Things had just started to settle down a bit, now that we had parked the RV in Tucson. We were making some new birding friends, learning the local hotspots etc. Well, that’s just not really our style, so at the very last minute, we rented a high gas mileage car, thru a few things in a cooler, and our birding gear and headed for south Texas. I mean really, what 1200 miles (one way) if you might get another 30 birds or so? We left Tucson on Monday, and drove to Alpine, Texas for our first night. We made several stops along the way, hoping our eBird research would give us local hotspots that might turn up a few gems. There were a lot of nice birds but the only bird of real note was a small flock of Scaled Quail in the Alpine Cemetery, who all escaped without a single photo.

Next stop was a night in San Antonio, where I am afraid, after a mediocre meal at a BBQ join next to our hotel, I went straight to bed. This allowed me a good night’s rest, and an early start towards Alamo Texas, where we had reserved a very cool little room with a kitchen. Alamo is, for what we could ascertain, just about dead center of a huge number of high quality birding hotspots. Once we were checked in, we headed straight out to begin our hunt. My wife Jeanne, was willing to make this trip, but not if we were going for just a few birds. “There better be at least 30” was that number she threw out at me, as we were driving away from Tucson. Now the pressure was on. We had put together something of an itinerary for the week that we would be here, with the following areas as our main targets. Santa Ana NWR, Estero Llano Grande State Park & World Birding Center (WBC), Benson-Rio Grande State Park & WBC, Edinburg State Park & WBC, Frontera Audubon Society, and then down to the south Padre Island area to hit Laguna Atascosa NWR, The South Padre Island Convention Center Birding Boardwalk, and the South Padre Island WBC. Our first three days were spent bouncing around from area to area, looking to find the species on my wish list. What did find right off the bat, was an amazing group of people, all willing to help out in so many ways. Tom and Connie, and John Y. at Estero Llano were simply amazing and I can’t possibly thank them enough for their help with the area, the birds and their friendship. Mark and Joanie at Santa Ana are truly amazing birders, who bent over backwards to help me track down a few birds, especially that damn Northern-beardless Tryannulet. It seemed like every spot we went to, these people, 90% of which are volunteers, could not have been more helpful. My last bird of the trip, at least while we are here in the Alamo area, was an Eastern Screech Owl, which I traveled over 5 miles around Estero Llano Grande NWR today, turned out to be right where I had walked several times, but when Rick, a volunteer there found out I was trying to track it down, walked me right over to the bird! That lovely little owl represented bird number 34 for the run thru Texas!

Here that Eastern Screech Owl.


I had hoped to track down the Altamira Oriole, the largest Oriole, and I did!


The classic Texas bird, the Green Jay is pretty common, but truly lovely.


Another local bird, the Golden-fronted Woodpecker was on my target list.


In looking thru eBird, I kept running across the Common Pauraque. I was never really thinking I would find this night bird, but guess what, I found several. This bird was sitting right out in the sun when I first found it. I met a couple of newer birders, that I took over to show the bird, and low and behold, sometime in the hour after I left it, another one joined it.
Here is that first bird…..

….and here are the two together.


This is the Black-crested Titmouse.


While I found very few of them, this Long-billed Thrasher posed quite nicely for me.


Estero Llano Grande has a HUGE number of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, somewhere in the area of 3000-4000.


While traveling around the country side, going from hotspot to hotspot, we ran across a few nice birds, like this Merlin in a small country park.


And this White-tailed Hawk was hanging around a field, along Brushline Road.


This White-eyed Vireo was found at a small watering hole at Santa Ana NWR.


At the same water spot, there were several Nashville Warblers coming and going.


When we traveled over to South Padre Island, we had a great time at both the Atascosa NWR, and the South Padre Island WBC. At the WBC, we found this ultra-rare (for here) first winter Magnolia Warbler.


A few years ago down in Mexico, I got my first ever Clapper Rail. It was promptly take away from me when they split out the Clapper with the Ridgeway’s Rail. At the WBC, I got my Clapper Rail back! Clap on, Clap off!

There were a good bunch of Roseate Spoonbills in the South Padre Island.


I am ending this posting with a shot of the very common Spotted Sandpiper. It is the location that I found it in that make this photo so special, well, maybe not for the turtle.


With the addition of these new species, the Little Big Year numbers look like this:

Little Big Year species – 1267
eBird Submissions – 417
United States species – 350


If you are interested, here are the 34 birds we got in Texas!!

Ross’s Goose

Eastern Screech owl

Gold-crowned Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Green Jay

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Black-crested Titmouse

Plain Chachalaca

White-eyed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

Mottled Duck

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Common Pauraque

Clapper Rail

Magnolia Warbler

Gray Catbird

Ruddy Turnstone

Olive Sparrow

Hook-billed Kite

White-tailed Hawk

Long-billed Thrasher

Scaled Quail

McCown’s longspur

White-tailed Kite

Yellow-throated Warbler

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet

Great Scaup

Sedge Wren

Cassin’s Sparrow

Altamira Oriole

Aplomado Falcon

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Fulvous Whistling Duck

Green Kingfisher




Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.