- Port Arthur Convention and Visitors Bureau, (409) 985-7822 or (800) 235-7822 , www.visitportarthurtx.com
Claiborne West Park
Head west on I-10 from TX 87 to FM 1442 (Exit 869). After exiting, remain on the westbound service road and continue to the entrance to Claiborne West Park which offers the opportunity to see an interesting selection of Big Thicket woodland birds. Check this park in migration for landbirds that have over-flown the coast and settled into the interior forests.
Lower Neches WMA & Bailey's Fish Camp
Travel south on FM 1442 to TX 73/87 (FM 1442 eventually will swing east before intersecting with TX 87). Continue south on TX 73/87 to Lake St. Travel south on Lake St. to the Lower Neches WMA observation platform and Bailey's Fish Camp. The TPWD observation platform is located approximately 1.5 miles from TX 73/87, and overlooks a broad expanse of coastal marsh. Continue south from the observation platform (the road surface will eventually become shell) to Bailey's Fish Camp and Sabine Lake. Herons, egrets, spoonbills, waterfowl, and shorebirds mass in this area, so be sure to bring a scope.
Return on Lake St. to TX 73/87, then travel southwest on TX 73/87 to Groves. Remain on TX 73 when the two roads divide in Groves, and continue southwest to the intersection with TX 82. Travel south on TX 82 across the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (GIWW). Once across the MLK Bridge, exit on T.B. Ellison Pkwy. for Pleasure Island. Loons (on the Sabine Lake side of the levee roads), grebes, and waterfowl abound in the winter. Shorebirds may be present in impressive numbers when suitable habitat (mud flat) is available. Both the north and south ends of Pleasure Island are productive, so wander the levee roads and scope the concentrations of ducks, gulls, and terns.
Return on TX 82 to TX 87, then continue south on TX 87 to Sabine Pass. Watch for cormorants, waterfowl, gulls, and terns as you drive along the south end of Sabine Lake. Before entering Sabine Pass, you will cross the Sabine Pass marshes. Least Bitterns, White and White-faced ibis (look for Glossy among the large dark ibis flocks), Roseate Spoonbills, Clapper Rails, Common Yellowthroats, and Seaside Sparrows are all relatively easy to find in this expansive wetland. The resident grackle in this marsh is Boat-tailed (be aware that a small percentage of Boat-tailed Grackles in this area have yellow eyes).
Sabine Pass Battleground SHP & Texas Point
From Sabine Pass, continue east on FM 3322 to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historical Site, a minor birding destination along the coast (although restrooms are available). The trees and shrubs within the site may attract a variety of migrants in spring and fall. Continue east on FM 3322 to South 1st and turn south. Continue to the dead-end at the Pilot Station and Texas Point (about 3.5 miles). The road to the Pilot Station may offer a rough ride. After the passage of a late cold front in spring, migrant landbirds (vireos, warblers, tanagers, buntings, grosbeaks, and orioles) are likely. In winter through late spring, the cordgrass marshes that border the road support impressive numbers of Nelson's and Seaside sparrows.
Texas Point NWR
Return north on South 1st to Quinn, then turn west on Quinn. Continue to the end of Quinn, then veer north on South 8th. South 8th is bordered by the marshes of the Texas Point NWR, and this road provides an excellent spot from which to look and listen for rails, wrens, and sparrows. Continue on South 8th until reaching FM 3322, then turn west and return to Sabine Pass. From Sabine Pass, travel west (signed south) on TX 87 to the Texas Point NWR nature trail (on the south side of TX 87 about 2.4 miles west of Sabine Pass). The sparsely scattered trees in this area provide resting habitat for many species during migration. It only takes a minute to check this location but the return can be substantial. White-tailed Kites, Painted Buntings, and Orchard Orioles breed in the area, a wonderful stop on your way to Sabine Woods.
(409) 971-2909 www.fws.gov
TOS Sabine Woods
Continue west on TX 87 to TOS Sabine Woods. This isolated stand of live oaks is among the most productive migrant stop-over sites (migrant traps) along the entire Texas coast. During spring and fall migration, the trees and shrubs here attract thousands of migrant landbirds. Hundreds of hummingbirds (mostly Ruby-throated) may swamp the lantana thickets in early fall.
Sea Rim State Park
Continue west on TX 87 to the park. Enter the Marshlands Unit (north of TX 87) and continue to the boat ramp at the end of the entrance road. Catch a glimpse of Roseate Spoonbills and herons at the boat ramp or along the adjacent Spoonbill Trail. Return to TX 87, and continue west for approximately 0.5 mile to the Sea Rim Beach Unit. The Gambusia Trail boardwalk east of the entrance offers an excellent spot from which to view a variety of marsh and water birds, especially rails, gull and tern flocks. There is beach access at both the eastern and western ends of the unit. The gulf willows, salt cedars, and red mulberries along the southern edge of TX 87 heading west when you leave park headquarters are remarkably attractive to migrant landbirds.
(409) 971-2559 www.tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/sea-rim
Continue on TX 87 to McFaddin NWR (approximately 12 miles from Sabine Pass), which is managed for waterfowl. Access is seasonally limited; however, the road to Clam Lake offers an opportunity to look for a variety of waterfowl in winter (Masked Duck has appeared on the refuge in the past). In addition, there is an overlook available to view many wading birds, waterfowl, and shorebirds; located on the east side of Clam Lake Rd., just past Clam Lake. TX 87 west of McFaddin is no longer passable (the paved road has been washed out by recurrent storm tides), so there is no longer a direct coastal route to High Island.
(409) 971-2909 www.fws.gov
J.D. Murphree WMA
Return on TX 87 to Sabine Pass, then continue north on TX 82 to TX 73. Travel west on TX 73 to J.D. Murphree WMA. Access to this WMA is restricted, although a nature trail has been developed near the headquarters. Boat rides into the WMA can be arranged locally. Late spring and summer are particularly interesting. Least Bitterns are ubiquitous in these marshes. Also look for Roseate Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule and waterfowl.
Continue west on TX 73 to Jap Rd. The rice fields along TX 73 hold thousands of shorebirds in spring, so look for those fields that have been recently flooded. Travel north on Jap Rd. to the South Fork of Taylor Bayou. ALL PROPERTY BORDERING TAYLOR BAYOU IS PRIVATE. PLEASE, DO NOT TRESPASS. BIRD ONLY ALONG THE MAIN RIGHTS-OF-WAY. Taylor Bayou, and the riparian woodlands that border the stream, represent an isolated sliver of the Big Thicket that has inched toward the coast. Many of the eastern woodland birds that inhabit the Pineywoods are present along the bayou. Swallow-tailed Kites have been seen during summer, and Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, Swainson's, Kentucky, and Hooded warblers all breed in the general vicinity. Go north on Jap Rd. to the North Fork of Taylor Bayou, then continue north to Patterson Rd. Travel west on Patterson Rd. to Craigen Rd., continuing west back to the North Fork of Taylor Bayou. Continue north on Craigen Rd. to TX 124.