Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Southeast USA for Spring Migration – March to May 2016

This was a two-month trip to southeast USA for Yvonne and myself, from late March through to late May, with a focus on the Spring migration, in particular the highly varied and colourful warblers. The trip commenced in Dallas in early Spring and involved touring through Texas along the Mexican border, following the Gulf of Mexico around to Florida as far south as Key West, then heading north up the east coast of the USA, then inland to the Appalachian Ranges in North Carolina, before heading west for our return trip to Dallas. Qantas has direct flights from Sydney to Dallas which avoids flying on any internal flights within the USA.   

Big Bend National Park - Rio Grande River on border with Mexico


The timing for the trip was largely based on “A Birder’s Guide to Planning North American Trips” by Jeremy A. Cooper.  Key dates for Texas were to see Colima Warbler in last week of March, Whooping Crane in the first week of April, Attwater Prairie Chicken on the second weekend of April and warblers at High Island in second week of April. We then focussed on warblers along the coast of Louisiana and Alabama, with Dauphin Island being one of the top areas visited.

After that we headed down to the Florida Keys and Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, for the recommended peak birding period of last week of April and first week of May. Following our visit to Florida, we visited Georgia, South Carolina and the Appalachian Ranges in North Carolina, where we managed to find various waders, warblers and woodpeckers, which we had missed earlier in the trip. The return trip which was via Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma where we picked up a few more target birds, most of which were established in their summer breeding grounds.  

Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas

The weather for the trip was excellent, with some cold days initially and becoming warm to hot, especially in Florida. We had a few days of rain which didn’t impact significantly and we missed out on the severe flooding around Houston at the time we were at High Island.

We travelled just over 8,700 miles (14,000 km) visiting 10 states over the two month trip. To put this in perspective the flight from Dallas to Sydney was 8,800 miles. 

With regards to birding, we recorded a total of 358 birds of which 122 were lifers and 199 were new birds for the USA. We recorded 38 species of warbler of the Parulidae family (New World Warblers), which was very pleasing.  We did however miss out on Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warbler as we travelled through their breeding range in May. Other warblers, such as Bay-breasted and Virginia’s Warbler had their respective breeding ranges further north or west, than the areas we visited.

The other large group of target birds, was the Emberizidae family (New World Sparrows), and we recorded 24 species in this family. We however missed out on quite a few sparrows, such as Harris’s and Nelson’s Sparrow as they left their wintering grounds and headed north quite early on in our trip.

Overall a very enjoyable trip, with many birds, reptiles and mammals seen, together with lovely scenery, with the best areas visited being Big Bend National Park, Fort Jefferson and the Appalachian Ranges. At this time of year, the flower displays were spectacular in many of the areas we visited.

Trip Report
Wednesday 23rd March: Arrival into DFW, Texas
Flew from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) on Qantas, arriving at 13:30 and collected our AVIS rental car in Irving just south of the airport. We drove to Mineral Wells that afternoon to avoid the peak hour traffic and to get out of the complex freeway system around Dallas and Fort Worth. Some nice birds, seen across the road from our hotel in the late afternoon, included Ladder-backed Woodpecker, White-winged Dove and an early Chimney Swift.

We had a WV Jetta for the trip which was comfortable and spacious, plus had good performance and low fuel consumption (40 MPG or 6 l/100km). As this was a long term rental, we took out a mini lease with Avis which was the best deal we could find. Collecting the car at Irving avoided paying the airport surcharge which would have been significant over the two-month rental. We dropped the car back at the airport on our return to DFW. 

Thursday 24th March: Balmorhea State Park
Drove to Balmorhea State Park and stayed at the park accommodation, which was lovely. The state park surrounds the San Solomon Springs which produces about 90,000 cubic metres of water per day. Met up with Barbara and Neville that afternoon and did some birding around the state park grounds. Had a Mexican dinner at La Cueva de Oso Restaurant which was excellent and was recommended in other trip reports. Had Great Horned Owl and Barn Owl just outside our bungalow in the evening plus Common Poorwill calling.

Balmorhea State Park - Wetlands with accommodation in background

Friday 25th March: Fort Davis
Had a quick visit to Balmorhea Lake in the early morning but there was nothing moving on the lake, so we headed off to Fort Davis. A visit to Balmorhea Lake requires a permit which apparently can be obtained from a shop on the lake shore, not that we found the shop or any signage assisting visitors.

The drive from Balmorhea to Fort Davis is impressive as it winds through the canyons. We stopped off at the Fort Davis National Historic Site to get our National Parks annual pass and to watch a short film on the history of Fort Davis.

We then headed down the road to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Centre which had quite a few flowering cactus species. Some good birding around the visitors centre with Say’s Phoebe, Black-crested Titmouse, Cactus Wren and Canyon Towhee. The highlight however was a covey of eight Montezuma Quail which were flushed from the canyon trail and seen several times walking through grass.   

Montezuma Quail
Visited the Davis Mountains State Park in the afternoon which was great and we had Black-chinned Hummingbird, Western Scrub-Jay, Hermit Thrush (race auduboni), Curve-billed Thrasher, Green-tailed Towhee and Pyrrhuloxia. The staff at the park office suggested that we visit the area on the other side of the access road, which requires a key and permit, which we did the next morning.

Early morning in the Primitive Area of Davis Mountains State Park

Saturday 26th March: Fort Davis to Big Bend National Park
Picked up a key in the morning to visit the Primitive Area alongside the river, across the road from the Davis Mountains State Park entrance. Had some good birding with Bushtit, Phainopepla and six species of Sparrow seen.

Phainopepla

We stopped off at a picnic site for lunch on the way down to Big Bend National Park and had our first Vermilion Flycatchers for the trip.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Continued south to the entrance gate for the Big Bend National Park at Maverick, and then onto the Chisos Mountains Lodge, our accommodation for the next four nights, arriving in mid-afternoon. Birds seen around the accommodation included Greater Roadrunner, Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Cactus Wren and Canyon Towhee. 

Cactus Wren

The Chisos Mountains are quite spectacular and the restaurant has panoramic views of the canyon, plus some great food.

Sunset over the Chisos Basin Mountains

Sunday 27th March: Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP
Left early in the morning, before sunrise, and drove down to the Rio Grande Village for the day, staying till early evening to see some owls. We saw Grey Fox and Coyote, plus numerous Desert Cottontail and some Black-tailed Jackrabbit on the drive.

The Rio Grande River was quite shallow and we saw a few Mexican’s crossing the river to sell their trinkets.

Mexican Trinkets
Some of the birding highlights during the day were our first Black Vultures of the trip, the range restricted Grey Hawk and Common Black Hawk, plus Virginia Rail, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Verdin, Marsh Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher and Vesper Sparrow. 

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
At dusk we staked out an Elf Owl nest and saw the tiny owl peering out of its nesting hole for quite a while before it flew off, once it was dark enough and after the bats had emerged. Once in flight it was about the same size as the micro bats and would have been impossible to identify. We then heard and saw a Western Screech-Owl, before taking the long drive back to our accommodation. 

Monday 28th March: Chisos Basin, Big Bend NP
The main target for today was the Colima Warbler, a rare and very localised warbler of the high altitudinal oak woodlands in the Chisos Mountains. The staff at the visitor centre said that these warblers typically arrived in the first week of April and that there hadn’t been any reliable sightings in the past week. They also indicated that the best area to find them was in the oak trees on the other side of Emory Peak (2,385m elevation) on the Boot Canyon Trail. Quite a few sightings have also been reported on the return track through Laguna Meadows.

Predawn on the trail up to Emory Peak with Neville striding out in front
Emory Peak can be reached by a fairly steep hike, of about 14 km from the Chisos Mountain accommodation, with an elevation gain of approximately 760m. We left before sunrise and took a slow walk up the mountains, with quite spectacular scenery along the way. Had quite a few Hutton’s Vireo on the way up. After getting close to Emory Peak, the Boot Canyon Trail drops slowly in elevation and meanders through impressive valleys and mountains. We didn’t manage to see the Colima Warbler but did hear at least four birds along the Boot Canyon Trail. The call was a consistent trill followed by a couple of lower pitch notes with a sharp cut-off. Quite different to the call of its close relatives, the Virginia's, Nashville and Lucy's Warblers.

We then completed the trail loop returning via Laguna Meadows. Birding along the trail was hard work with White-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Wren, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee and Lesser Goldfinch being new birds for the trip.

Tuesday 29th March: Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend NP
Today we drove down to the Cottonwood Campground for the day and had two Grey Hawk, a Great Horned Owl roosting in a Cottonwood tree, many Vermilion Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Audubon Warbler and Black-throated Sparrow.

Black-throated Sparrow

In the afternoon we went a short way up the river to the Santa Elena Canyon Trail.

The trail follows the Rio Grande River into the Santa Elena Canyon

Wednesday 30th March: Big Bend NP to Del Rio
Left the Chisos Mountains before sunrise and drove northwards out of the park, with great sightings of Scaled Quail alongside and crossing the road. We were stopped at the border control point and asked to show our passports. Chatting to the one officer, who was also interested in birding, he casually said there’s a Bobcat crossing the road. Had a good breakfast at Marathon before visiting the wetlands at Fort Peña Colorado Park, just south of Marathon. Quite good birding there with Wild Turkey plus Brewer’s, Savannah and Swamp Sparrow.

Seminole Canyon

We then drove through to Seminole Canyon State Park with an American Badger seen crossing the road and our first Scissor-tailed Flycatcher seen further along the road. The flowers at the Seminole Canyon were quite spectacular and well worth the visit. We had our only White-throated Swift and Lark Bunting of the trip plus Scaled Quail, Canyon Wren, Bewick’s Wren, plentiful Cassin’s Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow and Pyrrhuloxia.

Flowers at Seminole Canyon

Thursday 31st March: Del Rio to Vanderpool
Drove from Del Rio to Vanderpool in the Texas Hill Country, with a morning visit to the Uvalde Fish Hatchery (open Monday to Friday). Excellent birding at the fish hatchery with Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, Barn Owl and Bell’s Vireo seen.

Texas Garter Snake, the first of many snakes for the trip

We stayed at the Foxfire Cabins over the next three nights in their Main House, which was the best accommodation of the trip, a huge house with large gardens overlooking the river. Interesting birds in the gardens included Inca Dove, Eastern Phoebe, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Yellow-throated Warbler. In the evening Barred Owl was heard calling from the well wooded valley just down the road.

Our accommodation at Vanderpool

Friday 1st April:  Lost Maples State Natural Area
The Lost Maples SNA was very close to our accommodation and had the key targets of Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler. We visited the park in the early morning and walked the East Trail. It was cold with some heavy rain and brief sunny periods, which did impact on the birding. I managed to get good views of Golden-cheeked Warbler as the trail climbs up onto the plateau. Other interesting birds included White-tipped Dove, a local rarity which has been in the park for the past four years, plus White-eyed Vireo, Bell’s Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler and Pine Siskin.

Yellow-throated Warbler

In the late afternoon we visited the Concan Frio Bat Cave which has 10’s of thousands of Brazilian Free-tailed Bat and is part of a colony of 10 to 12 million bats. While waiting for sunset in the freezing wind, we had great views of Harris’s Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk and a couple of Laughing Gull flying overhead. Even more spectacular was the well over 1,000 Cave Swallow coming into the caves to roost for the evening, prior to the bats departing. After sunset the bats start to emerge and the first bats get taken by waiting raptors. So quite an event to witness and well worth visiting.  

Concan Frio Bat Cave

Saturday 2nd April:  Lost Maples State Natural Area
Today was sunny and very pleasant, so we headed back to the Lost Maples SNA after breakfast. I took the East Trail straight up to the plateau and eventually had great views of the Black-capped Vireo. 

Black-capped Vireo

Other interesting birds included White-tipped Dove seen at feeders at car park, Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbird, close-up views of Chihuahuan Raven and Common Raven, Black-and-white Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler (saw the small orange patch on crown), Nashville Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler at feeders, Scott’s Oriole and Greater Kiskadee (a rarity for this site).

Barbara and Neville were leaving the next morning for their flights back to Canada, so we relaxed at our accommodation in the afternoon and had a great barbeque in the evening.

Sunday 3rd April:  Vanderpool to Zapata
After breakfast and saying goodbye to Barbara and Neville, we drove south to Zapata on the Rio Grande River with the first of many Crested Caracara seen alongside the road. In the afternoon we visited the Zapata Library Gardens which provided some limited birding. Interesting birds included Black Phoebe, Couch’s Kingbird (broad bill at base, confirmed by call), Common Yellowthroat and Brewer’s Blackbird. At our hotel we had quite a few Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on the telephone lines.

Crested Caracara

Monday 4th April:  Zapata to Mission, McAllen
After an early breakfast we drove to Falcon State Park which was close to Zapata. A very pleasant state park on Falcon Lake and had some different birds including Plain Chachalaca, twelve Crested Caracara, Northern Bobwhite at butterfly gardens, Snowy Egret, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Greater Roadrunner and Bullock’s Oriole.

Plain Chachalaca

We then went down to Salineño, a birding site on the Rio Grande River. The birding areas were closed off but we were able to walk up the river. On the walk back we met a UK birder who was also after the White-collared Seedeater, a local rarity. After a short walk back up the river we managed to see two White-collared Seedeater in the reeds alongside the river. Other interesting birds included Broad-winged Hawk, Solitary Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Green Jay and Altamira Oriole.

We then visited Roma Bluffs World Birding Centre a bit further down the river and saw our first Wood Thrush for the trip. The World Birding Centre was closed (which was unexpected) when we visited but there was the Roma Bluffs observation deck which had views over the river into Mexico. Overall a very uninspiring place to visit with lots of police patrol cars looking for illegal immigrants. We didn’t stay long and couldn’t get out of the area quick enough.  

We drove to the Indian Ridge Bed and Breakfast in Mission in McAllen, our accommodation for the next four nights. The gardens at Indian Ridge had many large trees plus the house had feeders to attract the birds. Interesting birds around the gardens included Plain Chachalaca, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Green Jay and Great-tailed Grackle. 

Green Jay, a tropical bird found in Mexico and South America, and just into southern Texas

Tuesday 5th April:  Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
After breakfast we drove down the road to the lovely Bensten-Rio Grande Valley SP. The state park is very well set up with good roads, paths, bird hides, a hawk viewing platform and tram shuttle services. No vehicles are allowed into the park but the park is small enough to walk around. Close to one of the bird hides we came across a Bobcat just sitting under the bushes.

Well hidden Bobcat before it slinked off into the bush

We did get to the hawk viewing platform close to midday but missed most of the migrating hawks. Interesting birds seen included Anhinga, Harris’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Sora, White-tipped Dove, Lesser Nighthawk (heard), Great Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, Green Jay, Clay-coloured Thrush, Olive Sparrow, Bronzed Cowbird and Altamira Oriole.

White-tipped Dove, a secretive bird of the Neotropics and resident in southernmost Texas

Wednesday 6th April:  Estero Llano Grande State Park
After an early breakfast we drove to Estero Llano Grande SP which was further down the Rio Grande River at Weslaco. This was another excellent state park with a wetland viewing deck, boardwalks and over 8 km of trails. On arrival we saw that the park had organised bird walks at 8:30am, three times per week, and fortunately we had arrived on the right day. The bird walk was excellent and we took a tour of the various wetlands and then into the bushy areas around the original village.

An old house at Estero Llana with one of the many Trump placards seen on the trip
One of the birds which we were shown was the Common Pauraque, a well disguised nightjar which only occurs in Southern Texas. As I didn’t manage to get satisfactory views, I went back after the tour and managed to get good views and photos of the well camouflaged bird.

Common Pauraque, a widespread nightjar of the tropics and found in southern Texas


Other interesting birds included Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Mottled Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Least Grebe, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, White-tailed Kite, Solitary Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Red-crowned Parrot at its nest, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Couch's Kingbird, Purple Martin, Clay-colored Thrush, Curve-billed Thrasher, Long-billed Thrasher and six species of Sparrow.


Red-crowned Parrot

Overall we recorded 77 birds for the day, one of the best days so far for the trip.  

Clay-colored Thrush, a thrush of the tropical lowlands

Thursday 7th April:  Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Visited the Bensten-Rio Grande Valley SP again but this time arrived before the gates opened at 8am. Once the gates opened we went straight down to the hawk viewing platform, where we had Grey Hawk, over 300 Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk and a Swallow-tailed Hawk which caused some excitement. Today was a fairly quiet day for migrating hawks and previous days had over 1,000 hawks plus many more Turkey Vultures. The hawk viewing platform is manned by volunteers during the hawk migration and they are very knowledgeable about the local birds.

Great Kiskadee building a nest at the hawk viewing platform

As we were walking back along the road we noticed a barefoot man acting suspiciously, looking back at us and disappearing into the bushes whenever a helicopter passed overhead. Obviously not a tourist, we notified one of the park rangers and a man hunt was launched by US Border Patrol but I don’t think they managed to find the suspected illegal.

A bit further down the road, we saw a huge Western Diamondback Rattlesnake alongside the road and then crossing the road. The rattlesnake must have been between 1.5 and 2m in length with the largest recorded being just over 2.1m. It disappeared quite quickly once it got into the undergrowth, even when it was only a metre from the road verge and we knew where it was.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Interesting birds for the day included 18 Plain Chachalaca, Brown-crested Flycatcher, 16 Great Kiskadee, 8 Couch’s Kingbird, Green Jay, Clay-coloured Thrush, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Hooded Oriole and Altamira Oriole. We were also fortunate to see and photograph a female Ringed Kingfisher down at the water’s edge.

Long-billed Thrasher, a resident of southern Texas and eastern Mexico

Friday 8th April:  Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Reserve
Left early in the morning to avoid the traffic and drove down to the coast, arriving at the Laguna Atascosa NWR just after sunrise. This was another excellent park and had a variety of habitats to visit, plus walking trails and viewing platforms.  

At one of the ponds we visited, there was a nursery of American Alligators, with quite a few young alligators with their distinctive yellow striping. This pond also had many Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher and Louisiana Waterthrush.

Green Jay at feeder close to visitor centre

Interesting birds included about 40 Franklin’s Gull, White-tipped Dove, Long-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, Indigo Bunting and Altamira Oriole. Rose-breasted Grosbeak had been seen close to the visitor centre but we didn’t manage to locate them.

Long-billed Thrasher seen close to visitors centre

The extremely rare Aplomado Falcon has been reintroduced at Laguna Atascosa NWR as part of a recovery program, although we didn’t manage to see the falcons. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, an initial release of captive-reared young was made in Kleberg County, Texas in 1985. The release program then shifted to Laguna Atascosa NWR and Matagorda Island and the first breeding in the wild of released captive-reared Aplomado Falcons occurred in 1995.  Since 1997, over 100 captive-reared young have been released annually along the Texas Gulf Coast, which has resulted in the establishment of at least 37 Aplomado pairs that have produced over 92 young in the wild.

We drove on to Rockport, for an overnight stay, and visited Goose Island State Park in the late afternoon. It was very windy at the park but we did manage to see Redhead, Willet, Forster’s Tern, Sandwich Tern and Black Skimmer.

Saturday 9th April:  Aransas National Wildlife Reserve
We had planned on doing a boat trip to see the Whooping Cranes however the tour company Texas Whoopers had stopped running the trips. Instead we headed up the coast to Aransas NWR, another excellent reserve.

It was a wet and very windy day but we did manage to see a single Whooping Crane from the elevated viewing platform. Managed to see over 50 birds for the morning including our first Northern Harrier, Gull-billed Tern, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo and Worm-eating Warbler for the trip.

Black Vulture on viewing platform
In the afternoon we drove through to Columbus, just west of Houston, for the night. Saw a White-tailed Hawk from the highway close to Ganado.

Sunday 10th April:  Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Reserve
The Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR allows access for the public to visit the restricted Prairie Chicken breeding and lekking area, on the second weekend of April every year. The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is a highly endangered subspecies of the Greater Prairie Chicken, that is native to coastal Texas and Louisiana, and now survives on small parcels of managed prairies. Whilst the NWR is open for visitors for the rest of the year, it’s very unlikely that the Prairie Chicken can be seen from the part of the reserve that is open for visitors.

The NWR and volunteers were very organised and had buses to take the visitors to the viewing platform. There we were able to witness up to 14 male Prairie Chicken displaying on a small mound a few hundred metres away, in the early morning mist. While viewing the lekking we had Upland Sandpipers flying just overhead.

After we returned to the visitor centre the volunteers had laid on coffee, tea, rolls and excellent spicy sausages. There was also an organised birding walk which was very popular. A really great morning and well worth the visit.

Interesting birds included White-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Savannah and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
We drove through to Galveston in the afternoon, taking the back roads to avoid Houston. We had a short stop at San Luis Pass just after the toll bridge. The huge flock of well over 400 Black Skimmer and about 120 American Avocet was very impressive but unfortunately the local fishermen kept disturbing the birds and even drove though the flock to get to their fishing area. Other interesting birds included a white morph Reddish Egret plus Least, Black, Caspian, Sandwich and Common Tern. Quite a few waders including Grey Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Long and Short-billed Dowitcher plus Laughing and Herring Gulls. 

We had a short visit to Galveston Island State Park, which was very busy, and had our first Orchard Oriole for the trip. Overnight at Galveston.

Monday 11th April:  Galveston to High Island
In the morning we took the ferry across to Port Bolivar and saw a few birds close to the harbour including Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Common Tern.

We then visited Fort Travis Seashore Park which was nice and quiet. Had some good birds here including Mottled Duck, American Bittern, Grey Plover, American Golden Plover, Marbled Godwit and many Savannah Sparrow.

Fort Travis

Further up the coast we had a short visit to Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary and saw White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Sora, Crested Caracara, Marsh Wren and Seaside Sparrow. 

We then drove onto to High Island arriving just before midday. Birding around the area, away from the designated birding areas where you have to pay $7 per person per day, we saw our first Blue Jay for the trip, plus Brown Thrasher, Worm-eating Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting and Orchard Oriole.

Prothonotary Warbler

After a couple of hours at High Island we drove across to Anahuac NWR which was excellent. Plenty of wetland birds at the reserve, with good access roads and excellent visitor centre which is manned by friendly volunteers. Driving around the wetlands we had our first Black-crowned Night-Heron and Boat-tailed Grackle for the trip. 

Cliff Swallow nesting at picnic area at Anahuac NWR

Stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Winnie for the next three nights as we couldn’t find any decent accommodation at High Island.

Tuesday 12th April:  High Island and Anahuac National Wildlife Reserve
After breakfast, drove down to High Island which had some early morning mist. Birding in the morning was good, with 44 species recorded, including five species of Vireo (White-eyed, Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, Warbling and Red-eyed), Wood Thrush, Grey Catbird and eight species of warbler. The warblers included Worm-eating, Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hooded, Yellow-throated Warbler and Northern Parula. We also had Scarlet Tanager and five Painted Bunting, our first of the trip.

Cottonmouth crossing the road at Anahuac NWR

We headed over to Anahuac NWR after midday and had a good afternoon birding with about 60 species seen. Highlights included eight Mottled Duck, Northern Shoveler, American Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Common Nighthawk perched on a fence post, our only Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the trip, Crested Caracara, Peregrine Falcon and about eight Marsh Wren seen and heard.   

Threatening skies over Anahuac NWR
  
Wednesday 13th April:  High Island 
After breakfast, we drove down to High Island with some heavy rain on the way and for the early part of the morning at High Island. Birding was very good just after the rain, with 49 species recorded, including Veery, Brown Thrasher, Ovenbird, Swainson’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-throated Sparrow, four Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole. As far as warblers go, we saw nine species for the morning.

We never did experience the fallout conditions in which up to 20 species of warbler can be seen. This can happen during a spring northerly storm, when the migrating birds encounter strong head winds and a prolonged and energy-draining flight over the Gulf of Mexico. The birds reach the wooded areas along the coast, such as High Island, to feed and regain body mass before resuming their northwards migration. If the winds are from the south, then the birds tend to keep moving northwards.  

As we spent close to two weeks along the coast, from Texas through to Louisiana and then Alabama, visiting the known migrant traps, we would have had a good chance of experiencing a fallout if it had occurred. Speaking with local birders in Louisiana, they said that a decent fallout hadn’t occurred for many years and that bird numbers appeared to be far less than previously experienced.

It started raining heavily at midday and we headed back to Winnie for the afternoon. The rain we had was just the edge of a major storm front which resulted in severe flooding from Dallas through to Houston.

Thursday 14th April:  Peveto Woods and Sam Houston Jones State Park, Louisiana
After breakfast, we drove via Port Arthur down to the coast of Louisiana, to a small birding area near to the beach known as Peveto Woods. Unlike High Island, there was no entry fee and we met some of the local birders at the site. Interesting birds included our first Piping Plover, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Blue Grosbeak. Just five species of warbler were seen during the morning.

After three hours at Peveto Woods, we went further up the coast to Holly Beach which had many terns and waders. After a short stop, we drove up towards Lake Charles with a brief stop at Sabine NWR. Taking the wetland walkway, we had our first Common Loon of the trip.

We then drove via Lake Charles to the Sam Houston Jones SP, where we had booked cabin accommodation for the next three nights. The state park was lovely however the accommodation was pretty rustic, cramped and disappointing. Some late afternoon birding produced Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-headed Woodpecker and American Crow.

Friday 15th April:  Sam Houston Jones State Park
Had a pleasant and relaxing day at SHJSP walking most of the trails. The 440-hectare State Park is located just north of Lake Charles city, at the confluence of the Houston and Calcasieu Rivers and Indian Bayou. It consists of woodlands, lakes and rivers. Prominent in the park are many bald cypress trees in the lagoons, ideal habitat for Pileated and other woodpeckers.

Bald Cypress trees and swamps at Sam Houston Jones State Park

Snakes were plentiful and we had five species for the day including a Copperhead spread across the path and not keen to move. Interesting birds included six Wood Duck, about 20 Mississippi Kite flying overhead in the afternoon, four species of Woodpecker (Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated), Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee and Prothonotary Warbler. The latter warbler was seen at many of the lowland wetlands and swamps through most of south-east USA. 

Copperhead stretched out across the path


Looking for night birds in the evening I came across two Nine-banded Armadillo which I hadn’t expected to see. We had seen many dead Armadillo on the roads through Texas, so it was great to see them alive.

Saturday 16th April:  Sam Houston Jones SP and Turf Grass Road, Jefferson Davis County
Did an early morning walk at Sam Houston Jones SP and saw my first Tufted Titmouse for the trip.

In mid-morning, we drove east of Lake Charles to the Turf Grass farms, Crawfish ponds and rice fields, in Jefferson Davis County, just north of the Intestate 10 highway. This area had some excellent birding, especially the Crawfish ponds and rice fields, although I didn’t manage to locate any Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  


Interesting birds included Northern Bobwhite, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, about 30 American Golden Plover, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, four Upland Sandpiper, Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, about 80 Long-billed Dowitcher, Crested Caracara, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Summer Tanager.


Solitary Sandpiper

After that we drove through the small towns and local farmlands. It was becoming quite windy and we headed back to SHJSP in the afternoon.

Sunday 17th April:  Atchafalaya National Wildlife Reserve
Left SHJSP early in the morning and drove further eastwards to Atchafalaya NWR. This was a huge 15,000-acre reserve and is part of the largest bottomland hardwood swamp in the USA, with extensive walking trails through the swamps. We didn’t do too much walking as the mosquitoes were ferocious and the birding was slow going. We did manage to see our first Acadian Flycatcher for the trip. 

We then took the back roads to the impressive bridge crossing the Mississippi River close to St Francisville, our stopover for the night.  

Crossing the Mississippi River


In the afternoon we did a tour of the Myrtles Plantation historic homestead, built in 1796, and apparently one of America’s most haunted homes, supposedly the home of at least 12 ghosts. Had an interesting afternoon and learnt some more of the local history.


Myrtles Plantation Historic Home

Monday 18th April:  Dauphin Island, Mobile County, Alabama
Left St Francisville early in the morning and took some back roads through small towns and very pleasant countryside, before getting onto the busy interstate highways as we travelled through Mississippi to Dauphin Island on the coast of Alabama. Dauphin Island is a well-known Spring migrant trap and has several birding areas and reserves, all of which have free access and are well laid out with trails and viewing platforms.

Had a very pleasant afternoon exploring Dauphin Island, spending most of the time at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The various birding areas are detailed in Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries website (www.coastalbirding.org). Just under 50 species of birds seen during the afternoon with highlights being Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, American Robin, Prairie Warbler and Painted Bunting. Only two warbler species were seen during the afternoon visit. 

Typical elevated houses on Dauphin Island designed for storm surges

We spent the next two nights at Bayou La Batre which was inexpensive and convenient for getting to Dauphin Island.

Tuesday 19th April:  Dauphin Island, Mobile County, Alabama
Spent the day at Dauphin Island, mainly at Shell Mound Park and Audubon Bird Sanctuary, with visits to the wetlands at the airport, Fort Gaines to the east, flowering bottlebrush at the cemetery and the beaches to the west. 

Fort Gaines on far eastern end of Dauphin Island

Had some good birding with close to 70 species for the day. Highlights included Least Bittern kindly shown to us by a local birding guide, two Clapper Rail swimming across water in wetlands at airport, four species of Vireo with Philadelphia Vireo being the first for our trip, Grey-cheeked Thrush, eleven species of Warbler with Northern Waterthrush, Cape May Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler being new birds for the trip, Blue and Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Painted Bunting. As far as warblers go, this was the one of the best days of our trip.

Least Bittern, a tiny heron (33cm) which is surprisingly well camouflaged

Wednesday 20th April:  Gulf Islands National Seashore, Santa Rosa County and St. Joseph Peninsula SP, Gulf County, Florida
Left early in the morning and drove eastwards to Florida with a short stop-off at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This small reserve had some pleasant walks and we saw 12 species of birds including Belted Kingfisher, Red-shouldered Hawk and Brown-headed Nuthatch during the short visit.

We drove through to the MainStay Suites in Port St. Joe, our accommodation for the next three nights, and visited St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in the mid-afternoon. This park was very pleasant to visit and we saw 16 Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Gannet, Bald Eagle, some waders and terns plus Prothonotary and Blackpoll Warbler.

Red-breasted Merganser

The Florida Panhandle area west and east of Port St Joe was by far the best area we visited in Florida. The rest of Florida, especially around Miami and the Florida Keys was a bit of a nuthouse.

Thursday 21st April:  St. George Island State Park, Franklin County, Florida
Spent the day at St. George Island SP which was another great park to visit and close to Port St. Joe. The park was quite large and consisted mostly of sand dunes with little vegetation. Other than the waders along the beach, most of the other birds were seen on the protected northern side of the island which has some trees and shrubs. 

Saw about 50 birds for the day with highlights being American Oystercatcher, Wilson’s Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, four species of tern, Common Ground-Dove, Cape May Warbler, Eastern Towhee and Painted Bunting.

Painted Bunting

The Snowy Plover was one of my key target birds for this state park. It is declining in some areas, especially along Gulf Coast and parts of Pacific Coast, and is considered threatened in parts of range. Human disturbance on beaches often causes failure of nesting attempts much like the Hooded Plover in Australia. The beaches along the Florida Panhandle have about 200 pairs of Snowy Plover, spread out over 300 km of coastline. I drove down to the entrance gate and asked the local rangers, who gave me some excellent advice. I then went back up to the northern most beaches and found a Snowy Plover within 20 minutes. 

In the evening we had two Chuck-will's-widow calling outside the hotel at about 10pm in the evening. I had a look for the birds but couldn’t locate them in the dense forest surrounding the hotel.

Friday 22nd April:  St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Florida
Visited St. Joseph Peninsula SP in the early morning before a heavy rainstorm blew in at 10am and washed out the rest of the day.  

For the less than 2 hours we had birding, we saw over 30 birds including Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Northern Gannet, Clapper Rail (scottii race) up close, Snowy Plover, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and our first Tree Swallow for the trip.

Brown Pelican posing just before the storm

We headed into Port St. Joe to explore the town and to do some shopping.

Saturday 23rd April:  St. Marks National Wildlife Reserve, Wakulla County, Florida
Left early in the morning and drove to St Marks NWR, located 25 miles south of Tallahassee. This was an excellent reserve with over 70 species seen during our 5-hour visit. We had some advice from the visitor centre on where to see Red-cockaded Woodpecker but didn’t have any luck with these birds, probably because we arrived at the site too late in the morning.

Due to habitat destruction, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) population in the USA has declined about 99% since European settlement, and is now a federally-listed endangered species. At St Marks the nests are mostly located in the Panacea Unit in mesic and wet flatwoods south of Sopchoppy. In 1988, the refuge population included six active nesting sites, which produced ten young. The RCW requires old living pines, preferably Longleaf Pine in excess of 80 years of age, in which to excavate their nesting and roosting cavities. They primarily forage for insects and arthropods in the bark of living pines, and tend to prefer pines in excess of nine inches in diameter. The RCW nests in social groups and they leave their nesting area in the early morning and return in the late afternoon. The US Fish and Wildlife Service booklet on the RCW is excellent and provides a good understanding on the woodpeckers which assists in finding them.

Close to the visitor centre we saw a Bald Eagle perched in a tree, another federally-listed endangered species. St Marks has a healthy Bald Eagle population which consisted of fourteen active nesting territories recorded in 1988. The eagles are migratory and usually arrive at the refuge in September and remain through May.

Bald Eagle

After birding around the visitor centre, we took the trail to the Red-cockaded Woodpecker nesting area, where we had eight species of warbler including Tennessee, Palm and Pine Warbler. We also had Bachman’s and White-throated Sparrow on this trail. We then headed down to the coast which had many waders in various shallow ponds. 

Wetlands at St Marks NWR

Interesting birds included over 150 American White Pelican, Redhead, Swallow-tailed Kite, Clapper Rail, Purple Gallinule, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, over 60 Willet, 12 Marbled Godwit, over 50 Dunlin, well over 100 Short-billed Dowitcher in full breeding plumage, 45 Ruddy Turnstone, Stilt Sandpiper in breeding plumage and Eastern Towhee with the pale eyes.

Green Anole which inflates its dewlap or throat and commonly seen along the Gulf Coast

After lunch we continued onto Crystal River which is further south on the western side of Florida.

Sunday 24th April:  Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and Fort Island Trail, Citrus County
Our primary reason for visiting Homosassa Springs was to see West Indian Manatee, which we saw on the inlet into the park. The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee, is the largest of all living sirenians. The Manatees have shorter snouts than their fellow sirenians, the Dugongs which occur in Australia, and are a lot bigger.

Florida Manatee
The park also had some walks through aviaries and wildlife enclosures. Had a pleasant morning at the park and saw about 18 species of birds outside of the various enclosures.
We then took the road down to Fort Island, on the coast just west of Crystal River and did a couple of the trails. Being the weekend it was very busy but a few interesting birds included Anhinga, Swallow-tailed Kite, Osprey and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Monday 25th April:  Honeymoon Island SP, Pinellas County and Myakka River SP, Sarasota County
We left early for the drive down to Honeymoon Island State Park, west of Tampa. Had a pleasant morning birding around the park and highlights were Mottled Duck, our first Magnificent Frigatebird, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, 24 Osprey, four Red Knot in breeding plumage, over 50 Sanderling, many Common Ground-dove, four species of warbler including two Yellow Warbler and Eastern Towhee.

Looking for waders along the shoreline of Honeymoon Island State Park

We then drove around the city of Tampa and visited Myakka River State Park further south. This was a great park to visit and although it was hot and humid by the afternoon, we did see 25 species of birds including Mottled Duck, Glossy Ibis, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-tailed Hawk, three Limpkin, over 50 Grey Plover and over 60 Black Skimmer. We only saw Limpkin at two sites in Florida and had previously seen them in Peru and Argentina.

We stayed at Bonita Springs that evening which is south of Fort Myers.  

Tuesday 26th April:  Shark Valley and State Hwy 9336, Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County
From Bonita Springs we drove eastwards though Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Wildlife Reserve, with an early morning stop at Shark Valley, at the head of the Shark River Slough and part of Everglades National Park. Along the road there were quite a few wetlands with many birds plus dead Alligators on the roadside. Must make quite an impact driving over an Alligator. 

The site at Shark Valley had a visitor centre and organised birding walks. We did a birding walk but that was a huge disappointment, with the guide battling to identify a Snowy Egret, so we walked some of the roads and trails by ourselves before heading off. Saw many more alligators and herons, but didn’t see anything new for the trip.

Green Heron at Shark Valley
We then took the back roads down to State Hwy 9336, which is the main entrance to the Everglades NP, seeing a couple of Burrowing Owl in some agricultural lands close to the park entrance. We arrived just before midday and spent the next five hours exploring the park. We initially visited Anhinga Trail and then drove down to the Flamingo Visitor Centre for lunch. We stopped in at Paurotis Pond bird rookery on the way back.

Anhinga Trail was very busy but we saw our first American Crocodile there and had Grey Kingbird along the main trail. We visited many of the small lakes and stop-off points during the afternoon, but the Paurotis Pond bird rookery was by far the best site. We managed to see just over 40 species of birds during the afternoon with highlights being over 30 Wood Stork, white form of the Great Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Swallow-tailed Kite, the washed out form of Red-shouldered Hawk (race extimus), White-crowned Pigeon and Pileated Woodpecker.
Wood Stork at Paurotis Pond bird rookery

After the many excellent reserves and state parks we had visited so far on our trip, the Everglades NP was pretty disappointing and we didn’t bother going back for another visit. Reflecting on the trip, there was nothing we missed at the Everglades, except Mangrove Cuckoo, and there are more easily accessible and probably better sites down the Florida Keys.

We stayed at the Quality Inn in Florida City overnight and after having a very poor reception, cancelled our booking for a further two nights we had for our return trip from the Florida Keys. We rebooked accommodation at Tamarac and Vero Beach, both north of Miami, which was a good move.

Wednesday 27th April:  Florida Keys
We left early in the morning for the drive down the Florida Keys to Key West, stopping at various state parks on the way down. Some impressive scenery along the way but it was a bit like a race track, with everyone trying to get down to Key West as soon as possible. Plenty of traffic police along the way, more so than anywhere else on our trip.

Florida City was a convenient location for access to the Florida Keys and it was considerably cheaper to stay there. All the accommodation on the Florida Keys is well over priced especially down at Key West. We did eventually manage to find reasonable accommodation at Parmers Resort on Little Torch Key which was within easy driving distance to Key West.

Driving through Key Largo, the first and northernmost of the Florida Keys, we had our first Common Starling and Common Myna for the trip, not a particular highlight but new birds for the USA list. We also saw Magnificent Frigatebird, Osprey, Bald Eagle and Monk Parakeet from the car. 

Our first stop was Long Key State Park where we had to wait till they opened the gates at 8am. We parked under some trees and there was a Black-whiskered Vireo calling from the tree above the car as we got out, one of the key targets for the Florida Keys and one of my easiest lifers. The state park had some good walks and walkways though the mangroves and along the coastal beaches. 

The top bird for the morning was a Snail Kite sitting on top of the mangroves on the loop trail, this being slightly out of range, with these kites usually reported around the Everglades area and further north in Florida. Other interesting birds included Belted Kingfisher, Ovenbird, American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Palm Warbler, Prairie Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. The Prairie Warbler (race paludicola) is interesting as in south Florida it’s restricted to mangrove habitats.

After two hours at Long Key SP, we drove down to Curry Hammock State Park, which was a complete waste of time. We did however see a huge Green Iguana as we were leaving.

Our next stop was Bahia Honda State Park, which was very pleasant and was especially good for warblers. We saw a Grey-cheeked Thrush plus nine species of warbler including Cape May, Magnolia, Blackpoll, Palm and Black-throated Blue Warbler. However, the best warbler of the day was the Yellow Warbler (Golden) which the IOC has split into the Mangrove Warbler (Golden) race gundlachi. The gundlachi race of the Yellow or Mangrove Warbler is a disjunct population found only in Cuba and Florida Keys, thus one of the key targets for the trip. As with the Prairie Warbler the Mangrove Warbler (Golden) is restricted to red mangrove habitats.

Coastal beaches at Bahia Honda State Park

We left Bahia Honda SP just after midday and continued our drive down to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which was in Key West. A few days earlier, on Thursday 19th April, a Cuban Vireo had been sighted at Fort Zachary. This was the first record for the USA so understandably caused quite a bit of excitement. Unfortunately, the last sighting was on Sunday 24th April and I met a group of USA birders who had flown down to see the bird and missed it. 


Birding at this state park was good and the highlights were White-crowned Pigeon, Grey Kingbird, Black-whiskered Kingbird, five species of warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an adult male Dickcissel. We also saw quite a few Green Iguana which were in the trees and often dropped to the ground as you walked past them.


Green Iguana on Key West

In the late afternoon we drove half an hour up the road to Parmers Resort on Little Torch Key. The resort was very pleasant, being on the water’s edge and well away from the main road, although the accommodation was very cramped. Went out looking for Mangrove Cuckoo amongst the extensive mangroves but had no luck.

Thursday 28th April:  Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park
The day cruise from Key West to Fort Jefferson was one of the highlights for our trip and was superbly organised. We left Little Torch Key early for a 7am check-in at the Key West harbour. The boat was one of the Rottnest type fast ferries and was built in Fremantle in Western Australia. On boarding the boat and setting off for the 2.5-hour trip to Fort Jefferson, we were treated to an extensive breakfast, far superior to any of the breakfasts provided at most American hotels. The boat was spacious, air conditioned and we had some friendly company for the trip.

Not too much seen during the voyage until we got to East Key, which is close to Fort Jefferson. We did a bit of a detour to East Key and saw many Magnificent Frigatebird, Masked Booby, Common Noddy plus Sooty, Least, Royal and Sandwich Tern around the island, which was not much more than a sand bank.

After docking and disembarking we explored the island and fort. A sumptuous lunch was provided back on board and the we had until 2:30 pm to continue exploring the island. Snorkelling equipment was provided by the tour company, free of charge and many went off to explore the coral reefs.

Fort Jefferson

Overhead we had about 30 Magnificent Frigatebird constantly patrolling the skies, hundreds of Sooty Tern and Common Noddy flying and roosting around the Garden Key area, plus many Ruddy Turnstone along the beaches. It was hot and many of the birds were taking shelter either within the walls of Fort Jefferson or in small clumps of bush outside of the wall. We saw about 60 Cattle Egret, Merlin, Red-eyed and Black-whiskered Vireo, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Bobolink, Cliff Swallow plus eleven species of warbler including Black-throated Blue, Palm, Pine, Prairie and Black-throated Green Warbler.

Magnificent Frigatebird (female)
We did see a nighthawk flying around within the walled area of the fort. An Antillean Nighthawk had been reported there in the previous week, so we were hoping for this bird. However, a group of experienced USA birders noticed that the white wing bars were further down from wing tip than the Antillean Nighthawk, indicating Common Nighthawk. In addition, Yvonne heard the call as it took off and this confirmed Common Nighthawk. According to the field guides these two nighthawks are virtually impossible to distinguish except by voice, so I have to wonder if the previous sightings were correct?

View of area inside Fort Jefferson

The other bird of interest was a Black Noddy, which is a rare bird for the USA and the Dry Tortugas is the only regular site in the USA, which has a few sub-adult birds during summer. A Black Noddy had been photographed and reported on eBird a week prior, so many birders were scanning the many Common Noddy with their spotting scopes. I spent a lot of time scanning the roosting site close to the fort which had many Common Noddy. I couldn’t find any Black Noddy and no-one else I spoke to on the trip managed to locate one either. 

View from Fort Jefferson overlooking Garden Key, the off-limits nesting area for about 4,500 Common Noddy
All too soon we had to leave and we had an uneventful trip back to Key West and were entertained by the ship’s crew. Fort Jefferson is a place that would be worthwhile camping for the night and having more time to explore at leisure.

Commercial bird tour companies offer tours from Miami to Fort Jefferson, with some chartering a small boat from Key West which allows for overnight trips. The cost for these trips are ridiculously expensive and I don’t think we missed anything on our trip. We certainly had plenty of experienced birders on the trip and if there was something special to see, news would have spread very quickly.  

Many of these commercial birding tours also have a day around the Miami area for the introduced birds, such as Egyptian goose, many parrots, Red-whiskered Bulbul plus Hill and Common Myna. Nearly 70 species of parrots have been recorded flying free at some stage in Miami, including Hyacinth Macaws. Most of these exotic birds are not on the official ABA list but others such as the Spot-breasted Oriole, a native of Central America, is one of the exotics to make the list. We didn’t have any interest in chasing exotics but did see Egyptian Goose as we drove through Miami.

On the drive back to Little Torch Key, we visited an area of mangroves on Sugarloaf Key, where Mangrove Cuckoo had been seen a couple of days earlier.  Didn’t have any luck finding the cuckoo.

Friday 29th April:  Florida Keys
After breakfast, we spent some time exploring the adjacent Middle Torch Key, taking a walk through mangroves and stopping at various spots along the road where there was suitable habitat for Mangrove Cuckoo. Didn’t manage to find any cuckoos but did have three White-crowned Pigeon flying overhead.

Our next stop was at Bahia Honda State Park where we saw 17 species of birds including Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Magnolia Warbler, Mangrove Warbler (Golden) and Blackpoll Warbler.
We then had a short stop at Long Key State Park with Rose-breasted Grosbeak seen. We left the state park at midday and continued our drive towards Miami with three Golden Eagle seen further up the Florida Keys. Driving past Fuchs Park in Miami we noticed a couple of Egyptian Goose plus six Muscovy Duck, both being established ferals for Florida.

After surviving some horrific driving on the freeways around Miami, the worst for our entire trip, we arrived at the Comfort Suites Hotel in Tamarac. This part of Miami, well north of the CBD was very pleasant and a lot better than Florida City where we had originally planned to stay.

Saturday 30th April:  Loxahatchee NWR and Kissimmee Prairie Preserve SP
After breakfast, we took a short drove northwards to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Reserve. This was an excellent reserve and spans over 140,000 acres of northern Everglades wetlands. We visited the ponds just to the south of Lee Road looking for the Smooth-billed Ani, which breeds there annually. For the couple of hours at the reserve we had 30 species of birds including Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-heron, 30 Glossy Ibis, Swallow-tailed Kite, 12 Limpkin and two Nanday Parakeet.

We met up with other birders who showed us their photo of an Ani. They were also looking for the Smooth-billed Ani and had been told by the local ranger that their photo was of a Groove-billed Ani, a bird more commonly seen along the Rio Grande River in Texas. After having a second look at the photos, I realised they were actually of a Smooth-billed Ani. Shortly afterwards we had the Smooth-billed Ani sitting up in a shrub, a few meters away. Quite a few other birders managed to see the Ani that morning.

Smooth-billed Ani
Leaving the reserve, we stopped in at Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market, at the entrance to the reserve, and bought some freshly baked goodies to keep us going. We headed northwest to Lake Okeechobee, which was pretty impressive and then onto the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Around the Taylor Creek area on Hwy 98N in Okeechobee County, we had a couple of American Flamingo fly over, which was a great sighting. We also had Sandhill Crane in the adjacent farmlands, the only ones seen on this trip.

We spent a couple of hours at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, which was very pleasant. Interesting birds included Northern Bobwhite, Swallow-tailed Kite, Common Ground-dove, Crested Caracara, American Redstart and Blackpoll Warbler.

We then drove down to the east coast of Florida to stay at Vero Beach for the night.

Sunday 1st May:  St. Sebastian River Preserve SP and Merritt Island, Brevard County
After breakfast, we spent just over three hours at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, just north of Vero Beach. This site preserves the open grassy forests of longleaf pine that were once commonplace throughout Florida and has Red-cockaded Woodpecker nesting in the area. The typical scrubby flatwoods have an open canopy of widely spaced pine trees and a low, shrubby understory dominated by scrub oaks and saw palmetto, often interspersed with areas of barren white sand. The understory is being actively managed by ploughing and burning in order to protect the habitat for Red-cockaded Woodpecker and other species.

We walked various trails through the pine trees and saw some interesting birds including Wild Turkey, Wood Stork, Swallow-tailed Kite, three Red-shouldered Hawk up close, Chimney Swift, Pine Warbler and Eastern Towhee (yellow eye). We did see a small woodpecker as we arrived but it was moving quickly through the pine trees and we didn’t manage to get good enough views to identify it. 

We then took the very scenic coastal drive up to Merritt Island stopping off at the Rotary Park on Merritt Island for lunch. Very pleasant park with plenty of good birding habitat and a walkway through the forested area. Interesting birds seen included Fish Crow, Tufted Titmouse, Worm-eating Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart, the latter birds being in the trees around the picnic area.

We checked into the Quality Inn at Titusville, our accommodation for the next three nights, and visited the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve in the late afternoon, arriving just after 5pm. We did the Black Point Wildlife Drive which was excellent with plenty of birds on the various ponds. Interesting birds included many Tricoloured Heron, four Reddish Egret, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Bald Eagle and a few waders.

We then drove down to the Scrub Ridge Trail on Mosquito Lagoon, an appropriate name for the mosquito infected area, with swarms of small mosquitos. I walked the Scrub Ridge Trail but didn’t manage to find any Florida Scrub-Jay. As often happens, Yvonne had seen them in the car park and I had good views around the car park of three Florida Scrub-Jay just before sunset.

These were to be the only Florida Scrub-Jay we saw on our trip and was the last of the Jays and Scrub-Jays we needed for the USA. Unfortunately, due to habitat destruction the Florida Scrub-Jay is now classified as a threatened species, and the healthy population of birds that once ranged all along the Atlantic coast has been fragmented into isolated communities. The Florida Scrub-Jay lives in a highly specialized territory, where tall trees provide canopy cover over no more than 20% of an area. In the ideal habitat, oaks between one and three metres height cover between 50 and 90% of an area, whilst sparse vegetation no higher than 150mm covers the remaining region. Fire is essential for maintaining Scrub-Jay habitat and the area needs to be burned every 5 to 20 years in order to keep scrub vegetation at the proper height.

Monday 2nd May:  Merritt Island NWR, Brevard County and Hal Scott Regional Preserve, Orange County
After breakfast, we headed down to Merritt Island for the morning’s birding, before heavy rain came in at about midday. We did the Black Point Wildlife Drive in the early morning, followed by Scrub Ridge Trail and then Haulover Canal where we saw quite a few Manatee. 


The best bird for the morning was a Short-tailed Hawk, a white morph bird, possibly juvenile. The hawk had a white underbody and white wing linings contrasting with darker secondaries and primaries, plus shortish tail with wide dark sub-terminal band plus thinner bands.
Saw 45 species during the morning including Mottled Duck, Northern Bobwhite, Pied-billed Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Wilson’s Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Black Skimmer, Northern Flicker and Pileated Woodpecker.

Storm clouds building up over the Merritt Island wetlands 
We headed back to the hotel and once the rain has cleared up in the late afternoon, drove towards Orlando to the Hal Scott Regional Preserve arriving at about 5:30pm. This preserve has over 9,000 acres of flatwoods and open prairie, and straddles the Econlockhatchee River in east Orange County. This was another nesting area for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker but after extensive searching over a couple of hours, I didn’t manage to find any RCW’s. I did see a Great Horned Owl in the late afternoon, a couple of Common Nighthawk flying overhead before sunset and calling, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Pileated Woodpecker.

Tuesday 3rd May:  Kennedy Space Centre
Had a great day at the Kennedy Space Centre, just down the road from Titusville on Merritt Island. The space centre visitor complex was very well organised and had various attractions such as the Space Shuttle Atlantis Centre, the Rocket Garden, couple of souvenir shops and two IMAX theatres. The entry ticket also included the bus tour of the Apollo / Saturn V centre and rocket launching sites. At the Space Shuttle Atlantis Centre, we watched a film on the history of the space shuttle development, then had close up views of the actual space shuttle and I did the Shuttle Launch Experience, which was fascinating.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

We then took the KSC bus tour and visited the Apollo / Saturn V Centre for close up views of the Saturn V rocket, the largest rocket ever made, and space museum which was impressive. The tour around the rocket launching sites was also impressive. Back at the main KSC visitor centre, we watched one of the IMAX films “Journey to Space” which was excellent.

Saturn V Rocket
After a relaxing afternoon, we went to Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, a very popular restaurant and recommended in many trip reports. After waiting a bit to get a table, we had the excellent seafood platter “Dixie Spectacular” with delicious Maine Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Scallops and Crab Legs.  

Wednesday 4th May:  Olustee Battlefield Historic SP, Baker County, Florida and Okefenokee NWR, Charlton County, Georgia
Leaving behind some very wet and stormy weather, we drove northwards towards Jacksonville and then westwards to the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park. This was another nesting area for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker although I didn’t manage to find any. Not much in the way of birds except for Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpecker plus Pine Warbler. The state park did have an interesting visitor centre with details on the civil war.

We then drove northwards into Georgia to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Reserve arriving just before 1pm. This was an excellent park to visit, with an informative visitor centre, a historic homestead and elevated walkways through the swamps to a viewing tower. I asked about the RCW at the visitor centre and the staff were very helpful and showed me some photos taken the previous day of young RCW chicks taken from a monitored nest for ringing. This park had marked the RCW nesting trees with white bands and the visitor centre staff told us exactly where to find the RCW. We had to stay on the roads as the actual nesting areas were off limits for visitors.

Swamps at Okefenokee

We decided to stay at the park till sunset and visited the RCW nesting area, the historic Chesser Island Homestead and took a walk to the viewing tower during the afternoon. Birding highlights included Black-crowned Night-heron, Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Eastern Towhee and Blue Grosbeak. We also saw about 12 snakes of various species during the visit.

In the late afternoon, we headed back to the RCW nesting area. I wandered off to do some birding and a bit later Yvonne called me to come and have a look. She had just seen about four or five RCW’s fly in into the nesting area. I managed to see at least two RCW foraging for food in among the pine trees and then returning to their nests. The woodpeckers are quite small and fly quickly to their nests, landing on the tree for a short time before diving into the nest. As they move quickly through the pine forests, it’s evident that they can be difficult to find unless one stakes out their nesting sites. So after much searching we had finally seen the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

We left the park just before 5pm and drove down to Brunswick on the coast of Georgia.
 
Thursday 5th May:  Sewee Visitors Centre and Santee Coastal Reserve, Charleston County, South Carolina
We continued northwards into South Carolina with a short stop off at the Sewee Visitors Centre. This small reserve has Red Wolf and we saw one in an enclosure which was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been better to see them on St. Vincent Island, close to where we stayed at Port St Joe in Florida, which is currently the only active island propagation site. However, visiting the St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 12,300-acre undeveloped barrier island, would have required a full day’s visit involving a boat shuttle and extensive hiking.

Our next stop was the Santee Coastal Reserve, just south of Georgetown, arriving there at midday. A very pleasant reserve with a variety of habitats from wetlands to wooded areas. Interesting birds included Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Wood Duck, Wood Stork, Mississippi Kite, Acadian Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Northern Parula and Brown-headed Cowbird.

We left at about 2:30pm and drove across the waterways feeding into Winyah Bay, to the Quality Inn and Suites in Georgetown. In the evening we had a good seafood meal at the River Room Restaurant, in the historic part of Georgetown on the waterfront. Along the waterfront we saw Common Nighthawk and Purple Martin.

Friday 6th May:  Pawleys Island and Brookgreen Botanical Gardens, Georgetown County, South Carolina
After breakfast, we made a short visit to the public beach on the southern end of Pawleys Island, seeing over 100 Semipalmated Plover, Grey Plover, American Golden Plover, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull and Least Tern. Unfortunately, most of the beaches we tried to visit were closed to the public and had private access only.

Brookgreen Gardens
We then spent the morning at the extensive Brookgreen Botanical Gardens which was very pleasant. Over 30 species of birds seen at the gardens including Swallow-tailed Kite, Bald Eagle, King Rail (heard), White-breasted Nuthatch, Swainson’s Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Summer Tanager and House Finch.

One of the many statues at Brookgreen
After lunch we stopped in at Pawleys Island again for a brief visit. There is a salt marsh at the end of the north causeway but we couldn’t find it and far too many signs say Private Residence, No Trespassing, Private etc., so we had enough of the place and went back to the hotel. Pawleys Island may be of interest for local residents but Huntington Beach State Park a bit further up the coast was far superior and is considered by many to be the best birding spot in South Carolina. 

Saturday 7th May:  Huntington Beach State Park, Georgetown County
After breakfast, we drove up the coast to Huntington Beach SP. This was an excellent park, with extensive wetlands, coastal forests and beaches, plus plenty of parking, trails and picnic areas. Highlights for the mornings birding included two Black Scoter, an adult male and female/ juvenile seen swimming about 100m offshore, Common Loon flying up the coast, Bald Eagle, Black-throated Blue Warbler and about 14 Painted Bunting which included six adult males. A range of waders, terns and gulls was also seen. 
 
Just offshore we saw a couple of Loggerhead Turtle swimming, these are huge turtles with massive heads. The turtles nest on the beaches of Huntington Beach NP between May and October. Local rangers protect the nests with a steel wire cage that is buried into the ground to keep canine predators out.

We drove down the road for lunch and then returned to the state park in mid-afternoon. By now the tidal wetlands were fully exposed and the tide was starting to come in. The causeway area was full of egrets, herons and waders, including Little Blue Heron, Grey Plover, about 60 Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Sanderling, about 40 Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher. The majority of the waders were in breeding plumage and easy to observe from the causeway, enabling good comparisons to be made between the various species.

Wetlands next to causeway at Huntington Beach State Park

Other interesting birds for the afternoon were five species of tern, including Gull-billed and Sandwich Tern, Common Nighthawk, Brown Thrasher and more Painted Bunting. Overall a good days birding with just under 60 species for the day.

Sunday 8th May:  Congaree Swamp National Park, Richland County, South Carolina
We now left the coast and headed inland though some scenic countryside, up into the Piedmont country, to Columbia. The Piedmont is a plateau region located between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Appalachian Mountains, stretching from New Jersey to central Alabama.

On the way we visited the Congaree National Park, a huge park of over 26,000 acres which preserves the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States. The park had an excellent visitor centre and we got some tips from the visitor centre staff on where to see Barred Owl and other specialties for the park. 

Mosquito Meter
  
The park has excellent walking trails and elevated platforms and we took the Boardwalk Loop and Sims Trail. After a while we located a Barred Owl sitting on an open branch, which then flew down to the water’s edge looking for Crawfish.

Barred Owl

Saw just over 20 species of birds in the forest and around the car park such as Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, Wood Thrush, plus six species of warbler including Prothonotary, Tennessee, Hooded, Black-throated Blue and Yellow-throated Warbler.

Monday 9th May:  Kings Mountain National Military Park, York County, South Carolina
We headed further inland to the Kings Mountain National Military Park, west of Charlotte, and then onto Asheville in North Carolina, our base for the next three nights.

The visit to Kings Mountain visitor centre was very interesting and we learnt a bit more about the early American history. The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive victory for the Patriot militia over the Loyalist militia in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The battle took place on October 1780 and effectively the arrogant British were wiped out by the locals.

We took a circular walk around the hill which had information boards along the way. Saw about 20 birds on the walk including Broad-winged Hawk, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Pine Warbler and White-breasted Nuthatch.

Stayed at the Quality Inn and Suites Biltmore in Asheville which was a lovely hotel and convenient for accessing the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tuesday 10th May:  Blue Ridge Parkway, Buncombe County, North Carolina
We spent the day on the Blue Ridge Parkway which traverses the Appalachian Ranges. We travelled northeast from Asheville up past the Craggy Gardens Visitor Centre to the Minerals Museum in the Pisgah National Forest. This has to be one of the most scenic roads we travelled on, the road wasn’t busy and had many pulloffs, which was great for birding and taking in the views.

Appalachian Ranges

At one of the early stops we met up with a group of birders and saw several Chestnut-sided Warbler, a bird we had missed earlier in our trip. These birds were now in their breeding range and we saw quite a few over the next couple of days. They usually occur in leafy second-growth woods, clearings, and thickets. 

Chestnut-sided Warbler

At another stop we managed to see a couple of Canada Warbler, a striking warbler that is a summer resident of moist, shady woods. It usually stays in the understory, feeding in the bushes or on the ground, so can be hard to see in this dense cover.  

A bit further on, in the higher elevations, we found a Blackburnian Warbler which was a good bird to see. It breeds in boreal coniferous and mixed forests, especially spruce and hemlock. In southern part of breeding range in Appalachians, it can inhabit completely deciduous forests.

So three new warblers for our trip, at a stage when it was becoming hard to find any new birds. Looking at the distribution maps for the Chestnut-sided, Canada and Blackburnian Warbler, they all breed in the Appalachian Ranges which runs southwest, as far south as Georgia. This is evident on the range maps which shows a long spur running southwest for the summer breeding ranges.

Other interesting birds for the day included Common Raven, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, House Wren at nest, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco (slate-coloured), Eastern Towhee and Indigo Bunting.  

Red-breasted Nuthatch

On the way back we stopped in at the Folk Art Centre just outside of Asheville, which had some impressive artwork but very expensive.

Wednesday 11th May:  Great Smoky Mountains NP, Swain County, North Carolina
We left early and spent the morning at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a huge park of over 500,000 acres, divided between North Carolina and Tennessee. The weather was threatening with heavy clouds, mist and some heavy rain showers, so not conducive to much walking or birding. We saw close to 30 species for the morning with the highlight being Ruffed Grouse, the only one we saw on this trip. Other birds included Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch, four species of warbler including Blackburnian and Orange-crowned Warbler, plus Savannah and Song Sparrow.

The national park was impressive although we didn’t see much of the park due to the misty and wet conditions. We did visit the Oconoluftee Visitor Centre, the Mountain Farm Museum, Mingus Mill which was built in 1886 and uses a water-powered turbine for milling, and some of the picnic sites. The main access road, which runs from the visitor centre up to Newfound Gap on the border with Tennessee, was very busy and wasn’t a pleasant drive in the wet conditions.

Mingus Mill

At midday we went to the local Indian village of Cherokee for lunch and some shopping. Drove back to Asheville in the late afternoon.

Thursday 12th May:  Blue Ridge Parkway, Henderson County, North Carolina
We left early and spent about six hours travelling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, southwest of Asheville. We drove up to Mt Pisgah and then further along the Blue Ridge Parkway, after which we drove through to Blairsville in Georgia, our base for the next three nights.


Appalachian Ranges
This section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was different to the north-eastern section, with what appeared to be sparser vegetation, higher elevations and more exposed areas, with Mt Pisgah rising to over 1,700m. It was evident that the trees came into leaf later on the exposed sides of the mountain ridges. The scenery along the way was quite spectacular. 

Colourful pines at Mt Pisgah
 South of Mt Pisgah we took a walk down to a popular waterfall. 

Waterfall south of Mt Pisgah

For the first section of road to Mt Pisgah produced some interesting birds included Wild Turkey, Winter Wren, Brown Trasher, Ovenbird, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler and Blue Grosbeak. The section of the Blue Ridge Parkway after Mt Pisgah produced Chimney Swift, Blue Jay and more Chestnut-sided Warbler.

The drive through to Blairsville was very scenic and the roads fairly quiet, although we did have some heavy rain.

Friday 13th May:  Gumlog Gap Road, Union County, Georgia
We had more heavy rain overnight which cleared up by the morning. We headed up into the forests of the nearby Chattahoochee National Forest, taking the Gumlog Gap Road, a rough track, for several kilometres before walking a fair distance further up the track. The main target bird was the Cerulean Warbler, which I didn’t manage to locate. Only saw 19 birds in the five hours of birding, including Black-billed Cuckoo which flew in and landed in tree just overhead, Pileated Woodpecker, Worm-eating Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler and Scarlet Tanager. 

Had dinner at Mike's Seafood Market in the evening, a rustic venue which was very popular with the locals and serves up excellent seafood.

Saturday 14th May:  Brasstown Bald, Union County, Georgia
It was cold (10oC) and sunny as we drove up to the peak of Brasstown Bald arriving at 8:30am. Brasstown Bald at just under 1,500m is the highest natural point in the state of Georgia. We took the steep walk from the car park up to the visitor centre and had some great views of the surround countryside.

Managed to see 20 species of birds in the morning as it became increasingly windy and unpleasant. Interesting birds included four Broad-winged Hawk flying just overhead at the visitor centre, Cooper’s Hawk, Veery, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler (adult male) and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Along the walk leading south from the parking area there were quite a few clumps of Pink Lady’s Slipper, a species of orchid.

Pink Lady's Slipper orchid

On the way back to Blairsville we took a scenic drive though the hills which unfortunately was quite busy with weekend traffic.

Sunday 15th May:  Wheeler NWR, Morgan County and Bankhead NF, Lawrence County, Alabama
We left early for our drive westwards to Decatur in Alabama, leaving Georgia and travelling through a scenic part of Tennessee, before entering northern Alabama. The drive through the mountainous terrain of the Cohutta Wilderness, an area of over 37,000 acres, and the shores of Lake Ocoee were particularly scenic.

We arrived in Decatur just after 10am and drove to the Wheeler National Wildlife Reserve, to find that the park was closed on Sundays. We went to the day use part of the park and managed to do a short walk through the forests, after getting permission to cross a foot bridge which was being reconstructed. In the couple of hours at this site, we saw just 14 species including three species of woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher.

We then headed over to Point Mallard Park where there were some pleasant walks through a small wooded area. We had our Sunday lunch at the popular Cracker Barrel in Courtland, these restaurants serving up good home style meals, our favourite restaurant chain for this trip.

After checking into our hotel in Decatur, we took a drive to the Bankhead National Forest arriving at about 6:30pm. We visited the Bordon Creek Trail and had a look for Cerulean Warbler, which we didn’t find. We did have Eastern Screech Owl calling around sunset and also saw Worm-eating Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler.   

Monday 16th May:  Bankhead National Forest, Lawrence County, Alabama
After breakfast, we drove back to Bankhead National Forest and I took a walk along the river, to an area where most of the recent Cerulean Warbler sightings had been made. Spent close to four hours on the Bordon Creek Trail and eventually managed to identify the calls of at least two Cerulean Warbler in the tall trees alongside the river. The preferred habitat for Cerulean Warbler are deciduous forests, especially in river valleys, and it breeds in mature hardwoods either in uplands or along streams. The sky-blue upperparts of the male Cerulean Warbler are difficult to observe in summer and the birds tend to stay high up in the tops of leafy trees.

The call of the Cerulean Warbler is similar to the Black-throated Blue Warbler and this can lead to confusion, however I only saw Black-throated Green Warbler in these low elevation forests. The Black-throated Green Warbler were readily seen in the forest mid-level, where they prefer to forage, and tended to be further up on the slopes of the forest. As the call of Black-throated Green Warbler can be readily distinguished from the call of the Cerulean Warbler, I was confident of my identification.

There have been no sightings on eBird for Black-throated Blue Warbler at Bankhead National Forest, whereas the Black-throated Green Warbler is frequently reported. From what I observed in the Appalachian Ranges, the preferred breeding area for the Black-throated Green Warbler was in the lower elevation forests, whereas the Black-throated Blue Warbler preferred the higher elevation forests.

Other interesting birds for the morning included Pileated Woodpecker, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler and Scarlet Tanager.

Pileated Woodpecker
Just after midday we continued our trip westwards through Mississippi, to arrive at the Best Western in Tunica Resorts, in the late afternoon. This was to be our base for the next two nights and the hotel was located just south of Memphis, close to the Mississippi River.

Tuesday 17th May:  Maxson Wastewater Lagoons and T.O. Fuller State Park, Shelby County, Tennessee and Hernando DeSoto River Park, DeSoto County, Mississippi
After breakfast we drove up to Memphis, crossing into Tennessee, for a morning’s visit to the Maxson Wastewater Lagoons. These were quite smelly sewage ponds but are one of the best birding sites in the Memphis area. There were no signs, fences or gates and the roads had been recently modified, which meant that the birding site descriptions were well out of date. After asking around and visiting the main offices, we managed to get into the right area for birding and the site workers were friendly and helpful.

The various sludge ponds had many waders however a spotting scope was essential to identify some of the distant waders on the larger ponds. Over 40 birds seen in just over three hours including Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Canada Goose, Northern Bobwhite, American Avocet, Solitary Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, about 40 Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Chimney Swift, Cliff Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Grasshopper Sparrow, twelve Dickcissel and American Goldfinch.

We then headed over to the TO Fuller State Park in the nearby forests for lunch. Some lovely birds around the picnic site including close up views of Mississippi Kite, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Downy Woodpecker, Swainson’s Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler and Chipping Sparrow.

Strongly flowing Mississippi River
After lunch we drove down to the Mississippi River and stopped off at the Hernando DeSoto River Park which was very pleasant and right next to the mighty Mississippi River. Saw 35 species of birds, in the two hours at the park, including two Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, many Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole and two Baltimore Oriole.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Wednesday 18th May:  Bald Knob NWR, White County and Lake Hamilton, Garland County, Arkansas
After breakfast we drove up to Memphis and then headed westwards over the Mississippi River into Arkansas. We spent about three hours at the Bald Knob National Wildlife Reserve, arriving just after 9am, where it was cold with heavy rain clouds and very windy, not the best conditions for birding.

The reserve was quite pleasant to visit and we saw just over 30 species of birds including two Snow Goose, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Dickcissel and about 24 Bobolink. Also had a Diamondback Water Snake swimming in a pond alongside one of the paths.

We then drove down through Little Rock and onto Hot Springs, staying at the Long Island Lake Resort for three nights. The resort was well off the main roads and overlooked the lake, so a very pleasant place to stay.  In addition, we had a small kitchen, so had some home cooked meals which was a welcome change to all those restaurant meals.

View from our room at Long Island Lake Resort

Walking around Long Island in the late afternoon had some good birding with close to 30 birds seen, including Red-tailed Hawk, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted), Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren (two adults and two fledglings), Eastern Bluebird and American Redstart. 

Thursday 19th May:  Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery, Garland County, Arkansas
The original plan was to visit the Ouachita National Forest which has an IBA for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, nesting in a habitat of Shortleaf Pine and Bluestem Grass. As we had already seen the RCW, the best birding site in the Hot Springs area appeared to be the fish hatchery. I was now targeting a few of the flycatchers which had been reported recently in the Arkansas area.

The Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery was conveniently close to where we were staying and allows free access to their fish ponds. The hatchery has a range of habitats, from Lake Hamilton on the western boundary, the various fish ponds with some drained exposing mud, to the forested areas on the southern and eastern boundaries.

Had a very pleasant morning, with 46 species of birds seen over the four-hour visit. Highlights were 12 Wood Duck, many Green Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Acadian Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher (drab olive grey flycatcher with lack of yellow/green colour of Acadian and lack of distinctive white eye ring), Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, at least 10 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Purple Martin, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Marsh Wren (seen and heard in long grass alongside ponds, small wren with cocked tail, bold white supercilium, white markings on back with rich colours of eastern race), Brown Thrasher, Common Yellowthroat and two Wilson’s Warbler.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

In the afternoon we did some shopping in Hot Springs. Our Garmin SatNav was only working intermittently and we had ordered a new one through Amazon, which arrived on schedule at our resort that afternoon.

We had some heavy rain in the late afternoon and it cleared up by the evening. After the rain, sitting out on the resort balcony, we saw Mississippi Kite, at least 12 Common Nighthawk hawking insects on skyline and about 20 Purple Martin hawking insects with nighthawks.

Friday 20th May:  Andrew H. Hulsey State Fish Hatchery, Garland County, Arkansas
As there weren’t any other birding areas close to Hot Springs, which may have had any target birds I still needed, I went back to the fish hatchery for the morning. I also wanted to get a second look at the flycatchers and focussed my efforts on the forested parts of the hatchery boundaries.

During the morning visit of about 4.5 hours, I saw 49 species of birds. Highlights were Mississippi Kite, Red-shouldered Kite (feeding on edge of ponds being harassed by crow), Upland Sandpiper (flushed from mown grass on side of ponds, a large buffy wader with small head, long neck, yellow legs and dark rump through to centre of tail), Olive-sided Flycatcher (large dark grey flycatcher with white throat and dark breast with white down centre of breast, no eye ring evident and mostly dark bill with some yellow at base), Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher (dull olive brown bird with indistinct white eye ring, whitish wing bars and white throat plus brownish breast band), Great Crested Flycatcher, Marsh Wren (seen in the exact same spot as the previous day) and about 10 Eastern Bluebird.

So over the two days at the fish hatchery, I recorded 60 species of birds, for a site that doesn’t seem to be that well known. According to eBird, 191 species have been seen with only 42 checklists recorded, so it’s a site that has a lot of potential.

Saturday 21st May:  Red Slough WMA, McCurtain County, Oklahoma
After breakfast, we drove through to Idabel in Oklahoma and then just south to the Red Slough Wildlife Management Area. Arrived at about 10am and spent just over three hours exploring the various wetlands.

Some pleasant birding in warm and humid conditions, with 36 species seen, including 12 Mississippi Kite, King Rail (heard), Yellow-billed Cuckoo, over 20 Eastern Kingbird, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler, four Painted Bunting and five Dickcissel. For a popular birding site, with over 300 species recorded from 1200 eBird checklists, we found it a bit uninspiring.  

Explored the area around the WMA and also Idabel, and then checked into our hotel in Idabel for the night.

Sunday 22nd May:  Hagerman NWR, Grayson County, Texas
Instead of revisiting the Red Slough WMA, which didn’t have any recent sightings of target birds I still needed, we drove through to the Hagerman National Wildlife Reserve north of Dallas. This was an extensive reserve with quite varied habitats, from wetlands to grasslands and forested areas, and had some good birding. The wildflowers at this time of year were quite spectacular. This website (www.friendsofhagerman.com/wildflowers) gives an idea of what flowers can be seen at Hagerman NWR.  

Hudsonian Godwit had been sighted here earlier in the week and that would have been a good bird to add to my USA bird list, although I have seen it in South America and even in Melbourne, Australia. Following the recent flooding in the Dallas area, the water levels were still quite high at Hagerman NWR, although there was now some exposed mud as the water levels were dropping.

We saw close to 50 species of birds during the five-hour visit. Highlights were Redhead, Bald Eagle, Stilt Sandpiper, a single Baird’s Sandpiper, about 30 White-rumped Sandpiper, many Semipalmated Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gull, Least Tern (Interior race), Black Tern in breeding plumage, Greater Roadrunner, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler and at least 30 Dickcissel. The Dickcissel were all over the grassed areas, calling and displaying from the top of the tall grass and wildflowers.

Displaying Dickcissel

Most of the waders were in breeding plumage and it was good to catch up with Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpiper after missing them so far on the trip. I have seen both sandpiper in Canada but it was great to see them in breeding plumage and to spend time identifying them. I have also seen White-rumped Sandpiper just south of Sydney, which is a major rarity for Australia.  

In the mid-afternoon we drove south to Dallas, through the complex and busy freeways, to our accommodation close to the DFW airport.

Monday 23rd May:  Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas
We did some shopping in the morning and had lunch at the Outback Steakhouse, which had good steaks. This was supposed to be an Australian restaurant, but other than some photos of Australia, had nothing on the menu that resembled any Australian outback food.

We dropped the AVIS rental car off at DFW and then took the shuttle bus back to the hotel in the afternoon. Our flight back to Sydney left just after 10pm and we had no queues getting through border control and security, in fact must be one of the easiest exits we have done anywhere. The Qantas Club lounge wasn’t crowded, unlike Los Angeles, and we had some good food there. Don’t remember much on the A380 flight back and slept most of the way back to Sydney.


Birding Resources
Sibley Birds of North America, iPhone App
National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America, iPhone App
Mammals of North America, iPhone App
Field Guide to the Birds of North America, National Geographic, 6th Edition by Jon Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer
A Birder’s Guide to Planning North American Trips, ABA Birdfinding Guide, Jerry A Cooper
eBird, used extensively to find the best birding areas along our trip and for daily updates of rarities
The National Geographic iPhone app was used extensively although the Sibley app provided a useful comparison at times.

Mammals
The following mammals were identifed and recorded:
Sirenia
Manatees (Trichechidae)
West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
Cingulata
Armadillos (Dasypodidae)
Nine-banded Armadillo [sp] (Dasypus novemcinctus)
Rodentia
Squirrels & Marmots (Sciuridae)
Eastern Grey Squirrel [sp] (Sciurus carolinensis)
Eastern Fox Squirrel [sp] (Sciurus niger)
American Red Squirrel [sp] (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Mexican Ground Squirrel [sp] (Spermophilus mexicanus)
Eastern Chipmunk [sp] (Tamias striatus)
Lagomorpha
Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae)
Eastern Cottontail [sp] (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Chiroptera
Free-tailed Bats (Molossidae)
Brazilian Free-tailed Bat [sp] (Tadarida brasiliensis)
Carnivora
Dogs (Canidae)
Coyote [sp] (Canis latrans)
Mustelids (Mustelidae)
North American River Otter [sp] (Lontra canadensis)
American Mink [sp] (Neovison vison)
Raccoons (Procyonidae)
Common Raccoon [sp] (Procyon lotor)
Artiodactyla
Peccaries (Tayassuidae)
Collared Peccary [sp] (Pecari tajacu)
Deer (Cervidae)
White-tailed Deer [sp] (Odocoileus virginianus)
Cetacea
Ocean Dolphins (Delphinidae)
Bottlenose Dolphin [sp] (Tursiops truncatus)







Reptiles
The following reptiles were identified and recorded:
Testudines - Turtles
Terrapins (Emydidae)
Florida Red-bellied Turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)
Pond Slider [sp] (Trachemys scripta)
Tortoises (Testudinidae)
Florida Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)
Soft-shelled Turtles (Trionychidae)
Smooth Softshell [sp] (Apalone mutica)
Sea Turtles (Cheloniidae)
Loggerhead Turtle [sp] (Caretta caretta)
Squamata
Anoles (Dactyloidae)
Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
Iguanas and Spinytail Iguanas (Iguanidae)
Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
Earless, Spiny, Tree, Side-blotched and Horned Lizards (Phrynosomatidae)
Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus)
WhiptailsWhiptails and Tegus (Teiidae)
Texas Spotted Whiptail (Aspidoscelis gularis)
Ophidia (Serpentes) - Snakes
Colubrids (Colubridae)
North American Racer [sp] (Coluber constrictor)
Watersnakes (Natricidae)
Southern Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata)
Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus)
Eastern Ribbon Snake [sp] (Thamnophis sauritus)
Vipers and Pit Vipers (Viperidae)
Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Cottonmouth [sp] (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
Crocodylia - Crocodiles etc.
Crocodiles (Crocodylidae)
American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
Alligators & Caimans (Alligatoridae)
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Birds
The list of birds recorded, using IOC taxonomy (May 2016), was as follows:
ANSERIFORMES
Ducks, Geese and Swans (Anatidae)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Fulvous Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)
Snow Goose [sp] (Chen caerulescens)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
Gadwall [sp] (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Mottled Duck [sp] (Anas fulvigula)
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
Cinnamon Teal [sp] (Anas cyanoptera)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis)
Redhead (Aythya americana)
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
GALLIFORMES
Chachalacas, Curassows and Guans (Cracidae)
Plain Chachalaca [sp] (Ortalis vetula)
New World Quail (Odontophoridae)
Scaled Quail [sp] (Callipepla squamata)
Northern Bobwhite [sp] (Colinus virginianus)
Montezuma Quail [sp] (Cyrtonyx montezumae)
Pheasants and allies (Phasianidae)
Wild Turkey [sp] (Meleagris gallopavo)
Ruffed Grouse [sp] (Bonasa umbellus)
Greater Prairie Chicken [sp] (Tympanuchus cupido)
GAVIIFORMES
Loons (Gaviidae)
Common Loon (Gavia immer)
PODICIPEDIFORMES
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Least Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus dominicus)
Pied-billed Grebe [sp] (Podilymbus podiceps)
PHOENICOPTERIFORMES
Flamingos (Phoenicopteridae)
American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
CICONIIFORMES
Storks (Ciconiidae)
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
PELECANIFORMES
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
American White Ibis [sp] (Eudocimus albus)
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
Least Bittern [sp] (Ixobrychus exilis)
Black-crowned Night Heron [sp] (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Yellow-crowned Night Heron [sp] (Nyctanassa violacea)
Green Heron [sp] (Butorides virescens)
Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Great Blue Heron [sp] (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret [sp] (Ardea alba)
Reddish Egret [sp] (Egretta rufescens)
Tricolored Heron [sp] (Egretta tricolor)
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
Snowy Egret [sp] (Egretta thula)
Pelicans (Pelecanidae)
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
Brown Pelican [sp] (Pelecanus occidentalis)
SULIFORMES
Frigatebirds (Fregatidae)
Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
Masked Booby [sp] (Sula dactylatra)
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Neotropic Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
Double-crested Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
Anhinga [sp] (Anhinga anhinga)
ACCIPITRIFORMES
New World Vultures (Cathartidae)
Turkey Vulture [sp] (Cathartes aura)
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
Ospreys (Pandionidae)
Western Osprey [sp] (Pandion haliaetus)
Kites, Hawks and Eagles (Accipitridae)
White-tailed Kite [sp] (Elanus leucurus)
Swallow-tailed Kite [sp] (Elanoides forficatus)
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)
Bald Eagle [sp] (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
Snail Kite [sp] (Rostrhamus sociabilis)
Common Black Hawk [sp] (Buteogallus anthracinus)
Harris's Hawk [sp] (Parabuteo unicinctus)
White-tailed Hawk [sp] (Geranoaetus albicaudatus)
Grey Hawk (Buteo plagiatus)
Red-shouldered Hawk [sp] (Buteo lineatus)
Broad-winged Hawk [sp] (Buteo platypterus)
Short-tailed Hawk [sp] (Buteo brachyurus)
Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
Red-tailed Hawk [sp] (Buteo jamaicensis)
GRUIFORMES
Rails, Crakes and Coots (Rallidae)
Clapper Rail [sp] (Rallus crepitans)
King Rail [sp] (Rallus elegans)
Virginia Rail [sp] (Rallus limicola)
Sora (Porzana carolina)
Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus)
Common Gallinule [sp] (Gallinula galeata)
American Coot [sp] (Fulica americana)
Cranes (Gruidae)
Sandhill Crane [sp] (Grus canadensis)
Whooping Crane (Grus americana)
Limpkin (Aramidae)
Limpkin [sp] (Aramus guarauna)
CHARADRIIFORMES
Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
American Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus palliatus)
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Black-necked Stilt [sp] (Himantopus mexicanus)
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
Plovers (Charadriidae)
American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica)
Grey Plover [sp] (Pluvialis squatarola)
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Wilson's Plover [sp] (Charadrius wilsonia)
Killdeer [sp] (Charadrius vociferus)
Piping Plover [sp] (Charadrius melodus)
Snowy Plover [sp] (Charadrius nivosus)
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)
Short-billed Dowitcher [sp] (Limnodromus griseus)
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
Marbled Godwit [sp] (Limosa fedoa)
Whimbrel [sp] (Numenius phaeopus)
Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Solitary Sandpiper [sp] (Tringa solitaria)
Willet [sp] (Tringa semipalmata)
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Red Knot [sp] (Calidris canutus)
Sanderling [sp] (Calidris alba)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)
Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)
Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)
Gulls, Terns and Skimmers (Laridae)
Brown Noddy [sp] (Anous stolidus)
Black Skimmer [sp] (Rynchops niger)
Laughing Gull [sp] (Leucophaeus atricilla)
Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus)
Gull-billed Tern [sp] (Gelochelidon nilotica)
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
Royal Tern [sp] (Thalasseus maximus)
Cabot's Tern [sp] (Thalasseus acuflavidus)
Least Tern [sp] (Sternula antillarum)
Sooty Tern [sp] (Onychoprion fuscatus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri)
Black Tern [sp] (Chlidonias niger)
COLUMBIFORMES
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
White-crowned Pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Inca Dove (Columbina inca)
Common Ground Dove [sp] (Columbina passerina)
White-tipped Dove [sp] (Leptotila verreauxi)
Mourning Dove [sp] (Zenaida macroura)
White-winged Dove [sp] (Zenaida asiatica)
CUCULIFORMES
Cuckoos (Cuculidae)
Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani)
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)
Black-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)
STRIGIFORMES
Barn Owls (Tytonidae)
Western Barn Owl [sp] (Tyto alba)
Owls (Strigidae)
Eastern Screech Owl [sp] (Megascops asio)
Western Screech Owl [sp] (Megascops kennicottii)
Great Horned Owl [sp] (Bubo virginianus)
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Elf Owl [sp] (Micrathene whitneyi)
Burrowing Owl [sp] (Athene cunicularia)
CAPRIMULGIFORMES
Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)
Lesser Nighthawk [sp] (Chordeiles acutipennis)
Common Nighthawk [sp] (Chordeiles minor)
Pauraque [sp] (Nyctidromus albicollis)
Common Poorwill [sp] (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)
Chuck-will's-widow (Antrostomus carolinensis)
Apodiformes
Swifts (Apodidae)
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)
White-throated Swift [sp] (Aeronautes saxatalis)
Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)
Buff-bellied Hummingbird [sp] (Amazilia yucatanensis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
CORACIIFORMES
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Green Kingfisher [sp] (Chloroceryle americana)
Ringed Kingfisher [sp] (Megaceryle torquata)
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
PICIFORMES
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
Acorn Woodpecker [sp] (Melanerpes formicivorus)
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker [sp] (Dryobates scalaris)
Downy Woodpecker [sp] (Dryobates pubescens)
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis)
Hairy Woodpecker [sp] (Leuconotopicus villosus)
Northern Flicker [sp] (Colaptes auratus)
Pileated Woodpecker [sp] (Dryocopus pileatus)
FALCONIFORMES
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Northern Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)
American Kestrel [sp] (Falco sparverius)
Merlin [sp] (Falco columbarius)
Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus)
Peregrine Falcon [sp] (Falco peregrinus)
PSITTACIFORMES
African and New World Parrots (Psittacidae)
Monk Parakeet [sp] (Myiopsitta monachus)
Red-crowned Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis)
Nanday Parakeet (Aratinga nenday)
PASSERIFORMES
Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)
Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (Camptostoma imberbe)
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Black Phoebe [sp] (Sayornis nigricans)
Say's Phoebe [sp] (Sayornis saya)
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)
Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens)
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)
Willow Flycatcher [sp] (Empidonax traillii)
Vermilion Flycatcher [sp] (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
Great Kiskadee [sp] (Pitangus sulphuratus)
Couch's Kingbird (Tyrannus couchii)
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)
Grey Kingbird [sp] (Tyrannus dominicensis)
Ash-throated Flycatcher [sp] (Myiarchus cinerascens)
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)
Brown-crested Flycatcher [sp] (Myiarchus tyrannulus)
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Loggerhead Shrike [sp] (Lanius ludovicianus)
Vireos, Greenlets (Vireonidae)
White-eyed Vireo [sp] (Vireo griseus)
Bell's Vireo [sp] (Vireo bellii)
Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla)
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)
Cassin's Vireo [sp] (Vireo cassinii)
Blue-headed Vireo [sp] (Vireo solitarius)
Hutton's Vireo [sp] (Vireo huttoni)
Warbling Vireo [sp] (Vireo gilvus)
Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus)
Red-eyed Vireo [sp] (Vireo olivaceus)
Black-whiskered Vireo [sp] (Vireo altiloquus)
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Green Jay [sp] (Cyanocorax luxuosus)
Blue Jay [sp] (Cyanocitta cristata)
Mexican Jay [sp] (Aphelocoma wollweberi)
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay [sp] (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
Florida Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
American Crow [sp] (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)
Northern Raven [sp] (Corvus corax)
Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)
Waxwings (Bombycillidae)
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Silky-flycatchers (Ptiliogonatidae)
Phainopepla [sp] (Phainopepla nitens)
Tits, Chickadees (Paridae)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
Black-crested Titmouse [sp] (Baeolophus atricristatus)
Carolina Chickadee [sp] (Poecile carolinensis)
Penduline Tits (Remizidae)
Verdin [sp] (Auriparus flaviceps)
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Purple Martin [sp] (Progne subis)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow [sp] (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
American Cliff Swallow [sp] (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Cave Swallow [sp] (Petrochelidon fulva)
Bushtits (Aegithalidae)
American Bushtit [sp] (Psaltriparus minimus)
Goldcrests, Kinglets (Regulidae)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet [sp] (Regulus calendula)
Wrens (Troglodytidae)
Cactus Wren [sp] (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
Rock Wren [sp] (Salpinctes obsoletus)
Canyon Wren [sp] (Catherpes mexicanus)
Marsh Wren [sp] (Cistothorus palustris)
Bewick's Wren [sp] (Thryomanes bewickii)
Carolina Wren [sp] (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Winter Wren [sp] (Troglodytes hiemalis)
House Wren [sp] (Troglodytes aedon)
Gnatcatchers (Polioptilidae)
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher [sp] (Polioptila caerulea)
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher [sp] (Polioptila melanura)
Nuthatches (Sittidae)
Brown-headed Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta pusilla)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
White-breasted Nuthatch [sp] (Sitta carolinensis)
Treecreepers (Certhiidae)
Brown Creeper [sp] (Certhia americana)
Mockingbirds, Thrashers (Mimidae)
Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Northern Mockingbird [sp] (Mimus polyglottos)
Brown Thrasher [sp] (Toxostoma rufum)
Long-billed Thrasher [sp] (Toxostoma longirostre)
Curve-billed Thrasher [sp] (Toxostoma curvirostre)
Starlings, Rhabdornis (Sturnidae)
Common Myna [sp] (Acridotheres tristis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Eastern Bluebird [sp] (Sialia sialis)
Western Bluebird [sp] (Sialia mexicana)
Veery [sp] (Catharus fuscescens)
Grey-cheeked Thrush [sp] (Catharus minimus)
Swainson's Thrush [sp] (Catharus ustulatus)
Hermit Thrush [sp] (Catharus guttatus)
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
Clay-colored Thrush [sp] (Turdus grayi)
American Robin [sp] (Turdus migratorius)
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Buff-bellied Pipit [sp] (Anthus rubescens)
Finches (Fringillidae)
House Finch [sp] (Haemorhous mexicanus)
American Goldfinch [sp] (Spinus tristis)
Lesser Goldfinch [sp] (Spinus psaltria)
Pine Siskin [sp] (Spinus pinus)
New World Warblers (Parulidae)
Ovenbird [sp] (Seiurus aurocapilla)
Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum)
Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla)
Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)
Swainson's Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii)
Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina)
Orange-crowned Warbler [sp] (Leiothlypis celata)
Colima Warbler (Leiothlypis crissalis)
Lucy's Warbler (Leiothlypis luciae)
Nashville Warbler [sp] (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)
MacGillivray's Warbler [sp] (Geothlypis tolmiei)
Kentucky Warbler (Geothlypis formosa)
Common Yellowthroat [sp] (Geothlypis trichas)
Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)
Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina)
Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea)
Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)
Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)
Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)
American Yellow Warbler [sp] (Setophaga aestiva)
Mangrove Warbler [sp] (Setophaga petechia)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica)
Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)
Palm Warbler [sp] (Setophaga palmarum)
Pine Warbler [sp] (Setophaga pinus)
Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata)
Audubon's Warbler [sp] (Setophaga auduboni)
Yellow-throated Warbler [sp] (Setophaga dominica)
Prairie Warbler [sp] (Setophaga discolor)
Golden-cheeked Warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis)
Wilson's Warbler [sp] (Cardellina pusilla)
Family Uncertain (Incertae Sedis 2)
Yellow-breasted Chat [sp] (Icteria virens)
Oropendolas, Orioles and Blackbirds (Icteridae)
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
Eastern Meadowlark [sp] (Sturnella magna)
Scott's Oriole (Icterus parisorum)
Altamira Oriole [sp] (Icterus gularis)
Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii)
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
Hooded Oriole [sp] (Icterus cucullatus)
Orchard Oriole [sp] (Icterus spurius)
Red-winged Blackbird [sp] (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Bronzed Cowbird [sp] (Molothrus aeneus)
Brown-headed Cowbird [sp] (Molothrus ater)
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Common Grackle [sp] (Quiscalus quiscula)
Boat-tailed Grackle [sp] (Quiscalus major)
Great-tailed Grackle [sp] (Quiscalus mexicanus)
Buntings, New World Sparrows and allies (Emberizidae)
Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)
Song Sparrow [sp] (Melospiza melodia)
Lincoln's Sparrow [sp] (Melospiza lincolnii)
Swamp Sparrow [sp] (Melospiza georgiana)
White-crowned Sparrow [sp] (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Dark-eyed Junco [sp] (Junco hyemalis)
Savannah Sparrow [sp] (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Seaside Sparrow [sp] (Ammodramus maritimus)
Grasshopper Sparrow [sp] (Ammodramus savannarum)
Chipping Sparrow [sp] (Spizella passerina)
Field Sparrow [sp] (Spizella pusilla)
Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)
Brewer's Sparrow [sp] (Spizella breweri)
Vesper Sparrow [sp] (Pooecetes gramineus)
Black-throated Sparrow [sp] (Amphispiza bilineata)
Cassin's Sparrow (Peucaea cassinii)
Bachman's Sparrow [sp] (Peucaea aestivalis)
Rufous-crowned Sparrow [sp] (Aimophila ruficeps)
Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus)
Spotted Towhee [sp] (Pipilo maculatus)
Eastern Towhee [sp] (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Canyon Towhee [sp] (Melozone fusca)
Olive Sparrow [sp] (Arremonops rufivirgatus)
Tanagers and allies (Thraupidae)
White-collared Seedeater [sp] (Sporophila torqueola)
Cardinals, Grosbeaks and allies (Cardinalidae)
Summer Tanager [sp] (Piranga rubra)
Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
Northern Cardinal [sp] (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Pyrrhuloxia [sp] (Cardinalis sinuatus)
Dickcissel (Spiza americana)
Blue Grosbeak [sp] (Passerina caerulea)
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
Painted Bunting [sp] (Passerina ciris)