Postcards from Texas: Galveston and Bolivar Flats

Posted by Matthew Sim

This past weekend, I took a trip out to Galveston, Texas, about an hour south of Houston on the gulf of Mexico. Galveston has many world-reknowned birding spots in and around it and is a great spot to observe birds year-round. This weekend was rainy and cool, but that didn’t stop the birds! On a short ferry ride to Bolivar peninsula, home of the famous Bolivar Flats shorebird sanctuary, we saw many birds, including both species of pelicans and Common Loons and Red-breasted Mergansers, the latter two which winter down here.

Brown Pelican

Upon arriving on Bolivar, we stopped at a small pond and got great looks at many birds, including an American Avocet in winter plumage (a little different than what I am used to seeing up at Frank Lake in Alberta in the summer!) and a Texas specialty; the very bright Roseate Spoonbill.

Roseate Spoonbill

From a distance, the spoonbill is gorgeous, and even from close up its amazing plumage is simply stunning, yet I found that its head was somewhat unnerving. Its face looks almost extraterrestrial, I find!

From the pond, we went to the Bolivar Flats shorebird Sanctuary where we saw some Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones and… All I could say to myself was, “What the heck are those little shorebirds?” Why did I ask myself this? Because these little guys ran and ran and ran. They did not quit running! I soon got closer and identified them as Sanderlings, which I had seen before, yet never acting quite as comical. Never had I seen a bird run so much!

Running Sanderling

Ruddy Turnstone

We birded Bolivar for a while longer before returning to the ferry and heading back to Galveston. On the ferry back, we were treated to views of 4 species of Gulls (Herring, Laughing, Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s) and 3 species of tern (Forster’s, Common and Royal).

Bonaparte's Gull

Royal Tern

Birds weren’t the only wildlife seen from the ferry however, as a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins made an appearance towards the end.

It was an exciting trip with close to 70 species seen; this excursion really got me excited for spring migration here, which is absolutely fantastic, from what I’ve heard!

One thought on “Postcards from Texas: Galveston and Bolivar Flats

  1. Wow Matt… I’m jealous. Definitely making me wish I was somewhere warm with some shorebirds right about now.

    Great shots. Looking forward to your photos when migration starts down there!

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