- Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, (409) 797-5145, www.galveston.com/cvb
The Corps Woods At Galveston
After exiting the ferry on the Galveston side of the bay, continue south on TX 87 to TX 168 (0.6 mile). Go north on TX 168 to the Corps Woods at Galveston. Park along the north side of the road. This woodlot includes a nature trail with two observation platforms and some water and is particularly good for migrant songbirds.
Big Reef & Apffel Park
Return to TX 87 (Ferry Rd.), and continue south to Seawall Blvd. Travel northeast on Seawall Blvd. to the dead-end at the east end of Galveston Island. Turn southeast on Bodekker Dr. to reach Big Reef and Appfel Park (also known as East Beach). Big Reef, an extensive sand spit isolated by the entrance to Galveston Bay, may be reached by foot after parking in designated area. Thousands of shorebirds, gulls, and terns roost on this bar. Continue east on Bodekker Dr. to Appfel Park (there is a fee to park here), and scope the Gulf near the South Jetty for seabirds.
Return to Seawall Blvd., and continue southwest to Broadway. Go west on Broadway to 27th St., then south on 27th St. to Ave. O. Turn west on Ave. O to reach Kempner Park. When the weather conditions are right in spring, migrant landbirds often sweep through these oaks. American Robins have nested here, and White-winged Doves are common in the surrounding neighborhood.
Harborside Wetlands Of Galveston
From Kempner Park, go north on 29th St. to Broadway. Go west on Broadway to 51st St., then turn right/north on 51st St. Before proceeding over the bridge to Pelican Island, keep right and park under the bridge. Cave, Cliff, and Barn swallows nest here and there are large freshwater ponds in sight that harbor wintering waterfowl, gulls, terns, cormorants, and rails. To continue on to Pelican Island, head north, crossing Harborside Dr. and take the draw bridge onto the island. There is a loop trail (once part of a research activity) offering various habitats and freshwater swales which is excellent for birding year-round, especially neotropical migrants during spring migration and wintering sparrow species.
Return to Broadway; continue west to 61st St. (Spur 342). Go south on 61st St. to Offatt Bayou. Offatt Bayou may be viewed from the parking areas on the west side of 61st St. Loons, grebes, and diving ducks often crowd into this bayou in winter. Look for Common and Pacific loons (rare), Eared Grebes, and Red-breasted Mergansers from late winter through late spring.
8 Mile Road and Sportsman's Road
Continue south on 61st St. to Stewart Rd.; travel west on Stewart Rd. to 81st St. Moody Gardens (butterfly gardens, IMAX theatre) may be reached off 81st St. The rain water retention areas in the parking lot of Moody Gardens offers excellent views of shorebirds. Continue west on Stewart Rd. to 8-Mile Rd. Inspect the ponds along Stewart Rd. and then along 8-Mile Rd. to its end at West Galveston Bay and Sportsmen's Rd. The fields along 8-Mile Rd. are good in late spring for American Golden-Plovers and Upland Sandpipers. Go west on Sportsmen's Rd. until it ends. The marshes along Sportmen's Rd. extend to the edge of the pavement, and waterbirds (White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Clapper Rail) may wander to within a few feet of your vehicle. Check West Galveston Bay for Common Loons, Common Goldeneyes, and American Oystercatchers on the shell reefs. You can view North Deer Island from the end of 8-Mile Rd. The National and Houston Audubon Societies jointly own this island. North Deer Island supports one of the most significant colonial waterbird rookeries along the upper Texas coast.
Settegast (Nottingham Branch) Road
Continue west on Stewart Rd. to Settegast Rd. (also known as Nottingham Ranch Rd.). The road cuts across old dune lines and inter-dune brackish water swales. The grassy fields along Settegast Rd. draw American Golden-Plovers, Whimbrels, Long-billed Curlews, and Upland Sandpipers during spring migration and Sandhill Cranes in winter. The ridge provided the last documented sighting of the Eskimo Curlew.
Continue west on Stewart Rd. to Lafitte's Cove neighborhood and turn right/north on. Eckert Dr. There is a parking lot for the Nature Preserve just 0.2 mile on the right. The preserve extends both west and east of Eckert Dr. and the sloughs and ponds host flocks of waterfowl and shorebirds in winter, plus year-round waders. Enter east and use the boardwalk and concrete path to cross through prairie before entering the woods on the elevated ridge. In spring and fall look for buntings, Dicksissels, and other seedeating birds at the edge of the woods. The path loops around the compactly wooded ridge providing various view lines. There are three water drip locations and the woods are a magnet for migrant landbirds and can rival High Island. There are two drips that attract songbirds during spring and fall migration and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are frequently seen here as well.
Continue west on Stewart Rd. to Lafitte's Grove (about 0.1 mile west of the entrance to Lafitte's Cove). Park on the pavement near the historical marker. The oaks here were badly damaged by Hurricane Ike but what remains are attractive to migrant landbirds, and the fresh water pond often holds water later than other areas during the drought. Be aware that fall migrants often linger along the immediate coast through Christmas. These small oak mottes and bordering ponds, should be checked throughout the fall and early winter months.
Galveston Island State Park
Continue west on Stewart Rd. to its merger with 13-Mile-Rd. and the intersection with FM 3005. Continue west on FM 3005 to PR 66 and Galveston Island SP. This park extends from the beach to the bay. The bay section of the park (take park road north from FM 3005) offers the most birding opportunities, as well as the fewest visitors. Turn west off park road at Interpretive Trail Rd., and park near the observation tower. The nature trail is worth walking, and the trees across the road should be checked for migrants. The marshes that border the bay abound with ibis, herons, egrets, gulls, and terns. White-tailed Kites and Northern Harriers have nested in the park, and Black Rails often call in the dead of night. A wait until sunset will be rewarded with the sight of Barn Owls beginning their grassland patrols. Use the self-pay station in the bay section or check in at the park headquarters on the beach side to obtain permits.
(409) 737-1222 www.tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/galveston-island
Dos Vacas Muertas Bird Sanctuary
Continue west on FM 3005 to Seabird Dr. (just before Sea Isle) and turn north/right. Dos Vacas Muertas will be on your right. This 6-acre migratory bird stopover on the bayside of West Galveston Island contains a pond, small marsh, live oak motte, and mudflats. Birding is great year-round, especially at the drip located in the oak motte.
San Luis Pass
Continue west on FM 3005 to San Luis Pass. You may access the flats by exiting FM 3005 immediately before the toll bridge. THE SAND HERE CAN BE EXTREMELY SOFT, SO PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN DRIVING ON THE FLATS. Only Bolivar Flats can rival the wildlife spectacle that is San Luis Pass. Countless waterbirds pack the sand flats that extend into the bay. Both species of pelican, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Bonaparte's Gulls feed in the swift waters that course through the pass in winter, and staggering numbers of shorebirds may feed on the flats during a tidal shift. Horned Larks and Wilson's Plovers nest in the dunes. Snowy and Piping plovers winter commonly. Least Terns and Black Skimmers often attempt to nest on the driest sand (please, avoid disturbing the birds during nesting season). Over 25,000 Black Terns stage here in late summer (August through early September), and Magnificent Frigatebirds roost on the pilings in West Bay from late April through late September.