Ever since Hurricane Ike, Moody Gardens and Galveston Island has been on a slow but successful recovery. But the wetlands by Offatts Bayou close to Moody Garden’s parking lot sustained much damage on the shoreline. Debris became stuck on the land and it was a long way from being a habitat for some of the Island’s animals.
On May 18, Neil Stegman launched an Eagle Scout project to change the area for better. He and a large group of volunteers worked closely with Danny Carson, Moody Gardens’ Horticultural Manager. Together, they installed an improved, raised pathway with two Osprey nesting platforms.
Moody Gardens hopes to eventually create a three-quarter mile long path with interpretive signs, resting benches, gazebos and more. As these features become complete, the habitat will thrive on its own and become one of Galveston’s birding hot spots.
by Greg Whittaker, Animal Husbandry Manager at Moody Gardens
Excellent weather – walked around Aquarium Pyramid and retention ditch to Colonel Paddlewheeler dock. Then walked the path around Palm Beach and to the Lake Madeline channel. We went back past the Learning Place and ended at the hotel near the pool.
By my count we saw 33 species listed here in taxonomic order (not the order we saw them):
Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Common Loon, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Peregrine Falcon, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Forster’s Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, White-winged Dove, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Scarlet Tanager, Great-tailed Grackle and House Sparrow.
Birding 201 is next Saturday, April 20 and there is a limit to the number of people we can take. We will leave Moody Gardens in a van and spend about 2-3 hours out in the field. Please respond and let me know if you are interested in going so we can reserve a seat. To reserve a spot, please call 409-683-4101 no later than Wednesday, April 17.
Get out and see the birds this week, there are lots of them here on the island and lots of other birders to help you identify things. I just tallied what I’ve seen since Thursday when Featherfest started and have 103 species.
Moody Gardens is dedicated to educating the community on nature, animals, and conservation. We love getting involved with our guests while also teaching them about the nature and beauty that surrounds us. On our Calendar of Events, some of the exciting things we have coming up are Birding 101 and Birding 201.
Birding 101 is presented by Moody Gardens and the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council. Birding 101 is a class created to educate participants about the variety of bird life that can be seen on Galveston Island. The island is home to hundreds of species of birds such as egrets, herons, hawks, seagulls, and many more. The class is free and held on the second Saturday of each month. We want to be able to excite our people about the bird species we share the area with. Class meets in the Aquarium Pyramid lobby and is from 9-11 a.m.
Birding 201 gives participants a more in depth look at the bird life on the island. The instructor-led classes allow participants to visit certain areas of the island where they can spy some of the tremendous variety of birds. Instead of just teaching participants about the birds, Birding 201 actually takes you out to find them! Classes are held on the third Saturday of each month from 9-11a .m. The class is $5 and participants meet in the Aquarium Pyramid lobby. Moody Gardens will provide transportation. Due to high demand, we ask that you reserve you spot no later than the Wednesday prior to the class by calling 409-683-4101.
Presented by Moody Gardens® and Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, Birding 101 is a series of free classes designed to educate and excite people about the tremendous variety of bird life routinely seen around Galveston Island. Birding 201 classes allows participants, led by an instructor, to visit areas on the island and spy some of the amazing variety of birds here.
Here is a quick recap, written by Birding instructor Greg Whittaker, of what you might see during our Birding classes:
Saturday, 15 October — Birding 201
Beautiful weather – left MG property shortly after 9am with a full van. Visited the Quaker Parrot (Monk Parakeet) nests at the ballfield on 54th street and Ave. S. Travelled to Pelican Island to the wetlands interpretive area, then east to Pier 19, then to the Big Reef area on Bodekker Road and finally to the base of the South Jetty on east beach. Not sure this is the complete list as I think I missed a few that others saw during the trip. Again, this is taxonomic order and not the order in which we saw them. 45 species, although I wouldn’t technically count the unidentified rail and the presumption on the Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Species spotted include:
American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Reddish Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk (think this was the one we originally identified as Peregrine Falcon but looked in book and think it was a Sharp-shin), Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Rail (not identified to species), American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Forster’s Tern, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Rock Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Monk Parakeet, Belted Kingfisher, Scissortail Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Great-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow.
Get out there and see some of the cool stuff before, and after this front comes through. It should bring some more waterfowl and perhaps bigger numbers of sandhill cranes.
Held on the third Saturday of each month, Birding 201 always seems to bring to light the natural beauty of Galveston. The recent Birding 201 trip was no exception, introducing the six participants we had to a great variety of wild birds.
The weather cooperated for this Saturday event. We visited Galveston’s 51st Street viaduct marsh and noted a few early waterfowl and some herons/egrets. We then crossed over to Pelican Island to visit the TAMUG wetlands area. The highlight here was a pair of scissortail flycatchers perched on the fence, making for some good photo opportunities before we even got out of the van. Some good looks at black crowned night herons and red-winged blackbirds before we headed east to the Pier 19 dock area, then onto the Corps Woods near the Ferry Landing. A few smaller birds were there, but not a major hotspot.
We drove east down Seawall Boulevard to the very end, then south through Big Reef and onto east beach. We completed the loop around Condo Road back to Seawall. This section of the trip offered the best diversity of species and great behavioral observations of marsh and shore birds as well as a couple pairs of northern Harriers hunting as teams. By my count, we saw all of 49 species on the trip. In taxonomic order, we saw: Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Broad-winged Hawk, Clapper Rail, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Nighthawk, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Scissor-tail Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Cliff Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, and House Sparrow.
Since the trip, I’ve noted a big influx of migratory species showing up. Osprey’s have moved in with good numbers, Sandhill Cranes and White pelicans have started to show up, some waterfowl arriving.
Someone also pointed out a Quaker’s Parrot nest on Avenue S just west of 53rd Street on the south side (adjacent to the old police station). I drove by slowly yesterday and there were several parrots noisily eating the palm fruit in the adjacent tree.
Now is a good time to check out the bird population on the island. Get out and enjoy them while they’re here.
Greg Whittakeris Moody Gardens animal husbandry manager and, as a birding enthusiast, frequently leads free Birding 101 on the first Saturday and Birding 201 on the third Saturdays of each month.