Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Our visit to Galveston had given us some confidence that the coastal area was recovering fast from Hurricane Ike, and this feeling was increased when we found that the Stingaree restaurant on Bolivar had survived the storm and was again open for business. However, as we drove east along the peninsula, the communities we passed through had clearly been devastated and showed only few signs of recovery.

When we stopped to do some birding at Rollover Pass, we found the site changed beyond recognition and we were so depressed by its current state that we drove on almost immediately.

Our spirits were lifted when we found that the area around Anahuac NWR and the entrance road to the refuge seemed much the same as usual. Then we reached the office/store and started to see some of the destruction caused by Ike. Only the shell of the office/store remained.

The pond there was completely dry and the only birds around were Barn Swallows. The butterfly garden seemed to be recovering, though, and it was attracting plenty of butterflies.

Gulf Fritillary

Pipevine Swallowtail

Unfortunately, the rest of the refuge was in a much worse state than the garden. Shoveler Pond seemed to be totally dry and virtually devoid of birds except Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles. The edge of the canal along its southern rim was lined with hurricane debris swept up by the surge of water from the coast: beams, planks, doors, sections of decks and walls, etc. Not surprisingly, we didn't see a single alligator around Shoveler Pond, whereas normally we see a dozen or more.

The Willows, a famous area for birding during migrations, was a very sorry sight. A solitary Orchard Oriole looked very out of place there.

Our trip left us wondering just how many years it will take Anahuac to recover. There was one good sign, however: The Willows boardwalk was graced by some fresh coyote scat. So either some animals survived Ike or, more likely, some have started to move into the area!


Birdwoman said...

It is sad to see that so little - if any - progress has been made since I was there January 1. It's unfortunate that the aftermath of the hurricane's destructive force has coincided with drought, when what the wildlife refuge really needs is lots of rain to flush the area.

Still, I was heartened to hear that the Barn Swallows have returned to nest at the visitors' center. On our visit there last summer we were delighted to watch their swooping flights over the little pond out back. It's good to hear that the butterfly garden is coming back, too. So there is hope.

Jeff said...

I think you're right. It's the combination of drought and hurricane that has hurt Anahuac so much. Let's hope we get a lot of rain over the next few months and that this enables the refuge to bounce back.

mkircus said...

Thanks for sharing this. I used to be a volunteer out at Anahuac before moving to Dripping Springs.

Rita caused the refuge to not be much of a refuge for a year while we waited for rain to flush out the salt water.

Ike was much more damaging and we'll need several years to recover.

There is a support group called Friends of Anahuac. They report a lot of good things that they have helped with to repair the park.

But they need volunteers. The administration can get matching grants for volunteer work hours and thus be able to buy materials for the projects.

Here is the link.

Jeff said...

Thanks for the link, mkircus.
The refuge is certainly going to need all the help it can get over the next few years.