Matagorda County tops the charts for avian adventurers
A diverse collection of rare breeds tends to gather in Matagorda County, including the intrepid species known as the birder. Ninety-seven of them showed up in a nasty winter storm last year to conduct the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, once again making Matagorda Countys Mad Island Marsh Preserve the champion of the event for North American species, a title its proudly held since 1997.
Matagorda County in general, and Mad Island in particular, is popular with birders for the same reason that its popular with birds. As Clay Carrington of the Nature Conservancy puts it, "Let's just say it's the last chance for a good meal." Positioned as it is on the coast midway between Louisiana and Mexico, Mad Island provides the last lush bit of habitat that migrating birds will see in their arduous fall migration until they arrive in Mexico. Alternatively, its where they will break their long fast in the spring.
Mad Island, with its crocodiles and rattlesnakes, is for the hard-core birders. A little further inland but more popular with birders - and nearly as popular with the birds - is the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center. This carefully tended 35-acre nature park condenses all the major habitats of the Texas coast into one easy-to-traverse area. Birders can ride from forest to marshland to river to lake in a golf cart, rent a boat to cruise the Colorado River, or wander the labyrinthine paths to their hearts content.
First-rate birding is available throughout the county, with excellent opportunities in the seaside villages of Sargent and Palacios as well as further inland in Blessing. And Matagorda Bay Nature Park offers a wealth of opportunities to get out on the bay and see the birds, even with trained interpretive guides.
The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail lists three separate loops with 17 sites in Matagorda County, including Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge, Sargent Beach, Cashs Creek and Trull Marsh. The Tres Palacios Loop alone contains 10 sites. Most of the sites include boardwalks, viewing platforms, kiosks and parking spots. Downloadable maps and more information are available at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.
The Lower Colorado River Authoritys Matagorda Bay Nature Park deserves special mention. Its state-of-the-art nature center houses interpretive exhibits, an extraordinary staff and a whole host of interactive activities for the whole family. Check out their website to preregister for upcoming activities ranging from A Day on the Bay Wetlands Kayaking Trip to Wings Over the Wetlands.
Another way to experience the avian abundance of the Matagorda coast is by boat. Rent your own from Freebird Kayak and Canoe Rental and take a trip down the Colorado, or leave the driving to a pro and hit the bay with one of the scores of experienced boat captains and fishing guides. Some of them know as much about birds as they do about fish.
Wherever you go, you're apt to be blessed with the thrill of your first sighting of some magnificent feathered thing, whether it is a roseate spoonbill rising from the marshes or a snowy egret decked out in mating plumage. With more than 300 species to choose from, the only challenge will be finding your favorite.
Additional Bird-Watching Information:
Bird Species »
Bird-Watching Sites »
Audubon Christmas »