The Birds of Moody Gardens – Featherfest!

The past 2 weeks have been a phenomenal celebration of spring migration.  Since 10 April, the Moody Gardens property species count has risen from 139 to 173 with many of the new species coming in the form of colorful songbirds flitting amongst the trees and cryptically colored thrushes rummaging amongst the dark undergrowth.  I’m finding now that I’m running out of new species to look for with the list of likely additions dwindling.

One species that I would not have anticipated adding on this year-long survey is the Yellow-headed Blackbird pictured above.  Thanks to Megan Foshee in Education for noticing this brightly colored specimen and passing the info along quickly so I could hunt it down and get some great pictures.  This is a western species that rarely makes an appearance out here on Galveston Island.  Photographically capturing a handsome male specimen here on property is certainly a lucky event.

As it turns out, I saw a second rarity later this same afternoon.  As I was driving out to look at the marsh habitat on the northwest edge of property I saw a Cuckoo flying off from the large pile of trees and branches being staged for grinding into landscape mulch.  It was a comical affair as I jumped from my still-running car and tried to sneak up on this wary bird moving west.  The cuckoo made its way down the northernmost row of trees in the experimental tree farm as I paralleled down the south edge of the plot, never getting close enough for a good photo.  I was at least able to confirm it was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo for submission to eBird.  It inspired a bit of poetry I’m calling CuckooHaiku:

Cuckoo, holy cow

Need pictures, must get ahead

Bright shirt, flip-flops, arghh!

This past week was the 17th annual Featherfest hosted by Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council (GINTC).  This official “migration celebration” has grown from a simple local affair into one of the premier birding and photography festivals attracting 600+ participants from all over the United States and beyond.  Through the 6 days of organized activities, there were over 240 species seen or heard, making this year one of the best on record.  I had the great pleasure of hosting Greg Miller at my house again this year.  If you’re familiar with the movie and book named “The Big Year”, Greg is one of the three primary characters (played by Jack Black in the film).  I was able to bird with him a few times this year and thoroughly enjoyed soaking up all his helpful hints on bird identification and behavior.  Casting Jack Black to play Greg was brilliant as he’s just one of the most genuine, positive people I’ve met.  Greg told me that this past Sunday was the second best Texas warbler day he’d ever had, with the first being his “Big Year” day 20 years ago at High Island.  That’s pretty great praise for Galveston Island’s habitat as we only visited 3 places on the Island, and Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve wasn’t even one of them.  Greg will be back again next year to lead trips, so I’d advise anyone that’ interested in a fun field trip to sign up early.

The list of new species encountered since the 10 April blog includes:  Blue-winged Teal, Least Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Semipalmated Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood Peewee, Great-crested Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, American Crow, Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, American Redstart, Swainson’s Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Dickcissel, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.

There are still a lot of spring migrants moving through our area and we’ll see a few new species coming through in the next 3-4 weeks.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have questions on where to go on property, or in the general Galveston area for birding.

The Birds of Moody Gardens – Fallout!

During the spring migration here on the Gulf coast, there is a phenomenon known as a fallout.  If you’re a birdwatcher and you find yourself along the Texas coast in April, you keep your eyes to the sky and watch the weather forecasts.  If you are lucky (and the birds are not), a fast moving frontal boundary moves south at the exact time that flocks of migrating songbirds are winging there way north across the vast open water expanse of the Gulf of Mexico.  Under perfect circumstances these dainty warblers, vireos, buntings and orioles catch favorable winds and make the 500 mile flight from the Yucatan Peninsula to our coast in about 18 hours and have ample energy to find shelter, food and water someplace on the coastal plain.  If however, they make that commitment and leave the sight of land to our south and then run into strong head winds, the crossing quickly turns into a life and death struggle with many not making it to the northern shoreline.  Those that do arrive are completely depleted of energy and collapse in exhaustion in the nearest safe cover they can find.  This is called a fallout as the birds will literally drop from thousands of feet in the air over the first piece of solid ground they encounter.

If you’ve been outside on property over the last couple of days, you most probably have noticed a LOT of small, colorful, chirping birds moving around in the trees and shrubs all across the project.  The combination of the strong cold front that arrived overnight Saturday and the continued northeast winds through Sunday have stopped thousands of birds here on the Island.  They are resting and foraging for any quick nutrition and energy they can get including bugs, berries and seeds.  The diversity of species through the entire spring migration is truly amazing, but when you see it suddenly over the course of a few days it’s exhilarating.

The very colorful bird pictured above is a male Painted Bunting.  These guys look like something imagined by a creative child and the super-deluxe Crayola box.  Often in mixed flocks with their equally brilliant cousins, the Indigo Bunting, they work along hedges and the edges of wooded lots picking seeds and insects from the leaves and grass.  Normally the males of these migrating birds will move north first to stake out prime nesting habitat and await the arrival of the females.  It’s critical that they wing quickly north to find the perfect balance of food, water and shelter and defend those resources.

In the first 9 days of April, the property species count jumped from 112 to 139 with 17 new species in the last 4 days alone.  The species additions listed in order of sighting are; Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Chimney Swift, Eastern Kingbird, Cliff Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Moorhen, Gull-billed Tern, Common Grackle, Orchard Oriole, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Summer Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Nashville Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Parula, Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler and Least Flycatcher.

As favorable weather conditions return and these birds refuel, they will be moving on to the north towards their nesting grounds.  The spring migration will continue through the next 4-6 weeks, so there should be a continual rotation of individuals and species moving through our area.  If you get a chance to get out on property over the next few days, please take advantage of this rare spring fallout.  The number of individuals and diversity of species isn’t something to take for granted as this type of event is something that occurs every few years when the exact conditions coincide.

This morning as I walked in to work I was distracted by hundreds of individuals of dozens of species flitting amongst the foliage.  I was reminded that just as these lovely songbirds make their way north following the food resources; they bring with them a cadre of Avian predators that reap the bounty of this moving buffet.  I was just framing a picture of a nice male Painted Bunting just like the one pictured above when an American Kestrel whizzed past and scooped him up for breakfast. As the saying goes “a bird’s gotta eat”.  I saw a Merlin yesterday hunting around the north marsh near the tree farm terrorizing a similar group of Buntings.  The falcon species are specialists at hunting fast moving prey, especially birds.

Nature sometimes seems cruel, but it’s sooo kewl at the same time

‘One Earth, One Choice’ Encourages Change

Guests will learn more about their planet, and come away with a better understanding of what everyone can do to better protect it, at “One Earth, One Choice,” set for April 21 at Moody Gardens.

Guests can immerse themselves in the spectacular wonders of both the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids. Witness a breathtaking tribute to the wonders of Asia, Africa and the Americas as well as the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, South Pacific, North Pacific and the Caribbean that showcases some of the issues that are having a negative impact on these environments.

Earth Day weekend kicks off April 20 in conjunction with Galveston’s Featherfest activities and an Audubon Society presentation in the MG 3D Theater and a showing of “The Lost Bird Project.” This film features artist Todd McGrain’s creation of bronze sculptures of five extinct bird species and his mission to install the pieces where the bids were last seen in the wild, including the Eskimo Kurlu last seen on 11 Mile Road in Galveston.

Start off Saturday with a free yoga class at 8 a.m. in the Butterfly Garden. Need something for the kids to do while you are getting your exercise in? “The Lorax” will be showing starting at 8 a.m. in the 4D Special FX Theater. “Amazon Adventure 3D” will also be showing at various times throughout the day in the MG 3D Theater.

For those who are interested in taking action with earth-conscious efforts, Moody Gardens invites you to join staff and volunteers at 9:30 a.m. for a wetlands cleanup along Offats Bayou. The group will depart from the Tram Stop located in the West Parking Lot.

Earth Day events are planned for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. across the Moody Gardens property. The Moody Gardens “ZOOpermart” will be open inside the Rainforest Pyramid allowing guests to learn about palm oil and how environmentally friendly their food is. Craft tables will also be set up in the Visitor’s Center Lobby where guests can make Toad Abodes out of flower pots. Check out the Earth Day Expo in the Garden Lobby and discover more about gardens, Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, diving and the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Visit the Macadamia Room at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to see a presentation from the Moody Gardens’ Education Department about the different plants and animals of the Rainforest and how human interaction affects those species.

Feast on sustainably-sourced options in The Garden Restaurant. Choose from grilled Keta Salmon over white wine cream sauce pasta and vegetables with garlic bread or Salmon tacos with Citrus Slaw on corn tortillas served with rice pilaf and salsa verde.

Moody Gardens’ biologists will host Keeper Chats throughout the day highlighting a variety of animals including birds, komodo dragons and more. Staff will lead discussions on important environmental issues as visitors can learn how to better protect the planet for the future. Milkweed will also be given away to guests throughout the day while supplies last.

“Education and conservation are vitally important aspects of our mission here at Moody Gardens. These events bring awareness to what we can do to make this a better planet, not only for us, but for the animals and plants we share it with,” Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt said.

Moody Gardens will offer an Earth Day Special Value Pass for $59.95 for adults and $49.95 for seniors and children ages 4-12 on April 21. This pass will be available for purchase both online and at the ticket counter for admission to all Moody Gardens attractions. For a complete event schedule, click here.

Get Out and See the Birds on Galveston Island

Galveston Island is teeming with birds as those that wintered here prepare to fly north and we get ready for the spring migration season.

If you are curious about the many different types of winged creatures you have seen inhabiting our island over the last few months, birding might be just the hobby for you.

Here a few basic tips to get you started.

  1. Invest in a good pair of binoculars. You want to make sure that are getting bright and crisp pictures through your lenses.
  2. Pick up a field guide so that you can identify what species you are finding in your excursions.
  3. If you want the birds to come to you, invest in a bird feeder.
  4. Have your camera handy. The pictures you take can help you identify a bird, and have beautiful images to enjoy for years to come.
  5. Get connected with your local birding club to find out about future bird outings.

Happy Birding!

The Birds of Moody Gardens – Spring is in the air

Although it seems Mother Nature isn’t fully committed to allow the spring breeze to bathe us with balmy Gulf air, this week has started to show significant changes in the birds on the Island. It seems most of the waterfowl and raptors have left the Island and I haven’t seen a single Sandhill Crane since March 1st. The shorebirds and wading birds are migrating through in larger numbers and early purple martins and swallow species are showing up. Several species are already showing off flashy breeding plumage, exhibiting courtship behaviors or even nesting. White-winged Doves (pictured above), Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared Doves started showing up in higher numbers and on a consistent daily basis in my property surveys since about mid-February. Their abundance and activity has been very noticeable over the past week with increased courtship behavior across all 3 species.

Most bird species go through a profound plumage change as their hormones surge with the inceasing daylight hours in the spring. They transition from the more drab coloration known as basic plumage to the more colorful alternate (or breeding) plumage. In addition to more brilliant pigmentation within the feathers, many birds will develop brighter colors on their exposed skin like their legs and feet and the skin around the base of their bill and around their eye. The WW Dove pictured shows bright blue skin around the eyes and at the base of the bill and more brightly contrasting black, white, gray and brown feather coloration than during winter.

Since most birds see color differently than humans and their visual acuity drifts further into the ultraviolet spectrum, much of the alternate plumage may appear more iridescent or reflective to us rather than having eye catching visual color. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. To other birds they appear eye popping, but to most of the rest of the animal kingdom that might find them tasty, they may still have a natural camouflage appearance.

Be mindful of our early nesting species as you continue to hack down all those cold-killed landscapes around your home.

The Moody Gardens property surveys continue twice daily as my schedule allows and through 9 March I have tallied 96 species for our main property with an additional 10 species at the Golf Course. Since the last blog post I’ve seen Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Turkey Vulture, Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Tern, Black Tern, Barn Swallow, and Sedge Wren here on our main property and added Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup and Bronzed Cowbird at the Golf Course.

Birds of Moody Gardens – Goodbye Winter, finally!

The birding trip this past Saturday morning (24 February) was a welcome break from the foggy, drizzly, cold, windy weather we’ve experienced through February.  After the two brutal cold snaps that severely challenged our tropical landscape, Islanders have been hacking down dead foliage, clearing beds and beginning the process of replanting.  As each of you reimagines your personal surroundings, I’d encourage you to consider thinking of resident and migratory birds in your master planning process.  Houston Audubon Society offers great suggestions in their Creating Bird Friendly Communities section of their website.  Planting native species of grasses, plants, shrubs and trees creates habitat and supports the naturally occurring food webs that benefit wildlife.  Adding a clean water source like a bird bath, fountain or drip adds serenity to your environment and benefits wildlife.   Reducing risks such as reflective window situations, bright artificial lighting at night and pets that act as predators when birds are at their most vulnerable after making the 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico can save countless migratory bird lives.  Where birds thrive, people thrive.

We’re seeing some of our winter visitors winging off to the north to start their courtship, breeding and nesting activities and they’ll be replaced by spring migrants that have been spending the winter farther south.  Waterfowl species like the Red-breasted Merganser pictured above are leaving our coastline in large flocks.  This lone male was patrolling the Lake Madeline channel on the east side of the Learning Place this morning.  Just last week I counted more than 75 of them in a flock in Offatts Bayou beginning to raft up prior to flying off to Northern Canada or Alaska to start their 2018 families.  Over the next few weeks we’ll see most of our winter waterfowl, raptors and sparrows disappear with shorebirds, swallows and early songbird migrants flying up the coastline from the west to replace them.  Many of the species we’ll see between now and mid-May will continue past Galveston to points farther north and east as their summer homes.

The buzz of spring migration is building.  Every day I drive or walk the property I’m on the lookout for new species to check off a list or photograph.  Many of those that will be flying through may only stay for a day or two, so I’m keeping my eyes to the skies so I don’t miss any.  Through late February I’ve logged 87 species of birds either using Moody Gardens’ habitats, or flying over.  There were another 7 unique species that were seen while surveying the Golf Course for a total of 94 species to include in the Birds of Moody Gardens project.  The new species encountered in February include Pacific Loon, White-tailed Kite, Bonaparte’s Gull, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Seaside Sparrow and Vesper Sparrow.

I also discovered and joined the world of eBird.  It’s an online resource that Cornell Ornithology Lab established to help collect a huge amount of bird population data by providing an easy to use bird checklist app for phones and computers.  Moody Gardens is listed as a hotspot, so the species accounts that are entered are viewable by anyone that uses eBird.  Get out and enjoy spring’s arrival and look out for birds literally and figuratively as you improve your post-winter backyard habitat.

Hearts Melt as New King Penguin Chick Hatches at Moody Gardens

Indeed, there has been so much to love at Moody Gardens during the month of February. A King penguin chick hatched earlier this month and is being well cared for by its single mother.

“This was certainly an exciting way to kick off the month of love,” said Assistant Curator Diane Olsen. “We completed the renovation of our Aquarium Pyramid last year, including tweaking the exhibit to provide the best environment possible for the birds’ breeding success and this just shows that all that dedication has paid off.”

King penguin mating season usually begins with a series of courtship rituals including different calling and “parading.” King penguin males work to impress females by standing tall and showing off their physique. Females choose the male they like and they will call and parade with each other before mating. King penguins incubate their eggs on their feet, so no nest is needed.

Typically once an egg is laid both the male and female will stay with the egg and take turns incubating it; however this was not the case with this particular chick and penguin mom Simone. This three-year-old penguin is a first-time mother who came to Moody Gardens a year ago from Sea World San Antonio and nurtured the egg by herself until it hatched. The mother continues to rear the chick on her own, leaving all to wonder who and where the father is.

“Simone is doing a great job caring for this chick. While we are keeping a watchful eye on it and her, I have full confidence that she will continue care of her chick,” Olsen said. King penguin eggs usually take about 54 days to hatch and the chick will become full grown after about 10 months.

Soon after this chick hatched, Moody Gardens held a naming contest with names selected by the Moody Gardens Penguin Biologists. The name selected for this new addition was “Astro,” in honor of our World Series Champion Houston Astros.

Stay tuned as we continue to monitor and post updates about Astro’s life in the South Atlantic Penguin Exhibit at Moody Gardens.

The Birds of Moody Gardens – February @ Golf Course

When I mentioned the property census project at a Nature Tourism Partnership meeting late in January, the suggestion was made to include the Golf Course.  It seemed like a no-brainer, but I had simply not considered adding this piece of relatively adjacent landscape to the surveys.  The golf course is only about ¾ mile away from the western side of the main Moody Gardens property with open airport space between and a marsh and woody scrub fringe connecting the north end of both areas.  I took a few hours on the afternoon of 31 January and rode around in a golf cart surveying the course and some of the natural surroundings.  I followed this initial survey up with a second trip on 9 February.

The golf course includes about 170 acres of open, manicured grass landscape mixed with some low dividing shrub tree lines and several freshwater pond habitats.  There is also a 25 acre wild scrub field bordering the north margin that connects with Offatts Bayou as well as the large open expanse of the airport property.  A large extension of tidally influenced brackish water known as Sydnor Bayou runs up the center of the course.  A fairly dense scrubby tree grove located at the very southeast end of the course bordered by the corner of the airport property and Stewart road offers a neat pocket of wilderness that has proven rich in bird species through these two surveys.

The combination of open grass areas with freshwater ponds are habitats that we don’t see on the main Moody Gardens complex.  These areas offer the opportunity to see many waterfowl species as well as the open ground foraging species like the White Ibis pictured above.  This large flock included at least 3 juvenile birds that showed a nice progression of feather change from their first year brown plumage through the second year white plumage.  Their long curved bills are perfect for probing down into the ground looking for tasty invertebrates.  A couple similar species; Long-billed Curlew and Marbled Godwits are also likely to be seen using these open grassy fields as their forage grounds.  The large, iconic Sandhill Cranes also forage across the open grassy habitats much to the dismay of the golf course groundskeeping crew as their methods are much more destructive than the smaller probing bills.

The waterfowl diversity through the winter months is a great draw for anyone interested in these other “birdies” on the course.  Through the two surveys thus far I’ve logged 9 species of waterfowl with 4 new species in the totals. Through the 2 trips I counted 49 species with 10 that have not been seen in the main property surveys.

The species seen at the golf course through mid-February are listed below with the novel species in bold:

Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Wood Peewee, Loggerhead Shrike, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, and Brown-headed Cowbird.

The Birds of Moody Gardens – January

In an effort to showcase the tremendous bird diversity that exists on Moody Gardens’ property, I began to survey as much of the easily accessible areas on as frequent a basis as I could, beginning with the New Year.  Throughout the month of January I spent about an hour a day looking at the various habitats that our 242 acre property boasts.  From the waterfront wrapping more than a mile around our east and north shorelines through the wooded areas in the interior, the prairie and marsh on our northwest border and the man-made retention ditches between the Aquarium and the west parking lot there is a wide variety of habitat for birds to utilize.   I drove approximately 2 miles on my morning commute as many days as my schedule and the weather allowed.  I repeated this on any trips off property during the day and when I left in the afternoons to catalog as many species as I saw on or from property.  As the end of January approached, I spent a morning photographing birds and walking the areas that weren’t accessible by car.  I also took the advice of a colleague and surveyed the Moody Gardens Golf Course located just west of Scholes Field.  Through the end of the month I checked off 76 species for our main property with another 9 at the Golf Course.

Galveston Island, and Moody Gardens’ winter bird diversity skews towards Raptors like the Red-tailed Hawk pictured above, and Waterfowl.  Raptors sighted on property during January included Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon.  A Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen at the Golf Course on the January 31st survey.  Additionally, a White-tailed Hawk was seen on the wires at the very south end of the airport property that would technically be visible if viewed through a scope from the mulch pile/tree farm area, although not included in the total species count.

Waterfowl diversity was primarily noted on the Golf Course with the pond habitat that these species prefer.  We did encounter Snow Geese, Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Lesser Scaup and Red-breasted Merganser from our main property.  The Golf Course survey added Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, and Ruddy Duck to the list.  The Snow Geese are fly-overs that don’t typically utilize any habitat out here on Galveston Island.  The Mallard are almost certainly domestic strain as the few wild Mallard we see are spooked by humans and would not typically use ponds that have human disturbance.

A complete list of the 76 species encountered on Moody Gardens main property in January is listed here in Taxonomic order:

Snow Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, Sandhill Crane, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood Peewee, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Marsh Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, American Pipit, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch and House Sparrow.

The additional 9 species encountered on the Golf Course survey include:

Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Long-billed Curlew, and Red-winged Blackbird.

The spring migration should add dramatically to the diversity already encountered.  Monthly updates through 2018 will offer additional information on specific habitat areas on our property and some of the ecological premises behind migration and resident populations.

There’s more to love this Valentine’s at Moody Gardens

Delve into the Sea of Love inside the Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens with a romantic Valentine’s dinner celebration on Feb. 10 and 17. Choose from dining options at the Gulf of Mexico Rig, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, South Pacific and Caribbean exhibits.

Packages range from $200-300 per couple and include a three-course dinner, bottle of champagne or wine, rose for your special someone, souvenir photo, Aquarium Pyramid admission and a meet and greet with one of our biologists.

For a complete dinner menu, click here, and for reservations, call 409-683-4202 or email dsalinas@moodygardens.org.

Continue your romantic getaway with a stay at the luxurious Moody Gardens Hotel. Be sure to inquire about the special room rate for guests when you make dinner reservations.

Sail aboard the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat

Enjoy a two-hour Valentine’s dinner cruise Feb. 10 aboard the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat. Feast on a buffet dinner while sailing Offatts Bayou with music, dancing and a cash bar. Boarding begins at 6 p.m. with the boat shoving off at 6:30 p.m. The cruise runs 7-9 p.m.

To reserve a space on board the Colonel, please call 409-683-4419 or email lhuff@moodygardens.org. For a complete dinner menu, click here.

Golf Fore Two

Enjoy a day at the top-rated Moody Gardens Golf Course with your partner and take advantage of an incredible all-inclusive package that combines golf and dining for just $200 per couple.

Enjoy an 18-hole round of golf, cart fee included, as well as one dozen golf balls, one large bucket of range balls and a free replay (subject to availability) all topped off with unlimited food and drinks, excluding alcohol!

The all-inclusive Valentine’s package is available Feb. 10 and Feb. 17. To reserve a tee time, call 409-683-4653. You can also visit www.moodygardensgolf.com for more details on the course.

Enjoy a romantic dinner with stunning views

Experience premier fine dining at Shearn’s Seafood and Prime Steaks, featuring beautiful floor-to-ceiling views of the Gulf waters from the top floor of the Moody Gardens Hotel.

Shearn’s will offer a romantic Valentine’s dinner on Feb. 9 and 10 starting at 5 p.m. with a special menu just for the holiday. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made here. To view the special menu, click here.

Treat yourself to luxurious pampering

Indulge in a day of luxury, or give the gift of relaxation, with one of several spa treatments and packages, all offered at The Spa at Moody Gardens Hotel. Packages include a Romantic Retreat featuring a 50-minute Couple’s Swedish Massage with Scandle Candle Body Butter, a hot stone foot treatment and Hydrotherapy Soak for two. Relax in our private relaxation area and indulge in chocolate covered strawberries and two glasses of champagne. There’s also a Couple’s Massage performed in our private couple’s suite. For a complete list of services and menus, visit us online.