by Ro Wauer
Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail is a very different kind of bird-finding book. My wife, Betty, who is not a serious birder, was impressed with the colorful, eye-catching page design. She found the scattered historical facts an interesting addition to a nature book. We think this is a book that would make a great Christmas present. The key purpose of the book, of course, for finding birds, is also very worthwhile. It not only includes all of the best ingredients of such a bird guide but also includes numerous highlights about wildlife other than just birds. This 272-page book, with 179 color photos and 15 color maps, was published by Texas A&M University Press, and sells for $23.00
The authors, Ted Eubanks, Bob Behrstock, and Seth Davidson, have divided the Upper Texas Coast into 15 birding loop routes, such as Big Thicket, Bolivar, Galveston, and Katy Prairie, and provides directions on all the best birding sites. They include a grand total of 125 sites, each with excellent directions and suggestions on the best times of year and even a relative ranking of each site’s birding potential. For instance, some of the best birding sites, receiving a “3” ranking, includes Sabine Woods, Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, High Island Woods, Bolivar Flats, and Texas City Dike. But in reviewing the 1 and 2 ranked sites, I discovered numerous additional places that, although they were not ranked as high as others, offered locations well worth visiting.
Another extremely useful facet of the book is the numerous “Birding Tactics” sections that are scattered throughout in pertinent locations. These include such helpful discussions as “Finding” worm-eating warblers, brown-headed nuthatches, Bachman’s sparrows, wood storks, red-cockaded woodpeckers, rails, grassland sparrows, American woodcocks, northern gannets, and flycatchers. An excellent illustration is also included in most cases. And there also are numerous photographs of other animals that might be seen along the various loop routes. These can include anything from butterflies to dragonflies, lizards and mammals, as well as a few plants and some scenic features. This combination of illustrations may seem a little strange for a book primarily designed to help one find birds, but it works extremely well. It is obvious that the authors are well rounded naturalists, with a wide interest in all the creatures possible along the trail.
Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail begins with some introductory materials, including an introduction, habitat strategy, seasonal strategy, and various hints on how to find and watch birds. The authors include a short description of all the principal habitats: woodlands, prairies, wetlands, water surfaces, and sky. And the section on “To Call or Not to Call” is also helpful. Overall, this book is well-designed and needs to be included in every nature lover’s library. It is one super book!