We said our goodbyes to Renita’s sister Pam and her husband
Roy, before hooking up our fifth wheel and heading for High Island Texas. There
we planned on spending a day birding, at the Bird Sanctuaries owned and
maintained by the Houston Audubon Society.
It was a short drive, only one hundred and forty miles, and involved
a ferry trip from Galveston Island to the Bolivar Peninsula. Reaching the High
Island Rv park we set up and planned the next day’s birding. Our plan was to
first register at the Boy Scout Woods, spend some time birding at the drips and
then spend the afternoon at the Rookery at Smith Oaks Pond.
Our first stop was at the private lawn. Usually we see quite
a few birds there but today the only bird we spotted was a cardinal.
we backtracked to the cypress swamp and the only flying creatures were all mosquitoes.
Heading to the Cathedral we sat for a while and had little luck.
Deciding to go to Promothory Pond we met a large group of
fellow birders, as they were leaving. Shortly after sitting down two dark small
birds flew from the woods into the tall reeds. I saw they were a deep blue and
sure enough they were blue indigo buntings!
We also spotted circling turkey
vultures, tree swallows, other swallows and some distant flying herons. Common
grackles perched on power lines.
Heading back to the cathedral we discussed what to do. We
had heard that a painted bunting had been spotted at the first drip and so we
went back to the Grand Stand and took a seat. Deciding to wait it out we were
rewarded with spotting a Swainsons thrush, a red and white eyed vireo, more
cardinals and a hooded warbler.
Then as I looked at the other small pond Renita told me that
a painted bunting was at the drip! I moved my binoculars to the drip and was
able to catch a glimpse of it before it flew into the woods. It was only the
second painted bunting we have seen and made the birding trip, (our first and
best viewing of a painted bunting occurred at Grand Isle, Louisiana)! Of course the pictures we took did not turn out.
Another indigo bunting stopped at the drip along with a
catbird and a hooded warbler. We even got to see a ruby throated hummingbird!
Its always amazing that most of these birds had just flown nonstop across the
Gulf of Mexico. They had encountered strong headwinds while crossing the Gulf, and
we were seeing the exhausted birds during what is known as a fallout.
Returning to our campsite we ate lunch and rested before heading to our other favorite spots, Smiths Pond, The Rookery, and the
Oak Sanctuary. Before starting out we stopped at the check in tent where the birder
told us that a summer tanager had been spotted.
Heading for Doms Drip, Renita spotted another indigo bunting
and the summer tanager! They were both feeding on mulberries, always a great
draw for the famished birds. Renita mentioned to me to be careful about where I
sat and sure enough, at Doms Drip, I sat on some ripe mulberries. At least when
you are my age, you don’t have to be embarrassed about stains on the seat of your
We then walked to the Oak Sanctuary and read the plaque
describing the huge registered live oak, before cutting through to Smiths Pond.
The pond was created to provide water for the Town of High Island and was also a
source of clay used in the local oil fields. Smiths pond was quite different as
the Audubon Society had constructed a long narrow strip of land and had planted
trees. It was one of several projects that are intended to become future
rookeries. We didn’t see any birds there, only three large alligators sunning
themselves on the barren strip of land.
Clay bottom Pond, constructed as an additional fresh water
catchment and source of more clay, had also undergone several major noticeable
changes. The dense invasive species, Chinese Tallow bushes, had been chopped
down for removal. Its an invasive species of brush that doesn’t provide any
forage or is of little value to the birds.
Nearing the Rookery, we stopped to enjoy our first glimpse of
roseate spoonbills and great white egrets in their breeding plumage. The adult
rosy’s are a brilliant pink and are adorned with bright red shoulders and an
orange section under their wings. Such a beautiful bird!
The great white egrets had been nesting longer and many had
newborn chicks raising their heads begging food from the parents.
whites were still displaying their wedding veils while others were sitting on
the large pale blue eggs. They would occasionally rise and carefully turn the
eggs with their beaks.
Most of the rosies had not yet laid eggs and were busy constructing
There was also a lot of mating behavior taking place, and males
were still fighting for any available branch sturdy enough to hole a nests weight.
Most of the good high spots had already been taken and the lower nest appeared vulnerable
to the alligators.
The alligators do occasionally eat an unwary bird, but they
also provide a defense for the birds by eating any raccoons that cross to the
island looking for eggs! We didn’t see any birds getting eaten as we moved from
birding platform to platform enjoying the racket of the rookery.
Renita and I took turns with our telephoto lens equipped
camera trying to catch a great shot of the landing birds, (you are only about
thirty yards from the rookery island). My best shot was of a landing great white
egret and hers was of a landing rosette spoonbill.
There were other birds there, including snowy egrets, double
crested cormorants and tri color herons.
Clay bottom pond is further used by
American Ibis, little blue herons, and green herons. The highest bird count
took place at sunset, and one year reached almost fourteen thousand birds!
Tired, but happy, we drove back to our rig. It had been
another great birding day at the High Island! Its one of the finest birding
experiences we have had, and we highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see
what a dinosaur nesting site looked like. After all birds are the direct
descendants of the dinosaurs! Clear skies.