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Explore one of America’s best birding destinations on this top-rated Texas Hill Country Birding and Nature tour. Amidst the open landscape of the Edwards Plateau region, we explore the verdant area surrounding Concan, Texas, and its mosaic of avian life.
Special for This Departure
If you can’t get enough of this region’s unique blend of birds, the end of this tour is scheduled to coincide with the beginning of Birding the Border. This three-day festival run by Texas A&M University is based in Del Rio, Texas, just 80 miles to the west of Uvalde, where some exciting key species include Elf Owl, Morelet’s Seedeater, and Ringed Kingfisher. Your guide also works with the festival to gain access to private lands, normally closed to birders.
- Enjoy two nights in Uvalde at the start of the Birding the Border festival and three nights at Neal’s Lodge, a longtime hotspot for birders and naturalists
- Admire Golden-cheeked Warbler amidst Ashe-Juniper at Lost Maples State Natural Area
- Observe millions of bats emerging from the Rio Frio Bat Cave
- Spot captivating raptors including Swainson’s, Zone-tailed, and Harris’ Hawks
- Explore a crossroads of ecoregions, where east meets west and biodiversity explodes
- Take in Hill Country’s kaleidoscope of butterflies; over 140 species have been spotted in the area
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Fri., Apr. 26 : San Antonio | Uvalde
Welcome to Texas! Our group gathers at the San Antonio International Airport at 3:00 PM to begin our intriguing expedition into the Texas Hill Country. Some may want to arrive early to enjoy the Riverwalk and history of San Antonio on their own.
Straight from the airport we drive to Uvalde, Texas, a rural community with an exciting abundance of Texas brush country specialty birds. Our route cuts through the northern extent of the tamaulipan thornscrub, mixed with open pastures and grasslands where we may spot some iconic species on the roadside like Swainson’s Hawk, Crested Caracara, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
We arrive at our hotel in Uvalde where we settle in, unpack, and prepare to explore the transition of Texas Hill Country meeting the south Texas brush country, two of the most uniquely productive habitats in the state. The region hosts birds from the Eastern and Western U.S., as well as the Lower Rio Grande Valley, making it a bucket list destination for naturalists for decades.
Accommodation at Uvalde Hotel (D)
Sat., Apr. 27 : Kickapoo Cavern State Park | Fort Clark Springs
Early this morning, we head west to Brackettville before turning north and up onto the Edward’s Plateau. Possible highlights on our drive include Lesser Nighthawk, Harris’ Hawk, and Chihuahuan Raven. As we leave town, the habitat eventually becomes dominated by rolling hills covered in ashe junipers and a variety of oaks, which characterize the Texas Hill Country.
Arriving at Kickapoo Cavern State Park, we should find ourselves surrounded by a diverse chorus of birdsong, hopefully including our first Golden-cheeked Warbler of the journey. This park is situated near the western limit of the hill country, and so hosts a unique blend of eastern and western species. As we watch the water feature at the bird blind, we may see Varied and Painted Buntings coming in alongside Field and Olive Sparrows. Walking some of the beautiful trails, we seek out Gray and Black-capped Vireos.
After our morning in the hills, we come back through Brackettville to pick up a picnic lunch before entering the gated community of Fort Clark Springs, hosting the headwaters of Las Moras Creek. This stream is lined with towering, ancient Texas pecans and live oaks, creating a lush riparian oasis in a landscape otherwise dominated by semi-arid scrubland. As we walk the shaded trails, we may encounter some South Texas specialty species like Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, and Long-billed Thrasher, plus a variety of possible Neotropical migrants.
Back in Uvalde we enjoy our dinner out and run through our checklist for the day as a group.
Accommodation at Uvalde Hotel (B,L,D)
Sun., Apr. 28 : Cook’s Slough | Neal’s Lodge
Today is our day to explore the Uvalde area, where we start our morning at Cook’s Slough Nature Park. This 200 acre wildlife refuge holds 25 acres of wetlands and miles of trails that meander through brush and riparian corridors. With the highest species count of any hotspot in the region and a history of attracting rarities, we never know what we may find here, but we hope to see locally uncommon species like Audubon’s Oriole, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Black-bellied Whistling-duck. In the more arid sections of the park, cenizo or “Texas Sage” and honey mesquite mix with blackbrush acacia to provide habitat for species like Black-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, and Pyrrhuloxia.
From here, we head back through Uvalde for lunch and plan to bird our way to Concan; your guide determines our exact route based on what we have seen so far. We get settled into our new lodgings at Neal’s Lodge before eating dinner and running through our checklist.
Accommodation at Neal’s Lodge (B,L,D)
Mon., Apr. 29 : Neal’s Lodge | Rio Frio Bat Cave
This morning we begin by birding the area around Neal’s Lodge. We comfortably observe several species as permanent feeding stations draw in some of the Hill Country’s best species. Clay-colored Sparrow are common at the “cattle guard feeder” ? often joined by Black-throated, Lark, White-crowned, and Chipping Sparrows. Three species of orioles are possible visitors, along with resident Olive Sparrow and Long-billed Thrasher. In the cypress trees towering along the river’s edge, we listen and look for Yellow-throated Warbler and Northern and Tropical Parulas.
Continuing to the pecan grove for more feeder watching, we look for Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, and various migrants.
For lunch, we visit a delicious BBQ stand in Concan for tasty brisket and smoked turkey. After lunch we return to Neal’s Lodge for continued feeder watching.
After dinner, we take a short drive to the Rio Frio Bat Cave. Every night, 10-million or more Mexican Free-tailed Bats exit the cave to feed. If you haven’t experienced a bat cave emergence, you are sure to be mesmerized as the smoke-like river of bats emerges against the setting sun.
Local bat biologist Bain Walker joins us as we take in the sights and sounds of one of the largest gatherings of mammals in North America. Red-tailed and Swainson’s Hawk are likely visitors as they feed on the frenzy of bats. Cave Swallow share the cave and we see them as they return to roost.
Accommodation at Neal’s Lodge (B,L,D)
Tue., Apr. 30 : Lost Maples State Natural Area
Today we depart for Lost Maples State Natural Area, a 2,200-acre protected site straddling the serene Sabinal River. The park is famous for its Golden-cheeked Warbler, and is home to many other species.
Black-chinned Hummingbird, occasional Indigo Bunting, and Scott’s Oriole often greet us at the visitor center’s feeders.
Along the Maple Trail, we walk through a limestone canyon populated with oak, sycamore, and relict Bigtooth Maple. We listen for the sweet, buzzing song of the park’s Golden-cheeked Warbler. We might also see Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos, and Black-and-white Warbler.
Lost Maples hosts a stunning array of butterflies; over 140 species live in and around Concan. A previous trip recorded many species, including Nysa Roadside-Skipper, Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, and Pipevine, Spicebush, and Giant Swallowtail.
After a picnic lunch we hike along rivers and ponds, scanning the branches for Green Kingfisher, a striking species barely reaching the United States.
For dinner, we visit Lost Maples Café and its regionally famous pies.
Accommodation at Neal’s Lodge (B,L,D)
Wed., May 1 : San Antonio & Departures
We load our vans with Black-crested Titmice watching overhead, and return to San Antonio. Some may wish to stay on to explore this historic city, home to the Alamo and a delightful Riverwalk.
We plan to arrive at the airport at 11:00 AM, so please plan your departure after 12:00 PM. It’s always hard to say goodbye to new travel friends, but with Naturalist Journeys loyal clientele, we’re likely to travel together again. (B)
Varied Bunting by Bryan Calk
Vermillion Flycatcher by Bryan Calk
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by Bryan Calk
Tropical Parula by Bryan Calk
Group by Pat Lueders
Barred Owl by Bryan Calk
Group Birding by Pat Lueders
Black-capped Vireo by Bryan Calk
Pyrrhuloxia by Bryan Calk
Frio Bat Cave by Carlos Sanchez
Group by Pat Lueders
Green Jay by Bryan Calk
Frio River by Pat Lueders
Gray Vireo by Bryan Calk
Cost of the Journey
The cost of this journey is $2,290 DBL / $2,590 SGL, from San Antonio, TX, and includes all accommodations, meals as specified in the itinerary, group airport transfers, professional guide services, local park and other area entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. The cost does not include transportation to or from your home to San Antonio, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, porterage, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: San Antonio International Airport (SAT) Arrival Details: Plan to arrive April 26, no later than 2:00 PM Departure Details: Plan May 1 flights after 12:00 PM Travel Tip: San Antonio is a fascinating city to explore with a rich history and the delightful River Walk area that is a magnet for dining and fun. There are a wide variety of attractions to see in San Antonio including museums, The Alamo, and the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Many attractions are within walking distance of the River Walk area, making it a great base to explore from. The River Walk area is approximately 8 miles from the San Antonio International Airport and can be reached by taxi, Uber/Lyft, or renting a car. You will need to return to the airport no later than 2:00 PM on April 4 if you are not staying at an airport hotel. Hotel Recommendations: If you prefer to stay in the trendy River Walk area, we recommend: Courtyard San Antonio Riverwalk (210) 223-8888 Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk (210) 404-7516 Would you prefer to relax and stay near the airport? We can pick you up at hotels within 5 miles of the airport and would recommend these: Holiday Inn Express San Antonio Airport (210) 308-6700 Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Airport 210) 525-9999
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Big Bend & Davis Mountains
- April 2011
- April 2012
- April 2014
- April 2015
- April 2016
- August 2016
- April 2017
- April 2019
- May 2019
- April 2021
- May 2021
- April 2022
- April 2022
- May 2022
- April 2023
- April 2023
- May 2023
Big Bend Monsoon Madness
- February 2012
- February 2014
- February 2018
- February 2019
- March 2019
- February 2020
- April 2021
- September 2021
- November 2021
- February 2022
- March 2022
- October 2022
- November 2022
- January 2023
- March 2023
- April 2012
- April 2014
- April 2019
- April 2021
- April 2022
- April 2023
Texas Hill Country
Bryan started birding at Fort Clark Springs in southwest Texas when he was 10 years old and never stopped. He got his first taste of guiding while leading trips for the Rio Brazos Audubon Society during college. After graduating from Texas A&M in 2015 with a degree in genetics, Bryan worked as an avian field biologist on several projects across Texas and New Mexico. Currently residing in Albuquerque as a professional birding tour guide, he leads field tours, workshops, and youth birding programs across the US. In his free time, Bryan enjoys butterflies, searching for herps, photography, art, cooking, and gardening.
Other trips with Bryan Calk
New Mexico Nature & CultureDecember 3 - 10, 2023
Costa Rica Birding & Nature Full! Take a look at our July Costa Rica tour!January 16 - 23, 2024, w/Pacific Coast extension
Best of BelizeFebruary 17 - 25, 2024
South Texas Birding & NatureMarch 12 - 20, 2024
Texas Hill Country: Birds + Full Solar Eclipse! FULL!April 4 - 9, 2024
Oregon's Malheur NWR & Woodpecker WonderlandMay 20 - 29, 2024
Alaska Sampler Anchorage, Homer, Seward & Kenai FjordsAugust 9 - 17, 2024
Arizona Monsoon Madness Birding & Nature in a Season of Wonder!August 25 - September 1, 2024
Yellowstone in The FallSeptember 21 - 28, 2024
South Texas Birding & Nature Special Departure!November 11 - 19, 2024
- New Mexico Nature & Culture
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
- Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at email@example.com.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Food & Drink
We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and we comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.
Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books. You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.
Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
Soft luggage is easier for us to pack than a rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. The trip is informal and the weather fine – no need to pack heavily this time of year.
Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. Your carry-on bag must be able to fit under the seat or it will be taken away by airline staff and put with the regular luggage. You will want a daypack for field trips, so this is the ideal carry-on. We recommend that you double check with your airline a week or so before departure to verify luggage size and weight restrictions. A reminder, keep your EMERGENCY CONTACT list with your airline tickets – just in case!
In general, the weather during your stay should be warm (70-80°F in the day, 50-55°F in the evenings and early mornings) and we want you to be comfortable. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, insects and vegetation. Quick-dry fabrics are ideal, and you may wish to spray your field outerwear with Permethrin beforehand or try bug repellent clothing – Exofficio’s Bugs Away and Craghoppers Insect Shield are options. If you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty – and things that are comfortable and easy. Layering is your best strategy for comfort. While closed toed shoes and hiking boots are ideal for our fieldwork, a pair of sandals will be most welcome for travel days and evenings.
Clothing and Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2 pair
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3 (Loose fitting keeps you cool)
- T-shirts, short-sleeved shirts or equivalent, 4-5
- Comfortable clothing for travel days and evenings (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry (Long enough to tuck your pants into, to help protect from chiggers)
- Comfortable walking/hiking shoes such as tennis shoes
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Comfortable sandals or light shoes for evenings, travel days
- Lightweight fleece jacket or sweater for early morning walks
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when you are hot and sweaty)
- Swimsuit (optional)
Equipment and Miscellaneous
- Photo Identification
- E-ticket verification
- Passport (for international travelers)
- Small daypack or fanny pack to carry your field gear
- Walking stick (optional but recommended if you usually use one when hiking)
- Umbrella – small and not brightly colored (optional but useful for protection from rain)
- Small flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock (if you use your phone, be sure to turn off data roaming)
- Sunscreen/Chapstick or equivalent
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent
- Toiletry articles
- Binoculars (a shower cap is great to cover these when raining)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
- Camera and extra batteries/battery charger, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
- Water bottle (or plan to refill one bought on location)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Laundry soap if you plan to do hand washing
- Earplugs (optional)
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing, and your mind will be at ease!
Medical and First Aid Items
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses – or have at easy reference to call or fax from home) and any medical alerts
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
- Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments and stomach ailments
- Foot powder, lotions, general “comfort” items
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Health insurance information
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
The following are a few titles that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Texas Hill Country – Encyclopedic Overview
Fort Clark Springs (Previously called Fort Clark)
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Birding in Texas
Birding Uvalde – eBird Hotspot
Birding at Neal’s Lodges
San Antonio Audubon Society
Hill Country Wildlife – Texas Parks & Wildlife (TP&W website has a wealth of additional information!)
Cook’s Slough Nature Center – eBird Hotspot
Rio Frio Bat Cave
Edwards Plateau Ecological Region
Endemics of the Texas Hill Country
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
Hill Country Conservancy
The Watershed Association – Texas Hill Country Conservation Network
Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Lost Maples State Natural Area
Geology & Geography
Texas Hill Country Geology
Geography of Texas
History & Culture
Natural History of the Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country – Texas State Historical Association
Hill Country Conservancy Article “Stories of Rocks and Rivers”
Texas Highways Article “Where Does the Texas Hill Country Actually End?”
Historical Ecology of the Texas Hill Country
History of Neal’s Lodges
History of Concan
History of San Antonio and It’s River Walk
Helpful Travel Websites
San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Date & Time
Photo credits: BANNERS by Bryan Calk: Green Kingfisher, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck THUMBNAILS by Bryan Calk: Green Jay, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Oriole, Crested Caracara, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Painted Bunting