Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, September 17, 2007

Devastation at High Island

Sue Levy, a former Duluth birder who now lives in Texas, asked me and other bloggers to share this important news:
Dear Friends,

Last Wednesday we woke to discover that we suddenly, from outta nowhere, had a tropical depression just south of Galveston Island that was due to become a tropical storm and make landfall within less than 24 hours. By about midnight, (Erev Rosh Ha- Shanah for some of us) it was Hurricane Humberto, which made landfall at High Island, devastating the precious bird sanctuaries which are famous as a spot for a different sort of landfall - for the trans-Gulf neo-tropical migrants who arrive each Spring, tired and hungry, to what has been a perfect habitat for them. If you're not a birder, you should know that the Upper Texas Coast is a world-class destination for both birds and birders and is a vital link in the migratory path for hundreds of species in both Spring and Fall. The High Island sanctuaries are about seventy miles northeast of Houston. between Galveston and Port Arthur.

Some of the worst damage was done by a tornado that touched down in the midst of the storm. Please read Winnie Burkett's comments and view the pictures of the damage which speak for themselves. The recovery effort will have to be massive to bring these places back to a semblance of what they were before. I hope you will make a generous donation to the cost of this work and, if you are in the Houston area, volunteer for one of the workdays. Houston Audubon cannot possibly pay for all the work that will be needed. A huge effort will be necessary on the part of volunteers. You can make a difference. Please help us.

Best wishes to y'all,



  1. Hi Laura,
    Thank you for sharing. High Island is one of those special places. I first visited there in 1983 when I was on the road for the birds. Over the years I have been back many times. Houston Audubon is doing a wonderful job. Keep up the great work.
    Lydia Thompson

  2. Hello Laura -

    Myself and 3 other birders from Tropical Birding/Birding America were staying in our newly-purchased house ACROSS THE STREET from the front gate of Boy Scout during the week of the hurricane. We were there days before planting shrubs and wildflowers and landscaping the house for birds and wildlife, we were there during the hurricane, and several days after, cleaning up the damage. I won't even go into what an absolutely horrid ordeal it was. What I can say is that you wouldn't believe how well HAS and the state recovery teams got together to clear out fallen debris - making Boy Scout look more like the old Boy Scout each day. The most painful part of damage occurred to the dozens and dozens of large (200+? yr old) oaks on the property, and around the island. Yet, in the days immediately following the hurricane we birded very intermittantly and found the island to still be loaded with birds. Hooded Warblers, parulas, and Red-eyed Vireos were crawling all over our backyard. Mississippi Kites and Eastern Kingbirds were pushing through, as were Eastern Wood-Pewees and empid kin. All in all, we recorded 82 species from atop a tower we are building across the street from Boy Scout. Although BS has changed habitat-wise, I'm confident that spring birding will be much the same as in years past. The Cathedral is down, but the morning after the hurricane we found worm-eating, mourning, hooded, blackburnian, chestnut-sided, am redstart...and more...still using this magnificent patch of woods. Long live High Island birding!

  3. I've never been able to get to High Island during spring migration. This coming spring, IF I have a job that can help me pay for a drive down and IF that job would allow me to get away long enough for the trip, I really want to come down and see this magnificent spectacle!