Two ecosystems converge in the Beaumont area, the Pineywoods, so called because of the abundant pine trees that are the dominant tree species for the region and the Coastal Marshes, both fresh and brackish marshes along the Gulf Coast. This combination of a variety of habitat results in some excellent spring birding. With the arrival of neotropical migrants, perhaps a rare or uncommon bird or two, a few habitat restricted birds and you have two exciting days to look forward to! Please see Glenn Olsen’s complete trip description below.
MONDAY – APRIL 17 – travel to Beaumont and arrive at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Beaumont Plaza. See exciting details including pricing and breakfast information below. The hotel reservation link can be accessed HERE to guarantee you the special FeatherFest rate.
Preparation for the Field
Please be aware that for most of the day we will be walking and standing while in the field. While the trails are in fairly good condition they are not manicured, so some have rough spots. If it has rained recently, there could be water/mud in some sections of the trails. There are not many benches or other places to sit. So if you want to bring a light weight stool or chair you may do so. Mosquitoes will be present in several sites so bring your preferred repellant. The large female mosquitoes are sometimes confused with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds which will be migrating through.
DAY 1 – TUESDAY – APRIL 18
We will be traveling by bus on Day 1. We will return to the hotel Tuesday late afternoon.
Breakfast at the hotel at 6:00 am (breakfast included in the room price for those staying at the hotel), depart at 6:30 am. Our first stop will be Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh in Beaumont. Both of these sites have a long, respected history with birders as prime sites to find resident and migrating birds. Tyrrell Park is a regular city park with a golf course and botanical gardens. Breeding Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Barred and Great Horned Owls are found here and many woodland migrant species pass through the 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. We will bird from the long pier that extends into the marsh providing great viewing. We can walk on the levee and explore over half of the marsh. The 350 species of birds recorded here is an amazing record and it is a birder’s haven.
We will sort out the American Crow from the Fish Crow (habitat restricted); this is a great opportunity to see both species in the same day. We will look for the beautiful but overdressed Wood Duck, the stunning Cinnamon Teal (uncommon), the coastal restricted Mottled Duck, the unique Anhinga, the elusive King Rail, the Pileated Woodpecker (largest woodpecker in North America), and hopefully, the swamp-loving Barred Owl.
It is migration season, so almost anything is possible, such as the beautiful Purple Gallinule (rare), the uncommon Glossy Ibis, the stunning Swallow-tailed Kite (migrant) and Painted and Indigo Buntings (also migrants).
The time we depart Cattail Marsh depends upon the activity of the birds. When we depart, we will head to the coastal marsh area for a totally different experience and birds.
We will make one stop in Sabine to look for Seaside Sparrows in the coastal marsh and possibly late Nelson’s Sparrow, Marsh and Sedge wrens. This site will require a walk of about 100 yards over a reasonably good trail but with some rough spots.
Our birding will continue at the renown Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) Sabine Woods. An outstanding migrant trap of live oaks, hackberry, mulberry, lantana, American Beautyberry and other plants that create this Oak Mott surrounded by coastal marsh. This grove of plant diversity provides the major habitat for miles around for 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 of warblers (15+ species are possible), thrushes, vireos, flycatchers, and many other songbirds. The length of time that we spend here will depend upon the bird activity. 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 gulls, terns, pelicans, sandpipers, plovers, and a variety of other shorebirds. 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). In the coastal marshes we will look for rails, grebes, and sparrows. Seven species of Swallows, and seventeen species of hawks are possible migrants. This variety of habitat offers great birding opportunities.
After birding this gem of coastal habitat, we will travel to McFaddin Wildlife Refuge. This refuge habitat consists of salt marsh with bayous and channels. Here we’ll look for rails, egrets, herons, gulls, terns, Common Yellowthroat, and watch the skies for migrating swallows and hawks.
We will pick a nice spot for lunch around noon. Most likely at Sabine woods if it is not too crowded or back at Sea Rim State Park.
Return to the Hotel for much needed rest and relaxation.
DAY 2: WEDNESDAY – APRIL 19
We’ll have breakfast at 6:00am and depart from the hotel at 6:30 am.
On Day 2, we will drive our own vehicles and not return to Beaumont but drive to Galveston, birding along the way. Driving directions and cell phone number of the guide will be provided.
Our first stop will be the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge south of Winnie, TX along FM 1985.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge consists of miles and miles of prized marsh habitat with a few groves of live oaks and willows that are migrant traps for woodland birds. In the marshes we will look for King, Sora, and Clapper Rails, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black Necked Stilts, Marsh Wren, several species of migrating Sandpipers, Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling ducks, Common and Purple Gallinule, Boat-tailed Grackle, and any lingering ducks that wintered here. We may also see White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle and other raptors. We will visit the small groves of trees to look for migrating warbles (10+ species), vireos, sparrows, kingbirds, hummingbirds, Orchard orioles, Common Nighthawks, several species of flycatchers, and many other species that are migrating through. Always an added attraction is the various ages and sizes of American Alligators to be seen!
We will drive to Houston Audubon’s High Island Sanctuaries. After eating our box lunches around noon, we will bird world famous Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks for warblers, vireos, and songbirds. We will spend some time being dazzled by the continuous activity at the Rookery. This is a great photo opportunity for Roseate Spoonbills, egrets and other colonial nesting birds. At these sanctuaries 15+ species of warblers are possible, with vireos, grosbeaks, thrushes, painted and indigo buntings, Belted Kingfisher, sparrows, Northern and Orchard orioles, and so many other migrants and always the possibility of a rare bird being found.
We will continue our birding by driving to the tip of Bolivar Peninsula and birding Bolivar Flats and nearby areas. Bolivar Flats, a Houston Audubon Sanctuary, is a sandy shoreline with exposed mud flats at low tide. Here we hope to find Red Knot, Dunlin, Stilt Sandpiper, American Oystercatcher, American Avocets, Horned Lark, plovers aplenty, six species of terns, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, gulls galore, Reddish Egret , White-tailed Kite and White-tailed Hawk among many other species.
We will end the trip on the ferry as we bird across to Galveston.
For 2023 FeatherFest Beaumont Pre-tour birders, Holiday Inn & Suites Beaumont Plaza, our host hotel, is offering an exclusive VIP overnight package just for 2023 FeatherFest birding attendees. The special VIP rate of $95 per sleeping room includes two complimentary breakfast coupons which gives the overnight FeatherFest Guests special and early access to a complete hot breakfast buffet, with both omelets made to order and a hot waffle station as well as other hot and cold food items from the hotel’s full-service restaurant. In addition, as a bonus and thanks for the Beaumont FeatherFest Tour attendees to book their overnight accommodations within this special room block at the HI Plaza, an extra birding swag gift package, compliments of the Beaumont CVB, will be given to each sleeping room within this trackable block. Therefore, the FeatherFest Tour birding tour attendees should make their room reservations using a special FeatherFest reservation link which will be provided by the host hotel soon to experience the full VIP FeatherFest treatment while in Beaumont, TX. Click HERE for the reservation page that will guarantee the special pricing.
You are responsible for making your own reservations for your accommodations and the price of the trip does not include your lodging and meals except for the breakfast for hotel guests and boxed lunches provided on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If you choose to stay somewhere other than our partner hotel, please make sure you are at the Holiday Inn & Suites Beaumont Plaza at least 20 minutes prior to the departure time each day.
A box lunch is provided for each registrant both days. You will be sent a lunch order form prior to the festival. (If you need to eat or snack on a regular basis or at a specific time, please bring your own snacks.)
This trip is not eligible for the GINTC member discount.
This field trip is sponsored by the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau.