Friday, March 25, 2011

Texas City Dike

I have wanted for quite some time to visit the Texas City Dike, near Galveston, but the dike had been closed for the past two year for repairs of damages sustained during 2008's devastating Hurricane Ike. I've heard nothing but good reports since the dike reopened late last fall. So when I discovered I was the only one in the family who got Presidents Day off last month, I leaped at the rare chance for an outing.

Royal pierage
Royal Tern (Sterna maxima)

The dike itself is very nice, extending out about two and a half miles into Galveston Bay. There is a paved, two-lane road running the length of it, several piers and boat ramps and a nice stretch of sandy beach on the northern side (away from the gulf).

Golden slippers
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

Since spring migration was still several weeks away, there were not any unexpected birds to be seen. However, I still found almost twenty different species on and around the dike just in the short time I spent there. There were numerous Royal Terns, plus a lone Forster's Tern diving for food in the choppy waters of the gulf side of the barrier. As you would expect, gulls were everywhere, from giant Herring Gulls to the smaller Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls. There were also a handful of egrets, pelicans (brown and white), and lots of both Double-crested and the smaller Neotropic Cormorants.

Ready for take-off
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) in winter/non-breeding plumage

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

I was a little disappointed at the extremely low numbers of shorebirds to be found, but I expect that will pick up quite a bit over the next few weeks as migration hits the Gulf Coast. The only shorebirds I saw were a lone Willet, two tiny Sanderlings and a handful of Ruddy Turnstones.

Watching all the gulls
Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla), with Ring-billed Gulls in the background

As I started to leave for home, I did make a very quick stop at the Bay Street Park, located just around the corner from the entrance to the dike. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the marshy pond running the length of this park held quite a few more birds, including Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Blue-winged Teal, American Coots and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes. A small pier overlooking the pond also gave some great photo opportunities with the dozens of gulls resting there.

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), with a Laughing Gull in the background

All in all, this was a nice day of birding. I will definitely be returning to Texas City whenever I get the opportunity!

Note: As always, you can click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version.


Kah-Wai Lin said...

Cute tern! Nice collection!

Larry said...

Great group of birds Kyle. The Tern and Egret are beautiful with that blue background and the Brown Pelican is awesome! I really like the Ring-billed Gull in flight. You caught it perfectly and tack sharp too!

Anonymous said...

What a great day this must have been! I like the gull shots. The one that looks like a black and white photo with only some yellow spots. And the Ring-billed Gull in flight is just awesome!