.As we had never been to Port Arthur before, we woke up on Friday morning excited to see what the area had to offer. Our targets for the day were two well-known birding sites, Sea Rim State Park and Sabine Woods Bird Sanctuary.
The drive south took us through a very ugly industrial area but the landscape improved when we turned west on highway 87 and traveled parallel to the coast. It wasn't long before the only sign of civilization was the occasional holiday home on the left and the odd ranch on the right.
The main park area at Sea Rim hasn't been restored since it was devastated by Hurricane Ike and so we went straight through it to the beach. There were a few vehicles and visitors at the entrance to the beach but otherwise the beach was wonderfully empty of people. There were plenty of birds, though, even if most of them stayed too far away from us for good photos.
Crowds of gulls and terns milled around at the edge of the sea.
Between us and the sea there were ponds where Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Black-bellied Plovers, Willets and other shorebirds were busy hunting for breakfast.
There were other kinds of life on the beach, too.
After half-an-hour on the beach we parked the car and walked onto the Gambusia Boardwalk. Destroyed by Ike, the 1.5 mile boardwalk has now been fully restored and offers visitors an easy way to explore an extensive area of marshland and to see the many birds that the marsh attracts.
American Coots, Mottled Duck and Blue-winged Teal cruised the waters while Tricolored Herons, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets and Black-necked Stilts paddled around looking for prey.
Hundreds of Dowitchers huddled together only yards away from the boardwalk.
A closer look showed that many Dunlin were mixed in with the Dowitchers.
White Ibis, Red-winged Blackbirds and Boat-tailed Grackles perched by the trail.
Great and Snowy Egrets kept their distance but a group of Roseate Spoonbills were easily visible as they grazed.
We could have spent all day on the boardwalk but we needed to get a move on if we were to have time to visit Sabine Woods before starting our drive back home.
As it turned out, Sabine Woods were fairly quiet, because warbler migration is only just getting underway in mid-March. However, we spent an enjoyable 30-40 minutes walking the trails there and we saw enough birds to keep us occupied - Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Red-tailed Hawk, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Parula and Black-and-white Warbler.
Our morning visit was much too short to do justice to the Sea Rim / Sabine Woods area but we saw enough to convince us that we should return for a longer visit later in the spring.