- Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, (409) 684-5940, www.bolivarchamber.org
HAS Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary
Take TX 124 south into High Island. Turn south on Weeks Ave. to Winnie St. (look for the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary sign). Go east on Winnie St. to the sanctuary. A second entrance on Old Mexico Rd. has additional parking closer to the rookery and is open March 15-May 15. To reach this entrance, continue south on Weeks Ave. and turn east on Old Mexico Rd. Please purchase an annual or day pass before entering (funds help maintain HAS's 3,400-acre sanctuary system). Spring migration in Smith Oaks is one of the most remarkable wildlife spectacles in the world. Vireos, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and buntings swarm these trees as they complete their non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Be sure to check the heron rookery in Claybottom Pond on the north side of Smith Oaks for close looks at egrets, herons, and spoonbills as well as American alligators in the water below.
HAS Eubanks Woods Bird Sanctuary
This sanctuary is located just east of Weeks Ave. on Old Mexico Rd. A boardwalk allows access to the woods in wet weather. The oaks in Eubanks Woods are rather young, and therefore migrants are often seen here at eye level (a welcome break from the neck stretching at Smith Oaks). You may continue east on Old Mexico Rd. to reach the east entrance to Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary.
HAS S.E. Gast Red Bay Sanctuary
Turn west on 7th St. off of TX 124 to S.E. Gast Red Bay Sanctuary. This sanctuary is perched on the western edge of High Island and offers both woodland birding and a view of the coastal prairie that surrounds the salt dome. Rather than an actual island, High Island is a habitat island atop a salt dome. The modest 28-foot elevation above the coastal marsh enables the woodlands and freshwater ponds to persist. The small willow-lined pond at the entrance to this sanctuary is a wonderful spot to look for migrants.
HAS Boy Scout Woods Bird Sanctuary
Turn east on 5th St. from TX 124 and proceed to Boy Scout Woods Bird Sanctuary.
HAS staffs an information booth and shop in this sanctuary during the spring. Annual and day passes may be purchased here. Interesting migrants may show anywhere in these woods, so be sure to review the sighting sheet that is kept at the information booth. Remember that fall migration (from late August through October) is also an excellent time to bird High Island. The crowds are sparse (compared to spring), and the birding is just as entertaining.
TOS Hooks Woods Sanctuary
Take TX 124 south into High Island. Turn west at 1st St. to the sanctuary entrance.
This small sanctuary features a boardwalk and large live oaks facing the Gulf.
Warblers, vireos and flycatchers frequent the site in spring and fall.
From the intersection of TX 124 and TX 87, continue southwest on TX 87 to Rollover Pass. Scaup, mergansers, and occasionally scoters and Oldsquaw are seen in the nearshore
waters along this stretch of the coast. Rollover Pass is a man-made channel across Bolivar Peninsula, and this _fish cut' has caused the formation of an extensive tidal flat on the bay (north) side of the peninsula. At low tide, tens of thousands of shorebirds, gulls, and terns will feed and roost here. In addition, the spoil islands in East Bay support significant colonial waterbird rookeries.
Yacht Basin Road
Continue southwest on TX 87 to Yacht Basin Rd. (0.5 mile west of Rollover Pass). Yacht Basin dead-ends at the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), but this short drive crosses an interesting coastal marsh. Whimbrels and Long-billed Curlews are often seen on the sand flats in migration, and Clapper Rails, Willets, and Seaside Sparrows breed in the cordgrass marsh. As you drive southwest TX 87 toward Bolivar Flats, there are several roads that cut back toward the GIWW that are worth checking. Among these are Tuna Dr., Bob's Rd., and Crystal Beach Rd. Remember, however, that the land bordering these roads is private. BIRD ONLY FROM THE SHOULDER, AND PLEASE DO NOT TRESPASS.
HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary
Continue southwest on TX 87 to Loop 108/Rettilon Rd. Go south on Rettilon Rd. to the beach, then turn west and parallel the shoreline (try to stay on the wet, packed sand) to Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. Park near the vehicular barrier. Bolivar Flats sits at the base of the North Jetty, which protects the entrance to Galveston Bay. The jetty traps the longshore sediments that are carried along the coast, and the result is an extensive tidal flat. Tens of thousands of gulls, terns, and shorebirds feed here at low tide, and immense flocks roost here when the tide is high. Several thousand American Avocets spend the winter on the flats, joined by dozens of Piping Plovers. Willets, Wilson's Plovers, Least Terns, and Horned Larks are among the breeders here. Nelson's Sparrows winter in the cordgrass, and Peregrine Falcons frequently stoop on the shorebird flocks out on the flats. Do not miss visiting this site. Continue southwest on TX 87 and turn right on 17th St. to the North Jetty (1.8 miles from Ferry Landing). A walk along the jetty at low tide will offer good looks at many of the birds feeding on Bolivar Flats.
Fort Travis Seashore Park
Continue southwest on TX 87 to Fort Travis Seashore Park. The trees and shrubs at this location may hold migrants that you have otherwise missed along the coast. Remember that each woodlot along the coast is unique in its physical and vegetative makeup. Migrants that occur along the upper coast in low densities (such as Cape May and Black-throated Blue warblers) are just as likely to appear in one of the minor sites as in the woods at High Island. In addition, species such as Nashville and Yellow warblers prefer scrubbier habitat, and are not frequently seen in the more mature mottes.
Continue southwest on TX87 to Frenchtown Rd. (just before you reach the Bolivar ferry landing). Turn north and continue toward Port Bolivar. American Oystercatchers, Willets, and Clapper Rails are often seen along this road at low tide. Continue southwest on TX 87 to the Bolivar ferry landing, and cross to Galveston (the ferry ride is free compliments of the Texas Highway Department).