Galveston's Sportsman Road
March 18, 2016 ~ Let's play pretend. Or as we said as kids "play like". Imagine you have all this extra money and you decide a nice house on Galveston Bay would be fun. It is close enough to use most weekends, and since you have all this money who cares what the insurance costs. Besides, you like to fish and it could be a retirement home. Or you could rent it out and make big bucks.
A really nice area is along Sportsman Road on the West Bay side of the island. Not in one of those communities with Home Owner Associations that dictate what color the house can be or send you nasty letters about your landscaping. Some of the houses have their own piers and the sunsets are spectacular.
And the birding is fantastic.
We regularly include Sportsman Road on our Galveston birding adventures; the wetlands are frequented by all kinds of long-legged wading birds plus Clapper Rails and often Ospreys. We have even seen Oystercatchers on the piers out into the bay. It is listed as one of the premiere birding spots on the island and we often see binocular birds pulled off the side of the road.
Well, there isn't a lot of room to pull off and it dead ends at a really small turn around where parking is Strictly Prohibited in the "don't you dare leave your car here while you go off kayaking" mode.
Some of the birds come close but it is wide open and great for bird in flight shots like this Great Blue Heron. Marsh Harriers are often in the area, but I have yet to get a decent image of one.
This Eastern Meadowlark was singing his heart out on 8 Mile Road, just before the turnoff to Sportsman Road. I cannot tell you how excited we were that he stayed on the post, singing and posing long enough for us to get plenty of shots (me: 150, Bill: 350). If you are a bird photographer, you know how skittish they are; flying off just the moment you almost get them in focus. There are plenty in the area, but hard to photograph.
I took the one above from the passenger side over Bill's shoulder out the driver's side window.
Kestrels are also abundant but mostly perched high on wires, silhouetted against the sky. They also bolt when you stop to get a photo. I think they hear the engine noise change and perceive a threat.
This one had flown from a utility line (and Bill's camera) to a palm tree on my side of the vehicle. He is looking back and taunting me, I think. I have the monster 500mm lens braced in the window on a bean bag. Still, it was late and getting dark, hence the slow shutter speed and higher ISO.
Very glad to see this high-stepping Clapper Rail just a few feet from the road. There were two under a big bush where we saw and photographed young Yellow-crowned Night Herons earlier this year.
Our favorite spot for Clapper Rails in Surfside is closed for pipeline construction. They are sealing off the work area with short, temporary barriers, there are plenty of signs about sensitive wetlands and I am sure the marsh will recover. Industry and the coastal wetlands have learned to coexist and companies are responsive and careful these days. We have heard rails in that area and seen several, but they seem to be building nests away from the road this year. Maybe they will still bring their chicks out later.
The tidal marshes are also great for Reddish Egrets. The one above was taken in late winter; we were there last Wednesday since I saw a Facebook friend had some great action shots between two territorial birds. But, alas we didn't see any. We had a very wet winter and the abundance of water has spread out the food sources for birds. The drought had a lot of bad effects, but it sure did concentrate the birds around scarce water sources.
Almost always we see one or two Ospreys perched on high vantage points or skimming over the open water looking for fish.
I love Sportsman Road for the birding and photographic opportunities, but also for drooling over the big houses. This is my lottery house. Can you just imagine what the back looks like with spectacular views of the bay? Several months ago I worked hard at adding some Laughing Gulls to the blank garage door, but .. I couldn't improve on the house.
Do you have a lottery house? If you were suddenly rich would you just travel all the time and live in hotels? Let me know what you think of my choice and what you would do with a windfall in the comments below.