Bolivar Beach House: Apr 16—23, 2017

Migration on the Upper Texas Coast

Register NowTour Details

Please contact us if you would like more information on upcoming departures for this tour.

Departs: Houston
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Margaret Anderson
Download Itinerary: PDF (2.5 MB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape M...


Louise Zemaitis

Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, New Jersey where she is a po...

More Information

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler— Photo: Michael O’Brien


A migration tour, based at a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico, and featuring some of the best birding spots on the Upper Texas Coast.

The Upper Texas Coast is legendary among birders as being among the most exciting places to witness spring migration in all of North America. Each spring, millions of songbirds wintering in Central America take off from the Yucatan Peninsula and strike out across the Gulf of Mexico on their journey back to North American breeding grounds. Under ideal conditions, these birds may stay aloft until they reach prime stopover habitat in the vast swamps, bayous, and piney woods of the Deep South. However, if they are confronted with northerly winds or rain, they must stop at the first available woodlots or brushy habitats along the coast to seek shelter and refuel for the next leg of their journey. The resulting avian “fallout” can be a staggering phenomenon, as thousands of colorful migrants reach the safety of the coast. If such conditions occur, we’ll tailor our schedule to take full advantage of avian possibilities, which usually means birding at High Island, Galveston, and other coastal woodlots. Although the greatest of these fallouts occur only once or twice a spring, when conditions are just right, the flow of migration is constant, and some birds put down on the coast every day. Over the course of a week’s birding, a great variety can usually be seen.

Sandy Orchid Lodge

Sandy Orchid Lodge— Photo: Cobb Real Estate


When conditions are less favorable for a songbird fallout, we’ll turn our attention to the abundant shorebirds, herons, and secretive marsh birds, for which this region is equally famous. We’ll visit prime locations such as Bolivar Flats and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the large nesting colony of herons at High Island. Flooded rice fields are often swarming with migrant shorebirds, including Hudsonian Godwit, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and American Golden-Plover. Abundant farmlands often hold Dickcissels and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, while pastures with grazing cattle frequently attract migrant Upland Sandpipers.

Sandy Orchid Lodge

Sandy Orchid Lodge— Photo: Cobb Real Estate


For this unique tour, we’ll base our activities out of a lovely beach house, situated right on the Gulf of Mexico. A typical day may start with coffee on the deck at first light as terns, shorebirds, and other species pass down the beach. After breakfast, we’ll venture forth to whatever favorite location the day’s conditions dictate, usually taking a picnic lunch, and returning to the house in time for appetizers and drinks on the porch before dinner. We’ll begin our week in Houston, detouring to look at Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and other “piney woods” specialties on our way to the Bolivar Peninsula.

Comfortable beach house lodging and flexible itinerary based on weather conditions; most meals prepared by leaders at the house; full days with much walking on dirt trails and beaches; warm, sunny weather expected, but birding in cool rainy conditions possible.