Hotspots Near You

57. Russ Pitman Park, Bellaire, Texas

This small park in the Houston metro area attracts 4-5 hummingbird species each winter, is a reliable spot for Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers in spring, and is home to Eastern Screech-Owls in summer.
By Fred Collins | Published: 12/26/2008

Butterfly, hummingbird, bog, and wetland gardens attract lots of birds to this city park, home of a turn-of-the-century pecan grove and family estate. I find the place most interesting beginning in mid- to late January, when hummingbirds become fixated upon “their” feeders. Once I had a day list that included five hummingbirds, six doves, and one parrot species; it was more like a park in Central America than in Texas.

Winter flocks can include Wilson’s Warbler and Summer Tanager. The tanagers seem to rely on honeybees that infest the screech-owl boxes.

The pecans hold the key to an incredible spring migrant display. Pecans are the last tree to leaf out each spring and produce a crop of caterpillars as if on cue for the migrating warblers. The display during fallout conditions can be staggering. One memorable day, more than 500 warblers were in the park at one moment! Peak days produce 14-18 species. Thrushes and other ground-dwelling species are less common, but frequently I can compare two or three species within a few feet of one another. — Fred Collins

Fred Collins is the director of Kleb Woods Nature Center and a past president of Houston Audubon. He also wrote about Kleb Woods Nature Preserve, Hockley, Texas, Hotspot Near You No. 76.

 

57. Russ Pitman Park, Bellaire, Texas

Directions

Russ Pitman Park is a four-acre green oasis in the mega-city of Houston. From north- or southbound I-610 West, take the Bellaire Blvd. exit. Turn east and go about 0.5 mile to Newcastle. Turn right, drive approximately 0.4 mile, then turn right into the parking lot just before the Nature Discovery Center mailbox.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
29°42’0.76″N 95°27’6.15″W

Habitat

Mature urban forest with a high diversity of native and exotic tree species.

Terrain

Flat. Central path and most of the best birding areas wheelchair-accessible. No internal roads.

Birds

Winter: 4-5 species of hummingbirds annually, and over the years 8 species have wintered in the park. In order of abundance: Rufous, Black-chinned, Broad-tailed, Ruby-throated, Allen’s, Calliope, Buff-bellied, and Anna’s. Also House Wren, kinglets, Cedar Waxwing, Pine Warbler. Spring: 20 species of warblers, especially Tennessee, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Yellow, and Bay-breasted, and a dozen other species of Neotropical migrants. In late April and early May, this is one of the most reliable spots for Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers on the upper Texas coast. Summer: nesting Eastern Screech-Owl, Purple Martin, typical urban birds. Fall: Mississippi Kite, Broad-winged Hawk, and other migrating raptors.

When to go

December to March or early April for humming­birds. March to the first week of May for spring migration. Summer for screech-owls.

Amenities

Nature Discovery Center open Tuesday-Sunday, 12-5:30. Restrooms. Every Tuesday in spring and fall “Lunch with the Birds” bird walks from 12-1. Discovery rooms sometimes have exhibits about birds. Checklist.

Access

City park. Free. Open dawn-9 p.m. year-round. Within walking distance of Metro bus service. Free parking lots on north and south ends of park.

Tips

Take binoculars but don’t bother to bring a scope to this small park.

For more info

Nature Discovery Center, (713) 667-6550.
Houston Audubon Society

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