Site Profile: Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is simply one of the most productive sites for birding in Texas. This 37,000 acre refuge boasts more than 300 species recorded. It is one of the most reliable sites to find some of the most sought after species on the upper Texas Coast like Purple Gallinule, Least Bittern, Roseate Spoonbill, Seaside Sparrow, and Yellow Rail. This is also the heart of Texas Alligator country and its not uncommon to see more than 100 of these prehistoric reptiles.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset for birdwatchers. All seasons are good at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge but the best seasons are winter for the large number of waterfowl and spring for the migrant songbirds and shorebirds.
In the winter waterfowl congregate in on the Shoveler Pond Loop, one of the hotspots on the refuge that is a "must do". This 3 mile loop around a 200 acre impoundment of fresh water gets you up close and personal with the wetlands. If you have a scope check the unit to the north, this new wetland has been a hot in recent years especially for Greater White-fronted Geese.
After the loop continue south on the main entrance road to the deep marsh unit. This excellent wetland can have huge numbers of waterfowl plus numbers of American White Pelican. Bald Eagles are seen frequently in the winter prowling for waterfowl.
Down on the shore of East Bay look for Red-breasted Mergansers on the bay along with Horned Grebes.
Look for sparrows and Vermilion Flycatcher on the Butterfly Garden/Willows Trail. Expect Lincoln's, Swamp, White-crowned, and Savannah Sparrows. Looks for Nelson's and Seaside Sparrow on the bay shore. Anywhere you can find good prairie might turn up a Le Conte's Sparrow.
During Spring migration check out the trees in the butterfly garden for migrant songbirds. Warblers, Vireos, Tanagers, Buntings, and Tanagers.
During the Spring the Shoveler Pond loop is the place to look for Purple Gallinule and Least Bittern. Black-necked Stilts will be scolding from everywhere. The cane stands in the pond will hold lots of Orchard Orioles.
The moist soil units when flooded in the spring hold many shorebirds, In recent years Ruff has turned up several times.
The best migrant trap is the Jackson Prairie Woodlot. This woodlot was planted about 30 years ago and is now starting to mature. It has become an excellent site for Warblers and Tanagers.
East of the main unit of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is the Skillern Unit. This unit features rice fields that are perfect for shorebirds in the spring. Whimbrels can steal the show here. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge hosts one of the largest concentrations of this birds in migration in the western hemisphere. The Skillern Unit also features a mile long riparian trail along the bayou. Look here in the spring for more neotropical migrants.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is renown for Yellow Rails. The best way to see these elusive birds is to join on of the Yellow Rail walks conducted by refuge biologists in the spring. Check with the refuge office for dates and times. The walks usually also turn up Virginia Rail and Sora, and occasionally Black Rail.
King Rails are readily found on the Shoveler Pond Loop at at Crab Corner. Look for Clapper Rails at the bay boar ramp and along the bay shore on the Frozen Point Road.
In any season Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge won't disappoint you.