Directions To Jim's house and the GOS

Come down the Gulf Freeway (I-45) and take 61st Street right entering Galveston. Turn right on the Seawall and you'll leave town in about five minutes. The Seawall ends, but you stay on the same four-lane road. Where it becomes two-lane in Jamaica Beach, go 1.6 miles further, and turn right into Indian Beach. Take the FIRST right (quickly), which is Shaman, the road turns left 90 degrees, and dead ends into the cul-de-sac where the driveway is.

2016 September and October

September and October of 2016, Jim will be repeating his graduate work (from 40 years ago) on St. George Island, on the Florida Coast, near Tallahassee. He is offering a week-long tour of North Florida, right in the heart of the fall migration, the first week of October. There will also be days within the week where we visit places for neat inland birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches and so-forth. That trip will be $1000. Most years, in fall, Jim offers Saturday field trips to local areas, for fall migrants and waterbirds. Of particular interest is the trip to Smith Point Hawkwatch Tower, managed by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

2016 November and December

November is the first winter month, and a great time for a four-day trip to Bosque del Apache NWR, the New Mexico destination with thousands of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. This trip may be combined with a side trip to Arizona, making a desert difecta loaded with western birds. Stay tuned! December is the month Jim totally crashes from the craziness of January to November!

2017 January, Rio Grande Valley

January begins with a local Saturday trip or two, studying waterfowl, shorebirds and wintering land birds. Destinations include sites like refuges, parks and beaches with waterbird populations. In late January, usually the week before the Super Bowl, we have a four-day trip to South Texas, where we endeavor to find (and often photograph) many of the typical Valley birds. Included in this list are chachalacas, Green Jays, Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds, roadrunners, kiskadees, Vermilion Flycatchers, Cinnamon Teal and many more. Birding is as fabulous as the photography (with hand-held cameras), making this a very popular trip. The cost is $600 and we stay in Harlingen all three nights.

2017 February, Costa Rica

February is all about Costa Rica, as we have three wonderful and separate weeks down there. Week one, the “Western Loop,” we head over to the Pacific Coast and begin with the Tarcoles area. Included in this is the town itself, with Turquoise-browed Motmots, a boat ride into the mangroves with Boat-billed Herons, a Canopy Walk down the side of the mountain, with many mid-range tropical species, and fabulous Carara National Park. The first week continues with a visit to extreme southwestern Costa Rica, before heading into the Central Highlands to the sanctuary once owned by the late Alexander Skutch, and a terrific site for hummingbird study and photography. We visit the very high areas of the Talamancas, with birds like Volcano Junco and Volcano Hummingbird, and finish by visiting and staying in a reserve where quetzals are guaranteed. $1200, all but meals. The second week is the Eastern Loop, which begins high atop Poas Volcano, where many species occur that will not be seen the rest of the trip. It’s possible to see quetzals, but we can’t promise it, like we do on week one. We then ease down the mountain, where we visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, with terrific hummingbird feeders and other possible birds on the grounds. Also, there is a huge, walk-in aviary for photographers to get shots of loads of Costa Rican birds easily missed on the trip. More hummingbird shots are easy at the “Hummingbird House” further down the mountain, where there are also Emerald Toucannets, Collared Aracari, plus Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets. Further down the mountains, along the Sarapique River, there are fabulous areas for birds, like Selva Verde, and best of all, La Selva Biological Station. We even stay at lovely La Quinta, with a fabulous feeder that attracts many tropical songbirds, like ant-tanagers, Green and Red-legged Honeyeaters and much more. From this area we will visit Los Chiles, on the Rio Frio, and take two phenomenal boat trips with huge numbers of tropical birds, huge iguanas, caimen and several species of monkeys. $1200 The third week is for bird photographers, and is mostly in eastern Costa Rica. We’ll work many of the natural feeders and other places with good shooting, then move over to Laguna del Lagartos for a fabulous morning of shooting aracari, oropendola, tanagers and other tropical birds. Next is the Rio Frio, with all the river birds, and then the trip will wind up at Monteverdi, with opportunities to photograph quetzals. You should bag two hundred tropical species while there, plus monkeys, huge iguanas, caimen and beautiful butterflies. $1200

2017 March, Big Bend

March is the beginning of the spring migration, but we often try to squeeze in a four-day trip to West Texas, for Big Bend National Park. We drive out very early Thursday and visit Balmorhea, as well as the Davis Mountains. We’ll end up staying west of Big Bend, where we will visit a fabulous set of feeders very early Friday morning. We will enter the Park midday on Friday and bird around headquarters. Saturday morning we will work the west edge of the Park, along the Rio Grande, and some nearby locations. Sunday morning we will work the eastern edge of the Park, also along the Rio Grande, before taking off midday for home. Terrific trip! $600

2017 April and May

April is the month when birds just break loose in the Galveston area, plus nearby parks and refuges. We have Saturday trips before our wonderful festival, FeatherFest. Then we have a week of fantastic birding in the heart of the migration, where bird watchers drool and photographers with hand-held cameras shoot their lenses off! This week is $450, and we visit all the great sites on the UTC, including San Bernard, Brazoria and Anahuac NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, sanctuaries at High Island (and the Rookery), Bolivar Flats and all over Galveston Island. May winds up the spring migration and also offers a wonderful Saturday trip to the Big Thicket (lunch at Mama Jack’s!). But the big news is the Great Plains Trip in late May, that runs from the fabulous birding of the Great Salt Lake, north through terrific birding in Idaho, all over Montana, culminating in North Dakota. Some of the wonderful and rare birds seen include Chestnut-collared and McCown’s Longspur, Black Rosy-finch, Mountain Plover, Golden Eagle and some rare sparrows like Baird’s. This trip is $1500 and it’ll show you many places and birds not seen in the rest of the Country. There is also a possibility that we will arrange an August rafting trip down the Sag River, that flows out of the Brook’s Range, toward the Arctic Ocean. Are you kidding me? Nesting Gyrfalcon, Bluethroat, Yellow Wagtail, Red-throated Loon, Hoary Redpolls, and Lord only knows what else. This trip will separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls. [Hopefully we can separate the men from the girls.] ;) Let me know what you are interested in.

2017 June, Alaska

June is the big destination for the GOS, where we spend two weeks in Alaska. We fly into Anchorage and spend the first week on the Kenai Peninsula, taking one boat to a seabird colony and then the all-day, Resurrection Bay Tour. We’ll see lotsa of alcids, tons of Bald Eagles up close, and many species of northern songbirds. The second week we drive to Denali National Park for a great bus ride into Mt. McKinley, fantastic scenery and birding across the Alaskan Highway and then the big drive north, across the Arctic Circle, to the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe. After two days, we fly to Barrow for a few extra species, like Pomarine Jaeger, Red Phalarope, Sabine’s Gull, Steller’s Eider and who knows what else! Because of expensive hotels, the trip is $3000, but it is an experience you’ll never forget. July is a wild card month where we often have a trip below the Equator, like South Africa, South America or Australia. If you are on the bird list, you’ll know this year’s plans, as well as more precise dates for other trips.

2017 August, Arizona

August is the month for the Arizona Trip. This is a ten-day tour of SE Arizona, where we see many of the “Mexican” species that sneak across the Border into the Chiricahua and Huachuca Mountains. Aside from a dozen hummingbirds, rare western warblers, neat woodpeckers, rare hawks, desert species of vireos, sparrows and much more. The trip is around $1500, depending, and Jim may offer a ride out, or you can fly to Tucson. Late August is the annual GOS Open Houses at Jim’s, where we spend the first hour or so in great birding in Jim’s cul-de-sac. As it warms up, we move to Jim’s glass-covered living room, where neat fall migrant songbirds often appear just outside. This is a good time to meet new people and make plans for the birding year.

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GOS Extended Trips

The Galveston Ornithological Society offers many birding/nature trips to other parts of the Continent, and even overseas to countries like South Africa, Australia, Costa Rica and several in South America. Here is some information on them:

First, we attempt to offer less expensive trips so those living on tighter budgets can participate. In order to do that, we eliminate needless expenses such as five-star hotels, and let the clients purchase their own meals. Our vehicles are not new, and Jim handles most tours and bird identification without local guides.

Also, all trips are quoted on a double-occupancy basis, with participants expected to be willing to room with another same-sex participant. If there is an odd number of women, say, then one will get a private room. The process of determining her will begin by polling the participants, but it may eventually come down to a lottery. 

Anyone who insists on a private room must pay for his/her room each night, as two rooms are nearly twice as much as one. If you require a private room, there is a 50-50 chance there’ll be an odd number of your sex, and a good chance you’ll get lucky.

Tuition covers all activities and entrance fees listed in the itinerary. If the group or individuals decide on the trip to pursue other activities that weren’t in the budget, then they may have to pay their way in. If it is simply an expense for the vehicle, such as for a State or National Park, the GOS will pay it.

By far, the main activity on the trip will be bird watching. The most important part of this is finding new species for the trip, and trying to get decent looks at these birds. However, we will also spend some time looking at unique birds, observing interesting behavior, and spectacles such as a rookery. In addition, Jim points out frog calls, picks up snakes for closer inspection, or perhaps a neat artifact on the beach.

A teacher at heart, Jim endeavors to impart information to his clients to make the trip richer. If you are not interested in what he is saying, please do not interfere with the chance for others to learn. It won’t be long! In the van, please remember that some like to relax and think. If you are talking more than those around you, you may be talking too much.

Days on the trips are long, but not too strenuous – perfect for seniors. We often arise early, as the birding is better, and usually get a full day of birding in. However, care is taken to not wear out participants. Opportunities for three meals are given, although we don’t want to sacrifice good birding time for lengthy breakfasts. Lunches are also, at times, fast food, so we don’t lose valuable time. Dinners are relaxed and delicious.

If you wish to keep track of species seen for the trip, or each day, this is your responsibility (although others may help). Jim will identify all birds for you at the time, but he has too many responsibilities to remember birds later in the day, or the next day. We do NOT go over the day’s birds at supper. A tape recorder or field notebook works well, and your roommate or friends can help you remember.

In birding groups, as in all groups, there is a possibility of bruised feelings. Please do your best to respect others and their belongings, plus remember good “talk etiquette.” Politics and religion are dangerous topics, especially expressing partisan opinions. Observations are one thing, but political spin, character assassination and other charged remarks are unproductive and pointless. Please avoid them.

There will be a list of suggestions for daily field trips which are important to read. They are just designed to make our daily birding excursions more productive and successful. Looking them over would be very much appreciated! You will receive them close to the trip.

We ask that you travel relatively light for our trips as space is limited. Soft bags are preferable to hard suitcases as they pack easier. Please don’t bring telescopes without checking with Jim. Same applies for tripod cameras.

You are welcomed to photograph birds so long as you don’t charge ahead and scare them. Jim will try to accommodate you and the groups are usually patient for a few moments, but please don’t try their patience. Occasionally, we will bird at feeders and photographers can really make a killing there with their cameras. And on all trips, Jim will provide participants with a CD of pictures taken by him.

If you have concerns on a trip, see Jim privately. Angry or sarcastic remarks in front of others are unproductive and will elicit little positive response. Mature, diplomatic discussion “behind closed doors” will bring respect and every effort by Jim to meet your concern and find a solution.

Jim tries very hard to be good and fair to everyone and works hard to bring you the very best trip. However, he has his limits. Rude, loud and selfish (talk-a-holic) behavior, and backseat driving, will turn a pleasant atmosphere into an unfortunate confrontation, an event nobody wants.

GOS Executive Director Jim Stevenson | Email Jim | 409-370-1515 | Gulls n Herons |www.galvestonbirders.org |