Photos from the birdiest yard in North America

A thick mix of cherry laurels, mulberries, and other trees surround Jim Stevenson's home. An observation deck projects above the far right corner of the roof. Photo by Jim Stevenson
A thick mix of cherry laurels, mulberries, and other trees surround Jim Stevenson’s home on Galveston Island, Texas. An observation deck projects above the far right corner of the roof. Photo by Jim Stevenson

In our April issue, I described a yard that I’m willing to bet is nothing like yours or mine. It’s about two acres in size and located on Galveston Island, Texas, in the heart of one of the best places to find birds on the continent.

Jim Stevenson
Jim Stevenson

Jim Stevenson (right), the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society, has owned the property since 1995. In the spring of 1996, he started keeping track of the birds he’d observed in or from his yard. When he spotted a Gray Kingbird nearly two decades later, in April 2014, his list took over first place on the unofficial scorecard of North American yard lists. The bird was the 317th species. Then, in August, a Fish Crow showed up, bringing Stevenson’s total to 318 species. So far.

We had room for only a handful of Stevenson’s photos in the article, including the aerial view of the property above, so I’m happy that Jim has given us permission to show a few more images from his yard here. Enjoy! — Matt Mendenhall, Managing Editor

Louisiana Waterthrush, added to yard list in March 1998. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Louisiana Waterthrush, added to yard list in March 1998. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Loggerhead Shrike, added to yard list in September 1997. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Loggerhead Shrike, added to yard list in September 1997. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Painted Bunting, added to yard list in April 1997. Breeds on the property. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Painted Bunting, added to yard list in April 1997. Breeds on the property. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Bell's Vireo, added to yard list in August 2004. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Bell’s Vireo, added to yard list in August 2004. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Crested Caracara, added to yard list in October 1996. Breeds on the property. Photo by Jim Stevenson
Crested Caracara, added to yard list in October 1996. Breeds on the property. Photo by Jim Stevenson
MacGillivray's Warbler, added to yard list in September 2009 (species No. 311). Photo by Jim Stevenson
MacGillivray’s Warbler, added to yard list in September 2009 (species No. 311). Photo by Jim Stevenson

Galveston FeatherFest and Nature PhotoFest

Stevenson’s yard is one of the many birding locations that participants in the 2015 Galveston FeatherFest and Nature PhotoFest will visit. Stevenson is also one of the field-trip leaders. The four-day festival takes place April 9-12, 2015.

Other leaders and speakers include Kevin Karlson, Stephan Lorenz, Kathy Adams Clark, and Larry Ditto. We excerpted Karlson’s latest book, Birding by Impression, in our April issue. Lorenz wrote an excellent article for us a few years ago about Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. And we’ve published several photos by Adams Clark and Ditto over the years.

Julie Ann Brown of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council says that although the field trips that include stops at Stevenson’s yard are full, a few others still have openings; an availability chart is posted daily here. You can register on the website through Sunday, April 5, or onsite throughout the festival.

Read about birding hotspots in Texas.

Read about fun events taking place in April.

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