Houston and Galveston birding beloved beyond the borders of Texas

✏️ By Lauren Miheli, Houston Audubon Membership and Volunteer Manager

As you might expect, the majority of Houston Audubon’s members are from… that’s right, Texas. You might be surprised (as we were!) to learn that we have members in not only Texas, but in 21 other states around the country!

We were curious about why someone from a place as far as California or Hawaii would be involved with a non-profit regionally based in Houston and the Upper Texas Coast , so we caught up with a few out-of-state members to find out what inspired them to support our work. It turns out, they are some pretty inspiring people too, so we wanted to introduce you to a few of them.

First, meet Scott Bacvinskas. Scott is a member who lives in Pennsylvania. Scott was introduced to Houston Audubon when he lived in Houston in 2014 and was looking for volunteer work. He spent 2 years volunteering in the Natives Nursery at our Edith L. Moore Sanctuary.  When his company relocated him, he wanted to continue supporting the organization that gave him his introduction to native prairie plants. He doesn’t consider himself a birder, but he does enjoy walks in nature and spotting birds casually while he’s out.

Next up, meet David and Jo Nunnalee, from Washington State. These two have been visiting our High Island sanctuaries for nearly 30 years together. They sing high praises for Smith Oaks and Boy Scout Woods, saying they “don’t think there is another bird migration sanctuary in America that has finer birding, or is held in higher esteem.” In fact, a road trip to High Island this past spring was one of their first trips since COVID lockdown. They shared with us: “Well we packed the car about two weeks and 5 minutes after our second COVID vaccinations, and began the 5-day drive to High Island this past April. It was wonderful finally being able to venture out after being pretty much confined for a year. “

Wow! We are blushing.  They are avid birders, nature enthusiasts and are members of conservation organizations throughout the world. We are lucky to count them as our supporters!

Introducing another couple from the West Coast… meet Dave Bottjer and his wife Sara, from Los Angeles, California.

Like other members, Dave and Sarah were inspired to join Houston Audubon after visiting High Island many years ago. They were amazed by the birding during spring migration and wanted to stay in touch and keep up with our events and activities. They have made two trips so far, and hope to visit us again in spring 2022.

They are also members of Los Angeles Audubon, Pasadena Audubon, National Audubon, American Birding Association, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Sierra Club. When they are not occupied teaching paleontology and neurobiology at the University of Southern California, they enjoy using their time off to take birding trips all over the world. Talk about avid birders!

David Bottjer birding with his wife Sarah (who took the photo) in the high Sierras (elevation 9-10,000′) near Mammoth Lakes, CA, looking for Mountain Bluebirds, Cassin’s Finches, and Horned Larks.

Finally, meet Dick May, a Houston Audubon member who lives all the way in Hawaii.

Ever since he first visited High Island while living in Fort Worth in the mid-1990s he’s been returning to Texas for an annual birding trip. As he recalls “I was inspired to join Houston Audubon when I first visited your refuges, saw volunteers hard at work, and realized what a treasure you have created.  I met Julie Gold, then Membership Director, at Smith Oaks and joined on the spot, celebrating with macadamia nuts, as I recall.  I have visited every year since then.”

Dick is somewhat of a legacy birder. He was introduced to birding at 5 years old by his father, who was also a very serious birder, and had the opportunity to be mentored as an artist and an ornithologist by Roger Tory Peterson at the young age of 13. In fact, he was once the only teenager in the U.S. to hold a master banding permit.

Nowadays he is “retired”, but is still very active birding around the world and leading tours at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on O’ahu. He is also a member of several birding organizations including National Audubon, Fort Worth Audubon, Hawaii Audubon, and the Hawaii Bird Records Committee.

We are inspired by these stories and appreciate the support from those near and far.  Together, we are contributing to a global community of birders and conservationists.  We hope you enjoyed hearing about their stories as much as we did… please join us if you are not a member, and if you are a member and you’d like to share why you support Houston Audubon, we’d love to hear from you too!

5 thoughts on “Houston and Galveston birding beloved beyond the borders of Texas

  1. We love High Island. Texas and the Houston Audubon Society. We are from the Monterey Bay Calif and have been going to High Island, Texas since 1999. It is our favorite area to bird. Thank you to all the Houston Audubon volunteers, you all do a great job.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What amazes me is that so many of the birders with whom I converse on High Island during Spring migration are from Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and other places that are not even on this continent. I feel quite lucky to be able to just drive over there for the day, whenever I want, as long as the ferry is running. Fortunately, Spring migration season and Hurricane season are completely separated by a few weeks…at least for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It was fun to read about the out of state Houston Audubon Members and supporters. Great to know people from all over the country care about the wonderful and unique place Houston and Galveston area are for bird migration, birding and conservation. Many thanks to all Houston Audubon volunteers and staff.
    How about expanding the geography a bit? I am Houston Audubon Member and I currently reside in … Kazakhstan.
    We definitely plan to continue our support to Houston Audubon regardless of where our travels take us.

    Liked by 1 person

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