I always find it hard to answer when someone asks me which is my favorite birding site in southeast Texas. Of course, a lot depends on which time of the year is involved. So, for example, during spring migration I don't think there is anywhere more exciting than High Island, although Lafitte's Cove on Galveston can be almost as good. Then, a lot depends on which kinds of birds you want to see. If you're looking for gulls, terns and shorebirds, Rollover Pass and the Shorebird Sanctuary on Bolivar are hard to beat. However, when it comes to year-round general birding, I think my favorite site is Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
For one thing, the refuge has stunning marshland vistas.
The land- and sky-scapes are particularly beautiful early in the morning.
At all times of the year the ponds are busy with waders and waterbirds: Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Pied-billed Grebes etc.
In the winter its ponds can host thousands of geese and a score or more species of ducks (such as Blue-winged Teal).
It is also an excellent site for raptors like Red-tailed Hawks, particularly in the winter.
In summer it is a good place for watching Eastern Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Common Nighthawks (below).
It is one of my go-to sites for birds that can be less easy to find in our area, such as Fulvous Whistling Ducks and Vermilion Flycatcher.
Perhaps most attractive of all to me, though, the refuge is a great place to see Clapper/King Rails and Soras. On a good day you might see half-a-dozen of each of these species on a drive round Shoveler's Pond.
Shoveler's Pond in spring and summer is also an excellent place for seeing Least Bitterns, one of the birds that I most enjoy watching.
Of course, Anahuac NWR wildlife isn't limited to birds. Bugs abound and several species of mammals make their home on the refuge. It's a good place to see American Alligators, too. Not as good as Brazos Bend State Park perhaps, but you can still expect to see a dozen or more on a slow drive round Shoveler's Pond.
If you're lucky, you might see many more, particularly if you come across a nesting area. Last year we saw a group of 25 young alligators right by the entrance to the Shoveler's Pond boardwalk.
Writing this has reminded me that it's more than a month since our last visit to Anahuac. So, weather permitting, I think we'll try to head over there this weekend. .