Binge Birding in Port Arthur
Friendly Birding Author Nancy Grant covers Port Arthur
Journalist and field naturalist Nancy Grant visited the Port Arthur area during her nearly 4,000 mile solo road trip along the Texas Gulf Coast, an adventure she describes in her book Binge Birding: Twenty Days with Binoculars. A Sea Rim State Park image made the cover! As birders head toward Port Arthur for shore birds and spring migration, get our birding tips and read here as Grant recalls her travels in thePort Arthur area:
Sea Rim: Where the Birds Are
When I arrive at Sea Rim State Park on a beautiful Friday afternoon I am ready to do two things – watch birds and walk barefoot on the sandy beach! It is so easy to do both because everything here is set up perfectly for exploring. It’s definitely birder-friendly!
I find a place to park and as soon as I get out of my car I begin to hear and see birds. Killdeer squeal above me. Red-winged Blackbirds chatter in the marshy area. I see a boardwalk that leads over the dunes and marshy spots to the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. I step onto the planks and walk forward. American Coots paddle in a pond on my left.
When I reach the end of the boardwalk I take off my sandals, roll up my pant legs, and step onto the beach. At last, sand between my toes! I like it!
Why They’re “Laughing Gulls”
Sanderlings scamper along the waves’ edges. I let the water splash my feet, too. A Semipalmated Plover doodles along a bit farther ahead. Above me Laughing Gulls live up to their name with shrieking calls. I am ready to laugh along with them, because I’m happy here. The salty air smells so good and the birds are putting on quite a show.
After a while I return to my car and drive over to the Gambusia Nature Trail. In this parking lot I swap my sandals for boots and get ready to go exploring. Here a different style boardwalk stretches out across a huge marsh with grasses and open water mingled together. And it’s really birdy!
I see a Neotropic Cormorant perched on one of the trailside information signs. At home I see Double-crested Cormorants, so a good look at this southern species is a real treat.
More coots, more grackles, some Blue-winged Teal, more blackbirds, more stilts. Every curve and jog of the boardwalk reveals new scenery and fresh bird activity.
As I ramble along I smile and chat with two other birders, and pretty soon we’re taking cell phone pics of each other to remember what fun we’re having here in Texas.
Back to Port Arthur
After exploring Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, I return to the Port Arthur area on Sunday to join a group tour to look for shorebirds at Bolivar Flats.
Friendly local birders have set up spotting scopes out on the sand and invite all of us to take a turn looking. But should I look at the water, the sandy beach, or the tide wrack line father back from the water’s edge? Clearly, I’m going to have to look everywhere!
Another lucky birding day in Port Arthur
As I look first one direction, then another, I see birds. Greater Scaup drifting on the water, Wilson’s Plover and Dunlin on the sand. Royal Tern. Short-billed Dowitcher. Forster’s Tern. Black-bellied Plover. I’m scribbling bird names in my little notebook as fast as I can. It’s my lucky day!
And I’m feeling really lucky to be a part of this informal tour group. The local birders are eager to share their knowledge of the birds we see. We chat together as instant friends, united by our common delight in observing birds and enjoying their beauty.
The Beauty of Birding our area
And that’s the beauty of birding in the Port Arthur area. Along with the birds, you’ll meet friendly people.
Nancy Grant is a field naturalist and journalist who studies birds in their habitats throughout North America. Her recent book Binge Birding: Twenty Days with Binoculars is the travel adventure story that’s like going birding with a friend. To learn more about Nancy, visit her website here: nancygrant.us. You can also follow her on Twitter @FriendlyBirder.Copyright 2021, Nancy Grant guest blogger.