Willow Waterhole Bird Survey
Next Survey: March 18 at 8 AM
Leader: Mary Ann Beauchemin, Senior Naturalist at the Nature Discovery Center. The Nature Discovery Center is partnering with Houston Audubon to conduct the Willow Waterhole survey.
Cooper's Hawk at Willow Waterhole
Latest Report: February 18
It was a nice morning last Saturday for the WWH bird survey. We had a total of 43 species plus 2 taxa that could not be identified down to species. It was interesting to me that eBird made me write notes to explain the presence of some of the birds I expect to see there. They thought we had more than expected Neotropical Cormorants (20) and Snowy Egrets (8). I know my group saw about 12 Northern Cormorants all at once in the water and I know the next largest number was on the east side of Post Oak, so I am pretty confident we did not overcount these. They also thought that we should not have seen any Mottled Ducks, Laughing Gulls, Cattle Egrets, the Little Blue Heron and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (even though this was reported a few days earlier) in February. This made me wonder if the warmer than average February temperatures had an effect on the species we found.
Many thanks to the great turnout of 26 birders who came out to help with the survey! It is such a great help to have everyone’s eyes searching in all directions. Special thanks to Les Wolf & & Caren & Gene Fritts who led the survey area groups with me.
The next count will be Sat, March 18, starting at 8 AM. I will be out of town, but Mark Meyer has agreed to lead this walk for us again. It will be a great chance for all of you who have helped Mark with this survey over the last many years to join him on a survey again! Thanks again for all your help! We couldn’t do this without you!
-- Mary Ann Beauchemin
The Willow Waterhole Bird Survey was started in June 2007 and is held on the third Saturday of each month (but no survey in December). During the 2-hour count, the number of species identified can range from around 30 in summer to over 50 in the winter.
The survey begins in the parking lot of the Gathering Place at 5310 South Willow Drive. Our usual starting time is 8 AM, but we begin at 7 AM from April through September. We split up into three or four groups to cover the park thoroughly, and as of mid-2015, nearly 200 species had been reported to eBird. For a list of species reported to date, see eBird.
The Willow Waterhole Conservation Reserve is the site of an ongoing retention pond project of the Harris County Flood Control District. With excavation underway on the fourth of six ponds, the 290-acre park continues to be an excellent birding area within the City of Houston and just outside the southwest corner of Loop 610.
Birding Willow Waterhole
The major part of the Willow Waterhole reserve is on the west side of South Post Oak Road, and that is where three of the ponds are located (with two more to come). Good places to park for birding these ponds are on Ricecrest Street and on the Clematis Lane cul-de-sac off of Gasmer. Also, adjacent to the parking lot at the Gathering Place on South Willow is a short, woodland path to the unconcreted Willow Waterhole Bayou, which marks the northern boundary of the park. Another parking area is on the gravel road at the eastern end of Dryad Drive behind Westbury High School.
On the Willow Waterhole property east of South Post Oak Road, the fourth of the six ponds is being excavated. This is also where the endangered Texas Prairie Dawn flower (Hymenoxys texana) is located and where several species of sparrows have been seen each winter. Because the flower is an endangered species, the HCFCD is required by law to return much of the surrounding acreage back to coastal prairie, including removal of non-native vegetation. Access to this property is at the south end of Windwood Drive or along Gasmer.