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Birding the Texas Tropics: Laguna Atascosa to South Padre Island

Program Number: 11974RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/12/2014 - 1/17/2014; 1/17/2016 - 1/22/2016; 2/7/2016 - 2/12/2016; 2/28/2016 - 3/4/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Brownsville, Texas
Price starting at: $1,188.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

Experience the beauty of the lower Rio Grande Valley in a location that has become a destination for birders worldwide. Learn to identify birds by their field marks, behavior and flight patterns. Take field trips to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary and South Padre Island on the Gulf of Mexico. Likely sightings include Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Roseate Spoonbills, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and more. And with luck — the Aplomado Falcon, Audubon’s Oriole, Tropical Parula and the rare Black Rail.


• Take a field trip to the Nature Conservancy’s Southernmost Preserve, Boca Chica State Park.
• Keep an eye to the sky for an Aplomado Falcon sighting.
• A local expert reveals the natural history of South Texas.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile a day; days of 6-7 hours in the field.

So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Coordinated by University of Texas Marine Science Institute.


Texas' southernmost, international seaport and the largest city in the lower Rio Grande Valley, historic Brownsville - just 25 miles from the Gulf of Mexico - draws visitors from throughout North America to experience its resort-like atmosphere, semi-tropical climate and nearby recreational activities on the Gulf.

Comfortable hotel with swimming pool.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Linda Fuiman

A native of Scotland, Linda Fuiman has maintained her Scottish brogue while living on the Texas Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. Through her work at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Linda shares the wonders of nature and the ocean with students of all ages. Most recently, she has led Birding 101 courses for kids, and serves as the education chair with the Coastal Bend Audubon Society. Linda also produces “South Texas Birding,” a monthly segment featured on a local television channel.
Bob Powell

Bob Powell has been a south Texas naturalist for 25 years. He has worked for the Frontera Audubon Society as their naturalist at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, has been a Ranger for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and has organized and led bird watching programs for Texas Southmost College and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. When not in Texas, he leads natural history explorations throughout western North America.
Michael Marsden

Michael Marsden has been an avid birder since childhood but decided, for reasons that now escape him, on a career in law. After 25 years working for governments in the United Kingdom and the Caribbean, Michael and his wife moved to Texas. Michael has led birding excursions to Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba and the U.K., and has been an instructor for the American Birding Association, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, and many other bird clubs and festivals. The two elements of his work recently coalesced when he was engaged to draft new comprehensive wildlife-conservation legislation for the Cayman Islands.
Meals and Lodgings
   Homewood Suites by Hilton
  Brownsville, Texas 5 nights
 Homewood Suites by Hilton
Type: Hotel
  Description: Enjoy the comforts of home when you stay at this up market all-suite hotel conveniently located just 14 minutes from Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport. Exploring cultural exhibits and events is just a short drive away.
  Contact info: 3759 N. Expressway
Brownsville, TX 78520 USA
phone: 956-574-6900
  Room amenities: For your Convenience •Bathroom Amenities •Coffee Maker •Complimentary Hot Breakfast •DVD/CD Player •Desk Level HSIA Connection •Desk Level Phone Jacks •Dishwasher •Evening Manager's Reception •Full-Size Refrigerator •Hairdryer •In-Suite Coffee/Welcome Caddy •Iron •Iron/Ironing Board •Kitchen, full •Microwave •Newspaper M-F (USA Today) •Remote-Controlled Television •Self Laundry Available •Telephone - Two Phones •Telephone - Voice Mail •Welcome Amenity
  Facility amenities: For Your Business Convenience • Audio/Visual Equipment Rental • Business Center • Express Mail • Fax ($2.00) • Meeting Rooms • Modem • Photo Copying Service ($0.10) • Printer • Video Messaging • Video Phone For Your Comfort and Convenience • Baggage Storage • Beverage Area, Complimentary • Breakfast Area, Complimentary • Coin Laundry ($1.00) • Elevators • Laundry/Valet Service • Luggage Hold • Multi-Lingual Staff • On-Site Convenience Store • Safety Deposit Box For Your Fitness and Recreation Convenience • Fitness Room • Pool For Your Accessibility Needs The Following Features Are Available: •Accessible Rooms •Accessible business center •Accessible concierge desk •Accessible guest rooms with mobility features with entry or passage doors that provide 32” of clear width •Accessible hotel restaurant •Accessible parking •Accessible parking spaces for cars in the self-parking facility •Accessible public entrance •Accessible registration desk •Accessible route from the accessible public entrance to the accessible guestrooms •Accessible route from the accessible public entrance to the registration area •Accessible route from the hotel’s accessible entrance to the meeting room/ballroom area •Accessible route from the hotel’s accessible public entrance to at least one restaurant •Accessible route from the hotel’s accessible public entrance to the business center •Accessible route from the hotel’s accessible public entrance to the exercise facilities •Accessible route from the hotel’s accessible public entrance to the spa •Accessible route from the hotel’s accessible public entrance to the swimming pool •Closed captioning on televisions or closed captioning decoders •Public Areas/Facilities accessible for physically challenged •Service support animals welcome •TTY for guest use •Van-accessible parking in the self-parking facility
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Call for pricing At managers discretion
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call for pricing At managers discretion
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:30 pm meeting at the hotel. You will be staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton that night.
  End of Program:
10:00 am program ends at hotel You will be staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Liability release is required for all University of Texas programs. Return fully completed form 3 weeks prior to your program. By mail: Attn: Lynn Ulch, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, 750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, TX 78373. By fax to 361-749-6707 or email:
  Parking availability:
Free parking at hotel
To Start of Program
  Location:  Brownsville, Texas
  Nearest city or town:  Brownsville
  Nearest highway: Hwy. 77
  Nearest airport:  Brownsville
  From End of Program
  Location: Brownsville, Texas
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Brownsville-South Padre international Airport


From Airport




Hotel Shuttle
phone: 956-350-8100
Advanced Reservations Required


Travel Time:


12 minutes 




8 miles


Call Homewood Suites 956-350-8100 when you arrive at the airport and they will arrange the shuttle to pick you up. They contract with Holiday Inn. Homewood Suites will do the scheduling for you. Ask if the vehicle will have the Holiday Inn or Homewood name on the side of the vehicle. The service is free. The travel time from airport to hotel is approximately 12 minutes depending on traffic.

Driving Directions
  Airport Brownsville/South Padre Island - BRO Hotel direction: 8 miles SE Driving directions: From the Airport take Bill Mitchell Blvd. Proceed to Boca Chica Blvd and turn left (West). Stay on Boca Chica until you reach Highway 77-83 turn right (North), Take the highway and exit on Morrison Rd. stay on the feeder road and make a U turn under the highway Overpass, traveling South you will see Homewood Suites by Hilton on your right. 3759 N Expressway 956-574-6900 just passed the Holiday Inn Hotel.
  North Take Hwy 77 South to the Rio Grande Valley. Be sure to fill up with gas before leaving Kingsville as there are few opportunities for the next 83 miles! Stay on 77 into Brownsville. Please be aware that there is a Federal Border Patrol Checkpoint on the northbound side of Hwy 77 that you will stop at on your way back from Brownsville. With so much tightened security, there are occasionally short delays at the checkpoint.
Equipment Requirements: Binoculars 10x50 or 8x 40.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Welcome and Orientation
(Sunday, January 12)
 Arrive To: Check in hotel by 3 pm
 Afternoon: Welcome, introductions, orientation and weeks schedule at 4:30 pm in the ground floor meeting room.
 Dinner: Dinner.
 Evening: Presentation. Welcome to Brownsville
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Nature Conservancy Preserve - a remnant of the Sabal Palm forest.
(Monday, January 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Visit one of the Texas Nature Conservancy's Preserves, a property that is a remnant of the Sabal Palm forest, and is also a working citrus orchard. Look for south Texas specialty birds; neo-tropical birds which are rare visitors north of south Texas, e.g. Green Jays, Great Kiskadees, Least Grebes, Green and Ringed Kingfishers.
 Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch and get an overview on the ecology of south Texas.
 Afternoon: Continue birding into another habitat - coastal grasslands looking for White-tailed and Harris Hawks, and perhaps the endangered Aplomado Falcon - that would be a good find.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant. On our way to dinner we will try to find some naturalized bird species - Red-crowned and Yellow-headed Parrots and Green Parakeets.
 Evening: After dinner. Go over checklist of the days birds for 10 minutes..
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: One of the World Birding Centers: South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center
(Tuesday, January 14)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center offers a visitors center, extensive board walks and a diversity of birds including, wading birds, gulls, shorebirds and ducks including the Black-bellied Whistling ducks. Secretive birds may accommodate like the Clapper and Sora Rails.
 Lunch: Picnic Lunch
 Afternoon: Birding continues in the afternoon en route back to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner
 Evening: After dinner. Go over checklist of the days birds for 10 minutes followed by a Birding Presentation.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Resaca de la Palma
(Wednesday, January 15)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Visit the newest State Park in South Texas - Resaca de la Palma in search of Least Grebes.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch at the park.
 Afternoon: The Sabal Palm Preserve, once a National Audubon site, now maintained by the Gorgus Foundation. We will look for Olive Sparrows and Long-billed Thrashers.
 Dinner: Dinner
 Evening: After dinner. Go over checklist of the days birds for 10 minutes.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
(Thursday, January 16)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Visit the southernmost waterfowl refuge in the US-Laguna Atascosa where another neo-tropical bird lives, the Plain Chachalaca. Other bird sightings may include Alta-mira Orioles, and in the waters of the Laguna Madre watch out for the Reddish Egret and other wading birds, as well as wintering ducks like Redheads, Northern Pintails, and the American Widgeon.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch at Laguna Atascosa entertained by begging Green Jays.
 Afternoon: Birding continues in the afternoon en route back to the hotel where we will try and pick up some species that may have eluded us during the week.
 Dinner: Dinner
 Evening: Wrap-up, complete bird lists, and final discussion
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Departure Day
(Friday, January 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Birding powerpoint presentation by Bob Powell. Program ends at 10 am.
 Lunch: Pick up box lunches in hotel meeting room at 10 am. Hotel check out 11 am.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Birds of South Texas, Including the Lower Rio Grande Valley: A Guide to Common and Notable Species (Quick Reference Guides) [Pamphlet]

Author: Greg R. Homel

Description: Laminated Pamphlet. A 12 panel weatherproof foldout guide to the birds of south Texas, including the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Stunningly detailed photographs depict 128 common and notable birds enabling users to I.D. nearly every commonly-occurring and regional bird they encounter in a wide geographic area. Aimed at beginning and intermediate birders, this guide, by Quick Reference Publishing, will fit into any day-pack for easy field identification. Published by Quick Reference Publishing Show more Show less

Great Tales From the History of South Texas

Author: Murphy Givens

Description: The history of the Old West has deep roots in South Texas where the Wild Horse Desert was a lawless land controlled by no authority. The western region of South Texas, from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, stretching west and south to the Rio Grande, was the birthplace of the big cattle ranches, the cattle barons, rustlers, hide thieves, outlaws, and bad men operating on both sides of the border. Murphy Givens brings the stories of the Old West to life in "Great Tales From the History of South Texas" Available at

National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America

Author: Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer

Texas Gulf Coast Stories

Author: C. Herndon Williams

Description: The middle Texas coast, known locally as the Coast Bend, is an area filled with fascinating stories. From as early as the days of de Vaca and La Salle, the Coastal Bend has been a site of early exploration, bloody conflicts, legendary shipwrecks and even a buried treasure or two. However, much of the true history has remained unknown, misunderstood and even hidden. For years, local historian C. Herndon Williams has shared his fascinating discoveries of the area's early stories through his weekly column, "Coastal Bend Chronicle." Now he has selected some of his favorites in Texas Gulf Coast Stories. Join Williams as he explores the days of early settlement and European contact, Karankawa and Tonkawa legends and the Coastal Bend's tallest of tall tales.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Author: David Allen Sibley

The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos

Author: Robb Walsh

Description: Join Texas food writer Robb Walsh on a grand tour complete with larger-than-life characters, colorful yarns, rare archival photographs, and a savory assortment of crispy, crunchy Tex-Mex foods. From the Mexican pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought horses and cattle to Texas, to the Spanish mission era when cumin and garlic were introduced, to the 1890s when the Chile Queens of San Antonio sold their peppery stews to gringos like O. Henry and Ambrose Bierce, and through the chili gravy, combination plates, crispy tacos, and frozen margaritas of the twentieth century, all the way to the nuevo fried oyster nachos and vegetarian chorizo of today, here is the history of Tex-Mex in more than 100 recipes and 150 photos. Rolled, folded, and stacked enchiladas, old-fashioned puffy tacos, sizzling fajitas, truck-stop chili, frozen margaritas, Frito Pie, and much, much more, are all here in easy-to-follow recipes for home cooks. The Tex-Mex Cookbook will delight chile heads, food history buffs, Mexican food fans, and anybody who has ever woken up in the middle of the night craving cheese enchiladas. Available on

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