The marsh, a stop along the Big Thicket Loop of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, offers easy birding from the boardwalk. Or you can walk the 12 miles of gravel levee roads for a wider variety of birds: waterfowl, pelicans, Roseate Spoonbill, doves, ibises, and blackbirds.
Scanning the edge of the plant life just above the water line, your binoculars might catch something different, as I did. It took several seconds to find them again, but I finally focused on two eyeballs that stared at me. They belonged to an American Bittern, doing its best to look like just another weed, its bill sticking up in the air. In the evening, Brown Pelicans glided silently overhead in perfect formation, and the muffled hooting of a Great Horned Owl said it was time to call it a day.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Salt marshes, varied wetlands.
More than 250 species. Wood, Ruddy, and Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Greater White-fronted, Snow, and Ross’s Geese, Pied-billed and Least Grebes, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants, Wood Stork, egrets, herons, night-herons, ibises, Common and Purple Gallinules, terns, gulls, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Least, Western, and Pectoral Sandpipers, Willet, Long- and Short-billed Dowitchers, Wilson’s Phalarope, Brown and American White Pelicans, American and Least Bitterns, King and Clapper Rails, Sora, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Merlin, Fish and American Crows, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, kinglets, swallows, American Pipit, Eastern Meadowlark, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, Black-and-white, Hooded, Pine, and other warblers, Orchard Oriole, Vesper, Chipping, and Savannah Sparrows. Rare: Great Kiskadee, Olive-sided and Vermilion Flycatchers, Eastern Towhee.
When to go
Year-round. Best during spring migration with possibility of a fallout.
A 520-foot boardwalk with two viewing platforms. Restrooms, picnic tables, and botanical garden in Tyrrell Park. Checklist and trail map on website.
Wastewater treatment facility. Open year-round. No entry fee. Open daily 6-9.
Go during the week for smaller crowds.
For more info
Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands, (409) 842-0458
Sea Rim State Park
About 41 miles south of Cattail Marsh, on the Gulf of Mexico. Gambusia Nature Trail boardwalk provides easy access into the marsh. Spoonbills, egrets, night-herons, Horned Lark, meadowlarks.
Big Thicket National Preserve
About 35 miles north of Beaumont off Hwy. 69/287. More than 108,000 acres of eastern hardwood forests, Gulf coastal plains, and Midwest prairies. At least 300 bird species.