The John M. O’Quinn I-45 Estuary Corridor and Virginia Point Preserve
During this field trip we will visit some areas not normally publicly accessible. Virginia Point is a historic peninsula location across Galveston Bay comprising the wonderful 3,000 acres of mainland bay margin which SCENIC GALVESTON, Inc. (SG) has acquired for permanent conservation protection. Visitors coming into or out of Galveston on I-45 (the O’Quinn Estuary Corridor) see the results of this non-profit’s work on both flanks, and those areas are open to the public.
Our trip will begin at a freshwater pond located off a private road into northern Virginia Point. Over coffee, you will appreciate the dawn songs (including rails, and sometimes Black Rail), then watch flyovers until the sun comes up. We should see/hear 30-40 species before leaving the pond site.
Thereafter, the trip will be adapted to ‘day-of’ field conditions, and may contain some off-agenda surprises.
Site conditions permitting, we will explore a primitive trail in the Virginia Point Prairie. This has freshwater adjacencies and a very productive oak motte at the end. It’s a mile or so one way and can be shortened at any juncture. The trail, while mowed, is a strenuous and uneven walk.
Alternatively, depending on time and tide, we will head by bus through the O’Quinn Corridor, with birding/rest stop(s) at SG’s Reitan Point pavilion and productive mud flats in the I-45 marshes, to the open Galveston Bay shoreline of Virginia Point, where SG constructed a living shoreline breakwater project in 2016; new saltmarsh planting began in 2018. Apart from the birdy breakwaters, this shoreline walk has good views into a managed SG coastal salt prairie. Mud shoes or rubber boots are ideal.
Apart from shore and wading birds and neotropical migrants, expected specialties include white-phase and red Reddish Egrets, Seaside Sparrows, Green Herons, Boat-tail Grackles and two to three species of rails, with an excellent possibility of hearing a Black Rail. Virginia Point also hosts several pairs of nesting White-tail Kites, Crested Caracaras and Great Kiskadees.
This trip is led by two SG birders who are also past Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) competition winners. The trip will duplicate portions of their winning GTBC Dawn to Noon run, but at a much slower pace.