Katy Prairie Loop
Houston Audubon Society Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary
From Memorial Dr. between Wilcrest Dr. and the Sam Houston Tollway, head south on Wilchester Blvd. to the entrance of the sanctuary.
This urban nature center contains the 1932 Moore Cabin and the HAS headquarters where information about their many sanctuaries (including High Island and Bolivar Flats) may be obtained. Situated along Rummel Creek, within a suburban neighborhood, the 17.5 acres of mixed oaks and pines attracts an interesting selection of woodland birds, particularly during spring migration. The variety of species varies widely from day to day and includes warblers, thrushes, vireos, woodpeckers, flycatchers, tanagers, orioles, and more.
George Bush Park - Barker Reservoir
Head west on Memorial Dr. 4.9 miles to where it ends at TX 6. Go left/south on TX 6. The levee for Barker Reservoir will be paralleling you on your drive south. Barker Reservoir contains George Bush Park and a number of good birding locations over its approximate 3- by 5-mile expanse. First stop at the preserve is at Briar Forest Dr. (1.4 miles south of Memorial). Park in the lot on the west side of TX 6 and enter by walking along the road up and over the levee. 8,000 acres of improved and unimproved trails, restored wetlands, and more offer visitors viewing opportunities for a variety of waterbirds (herons, egrets, waterfowl, shorebirds) and also woodland species.
Drive south 1.4 miles on TX 6 to FM 1093/Westheimer Rd. and head west. After climbing over the levee you will drop down into a large open grassy area as you continue west. After rainstorms low areas can retain water and often yield various shorebirds, herons, egrets, ibis, dabbling ducks and possibly spoonbills. Just east of levee is a parking area on south side of Westheimer Pkwy.
Head 2.3 miles west of levee to field at SE corner of Westheimer Pkwy. and S. Barker Cypress. Field is best viewed from parking area reached by turning left/south at the S. Barker Cypress stoplight. Continue on Westheimer Pkwy. 0.4 miles past S. Barker Cypress light and then head north to the end of the road and look to the west to view fields northwest of the Scobee model airplane area (GPS: 29.727362 -95.694335).
For more woodland birds return to the light at S. Barker-Cypress Rd. and turn left/north for 1 mile to George Bush Park Equestrian Area. This trailhead area will provide access to many miles of trails located throughout the park. Hike west of the parking area for about a mile for a boardwalk over wetlands and a great tree canopy where songbirds can be heard and waders viewed. Painted Buntings sometimes nest along this trail.
Joseph S. and Lucie H. Cullinan Park
Return on Westheimer to TX 6 and head south 7.0 miles to this park (located on the right/west side of TX 6 just before you reach the Sugar Land Airport).
Enter the park, and proceed to the parking area at the end of the road near the boardwalk. The observation platform at the end of the boardwalk offers an excellent view of the lake. Anhinga, Red-shouldered Hawk, Osprey, Pied-billed Grebes, Common Gallinule, coots, Black-bellied Whistling and Wood ducks, plus Blue-winged Teal are year-round residents along with other waterbirds. Great place to bring a scope if you have one.
Bear Creek Pioneers Park - Addicks Reservoir
Leaving Cullinan Park turn right and make U-turn at the Sugar Land Airport. Continue north 12.8 miles on TX 6 (stay left to cross I-10), and then turn right at stoplight at Patterson Rd. Take second left onto Bear Creek Dr.
This 2,500-acre facility offers mature pine/oak woodlands along Bear Creek that are home to a number of eastern woodland birds at their western limit on the Trail. Specialty birds include Red-headed (in pines especially on Golbow Rd.) and five other species of woodpeckers, Merlins and Golden-crowned Kinglets (winter) and declining Rusty Blackbirds (winter on Fox Lane). In invasion years, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches can also be found. Good birding areas include the Equestrian Trail, Bear Creek crossing at Bear Creek Dr., Fox Lane, S. Golbow between Kunze and Brant, Sullins Way Loop.
Cullen Park - Addicks Reservoir
Exit Bear Creek Park at Clay Rd. on the north side of the park and go west on Clay Rd. for 3.4 miles to Barker-Cypress Rd. Turn south on Barker-Cypress Rd. for 2.1 miles to Saums Rd. and Cullen Park.
This 8,000-acre facility has three different units in the area with access to a variety of habitats. The trails and roads of the park offer the visitor access to a large variety of habitat types and birds and wildlife species.
Kleb Woods Nature Preserve
Head east on Clay Rd. to Eldridge Pkwy. and then head north (turn right). At US 290, turn left to head north. Exit Mueschke Rd. and turn right onto Mueschke. Turn left on Draper Rd. and the park will be on the right.
This wildlife habitat park includes an early 20th century historic farm and nature center. The land is dominated by pines over 50 years old and has several ephemeral wetlands that attract waders and occasionally ducks. Woodland species are the main attraction, including seven species of woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown-headed nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler, and other songbirds. Trail maps and checklists are available for Paul Rushing Park and Kleb Woods at the nature center. Gardens attract butterflies and dragonflies and host a number of hummingbirds during migration.
Head east on Draper Rd. to Mueschke Rd. and turn left. Turn left onto FM 2920. Continue on FM 2920 for about 6.5 miles to Hegar Rd. and turn left. Follow Hegar Rd. and continue straight as it becomes Warren Ranch Rd. to Warren Lake.
Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) has erected a viewing platform (open 7 a.m. to dusk) affording great views of the lake. Warren Lake is a major waterfowl roosting site, with large numbers possible in winter. Sunrise and sunset are especially favorable viewing times as waders and wintering waterfowl flocks may be seen departing or arriving. The lake and the surrounding upland habitat attract a variety of migrants; Wood Storks may be present in mid- to late summer, waders any time of year. Be sure to scope the trees at the edges of the lake for Bald Eagles (especially in winter) and the shorelines for shorebirds.
Paul D. Rushing Park
Head south on Warren Ranch Rd. and take first left onto Jack Rd. and then right onto Katy Hockley Rd. Continue south on Katy Hockley Rd. for about 4.4 miles, then turn right to stay on Katy Hockley. Paul Rushing Park will be on your left.
Paul Rushing Park's Chain-of-Lakes is a storm-water enhancement project in the heart of the Katy Prairie maintained for wildlife and wildlife viewing opportunities by Harris County Precinct 3. With interconnected lakes of varying depths, some are suitable for diving ducks while others provide habitat for dabblers and waders. Summer draw-down provides abundant shorebird habitat in two of the lakes. There are 2 miles of trails in this 100-plus-acre area with a boardwalk and six observation blinds. Summer birds include Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Mottled Ducks, and Black-necked Stilts. Fall is good for shorebirds and returning waterfowl, hawks, pipits, and sparrows. Winter provides opportunities for waterfowl, Sprague's Pipit, LeConte's and Grasshopper sparrow, as well as Bald Eagle. Horned Lark are year-round residents, and Long-billed Curlews are present in most months except June. American Golden Plover and Upland Sandpiper are possible in the open ball field areas in spring.
Turn left out of Paul Rushing Park onto Katy Hockley Rd.; at first stop sign, continue straight on Sharp Rd. westbound.
The next stretch of this loop (including UTC 101) will wind you through some of the most productive fields, pastures, wetlands, and brushy fence lines in this region. Much of the land that you will pass on Sharp, Hebert, and Pattison roads has been protected by the Katy Prairie Conservancy. Be on the lookout for waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds in wet fields, and spring migrant American Golden Plover and Upland Sandpiper in pastures. Scan the skies and tall perches for raptors (Red-tailed and White-tailed hawks and Crested Caracara; in winter Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Merlin, and accipiters). Look/listen for Northern Bobwhite and wintering Long-billed Curlew and Brewer's Blackbird in grasslands, and many kinds of wintering sparrows such as Harris's in hedgerows and Grasshopper and LeConte's in fields. Nesting songbirds include Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike; Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, and Eastern Meadowlark. Rarer species include Common Ground-Dove, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Couch's Kingbird, and (in winter) Ferruginous Hawk, Palm Warbler and Spotted and Eastern Towhees.
The first bridge you reach on Sharp Rd. crosses Cypress Creek, a good stopping point. Soon after you'll pass an isolated stand of trees which may hold a number of interesting winter species (such as Red-breasted Nuthatch and Golden-crowned Kinglet). If the fields just beyond this on the south side of Sharp Rd. are flooded (as when rice is being grown), numerous shorebirds and rails are possible.
As you leave Harris County into Waller County, the pavement ends and the road becomes Hebert Rd. As you pass through a more forested area near a second crossing of Cypress Creek, look/listen for woodland species such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, and Tufted Titmouse.
When you reach pavement again, turn left and head south on Pattison Rd. (unmarked). (You may wish to take a detour, heading straight/west on Hebert for a mile or so to the intersection with Penick Rd., where you will see yet another creek crossing, more fields [possibly flooded], and hedgerows; you can double back to Pattison from there.) Heading south on Pattison, you will shortly cross Live Oak Creek (Cave Swallows in summer) and then more fields where you may find an abundance of the aforementioned species. At sunrise and sunset look for flocks of water birds departing from and returning to roost sites, Great Horned Owls perched on roadside wires or in treetops, displaying Common Nighthawks (summer), and Short-eared Owl (winter) patrolling low over the grasslands.
Buller and Harper's Church Roads
For this site, the journey may be as birdy as the destination! From the south end of Pattison Rd., turn right/west on Morrison Rd. (unmarked) for 3 miles to FM 529/362, keeping an eye out for shorebirds when fields are flooded. Go right/north at end of Morrison Rd. onto TX 362/529 for 2 miles. Then head left/west on FM529 for 4.5 miles (crossing TX 359). Look for small power substation on right and take the first right/north onto Kerr Rd. Take Kerr Rd. 1.5 miles north while checking the Huisache trees here and on Harper's Church Rd. for rarer birds like Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bewick's Wren, towhees and Palm Warbler in winter. Take second left onto small dirt road (Harper's Church Rd.) and continue 4 miles to end. The furthest east portion is a narrow untraveled dirt road that is ideal for walking or driving slowly. In winter, check brushy areas for some of the eleven sparrow species that have been previously reported here. Look for Eastern Bluebirds on the power lines, and a variety of woodland birds (Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Northern Flicker, Pine Siskin, various sparrows). Next you come to a large easily viewed sod farm on your left (south). During migration, check for Buff-breasted and Upland Sandpipers. Just west of the sod farm Couch's Kingbirds have been reported. The road ends short of the river but has more wooded habitat. Upon reaching the end of Harper's Church Rd., backtrack and return 4 miles east to Kerr Rd., turn south, and then take a left/east onto FM 529.
Go 1.0 mile on FM 529 and look for a sign on the right to Repka's Crawfish and Buller Rd. Go right/south on Buller Rd. and drive slowly 1.4 miles to Zadelsky Rd., looking on both sides of road; when flooded you may find many ducks, various shorebirds (specialties include American Golden-Plover and Baird's Sandpiper in April, Hudsonian Godwit in early May, and sometimes huge flocks of Snow, Ross's, and White-fronted geese and an occasional Bald Eagle or Peregrine Falcon in winter). When a flock of 5,000 geese loudly lifts off pursued by a raptor it is a spectacle not to be missed. Take a left at Zaelsky and head east to FM 359.
Stephen F. Austin State Park
Head south on FM 359 into Pattison. Turn right/west onto FM 1458 and follow it 7.7 miles to Park Road 38. Turn right onto PR 38 just after the Brazos River Bridge and follow it to the park.
The trees and roads near the Overnight Group Hall offer some good woodland birding during spring migration. On the portion of the Brazos Bottom Trail closest to the river can be great during spring and fall migration yielding warblers, empids, and Indigo Buntings. In spring and summer look/listen for Northern Parula, Prothonotary Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycather, Yellow-bellied Cuckoo, Red-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, and Pileated Woodpecker in the park. A good place to check in drought periods is the hill below the water treatment facility as a small creek crosses the Barred Owl Trail here and holds water when everything else is dry. In the winter, this area can have Winter Wrens as well.