Galveston Birding: Island Soars as Birdwatching Destination
Galveston is one of the top locations for birding in the United States. With year-round birding, the Island is a central location for novice and expert birders offering a wide variety of species. Water and shore birds are common on the Island throughout the year while rare species are spotted during fall and spring migration when more than three-fourths of all North American species normally migrate through the Galveston area.
Galveston's spring migration season sees more than 260 species as they migrate. Spring migration begins in mid-March and continues through mid-May and the season peaks toward the end of April. Fall migration begins in late August when more than 250 species migrate.
April is the primary month for Songbird Migration, including such species as Warblers and Orioles. Warblers species include, but are not limited to, Yellow, Black & White, and Hooded.
Orioles include the Orchard and Baltimore. Other highly seen birds include the American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat.
Popular Birding Locations around Galveston Island
Birding in Galveston is growing in popularity. The convenience of driving to accessible locations and birding from inside a vehicle is of great appeal to those who enjoy the comfort of their automobile. Following are some birding locations on the Island recommended by Galveston birders:
Big Reef Nature Park and East Beach/R.A. Apffel Park. This area, located at the east end of the Island at Seawall and Boddeker Drive, should be on the must-see¯ list for all birders. If conditions are right, the casual birder will enjoy the sheer number, variety and beauty of the resting birds and the life-lister¯ will be pleased with the number of species and the possibility to view a new or seldom seen species. Viewing at this location can be done from inside automobiles. Species normally seen include pelicans, gulls, avocets, cormorants, terns, and egrets, including the Reddish Egret.
Offatts Bayou, located adjacent to Moody Gardens and off 61st Street. Common Loons and during the spring, Pacific Loons are often seen in the area. Moody Gardens offers a great viewing area with terrace gardens and picnic tables along Offatts Bayou. While at Moody Gardens, sneak a peek at their tropical Rainforest Pyramid. The Colonel Paddlewheeler, docked at Moody Gardens, also offers a tour through Offatts Bayou.
8 Mile Road Wetlands. With habitats including shallow inter-tidal marsh, tidal creek, oyster reef, mud flats, brackish and freshwater ponds and pasture, this large area is an excellent location to find most of the common wading birds and waterfowl.
Lafitte's Cove Nature Preserve. The Preserve is located off FM 3005; west from 8 Mile Road on Stewart Road; past 11 Mile Road; turn right into the Lafitte's Cove Subdivision and follow signs. This is an ideal place to find migrating songbirds in the spring and fall. At least 137 species have been recorded in the Preserve during Spring Migration.
Galveston Island State Park. This park is located off FM 3005. There are an impressive number of birds on the park's checklist in a variety of habitats. Viewing is good on both the Gulfside beaches and on West Bay.
San Luis Pass. Located on the west end of the Island, large tidal flats provide resting and feeding areas for many species of birds including Common Terns, Snowy, Piping and Wilson's Plovers. In addition, Black Skimmers and terns rest on the open sand flats.
John M. O'Quinn I-45 Estuarial Corridor. The Estuary includes 900 acres on both sides of I-45 between the Texas City Interchange and the Santa Fe Overpass. Families and seniors wanting passive observation should take Exit 6, which is south of Bayou Vista, continue on Frontage Road, to the first turnout, Ellie Child's Path Site. This Site features accessible parking and encircles the observation promontory known as Reitan Point. The area is an inter-tidal marsh located along the Central Migratory Flyway. Many species of shorebirds and wading birds can be seen here.
Other nearby birding locations off the Island include: High Island, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Bolivar Flats, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge and Brazos Bend State Park. High Island is considered the best Spring birding area in the United States. Galveston Island is included in the Great Texas Birding Trail.
This report is courtesy of the Galveston Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau (888-425-4753 or www.galvestoncvb.com). In Galveston, visit the the Galveston Island Visitors Center at 2428 Seawall Blvd.
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