Northeast Texas Pineywoods & Coastal Marshes

Nov 2nd thru the 5th

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

Fee $_____, double occupancy; $ triple occupancy, $ single occupancy/ 6:00 PM Saturday, Nov 2 to 10:30 AM Tuesday, Nov 5.

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

Detailed instructions concerning hotels and directions will be emailed to each registrant prior to the trip. The trip includes all meals from dinner on Saturday to breakfast on Tuesday. All alcoholic beverages will be at your individual expense.


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

Sunday Nov 3 – After breakfast at the hotel we’ll depart in large vans for a full day of birding. We’ll drive to W. G. Jones State Forest, where we’ll seek out pineywoods specialty birds including Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher and many others.

After lunch, we’ll drive to Beaumont, Texas, our hub for the rest of the trip. The late afternoon will be spent at Cattail Marsh or Tyrrell Park in Beaumont.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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