PRE/POST Trips  2019




Fee $ 825 double occupancy, $ 1,000 single occupancy / 6:00 PM Saturday, Nov 2 to 10:30 AM Tuesday, Nov 5.

With Glenn Olsen and additional guide(s) as needed.

The pineywoods and marshes of northeastern Texas are home to a wide variety of birds not found in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We’ll explore the pine forests north of Houston before heading to the coastal prairie and hardwoods to the east. The restricted range of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker is found here; this colonial nesting woodpecker is a pineywoods specialty bird.

Detailed instructions concerning hotels and directions will be emailed to each registrant prior to the trip. The trip fee includes guided tour, hotel room, any entrance fees and all meals from dinner on Saturday to breakfast on Tuesday. All alcoholic beverages will be at your individual expense. Flight arrangements are the responsibility of each participant, and are not included.


Saturday Nov 2 – Arrive at the Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH) (NOT Houston Hobby) and take the shuttle to the hotel. We will have a group meeting at the hotel at 6:00 PM for introductions, orientation and dinner. — D.

Sunday Nov 3 – After breakfast at the hotel we’ll depart in large vans for a full day of birding. We’ll drive to W. G. Jones State Forest, where we’ll seek out pineywoods specialty birds including Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher and many others. After lunch, we’ll drive to Beaumont, Texas, our hub for the rest of the trip. The late afternoon will be spent at Cattail Marsh or Tyrrell Park in Beaumont.

Both Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands have a long, respected history with birders as prime hotspots for resident, wintering, and migrating birds. Tyrrell Park is a regular city park with a golf course and botanical gardens. Within Tyrrell Park, the city of Beaumont originally constructed Cattail Marsh as the final stage of the city’s wastewater treatment facility. And as all birders know, water treatment facilities are a natural draw for birds. Over the years, this 900-acre wetland complex with levee roads has grown into a birding hotspot. The 350 species of birds recorded here is an amazing record and it is a birder’s haven. The new boardwalk features two covered platforms, jutting more than 500 feet out over the water, to afford delightful looks at the abundant wildlife.

During our trip, we will sort out the American Crow from the Fish Crow, a great opportunity to see both species in the same day. Same with Boat-tailed vs. Great-tailed Grackle. We will look for the beautiful but overdressed Wood Duck, the stunning Cinnamon Teal (uncommon), the elegant Anhinga, the elusive King Rail, the Pileated Woodpecker (the largest woodpecker in North America), and hopefully, the swamp-loving Barred Owl. The stunning Red-headed Woodpecker and the Great Horned Owl are found here, as well as many more winter migrant species. –B, L, D.

Monday Nov 4 – After a hot breakfast at the hotel we will board the vans and depart for another full day of birding. We’ll have box lunches in the vans so we can break for lunch when convenient. We plan to bird Sabine Woods, Sea Rim State Park, McFaddin Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding coastal marsh.

Our birding adventure begins at the hotspot known as Sabine Woods, a sanctuary owned by the Texas Ornithological Society (TOS). The TOS Sabine Woods is a prime example of what we call an oak motte. This bird sanctuary is an excellent site for wintering warblers, thrushes and other songbirds. At an oak motte, the ground is usually slightly higher than the surrounding area, with Live Oak trees (Quercus virginiana), Hackberry (Celtis sp.), Mulberry (Morus sp.), flowering shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers growing under the canopy and around the edges. This grove of plant diversity provides the major habitat for miles around for winter migrant and resident woodland species of birds. The TOS has added valuable fresh-water drips and ponds that are critically important for the birds. Frequently multiple species are concentrated in these relatively small woodlands and on a good day, we could have a nice mix of various species. The length of time that we spend here will depend upon the bird activity. If there are plenty of birds, then we will spend more time. If fewer birds, we will mobilize to other near-by sites and return to Sabine Woods in the afternoon.

When we leave Sabine Woods, our next stop will be the nearby Sea Rim State Park. Part of the park opens to the Gulf of Mexico with a sandy beachfront where we will search for swallows, gulls, terns, pelicans, sandpipers, plovers, and a variety of other shorebirds, rails, and raptors. The remainder of the park’s habitat consists of low sand dunes, coastal marsh, and valuable shallow freshwater depressions (if we have had recent rains). This variety of habitat offers great birding opportunities.

After birding this gem of coastal habitat, we will travel to McFaddin Wildlife Refuge.

The road from Sabine Woods to McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge cuts through coastal marsh with scattered trees and shrubs that could hold any number of the wintering birds, so we may stop to check some of these small tree clusters. At McFaddin and the surrounding area, the habitat consists of salt marsh with bayous and channels. Here we’ll look for rails, egrets, herons, gulls, terns, and Common Yellowthroat, and watch the skies for hawks. We will pick a nice spot for lunch around noon.

After lunch, we’ll resume birding and could move back and forth between the coastal marsh and the oak motte, depending on the activity of the birds. Either way, on a good day, we will see lots of birds and great species diversity in a relatively undeveloped area of the coastal marsh.

The day will end with a short break at the hotel before dinner (birds allowing). — B, L, D.

Tuesday Nov 5 – After a hot breakfast at the hotel we will board the vans for a couple of hours at Cattail Marsh or Terrell Marsh to look for any birds we may have missed. We will depart around 9:30 am for Houston Intercontinental Airport in time to grab lunch (on your own) prior to your 2:20 pm United Airlines flight to Harlingen and the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. — B


Fee: Single $1,495 – Double $ 1,295 – Triple $1,275 / 6:30am Monday, Nov 11 – 6pm Friday, Nov 15

Operated by GO WITH JO TOURS – (956) 423-1446. Register with Jo or Lydia.

Less than six hours south of the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a magical mountain range that is home to many tropical birds not found in the United States. The name, El Cielo, says it all – this is heaven to birders! The El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site of international significance, offers cloud forest, dense tropical forest, cascading waterfalls, dramatic vistas, and enchanting birds. This is our second year offering a post-festival trip to El Cielo after a hiatus of several years. You can see the results of our 2018 post-festival trip at

We are delighted to return to El Cielo and the diversity of tropical birds found there (255 resident species plus 175 migratory visitors), and the welcoming local communities. Reading a list of bird names is an adventure in taxonomy for a location so close to the US border: Blue-capped Motmot, Lineated Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Crescent-chested Warbler, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Spot-breasted Wren, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Blue Mockingbird, Golden-browed Warbler, Yellow-winged Tanager, Melodious Blackbird, to name a few. While this trip is a sampler trip, designed to whet your interest for birding in these magical mountains, we will seek the specialty endemic birds of the area including Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl, Tamaulipas Crow (locally rare in winter), Altamira Yellowthroat, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and the Golden-olive (Bronze-winged) Woodpecker. We visit this forested karst topography, 560 square miles of steep mountains and valleys, at the start of the dry season – to enjoy the water pools, lush scenery, and wondrous sounds surrounding them.

ITINERARY: [Days are subject to change depending on the weather conditions at each site.]

Monday Nov 11 – Depart Harlingen 6:30 AM. We’ll make our way in a modern motor coach across the border. After completing the required paperwork for a short-term visa (bring your passport), we’ll continue south across the Tropic of Cancer to Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the state of Tamaulipas and Gomez Farias. After a short break at the “Y” we’ll continue on to Gomez Farias. After a late lunch at the Hotel Cumbres Inn & Suites we’ll check in before birding the hotel grounds. We will remain in the same hotel for our entire visit.

Lunch, Dinner, hotel. Night, Hotel Cumbres Inn & Suites, Gomez Farias. L, D.

Tuesday Nov 12 – Our morning will be spent in the La Azteca area looking for the specialty birds of open areas, such as Blue-black Grassquit, Morelet’s Seedeater, and Brown Jay. This grassy area often has wet patches favored by the Altamira Yellowthroat. This will be our first experience in the open-air pick-up trucks that will take us to the birding sites unreachable by bus. We’ll likely hear

the ethereal voice of the Thicket Tinamou – more often heard than seen – for the first time. After returning to the hotel for lunch, we’ll spend the afternoon birding around the El Cielo Interpretive Center and walk a nearby forest track. Time allowing, we’ll make a stop in an agricultural area to look for Aplomado Falcon and maybe even Double-striped Thick-Knee. Depending on the weather and recent reports, we’ll explore the town of Gomez Farias one evening, searching for Stygian Owl (which sometimes hunts the town plaza) and nightjars. B, L, D.

Wednesday Nov 13 – We’ll start early in our pick-up trucks and head up the one lane cobble stone and dirt road towards Alta Cima, normally a 1-hour drive but taking all morning, to listen and watch for tropical forest flocks along the road. A late lunch at the community-run restaurant (limited selection and no special meals possible) is provided, and we’ll take a brief opportunity to look at vendors selling local needlework featuring birds as well as treats including jams, and liquors in the tiny town. Our return trip down the same road to our hotel gives us a second chance at wandering flocks before dinner. The day will be long and tiring but the birds and scenery will be sensational. Possible species include Crested Guan, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl, Crescent-chested Warbler, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, White-winged Tanager, and Hooded Grosbeak. B, L, D.

Thursday Nov 14 – It’s a short ride by bus to the town park of Boca Toma 2, an area on the Rio Sabinas with a few trails we can walk near the beautiful, clear, clean river. We’ll look for riverine and riparian birds, including Rose-throated Becard, Amazon (also Green and Ringed) Kingfishers, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Tropical Parula, and the recently split Blue-capped Motmot. A small outboard boat will take us in shifts to look for the rare Sungrebe with a chance for a wild Muscovy Duck. After lunch, we’ll visit La Florida, a pretty river area that can be heavily used for recreation but includes a large diversity of birds. We’ll look for the foothill forest species expected in this habitat. We may decide to stay out until sunset to look for nightjars if the weather is suitable. B, L, D.

Friday Nov 15 – After breakfast and check out, we will bird a mix of woods and fields below Gomez Farias this morning, hoping for raptors, wintering and open country birds, and if we’re very lucky a Tamaulipas Crow or Crane Hawk. Afterwards, we’ll stop at the La Morito store, famous amongst birders as the “Mango Pie” store, for a chance to purchase their well-known dessert and a little birding. Last year we saw Aplomado Falcon, Morelet’s Seedeater, and a late Broad-winged Hawk! We’ll have a box lunch for you to enjoy on the bus as we venture north back to the border. We’ll pass through customs and immigration and anticipate a dinnertime arrival to Harlingen, but do not schedule a flight departure tonight. B, L.

Note: You are required to carry your passport (valid for six months beyond the end of this trip- please check your expiration date). Price includes meals from lunch on Monday to lunch on Friday, 4 nights lodging in Mexico, all transportation, 5 days of guided birding, and loads of good birds! All alcoholic beverages will be at your individual expense.