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223. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, La Porte, Texas

Look for shorebirds, warblers, sparrows, ducks, and other birds at this historic site east of Houston.
By Stephan Lorenz | Published: 10/19/2015

Within a short drive of Houston lies one of the state’s finest birding locations, where nearly 300 species have been recorded. When I wander through the park’s towering oaks and restored prairie, I frequently forget that I’m in the sixth largest metro area in the United States.

Extensive loop roads and several trails provide access to the best spots. I visit almost weekly throughout the year, and the park invariably holds one or two surprises.

At low tide in spring, I can scope up to 20 shorebird species in the marsh, and just a few paces away, I can study warblers in the trees. During the colder months, I stand in the same spot and observe rafts of ducks; up to 20 species winter here. Along the edges of brush, marsh, and grassy fields, I often find Le Conte’s, Nelson’s, and Harris’s Sparrows. Male Vermilion Flycatchers frequently decorate the fence lines during Christmas.

New species show up consistently, since the park is situated ideally to funnel migrants along Crystal Bay. During a recent afternoon visit in October, I managed to see a Prairie Warbler, Western Tanager, and Eastern Whip-poor-will in two hours, adding three new species to the site’s list. Visit soon so you can see what else shows up. — Stephan Lorenz

Stephan Lorenz is a professor of biology at San Jacinto Community College. He wrote about Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula in our August 2011 issue.

223. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, La Porte, Texas

Directions

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is a 1,200-acre preserve east of Houston. From the city, take Hwy. 225 east to the exit for Independence Pkwy./Battleground Rd. and turn left. After two miles, remain in the left lane on Independence Pkwy. as Vista Rd. splits to the right. Continue for 1.2 miles to the entrance.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
29°45’20.51″N 95°5’7.90″W

Habitat

Remnant prairie, overgrown weedy fields, open oak woodland, stands of pine, marshes, wetlands, and shorelines.

Terrain

Flat.

Birds

290 species. Year-round: Mottled Duck, egrets, herons, Roseate Spoonbill, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, woodpeckers, songbirds. Spring: six species of vireo, 30 species of warbler, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks, and orioles. Fall: Shorebirds, flycatchers, and up to 10 species of migrating raptor. Winter: 20 species of waterfowl, Winter, Sedge, and Marsh Wrens, 20 species of sparrow, including Le Conte’s and Nelson’s. Rarities: Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Surf Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Harris’s Hawk, Little Gull, Couch’s Kingbird, and Western Tanager.

When to go

Year-round. September through May is best.

Amenities

A 1,200-foot-long marsh trail and boardwalk. Several lookout points. Restrooms and picnic areas. Checklist available on website.

Access

State historic site. No fees. Open daily 9-6, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

Tips

Bring a spotting scope for viewing open wetlands. Closed-toed shoes necessary for grassy trails. Mosquito repellent is a must. Carry water and sunscreen during the warmer months. In winter, scan the niches near the top of the San Jacinto Monument for roosting Peregrine Falcons.

For more info

San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, (281) 479-2431
Houston Audubon

Sites nearby

Monument Inn Restaurant
At the end of Independence Pkwy., next to the launch site for the Lynchburg Ferry. Shorebirds, gulls, and terns roost on sandy spit visible from the parking lot.

Baytown Nature Center
6213 Bayway Dr., across ship channel from San Jacinto. Five miles of trails, woodlands, marsh, butterfly garden.

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