Updated: Oct 30
Author: Mary Alice Trumble, Baytown Wetlands Center Outreach Specialist
As of this writing, fall weather is slowly creeping into the picture with highs in the 60s and 70s and lows finally dipping into the 50s, if we’re lucky. September and half of October were hot, humid, rainy and mosquito-ridden. The dues have been paid. It’s time to reap the rewards during our Texas winter.
Winter on the Upper Texas Coast (UTC) can be an amazing time of year with blue skies, lower humidity and, for the most part, pleasant temperatures. Take advantage of this beautiful season by venturing outside for walking, hiking and of course, birding. 2020 is the Year of the Bird in the UTC, and what better location than the Baytown Nature Center to enjoy our avian friends. Located in the middle of the Central Migratory Flyway of North America, ducks, geese, hawks, sparrows and other wintering birds are coveted sightings, along with shorebirds and gulls. For many, the crème de la crème are the Sandhill Cranes and the magnificent Whooping Cranes at this season of the year.
Beginning birders may wonder how to get started with this hugely popular, worldwide pastime. Winter’s bare trees actually make it a great time to begin, when skulking birds are easier to locate and observe. Some of the best opportunities are the many Audubon Bird Surveys done on a monthly basis throughout this region. Right here at home is the Baytown Nature Center (BNC) Bird Survey, held the third Thursday of each month, September-May. Birders meet at the Visitor Center parking lot at 8 am to begin a walk throughout the nature center searching for and counting bird species. All experience levels are welcome. BNC is an official site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and is part of the Houston Christmas Bird Count.
Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) are an excellent way to get started birding with experienced birders in the group always willing and eager to help fledgling birders. Those wishing to participate should contact David Sarkozi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check with the Houston Audubon website for other CBC locations, which occur between December 14, 2020 and January 5, 2021 including the CBC in Baytown.
For those searching for a more structured introduction to birding, there are many birding classes offered in the area. One of the best sources for that information is the Houston Audubon website. Check out the opportunities for birding classes/field trips and you’re ready to soar.
Now that you’ve spread your wings into the world of birding, where does one go? In this area, the possibilities are endless. Of course, one of the easiest spots may be your own back yard. Armed with binoculars, a good bird ID book, and perhaps a cup of coffee or tea, you’re ready to get started. One of the most beloved birds to arrive here in winter is the Purple Martin. A scout appears in January with others soon following, so for those fortunate enough to have a Martin house, it should be cleaned and ready for guests by the end of December.
After that, branch out into areas like BNC, other nature centers in the area, Audubon sanctuaries (Bolivar Flats, High Island, Galveston Island) and Katy Prairie, to name a few. Happy Birding!
Baytown Summer Birding Locations:
Baytown Nature Center – The BNC has great shaded and water locations for viewing birds as well has birding blinds dotting the 450-acres peninsula. Entry into the BNC is $4 for adults and $1 for children under 12. The BNC is open from sunrise to sunset daily.
Jenkins & JC Holloway Parks – Jenkins and JC Holloway Parks are connected by a winding network of trails that provide great shade for birding in heavily wooded areas.
Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center – The Wetlands Center has 2 piers overlooking Goose Creek that provide a great location for spotting water birds and some wading birds during low tide.
Come take the 2020 Baytown Birding Challenge. Full details and rules can be found at www.visitbaytown.com/birdingchallenge.