Use this helpful calendar to spot migrating birds: Fall 2012–Spring 2013
By Shelly Plante
We’re in exactly the right place, and it’s precisely the right time. The Texas coast is a hot spot for watching a steady parade of migratory birds from August through November. Flycatchers, vireos, warblers and swallows, orioles, tanagers, kites, flickers and terns — it seems as if everything with two wings is passing through.
In addition to the events listed here, state parks host frequent birding activities. A regularly updated calendar of all events offered at Texas Parks and Wildlife facilities can be found online (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/calendar). See “Birds, Bats & More” to find a listing of all of the wonderful bird walks, owl prowls, bird identification classes and more offered at state parks, including the state park World Birding Centers. Additional events at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and Sea Center Texas can be found at “Site Calendars” on the main calendar page.
Laguna Atascosa Bird Walks and Tours — Los Fresnos. Discover South Texas specialties at this birders’ paradise. Refuge entry $3 per vehicle. (956) 748-3607; www.friendsofsouthtexasrefuges.org.
Bird Walks — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Join our naturalist for a one-hour bird walk. 8:30–9:30 a.m. $3 adults and $2 seniors. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Birding on the Boardwalk — Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas. This birding facility attracts birds and birders alike. The boardwalk stretches nearly a mile over the shallow, brackish water and allows for close observation of many birds. Guided tour. 9 a.m. Free. (361) 749-4158; www.cityofportaransas.org/Leonabelle_Turnbull_Birding_Center.cfm.
Beginner’s Birdwalk — San Antonio. Birdwalk for beginners and newcomers to the area. Meet at Judson Nature Trails next to Alamo Heights Swimming Pool. 8 a.m. Free. (210) 308-6788; www.saaudubon.org.
Guided Bird Walks — Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area, Lewisville. Held the second Saturday of most months (Sept. 8, Oct. 13, Nov. 10, Dec. 8, Feb. 9, March 9 and April 13). Bird watchers of all skill levels are welcome, ages 10 and up. $7 per person. Reservations are requested but not required. (972) 219-3930; www.ias.unt.edu/llela.
Second Saturday at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge — Sherman. Free nature programs on various topics, open to the public. Some include short field trips on the refuge. Free. (903) 786-2826; www.friendsofhagerman.com.
Every Saturday and Sunday in April (except Easter Sunday)
Blucher Birdwalks — Corpus Christi. Participants will bird Blucher Park and the expansive lawns behind the two Blucher homes across the street. Guides will accompany participants through the park and assist in bird identification as needed. Free. (361) 443-0744; www.ccbirding.org.
Bird Banding — Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Lake Jackson. The public is invited to join observatory staff as they work to collect baseline data on bird populations at the bird sanctuary. See birds in the hand up close. 8 a.m.–noon. (979) 480-0999; www.gcbo.org.
Any Day by Appointment
Custom Birdwatching Tour — Fennessey Ranch, Refugio. Pack a picnic and go where the birds go with a personal, experienced guide. Call to schedule trip and time. $105 per person, two-person minimum. (361) 529-6600; www.fennesseyranch.com.
Calendar by Dates:
Aug. 12 – Nov. 15
Smith Point Hawk Watch — Smith Point. The Hawk Watch is held daily at the Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area, where the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory has a 30-foot observation tower. One of the great spectacles in nature is a sky full of swirling raptors soaring their way to Central and South America for winter. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. daily. (979) 480-0999; www.gcbo.org.
December 2012 – March 2013
Birding Tours — Roma Bluffs World Birding Center, Roma. Held daily in the courtyard and overlook area starting at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call to register. (956) 849-4930.
Santa Ana NWR Bird Walks — near Alamo. Bird walks start at 8:30 a.m. on designated days. Call or check the website for more information on the days of the week the walks will be available. (956) 784-7500; www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana.
March 15 – April 15
Santa Ana Hawk Watch — near Alamo. The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Hawk Watch station will be staffed daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for one month. Using keen eyesight, binoculars and spotting scopes, volunteer birders will keep track of the number of migrating raptors, including hawks, falcons, vultures, kites and more. Please contact the visitor center for more details. (956) 784-7500; www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana.
August 2012 – April 2013
Bluebird Symposium and Fundraising Auction — Gainesville. Featured speakers include Keith Kridler and Ken Steigman. Topics covered include bluebird basics, house sparrow control, gardening for bluebirds and more. 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. $12 per person advance purchase (includes hot lunch); $6 at door (no meal). (903) 564-1035; www.texasbluebirdsociety.org.
Sept. 8 and 15
Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza — Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Lake Jackson. Autumn is hummingbird season in Texas, as thousands of these tiny creatures move through the state on their southward migration to Mexico and Central America. See hummingbirds being banded, adopt a hummingbird, browse the Nature Store, walk the nature trails or buy a plant to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. 8 a.m. to noon. $3 per adult; kids free. (979) 480-0999; www.gcbo.org.
24th Annual HummerBird Celebration — Rockport-Fulton. Multiple speakers and programs, outdoor exhibits, a banding site, nature-related vendor booths, birding boat excursions, guided field trips and so much more highlight this annual festival along the Texas coast that celebrates the spectacular fall migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird. Free; separate fees for lectures and tours. (361) 729-6445; www.rockporthummingbird.com.
Annual Kleb Woods Hummingbird Festival – Kleb Woods Nature Preserve, Tomball. Everything you want to know about hummingbirds – identifying, attracting and gardening for hummingbirds. There will be games and activities for the whole family. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free. (281) 357-5324; www.pct3.hctx.net/parks/klebwoodsnaturepres.aspx.
Hawk Watch — Fennessey Ranch, Refugio. Witness the spectacular sight of thousands of hawks lifting off for migration on a private coastal ranch. $74 per person. (361) 529-6600; www.fennesseyranch.com.
Super Saturday at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge — Sherman. Full day of free nature activities for all ages; bird and nature walks, talks, tours, demonstrations and hands-on nature fun. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Free. (903) 786-2826; www.friendsofhagerman.com.
Beginning Birder — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Learn the techniques on how to become an amateur birder. Everything from field guides to bug repellent will be discussed. 9–11 a.m. $3 per person (members); $5 per person (nonmembers). (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival — Harlingen. A few speakers and trip leaders for this festival include William S. Clark, Jon Dunn, Kevin Karlson, Michael O’Brien, Bill Thompson III, Richard K. Walton, Julie Zickefoose, Louise Zemaitis. Visit the website to see activities, trade show information and which field trip will take you to that special Valley bird. Cost varies. (209) 227-4823; www.rgvbf.org.
Migration Celebration — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Learn about the incredible journey these birds make as they migrate to their wintering grounds. 2–9 p.m. Free. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Nov. 29–Dec. 1
Fall Bird Count Competition — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Join this three-day competition at the birding center grounds. The birder with the most bird species in these three days will receive a free one-year membership courtesy of the Edinburg World Birding Center. Call for details. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Great Christmas Bird Count — Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, near Alamo. This bird count will begin at sunrise and end at sundown. Please contact the visitor center if you are interested in participating. (956) 784-7500; www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana.
Open House/Holiday Sale — Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Lake Jackson. Come and see what great items are on sale for the holidays. From bird books to hummingbird feeders, the holiday sale has what you're looking for. There is a 10 percent discount for all members of GCBO. (979) 480-0999; www.gcbo.org.
Winter Shore Birds — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Shore birds can give any birder a hard time. This class will teach you how to better identify them with some easy tricks. Just like with any skill, practice makes perfect. 9–11 a.m. $5 members; $8 nonmembers. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Specialties of the Rio Grande Valley — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Learn about the species of birds that are found nowhere else but in the Rio Grande Valley. 9–11 a.m. $5 members; $8 nonmembers. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Birding by Ear — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Most of the time, we hear a bird before we can see it. Learn this skill and amaze your friends with a newfound talent. 9–11 a.m. $5 members; $8 nonmembers. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Friday Night with a Naturalist: Biology of the Birds — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. For those with a scientific state of mind, learn what makes a bird work in this informative presentation. 6–7 p.m. Free. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Bird Diversity Program — Roma Bluffs World Birding Center, Roma. PowerPoint presentation of the diverse birds in the Lower Rio Grande Valley followed by a short bird walk to the observation deck and courtyard. Programs at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. No registration or fee is required. (956) 849-4930.
Birding Sabal Palm Sanctuary — Edinburg/Brownsville. Bird the last remaining palm forest of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Search for the northern parula, black-throated green warbler and many other South Texas birds. 7:30–11:30 a.m. $16 members; $20 nonmembers. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Backyard Birding — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. You don’t have to go very far to enjoy our feathered friends. Learn about the common birds that can visit your property as well as some tips to make your yard more inviting. 10–11:30 a.m. $3 members; $5 nonmembers. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
Santa Ana NWR Birding and Butterfly Speaker Series — near Alamo. The speaker series will be every Thursday for the month of February starting at 3 p.m. Call the visitor center for more information. (956) 784-7500; www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana.
Texas Bluebird Society 2013 Season Kickoff and Fundraising Auction — Kerrville. Featured speaker is Mark Klym of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Hear other speakers on a variety of bluebird-related topics including bluebird basics, house sparrow control and gardening for bluebirds. 9 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Contact for registration fees. (210) 201-5678; www.texasbluebirdsociety.org.
Roma Bluffs World Birding Center Great Backyard Bird Count — Roma. Come out and help count the bird species in the courtyard and overlook. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Participants can come any time during those hours to count and register bird species. (956) 849-4930.
Santa Ana NWR Great Backyard Bird Count — near Alamo. Help count birds on the refuge in the Valley. Please contact us if you would like to help us count birds. (956) 784-7500; www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana.
Winter Raptors — Edinburg World Birding Center, Edinburg. Learn about the many species of raptors that make the Valley home. 9-11 a.m. $5 members; $8 nonmembers. (956) 381-9922; www.edinburgwbc.org.
17th Annual Whooping Crane Festival — Port Aransas. Annual festival celebrating the endangered whooping cranes that winter in this area. Birding tours by boat and bus, renowned speakers, exhibits, nature-related trade show, arts and crafts, photography workshops and more. $20 registration fee; separate fees for tours and field trips. (800) 45-COAST (26278); www.whoopingcranefestival.org.
Winter Junior Ranger Program — Roma Bluffs World Birding Center, Roma. Program for kids ages 6–10 with a variety of activities that include learning to spot and listen for birds. Kids learn how to identify bird species and to use a guidebook. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Registration required; space limited to 10 kids. (956) 849-4930.
April (dates to be determined)
Great Texas Birding Classic — state of Texas. This friendly but serious birding for conservation tournament is held each year to coincide with the spectacular spring migration. This year the event goes statewide, so teams from beginners to experts can participate throughout the state! Registration fees vary. www.tpwd.state.tx.us/gtbc.
FeatherFest Birding & Nature Photography Festival – Galveston. See 200-plus species of birds during early spring migration in world-renowned Upper Texas Coast birding hot spots like Bolivar Flats and High Island. Experts lead nature and photography adventures by bus, boat or kayak to beach, bay, marsh, coastal prairie and wood mott habitats. Field trips and workshops range from $15-100. (832) 459-5533; www.galvestonfeatherfest.com.
Attwater’s Prairie Chicken Festival — Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Eagle Lake. Experience the beautiful courtship dance of the critically endangered Attwater’s prairie-
chicken and enjoy the sights and sounds that the coastal prairie habitat offers. 7 a.m.–1 p.m. Free. (979) 234-3021, ext. 221; www.southwest.fws.gov/refuges/texas/attwater.
April 20 and 27
Spring Migration Tour — Fennessey Ranch, Refugio. Tally up more than 100 species while birding on a private coastal ranch. 7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. $74 per person. (361) 529-6600; www.fennesseyranch.com.
14th Annual Nature Quest — Rio Frio. During Nature Quest, learn from experts about Texas Hill Country specialty birds, bats, butterflies, insects, natural history, native plants, wildflowers, how to make your own backyard a wildlife habitat and more, all through field trips, workshops and programs. $10 registration fee, separate fees for programs and field trips. (830) 966-2320; www.hillcountrynaturequest.com.
For more birding articles, visit TP&W magazine's Bird Watching page