Saturday 26 November 2016

Southern Texas trip report

  • A four day trip in the October half-term with my son, with two days on the coast between Corpus Christi and Galveston, and two days in the Rio Grande Valley.
  • Flights were direct from London, arriving in Austin on the Friday afternoon and departing from Houston on Tuesday evening.
  • Car hire was a very reasonably-priced small size SUV that was extremely easy to drive. We put roughly 1200 miles on and it was actually relatively efficient. Fuel was roughly $2 to the gallon, which even with the appalling FX rate worked out at about 35p a litre, so about 1/3rd the cost of the UK.
  • Hotels were all booked in advance and were all rather uninspiring as they were large chains. The Holiday Inn on North Padre Island just east of Corpus Christi was our first night, a Hilton Garden Inn in McAllen on the Mexican border nights two and three, and finally another Holiday Inn in Lake Jackson south of Houston on the final night.
  • Birded a number of key sites extensively, and then made it up the rest of the time, with quite a lot of birding from the car. Side trip to Mexico for tourism purposes.
  • We took two excellent ABA guides with us, one specific to the Gulf Coast, the other to the Rop Grande Valley, along with the indispensible Sibley Guide for birds of the eastern USA. Texas is the one state that needs dual coverage, but we did not go to the area west of the Trans Pecos so did not need that guide.
Day 0: A leisurely start, mosied on over to Heathrow and a 10 hour flight to Austin arriving late afternoon. Sorted junior out for clothes at a mall on the way to San Antonio, and then headed south to Corpus Christi arriving well after dark.
Day 1: An early start to be at a couple of sites around Port Aransas for first light, then birded back down the coast until mid morning. Drove south during the heat of the day with stops at the Sarita Rest Area, country roads around Rio Hondo, coastal habitat at Port Isabel and then onto McAllen for the evening.
Day 2: Morning at Estero Llano Grande, late breakfast and then the nearby Frontera Audubon Thicket until mid-afternoon. Remainder of the day at Santa Ana NWR before a silly jaunt into Mexico for a country tick.
Day 3: Bentsen Rio SP until late morning, and then a long drive along country roads raptor spotting towards Corpus Christi. East to Aransas NWR arriving mid-afternoon, birding around Mustang Lake.
Day 4: Dawn at Quintana Neotropical Bird Preserve, mid morning Bryan Beach and Freeport. Afternoon at Brazos Bend State Park, some mild shopping in a huge mall late afternoon before making our way to Houston for our evening flight home to London.

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