Teri and I are the "Bird Hosts" at Goose Island State Park for the months of November and December. This means that we'll lead bird walks 4 days each week.
Friday is the Big Tree Natural Area Walk, which explores a remote area of the park behind the famous "Big Tree". We didn't lead this walk when we were here two years ago, as the tract was newly acquired and not open to any activities. As it is, our bird walk is the only opportunity for the public to see this part of the park.
Our very first walk was a Big Tree Natural Area Walk, and we had three enthusiastic participants. Since our November walks are the first walks of the season in the park, it takes a week or two for many folks to find out about them. We expect larger turnouts as the season progresses.
We started in the Big Tree parking area, and learned a little about the folks on the walk. We often get folks who have never been on a bird walk before, and don't have binoculars. So we sometimes spend that first 15 minutes or so getting them acquainted with how to use binoculars (we have loaners), a spotting scope, field guides, etc. These are often the best groups as everything is new for them. This group had some experience with bird walks so didn't need the basics, and we started birding right away.
There are often good birds visible from the parking area, including the much (most?) sought after Whooping Cranes. It turns out that the Whooping Cranes have not arrived in our area yet, but the Sandhill Cranes have.
As they fly over making their distinctive call, we are always asked "Are those Whooping Cranes?". We have to break the news that they are not, but folks seem to appreciate seeing any cranes.
Once we move into the Big Tree Natural Area we find several different types of habitat. The area was formerly a ranch, complete with several homes, an airstrip, and a hanger. The homes are rapidly deteriorating and are slated to be removed, so we avoid them on our walks. We do have access to some fantastic marsh areas, which should have Whooping Cranes on them in the next couple of weeks.
In addition to birds we also like to show off the dragonflies and butterflies of the area. There are a lot of flowering plants still blooming, and plenty of mosquitoes for the dragonflies to eat!
After birding the marsh, we walk down the length of the old concrete runway, to the beach. Here we can find gulls, terns, and other shorebirds.
While at the beach, we were treated to a flyover of a Roseate Spoonbill.
We've already done a special Saturday evening walk for a outdoor group from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, so in addition to our scheduled walks we are available for special requests as well.
We love this area and are looking forward to exploring it with visitors over the next two months.