The Texas colonial waterbird counts are underway and Houston Audubon staff are out conducting this important monitoring work. A fantastic surprise in the coast-wide monitoring effort is the first-time use of an island built for just that purpose in Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. This now three-year-old island was part of a nesting expansion project completed with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Ducks Unlimited to help recover species affected by the Gulf Oil Spill. After construction, it was planted with native vegetation and nesting condominiums were built and installed to entice pioneering herons, egrets, and spoonbills.
We watched and waited the first two years as the willow and cattails filled in the bare island. It was the Tricolored Herons that finally put nesting material to cattail stalk to get the party started. Five species nested on the Cattail Island in Smith Pond for the first time! Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Cattle Egret are making themselves at home at this primo nesting site. For those interested in seeing this new nesting site, it is the next pond over from the existing rookery in High Island and can be seen at the western end of the Kathrine G. McGovern Canopy Walkway in High Island, Texas.
By Dr. Richard Gibbons, Conservation Director, Houston Audubon