A short drive and ferry ride from my place in Galveston, the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary occupies prime Gulf-side habitat directly across the ship channel from Big Reef on the Galveston side. You need to get a $10/year pass to park on the beach. I visited on Sunday, March 29th, 2015.

Clapper Rail

savannah-sparrow-b-03-29-2015Savannah Sparrow

Arriving by ferry from Galveston, Frenchtown Road is your first left as soon as you exit the ferry complex. This leads to the bay side of Bolivar Peninsula and gives access to the shore. I was hoping to make some Oystercatchers but alas, no such luck. I saw Barn Swallows, a variety of peeps, sparrows, gulls, terns, a Loggerhead Shrike, and a singular female Common Yellowthroat. What I thought might be hummingbirds turned out to be mosquitoes, Bolivar supplies the king-size variety! And I got another Clapper Rail, a bird I am really getting to love.

I stopped at the Food Mart on TX-87 to pick up my beach parking pass and some snacks, and headed to the gulf side.



The beach access road is lined with fencing where I came across some perching photo-ops. I’m told you need to sort Eastern from Western Meadowlarks by their song as there’s no reliable field marks. I’ll have to work on that next chance I get. What a beautiful bird!

redwing-blackbird-03-29-2015Red-winged Blackbird

He looks like he’s giving me a piece of his mind, as birds so often do, but he’s just on booty call. It’s Spring and these birds are clearly horny.

A short walk down the beach and I already had two new life birds. Wilson’s Plover and the adorably petite Snowy Plover, the latter of which I was unable to approach for a better shot. The Wilson’s were not that much bothered by my presence.


snowy-plover-b-03-29-2015Wilson’s Plover
Snowy Plover

This area is breeding range for the Wilson’s but the Snowy winters here.

Long-billed Curlew

This is only the second time I’ve seen the Long-billed Curlew and was happy to get a much better photograph this time. I walked a good ways down the beach, all the while hearing the excited calls of Willets, and came upon this pair doing what looked like a mating ritual. These are Eastern Willets, returned from their Winter haunts on the South American coastline.


Nearer to the jetty the shallow waters were speckled with many hundreds of American Avocets (and who knows what all else.) An impressive sight. They’re all sporting that beautiful golden-cinnamon breeding color on the head and neck (click on the photo, it’s large.).

American Avocets

Bolivar Flats is a world class bird sanctuary. The habitat exists due to the accumulation of sediment deposits caused by Gulf currents converging with the lengthy rock jetty at the mouth of the ship channel. The Army Corps of Engineers built that over 100 years ago. The Houston Audubon Society established and manages the sanctuary. Please stay on the beach and out of the dunes where your presence may disturb nesting birds.