Texas Birding and Solar Eclipse Adventure
From the Hill Country to the North Coast
April 5 - 13, 2024
$3450 | Single supplement: $650
($500 deposit due upon registration)
7 participants max
Guide: Chip Darmstadt
exas is well known as one of the nation’s birdiest states, boasting more avian diversity than anywhere else in the US besides California. Our Texas journey takes us from the rugged ridges and dry hardwoods of the state’s inland Hill Country, all the way to the expansive wetlands of the gulf coast. We’ll search for regional rarities and birding hotspots while visiting world-class destinations for catching the legendary spring migration fallouts that have put coastal Texas on the map of the world’s best birdwatching locations.
While the birds are reason enough to visit Texas in April, this trip includes an extremely rare opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse. Any written description fails to capture the extraordinary experience of observing this astronomical showstopper– Most who have witnessed a full solar eclipse rank the experience among their most profound in nature, or even their entire lives. This is a generational event that is not to be missed. And after 2024, the US will have to wait another 20 years for its next total solar eclipse.
Though the eclipse will be visible along a narrow slice from Texas to Maine, the path of “totality” aligns perfectly with our birding route, which is situated in one of the most likely places in the whole eclipse path for a cloudless sky.
Birdwise, our trip will focus first on the specialties of the Texas Hill Country, then the dramatic migration along the upper Texas coast. Black-capped Vireo, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and the rare Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken are the stars of the show in the Hill Country portion before we turn our attention towards floods of warblers and shorebirds along the coast. From astronomy to geology to birding to botanizing, this trip has it all!
Itinerary and Focal Species
Friday, April 5 - Arrive in Austin
Travelers may arrive in Austin at any time today or earlier. Our guide will coordinate with you to ensure your transportation from the airport (or wherever else you may be staying) to our lodging for the night in Austin. We'll convene at our hotel this evening to head into town for a welcome dinner where we will meet one another and discuss the adventure ahead. (Overnight Austin Embassy Suites)
Saturday, April 6 - Balcones NWR
This morning we head west toward Junction, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. Our first stop will be in Balcones National Wildlife Refuge where we hope to get our first views of the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, a Texas endemic with an extremely limited breeding range. This relative of the Black-throated Green Warbler nests in juniper-oak woodlands found only in central Texas. (Overnight Junction, TX)
Sunday, April 7 - Birding around Junction
We’ll explore the area around Junction, particularly South Llano River State Park, as well as other local Hill Country hotspots. Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Greater Roadrunner, Bell’s Vireo, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, Vermillion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher are all good possibilities here. The previously endangered (and nearly endemic) Black-capped Vireo also nests in this area, and we’ll make every effort to find this special species. Much like the Golden-cheeked Warbler, the Black-capped Vireo has a miniscule nesting range in the US, restricted to central Texas and a small portion of Oklahoma. (Overnight Junction, TX)
Monday, April 8 - Eclipse
The total solar eclipse of 2024 can be observed in many places in the US, from Texas to Maine, but Texas has the best chances of fair weather, and the greatest duration of “totality” north of Mexico. The town of Junction lies very close to the “path of totality,” and a local park will be our base for safely observing the eclipse within that path. We’ll have plenty of time for birding before and after the eclipse, but we’ll be sure to be “in position” with plenty of time to enjoy every moment of the eclipse.
Tonight we’ll also get out for some nocturnal birding. Common Poorwill is a common nester, and Lesser Nighthawk is also a possibility. We’ll also try to find some cooperative Great Horned Owls and Eastern Screech-Owls. (Overnight Junction, TX)
Tuesday, April 9 - Birding Between Junction and Columbus
After birding around Junction in the morning, we'll head four hours east to Columbus, where we will spend the night on route to the coast. Depending on our drive, we may have time for an evening drive around the Attwater Prairie-Chicken Preserve. The rare geographic race of the Greater Prairie-Chicken is only found in Texas, and only in a small area of remnant prairie habitat. Formerly numerous, the Greater Prairie-Chicken is a declining species across its range. (Overnight Columbus, TX)
Wednesday, April 10 - Attwater Prairie-Chicken/Bolivar Peninsula
Our morning will be spent exploring the Attwater Prairie-Chicken Preserve and other local birding areas. In addition to the chicken, we may see Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Bobwhite, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-tailed and Swainson’s Hawk, and even Sprague’s Pipit with some luck. After lunch we continue to the coast, where we’ll have time to bird Bolivar Peninsula north of Galveston. Long-billed Curlew, American Avocet and scads of other shorebirds are regular here, along with Roseate Spoonbill and other colorful wading birds. (Overnight Winnie, TX)
Thursday, April 11 - High Island
We’ll get an early start this morning at High Island, a famous migration stopover location near the Texas coast that attracts northbound songbirds. Birds flying over the Gulf of Mexico make landfall here throughout the month of April and early May, the cast of characters changing throughout that season. We’ll enjoy migrating warblers and other songbirds in a couple of important sanctuaries on High Island (Boy Scout Woods and Smith’s Woods). We’ll also visit the Smith’s Woods rookery teeming with herons, egrets, Neotropic Cormorants, and Roseate Spoonbills. Once the songbird action quiets down, we’ll go looking for shorebirds, which are plentiful and diverse along this section of coast. (Overnight Winnie, TX)
Friday, April 12 - Morning birding at Boy Scout Woods or Anahuac
Depending on the weather and the potential for migration fallouts, we’ll visit one or more of the local Audubon sanctuaries, or we may head straight to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. The wetlands and waterways at Anahuac host a great variety of birds: Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, and a wealth of rails, including King, Clapper, Virginia, Yellow and Sora. (Overnight Winnie, TX)
Saturday, April 13 - Fly home from Houston
This morning we make our way to Houston, perhaps with some birding along the day if time permits. We'll get everyone to the Houston airport in plenty of time for your return flights home. As the trip approaches, we will recommend good flights and and departure timeframes.
We’ll generally leave the hotel to begin our search each morning at sunrise to encounter birds when they are at their most active. We’ll travel from place to place throughout the day, with plenty of stops for refreshments and restrooms along the way, and return to our lodging with time to freshen up before dinner. We don’t include mid-day siestas on this action-packed trip, but our pace is generally slow, relaxed, and casual.
While we spend each entire day birdwatching, we will not be “rushing” from place to place. Our goal is to enjoy spending time with these amazing animals.
Temperatures will range from the high 50s to the low 80s depending on the location.
We’ll be staying at Holiday Inns and equivalent lodging throughout the trip. We selected our lodging to ensure clean and comfortable accommodations situated strategically near the heart of the birding hotspots we’ll be visiting.
We will typically have picnic breakfasts (including coffee) and lunches in the field many days, and we provide a range of options to accommodate preferences and dietary restrictions. Our dinners will typically be at restaurants back in town.
Because of the solar eclipse, the local lodges and restaurants during the Junction portion of our trip will be completely full, and will stretch the local service industry beyond its limits. Please be prepared for long wait times at meals, unusually high traffic, and spottier customer service than you might otherwise expect. We will do everything in our power to manage these realities, but some factors will be out of our control.
Chip Darmstadt is NBNC's Birding Ambassador, as well as its "emeritus" executive director of 27 years. Chip has led birding trips in the US and across the world with NBNC for the last two decades, observing over 2,000 bird species along the way. Texas is a regular birding destination for Chip, having brought several adult and youth teams to compete in the Great Texas Birding Classic, and adult trips to the Hill County, the Rio Grande, and the north coast. When not guiding trips, Chip works on extending his streak of over 1,500 consecutive days of eBird checklists!
- All lodging.
- All meals.
- All ground transportation.
- Expert bird guide.
- Park entrance fees.
- Pre-departure group briefing before the trip.
- Use of high quality spotting scopes and binoculars.
- Use of field guides.
- Airfare to and from south Texas
- Incidentals and snacks.
Ready to go to Texas?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.
- A $500 deposit is required to reserve your space on the trip.
- 50% of the trip balance will be due 6 months before the departure date.
- Single travelers must include the single supplement fee with this payment. Single rooms are limited on this itinerary, so please confirm with us that your request for a single room can be accommodated before sending payment.
- The remaining trip balance will be due 3 months before the departure date.
All payments can be made via check to: North Branch Nature Center, 713 Elm Street, Montpelier, VT 05602
We understand that incidents and emergencies arise that may force you to cancel your trip. However, NBNC invests considerable time and, in many cases, non-refundable payments to lodges and local contractors to secure our rooms and programming. NBNC aims to be as flexible as possible in our refund policy, but a full refund of your payments may not be possible after the dates indicated. All cancellations must be made via email to NBNC.
Cancellation more than 180 days before the trip: Full refund of all payments.
Cancellation 90-180 days before the trip: Refund of any payments minus the $500 deposit. If your space is filled by another traveler, we will also refund your deposit.
Cancellation 30-90 days before the trip: No refund guaranteed. If your space is filled by another traveler, we will provide a full refund minus the $500 deposit.
Cancellation less than 30 days before the trip: No refunds guaranteed.
Check out this eBird Checklist for species seen in April in this region of Texas.