You’ve come to the right place if you want to be in the know about what’s going on in our organization. Be sure to check back regularly to get our latest news updates.
The July/August 2017 issue of The Naturalist is available online in PDF format.
Houston Audubon needs your help to send an email of support to the Governor’s office and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality during the public comment period for the Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail. Click the link to read more about this important project and how to send a supporting email.
Our monthly email newsletter for June, 2017, was sent out today. Click this link to view it online if you did not receive a copy.
Birdathon 2017 was a success, exceeding the goals. Team High Island Crew was a dual award winner. Click the link to see all the results.
This is a follow-up with a positive action result from the article "Bird strike into Galveston high-rise leaves hundreds dead" that described an event which occurred on May 3, 2017.
The Audubon Docent Guild & Trail Crew held their spring party at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary log cabin on Sunday May 7, 2017. The weather was absolutely beautiful and there was a lot of cheerful conversation to celebrate many recent accomplishments within the Guild and on the trails. Sheryl Marquez, President, and Bethany Foshée, Coordinator, both gave remarks that updated everyone on current events and the upcoming start of summer camps.
Click the link to see photos of the event.
Houston Audubon’s Citizen Science Committee is working with the Kleb Woods Nature Center to complete the 2nd Annual Red-vented Bulbul Census. The goal is to get an idea of the size of the population by recording as many bulbuls as possible at one time. This is a joint survey scheduled for Saturday, June 3, that we help Kleb Woods with. In past years we've included the details on our website and also promoted it in E-News.
Click the link to get more information.
Fantastic video narrated by Cliff Shackelford, ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Great scenes of shorebirds at Houston Audubon's Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary and of nesting groups at the Smith Oaks Rookery. Includes comments from Alice Anne O'Donell, our Galveston Group representative.
Click on the link. This is 5 minutes of high quality video that is definitely worth watching!
The event occurred Wednesday, May 3 and was reported by Dana Guthrie and Harvey Rice in the Houston Chronicle.
Richard Gibbons, Conservation Director, and Sarah Flournoy, Bird-friendly Communities Program Manager, were quoted in the article providing an explanation of how this kind of event can occur and solutions for how to prevent this in the future. Click the link to read the full article.
Our monthly email newsletter was sent out today. Click this link to view it online if you did not receive a copy.
Check out the new online trail guide for the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary. The guide is designed to be viewed on a smartphone while walking the trails on a self-guided tour. Maps and distances help you find your way from stop to stop. An educational narrative explains the plantlife highlights and the history of the sanctuary.
Text was written by Don Gray, our most knowledgeable source of information about the history and condition of the sanctuary and its trails. Gillian Nichols took pictures of each of the 18 stops on the trails.
Young Professional of the Year
Bethany Foshée, Houston Audubon Edith L. Moore Sanctuary Manager and Audubon Docent Guild Director, was named the Young Professional of the Year by Texas A&M University, Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences Department. The photo shows Bethany with her graduate advisor, Professor Gerard Kyle, who nominated her for the award.
Bethany earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology and a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources Management and Policy both from Texas A&M.
Congratulations to Bethany from all of the staff, volunteers and members of Houston Audubon!
The Greater Houston area wins “Most Species Identified” in the 2017 City Nature Challenge!
The City Nature Challenge was held April 14-18, 2017, in a tight competition among Houston vs. DFW vs. Austin. Participants across the Texas posted observations of plants, birds, reptiles, and more on iNaturalist, an online Citizen Science effort to document species. Observations were made everywhere from participants’ backyards to city parks to nearby wildlife refuges. Houston identified the most species of all the cities across Texas and across the entire country.
Click the photo link to read the full story.
Thirty hard- working volunteers spent Earth Day, April 22, 2017, at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary. They did a variety of really tough jobs including: spreading mulch deep into the woods on the trails, spreading gravel on the driveway and parking lot, cleaning bird baths, and planting bulrush in the pond and flowers in the beds. Thank you Team Citgo!
Click the link to see the team and some candid photos.
Beautiful close-up photos of birds, reptiles and plants seen on the bus trip to High Island on April 20, 2017. The trip was organized by Nichol Chambers. Click on the link to see the photos taken by Joseph Smith.
May 19th-21st, 2017. Just one hour northwest of Houston in beautiful Grimes County lies the 1100 acre retreat center of Camp Allen. Please join us for our 7th Birds and Blooms weekend!
Calling all nature and bird lovers—this conference is for you! Enjoy Camp Allen’s 1,100 forested acres, attend expert-led workshops, hike scenic trails with experienced guides, and much more!
Featured presentations include wildlife and bird photography, dragonfly and butterfly workshops, gardening for wildlife workshops, live owl and hawk demonstrations, birding identification, sunrise bird watching, outdoor painting workshops and much more.
Click on the image to see more information.
On April 18, 2017, Houston celebrated its newly achieved status as the 100th community to certify through the National Wildlife Federation’s Community Wildlife Habitat™ program. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner recognized this accomplishment by proclaiming April 18, 2017, as Wildlife Habitat Day in the City of Houston during the City Council meeting.
There is a lot of activity at the Smith Oaks Rookery on High Island. These photos were taken on Saturday, April 15, 2017, and show visitors on the viewing platforms.
Photos by Joseph Smith.
Houston Audubon is toasting and thanking Tropical Birding for 10 years of partnership on April 15 at High Island. Join us, 10:30-11:30 AM, at the picnic tables at Boy Scout Woods for light bites and bubbles as we toast the Tropical Birding partnership.
The Tropical Birding guides led more than 2,200 people on bird walks through High Island sanctuaries and nearby shorebird haunts in 2016.
This year, Tropical Birding guides will lead three bird walks a day, five days a week (every day except Tuesday and Wednesday) in our High Island sanctuaries and surrounding hotspots. The walks begin on April 7 and end on April 29. The 8:30 AM walk is at Boy Scout Woods. The Noon shorebird walk meets at the gate for Boy Scout Woods and visits various sites for shorebirds and other coastal birds. The 4:00 walk starts at the Old Mexico Rd. parking lot at Smith Oaks and searches for warblers in the woods followed by a quick circuit of the Rookery.
Click to see photos taken by Joseph Smith at the event.
Do you give tours to the public or volunteer at a museum, zoo or nature center? Then the National Interpretive Guide Certification is for you. We are excited to host the National Association of Interpreters for this highly sought after training! A few spaces left – click the link to get more details and to sign up.
Our monthly email newsletter was sent out today. Click this link to view it online if you did not receive a copy.
The inaugural Spring Break Camp was held at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary from Wed-Fri March 15-17, 2017 and was a big success. It was led by 'Ms Bethany', 'Ms Bee', and 'Ms Ranger' along with teen counselors Hayley, Krista, Sam, Jacob, Bokyung and Philmore. One new feature was offering healthier snacks based on last summer’s survey responses. We are excited to be offering more holiday break camps! Click on the title to see photos posted on Flickr.
The Nominating Committee of the Houston Audubon Board of Directors recommends the following slate for election to the Board of Directors. Elections will be conducted at the membership meeting on May 11, 2017. Also, according to the By-Laws, nominations will be accepted from the floor.
Zayd's Eagle Scout Project - Bird Friendly Communities Demonstration House
According to recent studies, in the United States over 1 billion birds die annually from hitting windows. That is close to 10% of the estimated total bird population! Many birds do not recognize these windows as obstacles and crash into them while flying. Some see their reflection in the window and attack their reflection thinking it’s a competing male. Birds face many more dangers in their daily lives including cats, cars, pesticides and habitat loss.
Mary Anne Weber, Education Director, is working with a Boy Scout earning his Eagle rank with a project at Sims. He presented at the membership meeting on March 9, 2017 and raised $440 that night towards his project. Here is a statement about the project.
My name is Zayd Latheef, a Boy Scout, from Troop 713 and I am partnering with Houston Audubon to educate visitors at Sims Bayou Urban Nature Center on how to make their own home more bird friendly for my Eagle Scout project. To accomplish this, I am building a miniature house (kids playhouse) that will be used to educate visitors. Attached to this 6ft by 6ft miniature house will be several signs to inform people about how to make their house bird friendly and safe. In addition to an educational playhouse, there will be a small garden to educate people about native plants they can plant in their yards to support birds.
Please support my project! Send donations to Houston Audubon earmarked “Zayd’s Project.”
The girls are members of the Rummel Creek Elementary Girl Scouts. They made the video as part of their troop’s bronze award project for Houston Audubon. They made owl boxes for us to sell and they all came to volunteer at our work day in February, 2017. Click the link to see the video.
A team from CenterPoint Energy descended on Sims Bayou Urban Nature Center on Saturday, March 11, 2017, for a very productive workday. Gardens were weeded and mulched to prepare them for spring planting, trails were repaired, aviaries were repaired for some of the education animals and a new parking pad was created for the Birdmobile. Huge thanks to our friends at CenterPoint Energy!
Click to see photos of the workday.
FeatherFest Photo Winner
The second place winner for the first week of the FeatherFest PhotoFest photo contest is Joseph Smith’s image of a Great Egret from the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary in High Island titled “Egret Bathing.” Joseph is a member of the Houston Audubon Board of Directors.
The March 2017 Speaker Event was a great success. Craig Meurer was our speaker. He gave an excellent presentation on photographing Red Kites in Scotland and conservation efforts to help the small but growing population.
Craig is a professional photographer and founder of RaptorQuest™ - a conservation and education group promoting the preservation of raptors worldwide. He supports various causes across the globe and promotes raptor conservation through photography, photo tours, education, and online information. Craig has been a photographer for more than 30 years and he has shot professionally in commercial, news, nature and sports photography. He has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, calendars and advertisements over the years.
Craig has been exhibited at juried shows, and won multiple photography awards. Craig is a member of Houston Audubon, the Texas Hawking Association and the North American Falconry Association.
Click to see photos of the event.
Owls are known as The Silent Hunters. In the dark of night, the nocturnal hunters emerge. Owls spend their nights hunting for prey and raising their families. Mary Anne Weber, Education Director, is presenting a program entitled "Live Owls" at Huntsville Audubon. The program will be held on Monday, March 13, 2017. Click the link for more information.
University of Houston Presentation
The Houston Audubon Education Director presented at University of Houston Downtown today to a class of math students and teachers about the importance of bird conservation and bird monitoring. The math students all participate in our bird surveys. It was a great time spent with some great students! The students use eBird Texas as their data source for statistical analysis.
A good crowd of avid birding enthusiasts attended the Birdathon Workshop held at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary log cabin on Sunday. Three informative sessions were held to kick off the competition this year. Visit the link to see photos of the event.
The Houston Audubon website was down most of Tuesday afternoon, February 28. The problem was due to operational errors in the Amazon Web Services cloud, where our web server resides. This has been reported in the press. We did not lose any data when the site came back. In fact, the E-News was successfully sent out and everything appeared normal. The Amazon outage had no effect on the Bird-Friendly Communities website.
Then on Wednesday morning, March 1, everything was working except the home page and the Planned Giving site. All of the internal pages on the Houston Audubon site were accessible. For example, all the links in the E-News are working except the banner which linked to the home page. This problem was resolved within an hour by Firespring, our website hosting provider.
Our monthly email newsletter was sent out today. Click the link to see an online version.
The February Member's Field Trip was a great success. We birded the JJ Mayes Wildlife Trace just east of Houston. We came away with a list of 50 species including 2 Bald Eagles, tons of Tree Swallows and lots of waterfowl. The Osprey put on quite a show for us as did the swirling flocks of sandpipers. The tree lines were full of Yellow-rumped Warblers and gnatcatchers and a very cooperative Orange-crowned Warbler. It was a typical weather day with everyone very cold and bundled up in the morning and then peeling off the layers by noon.
The $6.25M Bolivar Nature Trail proposal Houston Audubon submitted for RESTORE Act Direct Component (Bucket 1) funding was included on the draft funding list published on the Restore the Texas coast website on February 17, 2017. The next step is a 45-day public comment period followed by submission to the federal Treasury for approval as part of the Multi-year Implementation Plan.
The Volunteer Appreciation Party was held in the historic log cabin at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary in west Houston. The annual event honors our exceptional volunteer of the year, presented to Ben Hulsey. Congratulatory remarks were given by John Bartos, President, and Helen Drummond, Executive Director.
The Houston Audubon Education Team had a great time delivering a Bird Tales program to the residents at the Belmont on February 17. Birds Tales is a special program developed by Audubon Connecticut and a dementia specialist. The Belmont Village Senior Living Hunters Creek is going to be delivering these specialized programs to their residents on a regular basis with assistance and training from Houston Audubon staff. Houston Audubon will also be helping them set up bird feeders and a native plant garden for the residents to enjoy.
The new Houston Audubon website is three months old! We re-launched the website in November 2016 with three goals:
1. Mobile-friendly for use on smartphones and tablets.
2. Easier to navigate and find things.
3. Better visual appearance.
Over 40% of our visitors now view the site using a mobile device. And statistics show that people are visiting more pages than before. We just had the busiest day of the year when registration opened for the Edith Moore summer camps.
We're happy with these results, but we're always looking for ways to improve and provide better information. If you have any ideas, please use the link to our website feedback form.
Highlights of the new site include: basics, native plants, yard program, model habitats, citizen science, bird map, sending and posting learning boxes.
The February Senior Bus Trip to the Katy Prairie was a great evening. The White-tailed Hawks were a special treat and the Bald Eagle chasing the Snow Geese. Thanks to Bob Honig and the Katy Prairie Conservancy for all they do to protect this special place. Calling curlews, chasing cranes, simmering sunset, and wonderful camaraderie made the evening very special.
Dr. Peter Marra presented his research and case studies used to determine the effects of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife.
Click the link to read more.
Super Bird 51 Results
The results are in! It was a great day for the big game and a hearty crowd was ready for Super Bird 51. The Gridiron Goatsuckers got off to an early lead with waxwings and cormorants abounding on the field of play. In the end, the Superb Owls pulled out the win with a commanding 54 species and 20 minutes left to play. The Goatsuckers rallied and spotted a Belted Kingfisher and grackle to reach 51 species before the whistle blew. Congrats to the Superb Owls! The Goatsuckers will patiently wait for Super Bird 52 to get some revenge!
Terese "Terry" Tarlton Hershey (1923-2017)
For more than half a century, Terry Hershey devoted substantial time, energy and resources in significant conservation projects throughout Texas, including the founding of Houston Audubon in 1969. Today, we pay tribute to Terry in memory of and gratitude for her leadership, dedication and passion to making Houston and the life of Houstonians better.
Houston Audubon is honored to have been a part of Terry’s life. Not only was she a founding director, but also a long-time member of the Board of Directors and Board of Advisors.
Click the title link above to read more.
Our very dear friend, Board of Advisor member, and former Board of Director member Lettalou Whittington passed away on January 16, 2017. Lettalou was a lifetime member and served Houston Audubon and the birds in so many ways over the years. She served on the Board of Directors from 1995 to 2004.
As the initial funder of the Winnie Burkett Sanctuary Intern Fund, Lettalou helped establish a program that continues to provide budding scientists with invaluable field experience while offering our sanctuaries a helping hand. This program has become a core element of our sanctuary management efforts today.
Lettalou did so much for Houston Audubon and in recognition of her dedication, Houston Audubon named its Birdathon Grand Prize – Most Money Raised award in her honor. We call it the Whittington Award, the highly coveted award for Birdathon.
Lettalou planted many seeds at Houston Audubon over the years and the fruit of her work continues to soar. She will forever be in our heart!
The January workday proved to be very productive. The photo shows the volunteers and the massive pile of Chinese privet that was cleared. Thank you to all who could attend! The weather wasn’t cooperative for painting the Winnie St. kiosk, but hopefully it will cooperate the next time around. We were able to haul out all of the old boardwalk and mount a very successful effort to clean up the picnic area in Smith Oaks. Our next High Island volunteer workday of the season is scheduled for Saturday, February 11th. We’ll meet at the green maintenance building on 5th St in High Island at 8:30, work until 12, and then enjoy lunch provided by Houston Audubon. Please let me know if you can attend so we have lunch for everyone. We hope you’ll be able to join us!
The Audubon Docent Guild hosted our annual holiday party on the coldest day of the year. Despite the temperature, a hearty group of Docent members and volunteers showed up to enjoy the holiday cheer at the log cabin in the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary.
Click the link above to see photos taken at the event.
Houston Audubon was awarded $239,800 to create two new colonial waterbird nesting islands and enhance existing nesting habitat for thousands of birds that depend on this important habitat. The Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary Rookery Island Restoration and Enhancement project located on the Upper Texas Coast at High Island is part of a landscape-scale effort to restore lost colonial waterbirds impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The project is made possible with funding from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).