warbler by Doug Greenberg

Black-and-white Warbler
Dramatic and bright, the beautiful Black-and-white Warbler lives up to its name. This is one of the first migrants to arrive back in the US. 

Texas Migration Tour
Blue-throated Blue Warbler by Tom Dove

Black-throated Blue Warbler 
Rare to see in Texas, it was a treat for our group last year to see this black-masked warbler.

Texas Migration Tour
Black-throated Green Warbler by Ruth Guillemette

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Blackburnian Warbler by Tom Dove

Blackburnian Warbler
Oh-so bright and beautiful, you won’t forget your first sighting of a Blackburnian Warbler on our Texas migration trip.

Texas Migration Tour
Cerulean Warbler by Tom Dove

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Chestnut-sided Warbler by Doug Pratt

Chestnut-sided Warbler 
This jaunty little warbler looks quite handsome with its golden cap, black mask, and chestnut sides.

Texas Migration Tour
Common Yellowthroat by Peg Abbott

Common Yellowthroat 
So, so bold and beautiful, the Common Yellowthroat’s markings are always a favorite. That black racoon mask is just so vivid.

Texas Migration Tour
Golden-winged Warbler by Tom Dove

Golden-winged Warbler 
Another black masked beauty, this mostly grey warbler’s sunny yellow shoulders and cap make it stand out. 

Texas Migration Tour
Hooded Warbler, Naturalist Journeys Stock

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Kentucky Warbler by Andrew Weitzel

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Magnolia Warbler by Doug Greenberg

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Northern Parula by Carlos Sanchez

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Northern Waterthrush by Andrew Weitzel

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!

Texas Migration Tour
Ovenbird by Fyn Kynd

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Pine Warbler by Bob Hill

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Prairie Warbler by Carlos Sanchez

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Prothonotary Warbler by Ruth Guillemette

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Swainson’s Warbler by Andrew Cannizzaro

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. 

Texas Migration Tour
Tennessee Warbler by Brian Plunkett

Tennessee Warbler 
The Tennessee is a small warbler and is happiest breeding in the boreal forests of Canada. Their favorite food? Spruce budworm.

Texas Migration Tour
Yellow Warbler by Doug Greenberg

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.

Texas Migration Tour
Yellow-throated Warbler by Carlos Sanchez

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.

Naturalist Journeys’ guide James P. Smith leads our Texas migration trip to the Big Thicket and High Island this year. Find all the details for our Texas Coast & Big Thicket trip, April 23 – May 1, 2020 here. Priced at $2390 per person, based on double occupancy.

REGISTER FOR THIS TRIP

Read the full itinerary here.

Explore the Sky Islands on our winter Southeast Arizona Birding Tour

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

Montezuma Quail

  • 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!

Vermilion FlycatcherSoutheast Arizona Birding Tour

  • A unique flycatcher in the sense that it spends most of the time (around 90%) perching conspicuously, making moves mostly to catch its prey! A must-see bird in the Southwest area of the United States!

Broad-billed HummingbirdSoutheast Arizona Birding Tour

  • The  Broad-billed Hummingbird cannot walk or hop just like other hummingbirds, but can definitely dance! It shows a courtship display by hovering in repeated arcs, roughly 12 inches above the female!

Olive WarblerSoutheast Arizona Birding Tour

  • The Olive Warbler loves open pine forests and the mountains – perfect for this tour! Male Olive Warblers take around 2 years to establish the orange hood of an adult!

Painted RedstartSoutheast Arizona Birding Tour

  • An interesting tactic that the Redstart uses to gather its meal – flashing its white wing patches and outer tail feathers as an element of surprise!

Read more about Arizona’s signature birds on a past blog post.

Southeast Arizona Birding Tour Bonus Bird: Sandhill Crane

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! 

Hotel Highlight

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.

Ready to Join Our Southeast Arizona birding tour?

Naturalist Journeys’ 2020 Southeast Arizona birding tours run January 4 – 10 and January 11 – 17. The guide for both tours is Bob Meinke. Prices start from $2590; airport is Tucson International (TUS). Email us today at travel@naturalistjourneys.com to reserve your space on one of these Southeast Arizona birding tours.

Photo Credits:

Sandhill Cranes, Hugh Simmons (HUSI); Montezuma Quail, Mary Mcsparen (MAMC); Vermilion Flycatcher, Woody Wheeler (WOWE); Broad-billed Hummingbird, HUSI; Olive Warbler, Peg Abbott (PEAB); Painted Redstart, HUSI.

Arizona’s Signature Birds

Finding Arizona’s Signature Birds 

By Peg Abbott, Dodie Logue & Lynn Tennefoss, Portal, AZ

Arizona's Signature Birds
Portal, Arizona by Peg Abbott

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.

Arizona's signature birds
Montezuma Quail by Peg Abbott

Continue reading Arizona’s Signature Birds

Explore the Olympic Peninsula’s Three Biomes

Join Naturalist Journeys on an incredible Olympic Peninsula tour, June 10 – 18, 2017.

Olympic Peninsula
Rialto Beach by Woody Wheeler

About Olympic National Park

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.

Olympic Peninsula
Roosevelt Elk by Woody Wheeler

Continue reading Explore the Olympic Peninsula’s Three Biomes

5 Reminders that Migration is Amazing

Don’t miss Naturalist Journeys’ 5 favorite spring migration trips.

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.

Continue reading 5 Reminders that Migration is Amazing

Top-10 Reasons to Bird Texas Hill Country

Join Naturalist Journeys as we bird Texas Hill Country on a one-stop, unpack and relax tour.

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.

Texas Hill Country
Guide Bob Behrstock by Karen LeMay

Continue reading Top-10 Reasons to Bird Texas Hill Country

Naturalist Journeys Explores the Southwest National Parks

Our British group greatly enjoyed their tour of the Southwest National Parks.

By Guide Pat Lueders

Southwest National Parks
Bryce Canyon National Park by 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 Ecosystem

Fall is Golden in Greater Yellowstone – an account from a recent Naturalist Journeys adventure

Fall is golden in greater Yellowstone
Grand Tetons in Autumn by Greg Smith

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

South Florida’s Caribbean Birds

Tropical Hardwood Hammocks & South Florida’s Caribbean Birds

South Florida's Caribbean Birds
Short-tailed Hawk by Carlos Sanchez

By Naturalist Journeys Guide, Carlos Sanchez

“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

South Florida's Caribbean Birds
Everglades Scenic, Naturalist Journeys Stock

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.

South Florida's Caribbean Birds
Mangrove Cuckoo by Carlos Sanchez

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.

South Florida's Caribbean Birds
Yellow-throated Warbler by Carlos Sanchez

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.

South Florida's Caribbean Birds
Painted Buntings, Naturalist Journeys Stock

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!


South Florida's Caribbean Birds
Guide Carlos Sanchez

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!

We are lucky to count Carlos as one of our guides. You can travel with Carlos on a Naturalist Journeys adventure in Winter 2017 to the Galapagos, South Florida, Belize, and Cuba. Don’t miss your chance to explore with such a talented guide.