A trip to the coast

A few months back I joined a meetup.com birdwatching group. We met once and had a great time at Brazos Bend. Our next outing was set for Galveston Island State Park. After the plans were rescheduled several times I decided to check it out by myself.

The Location

Galveston suffered greatly during Hurricane Ike and I had not been there since so many of our landmarks were swept away.

If you are not a local reader, you can check out this set of images. If you live in the area, enough said. I am sure you remember all too well that time.

Galveston Island is southeast of Houston

Galveston Island is southeast of Houston

The Drive

It isn't a long drive so I got up early and headed out.

First, let me say sunrise over the Houston skyline is awesome but of course, stopping on the freeway is not done.

Needless to say, when I get better at sunrise/sunset pictures, that is on my to do list. I need to find a place to camp out with a good view of downtown.

Galveston is about 50 miles from Houston, downhill all the way. Well, let's just say it is a gentle slope. Houston's elevation is 50ft above sea level and the west end of Galveston Island where I was going is just a few feet above high tide.

I arrived about 8 am and ... boy, is it flat.

Water and grass and more grass and more water

Water and grass and more grass and more water

Galveston Island State Park

So, the flat lands stretch out in every direction, interrupted only by Mac Mansions on stilts. I carefully framed my shots so this looks like it is out in the wilderness, but no. There are homes and developments on each side. A lot of weekend homes were swept away by the hurricane, but they are rebuilding bigger and better and fancier. Well, it is Texas after all.

Most of the park is on the bay side of the island, that would be the inland side. It is pretty, but I was expecting something else, I guess.

There is an Observation Tower and I got my bearings. As my faithful readers know, I do get lost. But this was a safe destination for me...the tower was visible from any point and I knew my car was parked close by.

Large bird of prey really far away

Large bird of prey really far away

From the tower I spied this Bald Eagle or more than likely, it was an Osprey that was totally out of camera range for me. He must not have been hungry either, because he didn't move. I did see a beautiful Red Tailed Hawk swoop by. I was so enthralled I didn't even try to take a picture. I just enjoyed the beauty.

So what birds did she see?

Great Egret not so far away

Great Egret not so far away

I am going to call this a Great Egret because its legs are dark. But it was far away and there was nothing to judge the relative size. But a magnificent bird, whatever the label.

There were Great Blue Herons about, too, but they were very skittish. Maybe not as used to people as the birds at Brazos Bend?

A lot of my pictures look like THIS!

A lot of my pictures look like THIS!

You just couldn't get near the water except on the boardwalks and that was a disappointment. A lot of folks fishing; I met a couple with a nice flounder for their dinner.

And another thing about this flat land bird watching: they can see you coming a mile away.

But I persevered and was finally rewarded with the guy shown below:

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

These little guys were everywhere. Lately I haven't bothered with carrying my field guide because of the weight. I look up the birds when I get home from the pictures. So, I narrowed this down to a Swamp Sparrow by looks and the maps and I am pretty sure of the ID. They winter along the Texas coast. They chirp and cheep and make a lot of racket; they have a gray patch on their necks, and are quite rusty-looking. Now I am thinking I should have taken the class in Sparrow Identification.

Eastern Meadowlarks

Eastern Meadowlarks

And the brush was full of Eastern Meadowlarks. Funny, I saw Western Meadowlarks when I was on my first round of bird watching many years ago in California. I haven't seen or heard one in decades, but when I heard these and caught a glimpse of that shape .. I just knew. We have all kinds of memory muscles, right?

And after a while, I did go over to the Gulf side. There were two young girls there looking for lost car keys (No, sorry, I haven't seen a set of keys tied with a red ribbon) and among others, I captured this little guy. Exactly the way I felt, but I had a long drive home.

Sandpiper in nap mode.

Sandpiper in nap mode.

I am thinking I might like to stay on the island for a few days and take more pictures. Off season for tourists is still great for birding. Do you like to visit the beach? Would you want to live in a hurricane prone area?

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