Birding Road Trips Down the Upper Texas Coast!

Male Scarlet Tanager in breeding color at Pelican Island, Texas
Male Scarlet Tanager in Breeding Color at Pelican Island, Texas. This dandy was feasting on bees and mulberries. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). High-speed synchronized fill-flash.

We recently stumbled upon a new strategy for birding the the Upper Texas Coast during spring migration: short road trips south from High Island across the Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston Island. After spending the evening birding High Island and the night in Winnie, Texas, an early morning  jaunt down Highway 87 brings the birder past numerous outstanding locales. A copy of Finding birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail by Ted Lee Eubanks et al. is an excellent resource to use for planning purposes or to have at hand on the road.

Long-billed Dowitcher at French Town Road, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas
Takeoff: Long-billed Dowitcher at Frenchtown Road, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Hand-held, from car. Natural Light.
Great Egret with stick at Smith Oaks Rookery, High Island, Texas
Great Egret with Stick at Smith Oaks Rookery, High Island, Texas. Birders can currently observe Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Neotropic Cormorants, and Snowy Egrets fussing with nesting materials at Smith Oaks. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

The power of this approach to birding lies in the amazing diversity of coastal habitats and their avian inhabitants one encounters along this route, from oak motte migrant trap to beach to salt marsh to tidal lagoon. On such journeys one can truly appreciate how special this stretch of coast is, and how lucky we are to still be able to observe the incredible flow of biodiversity from the Neotropics (as well as our resident birds).

Pectoral Sandpiper at Lafitte's Cove, Galveston Island, Texas
Pectoral Sandpiper at the south pond, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island, Texas. This bird is en route from the Pampas of southern South America to the High Arctic. Canon EOS 7D/600mm f/4L IS (+1.4x TC). Natural light.

Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.—Susan Sontag

 ©2014 Christopher R. Cunningham. All rights reserved. No text or images may be duplicated or distributed without permission.