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High Island & Other Hotspots by Bus #1

April 20 @ 6:30 am - 3:30 pm
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Boy Scout Woods, Smith Oaks, The Rookery, and more!

The accident of geology makes the Upper Texas Coast a beacon to weary neotropical migrants finishing a 10+ hour, nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. From under an ancient sea, a salt dome emerged. After a few thousand years the dome reached just 38-feet above a pancake-flat coastal plain where it became covered with 20-30-foot oak trees, creating a vast canopy. This created High Island, which is now a refuge for weary Trans-Gulf migrants. This area provides wooded habitat that supplies food, water, and places to rest for these migrants.

A community of Texas birders of the Houston Audubon Society (HAS) created two large sanctuaries in the area – Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks. In time, High Island’s beacon also pulled in birders from around the world for a few weeks each year. One of the best features is a man-made reservoir, Clay Bottom Pond. Colonial waterbirds, who prefer islands for nesting to deter mammalian predators, found the U-shaped Island in the middle the pond perfect for a rookery. Nine species of heron, egret, spoonbill, ibis, cormorant, and Anhinga nest within inches of each other. The High Island rookery offers birders a close view of the annual dramedy of waterbird nesting activity including vibrant breeding plumage, mating hustle and nestlings. Read more about High Island on the Houston Audubon website.

We visit three HAS and Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) sites at High Island. Expect the annual arrival of dozens of neotropic migrants along with local and resident waterfowl, raptors, seabirds, shorebirds, and passerines. April weather fronts can produce 30 or more species of songbirds in a single day!

Heading back down the Bolivar Peninsula’s Hwy 87 we return to Galveston. Time permitting, there may be stops along the way. The peninsula holds habitat zones that drift between brackish and briny depending on the tides. These habitats serve as the hatcheries for many species of saltwater fish. Fresh water is available on Bolivar too. Between Bolivar’s shores lie patches of coastal prairie grasses, willow and mangrove that surround rain charged ponds. This attracts dozens of interesting waterfowl, herons, egrets, marsh, and shore birds. Trips are led by local skilled birders with many years of migration birding experience.

Bring: water, lunch, sunscreen, bug spray

Photo: Joseph Smith


Date: April 20
Time: 6:30 am - 3:30 pm
Cost: $90
Event Category:


Leader Name: Greg Whittaker
Leader Name: Cullen Ondracek


Skill Level All
Activity Level Moderate
Transportation Bus from FeatherFest HQ