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Birding sites Near High Island
Smith Point Hawk Watch
Twenty thousand Broad-winged Hawks. Seven thousand Mississippi Kites. Over ten thousand raptors in the sky at one time. In Autumn, the Smith Point hawk watch is the place to be, if you want a chance to witness the heavens explode with streaming hawks, falcons, kites, and vultures. Gliding triumphantly on thermals that escort their challenging southward migration, multitudes of Red-tailed, Cooper’s, and Sharp-shinned Hawks speckle the sky, while Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and American Kestrels stealthily streak by, destined for wintering grounds far beyond the Gulf horizon. Here, even the most relaxed birder can lackadaisically discern the “gray ghost” figure of a passing Northern Harrier, or share in the awe of a graceful Swallow-tailed Kite coasting overhead. While the odd Swainson’s or White-tailed Hawk sails overhead, urging fist-pumps and grins for excitable observers below, there is always another enthusiast who merely marvels in following a troop of kettling Wood Storks and Anhingas that seemingly disappears into the atmosphere, beyond the reach of a binocular. Staggering numbers of raptors move over Smith Point from mid-August through early November. While raptors are certainly the main course of the party, thousands of swallows and neotropical passerines add to the bustle of the season’s migration and cannot possibly be ignored! A twenty-foot tower overlooking East Galveston Bay offers unobstructed views of this spectacle; the site of the most important Autumn hawkwatching station on the Upper Texas Coast.
Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary
Protected by the Houston Audubon Society, Bolivar Flats has been christened as the “crown jewel of shorebird habitats” on the Upper Texas Coast. And rightfully so, as upwards of ten thousand American Avocets, hundreds of Marbled Godwits, thousands of Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlin and scores of plovers, stilts, dowitchers, Sanderlings, and Willets collide with massive flocks of terns, gulls, and herons and egrets on the beaches, mudflats, and saltmarshes of this globally important shorebird sanctuary. Year round, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and other waterbirds are drawn to the shores of Bolivar, where they frenzy to feast at a smorgasbord of millions of small crustaceans, worms, and fishes that swell throughout the coastal flats at the mouth of Galveston Bay. Bolivar Flats will put any birder into a trance as they witness the clamor of teams of Black-bellied, Piping, Snowy, and Wilson’s Plovers strutting the beaches, Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings running the tides, Reddish and Snowy Egrets gracefully stalking the shorelines, and hundreds of Black, Least, and Sandwich Terns cruising over the shallows of the Gulf. Bolivar Flats is an exceptional scene from which to seek out Gull-billed Tern, American Oystercatcher, Long-billed Curlew, Magnificent Frigatebird, and classy Black Skimmers. Widespread patches of Spartina grass are prime habitat for Seaside Sparrow and Clapper Rail, and the surrounding estuary for Long-billed Dowitcher, Whimbrel, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Massive expanses of coastal marsh and prairie shaped by the winding bayous of an ancient flood plain forms this 34,000 acre refuge bordering the Gulf Coast. Anahuac is a birder’s playground and an absolute haven for wildlife. Avian possibilities are endless, with over 30 species of shorebirds, 27 species of waterfowl, and hordes of herons and egrets, gulls and terns, raptors, and passerines exploiting this astonishing wealth of habitat.
Rollover Pass and Yacht Basin Road
Rollover Pass is an artificial channel that cuts through the Bolivar Peninsula, linking the East Bay to the Gulf Coast. Extensive tidal mudflats offer exceptional habitat for thousands of foraging and roosting shorebirds, gulls, terns, and herons and egrets. Hundreds of avocets, tidy groups of Black-necked Stilts, Great and Snowy Egrets, and American White and Brown Pelicans converge on the open sandbars during low tide. Rollover is a prime locale to look for Neotropic Cormorant, American Oystercatcher, Snowy Plover, Marbled Godwit, Reddish Egret, and Black Skimmer. In summer and fall keep an eye to the sky for a passing Magnificent Frigatebird. In winter, the Pass can be a great site to scan for waterfowl. Located on TX 87 in the town of Gilchrist. Not only popular for birders, Rollover Pass is a nationally-renowned fisherman’s hotspot. Consideration for the joint appreciation of this popular coastal site allows for an enjoyable birding venture. On the north side of TX 87, about a half mile west of Rollover Pass lies Yacht Basin Road, which dead-ends at the Intracoastal Waterway. The fields, coastal marshes, and gravel dredge spills on this half-mile-long road are surprisingly birdy. During spring especially, check the cordgrass and spartina grass marsh and wet field fields for Seaside and Le Conte’s Sparrows, Clapper and King Rails, and keep an eye out for migrating Bobolinks. The mud and sandflats here are great for Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, and Willet, as well as other waders including Marbled Godwit.