The Upper Texas Coast has long been recognized as one of the best places to be during spring migration. Each year, 25+ species of warblers pass through the area's coastal woodlands, as well as many species of vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, and other passerines. Although the presence of songbirds is strongly weather-related, other birds are numerous and more predictable. Up to 36 species of shorebirds include plovers, terns, most of the country's herons and egrets, pelicans, Black Skimmers, and several species of gulls.

During the first part of the tour, we investigate the Big Thicket, northeast of Houston. There we see southeastern specialties like Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Bachman's Sparrow, Fish Crow, and Brown-headed Nuthatch.

Several nesting warblers may be on territory, including Prothonotary, Hooded, Kentucky, Pine, Prairie, and Swainson's. The Big Thicket area is also known for its diversity of dragonflies and damselflies (about 100 species) and butterflies (up to seven species of swallowtails in a single spot!), and we won't ignore these as they appear. For the balance of the time, we alternate between the coastal woodlands at High Island, other nearby migrant hotspots, and the surrounding rice fields, beaches, and wetlands around Galveston Bay.

Our schedule is somewhat weather-dependent: North winds, rain, or cold fronts put down migrating birds and we search for them in woodlands behind the Gulf's shores. If rice fields are flooded, we stand a good chance of seeing shorebirds like American Golden-Plovers, Stilt, Semipalmated and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and Hudsonian Godwit, as well as Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, and both White-faced and Glossy Ibises. Along the coast, we look for Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, American Oystercatcher, and the endangered Piping Plover. In the process, we have a chance to study a variety of rails, shorebirds, terns, and other waterbirds.

Tour Highlights

  • Enjoy the pulse of migration at preserves created by the Houston Audubon Society; your visit supports protected habitat for thousands of migrants
  • Listen to the cacophony of hundreds of breeding herons at Smith Oaks Rookery
  • Study a smorgasbord of migrant shorebirds with an expert at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Preserve
  • Marvel at or photograph stunning species like Roseate Spoonbill and Scarlet Tanager
  • Watch as many as 25 species of warblers in bright, breeding plumage
  • Discover secretive rails, bitterns, and myriad other species at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
  • Bird pine country for southeastern specialties like Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Wed., Apr. 16     Arrivals in Houston

Welcome to Texas! We enjoy a welcome dinner, getting to know each other and going over a preview of our days ahead with your guide. As time permits we check a few bird areas near our hotel, which is located close to W. Goodrich Jones State Forest north of the airport.
Accommodations in The Woodlands (D)

Thurs., Apr. 17      W. Goodrich Jones State Forest | Big Creek Scenic Area

After an early breakfast, we depart for W. Goodrich Jones State Forest, about 50 minutes north of the airport. The forest hosts several clusters of endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, as well as Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Pine Warblers, and other species characteristic of the region's pine forests.

Driving east, we stop at the Big Creek Scenic Area. Occasionally, Louisiana Waterthrush can be found near the parking area, as well as Gray Petaltail — one of the Southeast's special dragonflies. This area can be productive for butterflies and a sunny morning may yield a variety of swallowtails.

Continuing eastward, we check the boat ramp at Martin Dies, Jr., State Park for Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireos, and other woodland species such as Eastern Wood Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher. A short drive farther east takes us to Jasper, our home for the next two nights.
Accommodations in Jasper (B,L,D)

Fri., Apr. 18     Piney Woods | Angelina National Forest

After breakfast, we head back to Martin Dies State Park. The one-mile Slough Trail supports nearly every breeding warbler species of the region, including: Pine, Prairie, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Black-and-white, Swainson’s, Northern Parula, and Common Yellowthroat. Flycatchers should also be abundant along the trail, and we could see any number of migrating warblers, vireos, and tanagers. Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and Northern Cardinal are common in these woods.

After lunch, we head for Angelina National Forest, in the heart of the Texas Pineywoods. Our primary goal here is to watch Red-cockaded Woodpecker returning to their nest and roost sites around sunset, but we are plenty busy in the meantime. Bachman's Sparrow have become very local in East Texas but this area supports several territories. Brown-headed Nuthatch, Wild Turkey, and Indigo and Painted Buntings may be seen along the roadsides.
Accommodations in Jasper (B,L,D)

Sat., Apr. 19       Big Thicket National Preserve | Winnie

Today, we bird our way from Jasper to the town of Winnie. En route, we visit several sites in the Big Thicket National Preserve where we look for more Swainson's, Kentucky, Hooded, Yellow-throated, and Prairie Warblers, as well as Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers. We might find Wood Duck on the streams and sloughs, and we are surrounded by flycatchers, tanagers, and vireos.

Butterflies in the area include Palamedes and Zebra Swallowtail, Southern and the scarce Creole pearly-eye, and several interesting skippers such as Lace-winged Roadside-Skipper and Hayhurst's Scallopwing. Dragonflies can be numerous.

If we haven't yet encountered Fish Crow (decidedly local in East Texas), we make a special trip toward Beaumont. As we head toward Winnie, we criss-cross the Trinity River bottomlands in search of nesting Swallow-tailed Kite and Painted Bunting. We should arrive in Winnie with a little time to relax before dinner.
Accommodations in Winnie (B,L,D)

Sun., Apr. 20       High Island | Boy Scout Woods | Smith Oaks | Rollover Pass

We don't have to travel far today to explore some excellent preserves managed by the Houston Audubon Society. These woodland oases or "coastal mottes" as they are called, provide refuge to thousands of Neotropical migrant songbirds. Having just crossed the Gulf of Mexico, a 600-mile non-stop journey, tired birds often pause in these woodlands for food and shelter.

Boardwalk trails allow for amazing and consistently close viewing without undue disturbance to the birds. Walking the trails, we search for warblers, tanagers, thrushes, vireos, buntings, and more. Warblers passing through the woodlands include Blue-winged, Blackburnian, Kentucky, Hooded, and the rare Cerulean. The mix of vireos presents a greater challenge; it's a great time to practice identification skills to locate White-eyed, Red-eyed, Warbling, Philadelphia, and Yellow-throated. Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Scarlet Tanager gorge among the fruiting mulberry trees.

After an afternoon break, we drive down the Bolivar Peninsula, checking several areas for terns, gulls, and wading birds. From Rollover Pass we hope to see Laughing Gull; Gull-billed, Royal, Sandwich, Forster's, Least, and possibly Black Terns; as well as the closely related Black Skimmer. This is also a great hangout for loafing American Avocet, often joined by Marbled Godwit. Or, if weather is right for migrants, we leave this for another day and continue to explore the wooded migrant hotspots.
Accommodations in Winnie (B,L,D)

Mon., Apr. 21      Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary | High Island — Smith Oaks

We devote part of one day to Bolivar Flats, one of the country's most important way-stations for migrant shorebirds. Recent hurricanes have reshaped the beaches of the Bolivar Peninsula and we probably cross over to Galveston Island (via a short ferry ride) for a better look at the flats. The incoming tide directs the birds towards us and makes for better viewing, so we study the tide chart to plan our day. Habitats at Bolivar and around East Beach on Galveston Island include beach, mudflats, and salt marsh, all of which provide a nutrient-rich smorgasbord for shorebirds. This is one of the best places to slow down and really study these far-ranging migrants.

Using high-powered spotting scopes, we carefully scan the flocks for Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Dunlin, and both Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers. Here we're likely to be able to compare similar species such as Semipalmated, Piping (a wintering species), and Snowy Plovers, often in groups with the larger Wilson's Plover. American Oystercatcher may be present here, feeding among the smaller shorebirds, and Brown Pelican often fly in long lines above. There are hundreds of Laughing Gull; with patience we may find Herring Gull or a rarity such as Lesser Black-backed, Franklin's, or California Gull. Osprey may fly through, and we also watch overhead for Black and Turkey Vultures. If a Peregrine Falcon should come by, we get some spectacular flight displays!

In the afternoon, we return to our lodgings for a little siesta before heading out to the rookery portion of Smith Oaks. A viewing platform there affords outstanding views of colonial wading birds. At sunset, enjoy the spectacle of Snowy and Cattle Egrets coming to roost, joined by Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret, Neotropical Cormorant, and Little Blue and Tricolored Herons.
Accommodations in Winnie (B,L,D)

Tues., Apr. 22       Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

We leave early this morning for the 34,000-acre Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, located on the eastern end of Galveston Bay. En route we inspect groups of feeding shorebirds in the agricultural fields, looking for American Golden-Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Stilt Sandpiper. We circumnavigate Shoveler Pond on the auto route, stopping many times to get out with the scopes and view the abundant wading birds.

Some 280 species have been recorded here, attracted to prairies, patchy woodland habitat, and the marshes. Seaside Sparrow is fairly common in grasses near the bay edge. Roseate Spoonbill always attract a lot of attention; here they feed alongside White, and sometimes White-faced, Ibises. Marsh Wren provide a background chorus, broken by the raucous calls of Boat-tailed Grackle. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and both Least and American Bitterns often put on a good display; Least Bitterns nest here and may be numerous.

American Alligator are particularly plentiful in the extensive ponds and wet prairies, while Northern Harrier hunt from above. While we are here, butterfly enthusiasts want to look for Salt Marsh Skipper. For those new to butterfly watching, the garden at refuge headquarters makes learning and comparing species much easier! Mammals we may encounter include Coyote, Raccoon, Mink, Muskrat, and Swamp Rabbit. On short trails near headquarters we can stretch our legs and scan for songbirds before our drive back to High Island. Enjoy a free evening tonight with a choice of restaurants. Birding die-hards may want to check out what has turned up at nearby Boy Scout Woods.
Accommodations in Winnie (B,L,D)

Wed., Apr. 23      High Island | Bolivar Flats | Bolivar Ferry to Galveston Island

Today we are ideally positioned to make the most of where birds are plentiful, and to search for species we may have not yet encountered. If the action is high at Boy Scout Woods at High Island we stop there to check for warblers and other migrant songbirds. This and other Important Bird Areas all hold potential. In general we head down the coast, visiting ponds and shorelines and then crossing by ferry to Galveston. Here we visit several key birding spots before crossing back over to the mainland to position ourselves near Brazos Bend State Park for tomorrow’s grand finale.
Accommodations in Angleton (B,L,D)

Thurs., Apr. 24      Brazos Bend State Park | Final Birding & Departures from Houston

This morning we visit one of the best kept secrets of Texas Coast birding, Brazos Bend State Park. Here we often add several key species, in forests and wetlands, including Pileated Woodpecker and common Prothonotary Warblers. We might have to zig-zag across the trails to avoid American Alligator! We do want the morning for birding, so please honor flight times. (B)

  • American Avocet, Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Tropical Mockingbird, Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Egret Rookery, Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Prothonotary Warbler, Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys
  • Red-headed Woodpecker, Texas, Texas Coast, Big Thicket, Texas Birding Tour, Spring Migration Tour, Texas Migration Tour, Texas Nature Tour, Naturalist Journeys

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $3290 DBL / $3850 SGL from Houston, Texas. Cost includes: all accommodations; all meals as stated in the itinerary; group airport transfers; ground transportation; professional guide services; park, preserve, and other activity fees; and miscellaneous program expenses. Tour price does not include: roundtrip airfare to and from Houston or items of a personal nature such as laundry, porterage, telephone charges, or alcoholic beverages. Gratuities for maids or porters, and gratuity for your guides are not included—these are at your discretion, but highly appreciated and recommended. 

Travel Details

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: George Bush International (IAH) 

Arrive: Plan flights to arrive April 16, 2025 before 2:00 PM.

Depart: Plan flights to depart April 24, 2025 after 2:00 PM. We do plan to spend the morning birding, so please honor these flight times. Thank you!

If you arrive early or stay on after the trip in Houston, there are dozens of motels close to the airport; The Hampton Inn Suites and the Holiday Inn are just two with reasonable rates and free airport shuttles.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.


Big Bend & Davis Mountains

Big Bend Monsoon Madness

South Texas

Texas Coast

Texas Hill Country

  • Greg Butcher

    Greg recently retired as the Migratory Species Coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs, working throughout the Western Hemisphere, and as Vice President for Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, serving on the Conservation and Citizen Science committees. He is currently a Board Member for BirdsCaribbean. For his Ph.D. in Zoology at University of Washington, he studied the coloration and behavior of Bullock’s Orioles. Greg studied ecology in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies and has worked internationally for the past 20 years. Greg previously worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Birder’s World magazine (sadly, now defunct), Partners in Flight, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society (AOS). He has been a birder since he was 11 and has birded in all 50 states and 47 countries.

    Other trips with Greg Butcher

  • Steve Shunk

    Steve Shunk started birding in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, and he moved to central Oregon’s ‘Woodpecker Wonderland’ in 1997, where 11 woodpecker species breed annually. This phenomenon led to a 20-year obsession studying this charismatic family of birds. Steve founded the region’s woodpecker festival in 2008, and his Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America was published in 2016. He has fed leeches (his own blood) in Malaysian Borneo, and he has watched Spotless Starlings swarming around the Greek ruins of Sicily. Steve’s Alaska adventures have taken him from Ketchikan to Barrow and St. Paul Island. One of his favorite destinations takes him to see ‘eastern’ warblers breeding across the boreal forest of Alberta, but recent adventures have led him to favor the cushion plants and condors of the Peruvian high Andes. Steve speaks at bird festivals across North America, and he returns annually to speak and guide at the Vallarta Bird Festival in far-western Jalisco, Mexico. Steve joined Naturalist Journeys earlier this year, and we are excited to have him on the schedule for 2021 and beyond.

    Steve’s work as a field biologist has taken him from the Coast Range of Oregon to California’s Sierra Nevada. Most recently, he conducted point-count and woodpecker surveys for a study in the Central Oregon Cascades. Steve co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy (now East Cascades Audubon), and served as its first president. He also co-founded the Oregon Birding Trails Program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. When Steve is not traveling the world for tours and lectures, he can be found writing, skiing, hiking, and watching woodpeckers at home in lovely Sisters, Oregon.

    Other trips with Steve Shunk

Map for Texas Coast & Big Thicket

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

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
  • 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.

Health Information

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 sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and wear comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.

Spending Money

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 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 Read more

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 evenings and early mornings) and we want you to be comfortable. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun, insects and vegetation. Quick-dry fabrics are ideal.

You may wish to spray your field outerwear with Permethrin beforehand or try bug repellent clothing – ExOfficio and Craghoppers offer options. Generally, shorts aren’t recommended for woodland birding. That said, if you like to wear shorts, by all means bring them.

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 (and will help protect you from fire ants and chiggers), a pair of sandals may be welcome for 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 (Crocs work well)
  • Lightweight fleece jacket or sweater for early morning walks
  • Lightweight raincoat or poncho
  • Swimsuit (optional)
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when you are hot and sweaty)

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- compact and not brightly colored (optional but useful for protection from rain)
  • Small flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock (or use your phone)
  • 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


Suggested Reading List +

  There are many titles of interest for Texas Hill Country and Big Thicket; the following Read more


There are many titles of interest for Texas Hill Country and Big Thicket; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Field Guides

Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Download it here.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Field Guide to the Birds of North America

ABA Field Guide to Birds of Texas

Birds of Texas Field Guide

A Field Guide to the Birds of the Big Bend

The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds

Amphibians and Reptiles of Texas

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West

Texas Bug Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mammals of Texas

Wildflowers of Texas (A Timber Press Field Guide)

The Warbler Guide

Butterflies of North America

Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast

Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast

A Birder’s Guide to the Texas Coast

Natural History

The Natural History of Texas

Hawks in Flight

The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds

The Complete Birder, A Guide to Better Birding

Lives of North American Birds

Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds

Roadside Geology of Texas

The Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast: A Geologist Answers Questions about Sand, Storms, And Living by the Sea

History & Culture

The Big Thicket Guidebook: Exploring the Backroads and History of Southeast Texas

Big Thicket Region

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 +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more


Houston, Texas – An Encyclopedic Overview

Bolivar Peninsula – An Encyclopedic Overview

Winnie, Texas

High Island


Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Houston Audubon

Birding Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Roseate Spoonbill

Scarlet Tanager

Butterflies in Texas

Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas

Wildflowers of Houston

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

W. Goodrich Jones State Park

Big Creek Scenic Area

Martin Dies State Park – Texas Monthly Article, “Get Lost in the Fog at this Swampy, Spooky East Texas Park”

Piney Woods

Angelina National Forest

Big Thicket National Preserve

Houston Audubon Sanctuaries – including High Island (Boy Scout Woods & Smith Oaks) and Bolivar Flats

Rollover Pass

Galveston Bay Foundation

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Galveston Island State Park

Brazos Bend State Park

Geology & Geography

Geology of Texas

Tom Ewing – Texas Geologic History, Quick Overview (for those who would enjoy an audio-visual lesson)

Geography of Southeast Texas

Texas Coastal Wetlands

San Jacinto River Basin

History & Culture

The Big Thicket of Southeast Texas: A History, 1900-1940

History of Houston

“2-Minutes of History” - Judith Linsley of the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast at Lamar University hosts these 2-minute podcasts focusing on the History of Southeast Texas

Culture of Southeastern Texas

Cuisine of Southeastern Texas

Helpful Travel Websites

George Bush International Airport (IAH)

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

ATM Locator

Date & Time

Photo credits: Banners: Blackburnian Warbler by Tom Dove; Great Egret Rookery, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Roseate Spoonbills by Carlos Sanchez; Birding Pine Forest, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Yellow-throated Warbler by Carlos Sanchez; Indian Paintbrush, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Forest Birding by Tony Beck; Indigo Bunting by Doug Greenberg; Snowy Egret and White Ibis by Betty Andres; Green Heron by Betty Andres; American Alligator by Rob Colyer; Prothonotary Warbler by Doug Pratt; Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Tom Dove; Red-headed Woodpecker, Terry Peterson; Brown Pelican, Delsa Anderl; Creole Pearly-eye, BA; Blackburnian Warbler, TD; Male Roseate Skimmer, BB; Magnolia Warbler, Doug Greenberg; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Mahlon Hale; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Mahlon Hale; Black Skimmer, Carlos Sanchez; American Oystercatcher, Carlos Sanchez; Sanderlings, Carlos Sanchez; Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, NJStock; Greater Yellowlegs, NJStock; American Alligator, Rob Colyer; Birding High Island, NJStock; Roseate Spoonbill, NJStock; Softshell Turtle, NJStock; American Avocets, Delsa Anderl; Tropical Mockingbird, Betty Andres; Egret Rookery, NJStock; Group x2, NJStock; Prothonotary Warbler, Carol Knabe; Red-headed Woodpecker, Doug Greenberg.


Like what we do?

Sign up for our weekly eNews to stay up to date!

Get to know our favorite destinations each week. We promise no spam.

No Thanks