Buffalo Bayou Loop
- Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, (713) 437-5200, www.visithoustontexas.com
Sam Houston Park
Enjoy downtown Houston birding at Sam Houston Park (across from the Texaco Heritage Plaza at 1100 Bagby). During migration, many landbirds become disoriented as they pass in and around the tall buildings in the downtown area. These confused migrants search out pockets of suitable habitat. This 19-acre urban park, with its mature oaks and pecans, native plant gardens, and freshwater wetlands offers refuge among the skyscrapers. The oaks around city hall are also worth checking during the spring.
Buffalo Bayou Park
From Sam Houston Park, go west on Allen Pkwy. Buffalo Bayou Park extends from downtown Houston west to Shepherd Dr. Houston is renovating the downtown section of Buffalo Bayou around Allen's Landing, and this entire stretch of the bayou should be increasingly hospitable. A hike-and-bike trail borders the bayou, and the riparian woodlands along the bayou attract migrants.
White Oak Park
From the intersection of Allen Pkwy. and Shepherd, return east toward downtown Houston on Memorial Dr. Exit to Houston Ave., and go north to White Oak Dr. Proceed north on White Oak Dr. to White Oak Park. Citizens in this community have cleaned portions of White Oak Bayou here, and in doing so restored a swamp where Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and Green Herons nest. A number of eastern woodland species reside in the park. Stude
and Woodland parks (both adjacent to White Oak Park) are also worth a brief visit.
Hermann Park/Houston Zoo
Return on Houston Ave. to Memorial Dr. Go east on Memorial Dr. to downtown Houston (Memorial will become Rusk Ave.) and Fannin St. Proceed southwest on Fannin St. to Hermann Park and the Houston Zoological Gardens (1513 N. MacGregor in Hermann Park). The Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Burke Baker Planetarium, the Wortham IMAX Theatre, and the Cockrell Butterfly Center are all located in this complex.
Hermann Park borders Rice University and the Texas Medical Center, and is within a short walking distance of both. The Houston Zoological Gardens contain a _tropical bird house resembling Asian jungle with more than 200 exotic birds flying freely through aviary rain forest.' More importantly, this zoo supports a world-famous captive-breeding program for endangered birds. In recent years, Attwater Prairie-Chickens have been reared at this location. A number of eastern woodland birds, including Red-headed Woodpecker, may be seen in Hermann Park (particularly around Miller Theatre). During winter, check the lakes in the park for Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Greater and Lesser Scaup among the domestic waterfowl.
Russ Pittman Park
Continue southwest on Fannin to Holcombe, then west on Holcombe (which becomes Bellaire) to Newcastle. Go south on Newcastle to Evergreen and Russ Pitman Park. This urban oasis attracts migrant landbirds during migration, and the hummingbird feeders maintained by the nature center staff are magnets for wintering hummingbirds. Buff-bellied, Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, Broad-tailed and Rufous are among the species that have been seen here during the winter months.
Houston Arboretum & Memorial Park
Continue west on Evergreen to Loop 610, then go north on Loop 610 to the Woodway exit. Proceed east on Woodway to the Houston Arboretum and Memorial Park. Nature trails that originate at the Arboretum center eventually reach the banks of Buffalo Bayou. These mixed pine/oak woodlands, fenced in by urban sprawl from all directions, still support a diverse population of eastern woodland birds. Pine, Swainson's, Kentucky, and Hooded warblers breed within this park. In late winter, American Woodcocks (a rare breeder on the upper coast) have displayed here. Watch for Mississippi Kites feeding on dragonflies as they skim the treetops along Buffalo Bayou in late August and early September.
West 11th Street Park
Head north on the I-610 service road and take I-10 to the east. Exit 765A off of I-10 onto TC Jester Blvd. Head north on TC Jester to West 11th St. and turn left. Take a right onto Shirkmere Rd. and the park trail head will be on your right. This beautiful 20.2-acre wilderness is the largest remaining native Texas forest inside the 610 Loop. With over 1,800 mature trees, a rapidly growing and diverse understory, and 1.5 miles of wooded trails, the park is a haven for wildlife for those seeking a break from the urban landscape. Six species of woodpecker can be found here, as well as many nesting birds. The butterfly garden is a great spot to view wildlife.