Houston Audubon Society Pilings separating Bolivar Shorebird Sanctuary

Bolivar Peninsula

Getting There


Coming down Highway 124 from Anahuac National Wildlife Reserve, my first detour on the Bolivar Peninsula was immediately after the intersection with Highway 87. A turn to the left took me onto the beach, where a row of pilings had been taken over by Brown Pelicans. You can drive along the beach for about two miles, until you get to Meacome's Pier, if you are brave, you understand tides, and your vehicle can take the pressure. This area of the beach is open to public access. Keep your eyes open for shorebirds, as well as pelagic birds that may have been blown in by a storm. Pelicans on Pilings
Brown Pelicans on Pilings
Fishing Pier at Rollover Flats
Fishing Pier at Rollover Pass
My next stop was at Rollover Pass, in the town of Gilchrist. Going too far, I ended up on the wrong side of the fishing pier. As I was turning around, a Great Egret landed in front of  my car, hotly pursued by two Sanderlings in winter plumage.  After watching their antics  for a few minutes, I crossed back to the east side of the pier and drove to the end, where I found a wonderful sandbar, with American White Pelicans (seems like the Brown and White pelicans have their own territories, with the Brown in salt water in the Gulf and the White in fresh water in Galveston Bay). 
Sand Bar at Rollover Flats
Sandbar at Rollover Pass, Bolivar Peninsula

This sandbar was extremely productive - a Snowy Egret fishing in the foreground, American White Pelicans in the background, and a small flock of American Avocets in winter plumage on the back side of the  sandbar. Sanderlings, Marbled Godwits, Willets and other unidentified shorebirds were foraging on the mud flat and many Laughing Gulls were adding to the confusion. 

My very first Reddish Egret was spotted on the far side of the sandbar, hiding in a small group of Black-necked Stilts. The fishermen lining the pier seemed to regard me with some suspicion - many of them were out in the shallow water in hip-waders, and didn't take kindly to a high-powered scope seemingly focused on them. Luckily, they were more interested in fishing than in the birds that were also lunching on the smorgasbord offered by the shallow waters. 

I could have spent another hour here, but time was limited, so I pressed on to Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.

Reddish Egret - Photo copyright Don DesJardin
Reddish Egret
Photo copyright Don DesJardin
Observation Platform at Bolivar Flats
Observation Platform at Bolivar Flats
To get to Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, you need turn on the very poorly marked Rettilion road, immediately opposite the Loop 108 sign. The road petered out on a beach, but I turned right and drove about 3/4 of a mile to the Houston Audubon Society pilings signifying the start of the reserve. There is no entry fee, but the exit fee is a bag of litter. So, bring garbage bags! 

Bolivar Flats is home to up to 10,000 shorebirds a night. But, in mid-day they must be out foraging. 

Bolivar Flats and Galveston
 Bolivar Flats with the city of Galveston in the background

Snowy Plover - Photo copyright Don Desjardin
Snowy Plover 
Photo copyright Don DesJardin
After driving 3/4 of a mile down the beach, and climbing the observation tower, you will be greeted with a sign that explains in great detail how your car can sink into the sand and never be seen again! Fine time to tell you, after you have already driven across the sands..... 

Now, all I had to worry about was losing our rental car on the way back! There were bunches of mostly unidentifiable shorebirds around on Bolivar Flats, including Snowy Plovers, Sanderlings, and Willets. 

Gulls on Ferry Pilings
Laughing Gulls on Ferry Pilings
I suddenly realized that I had to be back in Houston within the hour! I was delighted to find that there was a free ferry connecting the Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston, which gave me a quick return via a few freeways to Houston. Luckily, I got back in time for the banquet! Gulls chasing the Ferry
Gulls Chasing the Ferry
The next day was fully occupied by a flight to Orlando, Florida. 
      Other sites on the Bolivar Peninsula: