Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Birding at Galveston Island, Texas

This weekend since the weather forecast was good, I decided to take my family to Houston to see NASA and Meenakshi temple. Also decided to visit the Galveston Island to visit some of the beaches and do some birding too. Read these Texas coast boasts good number of shore birds and some of these birds cannot be seen elsewhere in US.

Thanks to Kala and Susan from Audobon Dallas forum for providing pointers to birding spots in Galveston Island. And JR Compton's portal about birding in Galveston Island was really helpful. Thanks Kala for sharing this link.

We started from Richardson at around 7 in the morning. The plan was to reach NASA by 2 and then visit the temple in the evening. As planned we did reach NASA by 2:30. Weather was overcast with cold breeze. Visit to NASA was really good. It helps us appreciate the work being done by all these space explorers, scientists and the engineers. It is a very good informative tour and can be enjoyed by everyone.

One can easily spend 7-8hrs in NASA. But since we still had to visit Meenakshi temple we started from NASA around 6:30. The temple is not too far from NASA. After reaching temple we saw that the temple was under renovation. The temple is really good but since it was under renovation we were not allowed into the main temple. Probably need to visit this temple again before I head back to India. Another good thing about this temple is the canteen. The food provided here is very good and lot of variety too :-)

I had booked hotel for overnight stay at Galveston Island by the beach. The drive from temple to the hotel was about an hour. There wasn't much traffic and reached hotel without any delays.

I had made plans to do some birding in the morning. I had about 3-4hrs for birding. So based on information from JRcomptons website I felt visiting 8 mile road and Galveston State park would be good enough. Firs,t I visited the 8 mile road. The drive through this road was very good for birding. After crossing the first lake on this road I saw one Osprey flying over. This was my first sight of this bird. Thankfully, after a while he decided to come down and take some rest on the ground.In the lake I could only see some Pied-Billed Grebes, Mottled ducks and some Coots. I went ahead on the same road and enroute saw couple of American Kestrels and a Northern Harrrier doing their morning rounds trying to find some breakfast. Also saw couple of Loggerhead Shrikes on this road.


American Kestrel

Loggerhead Shrike

At the end of this road, there is a small rocky beach which was really good spot to see some shore birds. Here I saw 3 Willets, 2 American Oyster-Catchers, 1 Whimbrel/Curlew, 2 White Ibis flyover, 1 Rudy Turnstone and about 10 Semipalmated plovers. And there was another shore bird which I'm yet to id. It's not a big beach but really good place to see lot these shore birds. While returning, the marsh on the right had lots of ducks and few White Ibises feeding, I also saw a lone Belted kingfisher who caught a fish and was enjoying his breakfast. Also saw my first Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill and Tricolored heron in this marsh.

Roseate Spoonbill and Tricolored Heron


Great Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

White Ibis

Savannah Sparrow


Semipalmated Plover


American Oystercatcher


Rudy Turnstone

Another highlight was sighting of Sand hill cranes on the same road. I saw 2 adults cranes along with a Juvenile. My first sighting of any crane species in the wild :-) I guess 8 mile road is the best bet to see so many of these birds.

Sandhill Crane
From 8 mile I headed towards Galveston State park. Here I could not spot many birds, probably it looked like this park needs some walking to see birds. Since the weather was very cold and windy I could not walk much. Also taking handheld pictures with my camera was a big challenge with this wind. But still in this park I saw my first white-tailed kite, few loggerhead shrikes and a northern Harrier. I also saw some Royal Terns fishing in the lagoon. In another lagoon I saw couple of Roseate Spoonbills, Mottled ducks and Northern Shovelers. Also saw a group of Snow Geese flying over the area.

Northern Shovellers

Roseate Spoonbill

Greater-white Fronted Goose and Ross's Goose

Royal Tern

Mottled Ducks
It was almost 11 and I had to come back to the hotel. From here we went to take the ferry ride. Thankfully there was not big Queue here for the cars. We took our car onto the ferry and decided to drive around the bay a little. The ferry ride was thoroughly enjoyed. We saw lot of Brown pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Terns and also ever present were the dolphins :-)

Laughing Gull

Brown Pelican

Tricolored Heron

After the ferry ride visited the East beach. And here i got to see my first reddish egret. and on our way back stopped at another beach by the seawall to go for a walk. And here I got to see my first Sanderling and Marbled Godwit.

Snowy Plover?

Sandwich Tern on extreme left

Marbled Godwit




Ebird :
  East Beach :
  Galveston Island SP :
  8 Mile Road :

List of birds :

1 American Coot
2 American Kestrel
3 American Oystercatcher
4 American Wigeon
5 Belted Kingfisher
6 Brown Pelican
7 Brown Pelican    
8 Cattle Egret
9 European Starling
10 Great Blue Heron
11 Great Egret
12 Great-tailed Grackle
13 Killdeer
14 Laughing Gull
15 Little Blue Heron
16 Loggerhead Shrike
17 Marbled Godwit
18 Mottled Duck
19 Neotropic Cormorant
20 Northern Harrier
21 Northern Mockingbird
22 Northern Shoveler
23 Osprey
24 Pied-billed Grebe
25 Reddish Egret
26 Ring-billed Gull
27 Roseate Spoonbill
28 Royal Tern
29 Ruddy Turnstone
30 Sanderling
31 Sandhill Crane
32 Sandwich Tern
33 Semipalmated Plover
34 Snow Goose  
35 Snow Goose    
36 Tricolored Heron
37 Western/Eastern Meadowlark
38 Whimbrel
39 White Ibis
40 White-tailed Kite
41 Willet
42 Winter Wren  

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