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HIDDEN GEM: Smith Oaks Sanctuary

For many migrating songbirds, their last stop before High Island is the Yucatan Peninsula. That’s about 600 miles.

BOLIVAR PENINSULA, Texas — We are in the middle of peak migration season for birds in Texas. If you want to catch a glimpse of the more than 100 species flying through, we know just the place: Smith Oaks Sanctuary in High Island.

"It’s not an actual island," explains Pete Deichmann, Houston Audubon's land director. "It is not surrounded by water. It’s surrounded by marsh and coastal prairie."

But, because it is 30 feet above sea level, this island-not-island stands out.

"It’s particularly important for migrating songbirds, who’ve spent their winters in Central and South America," Deichmann says.

In the spring, those birds head north. Their last stop before High Island is the Yucatan Peninsula. That’s about 600 miles.

"High Island is a beacon of habitat, so we manage our sanctuaries for birds to be able to drop in, rest, refuel, get a drink of water and continue on their journey," says Deichmann.

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It’s also a spot for these birds to raise their families.

"The rookery does get full this time of year," Deichmann says. "Lots of activity. Lots of noise. Lots of baby birds being born."

There's also lots of interest from birders all around the world, who fill up social media with the pictures they capture here.

"We get visitors from 48 different states and 20 different countries," says Deichmann.

Smith Oaks is one of four bird sanctuaries managed by Houston Audubon in High Island.

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"Even if you’re not a birder, this might turn you into a birder," Deichmann says. "It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors and a beautiful day like today and see some cool things."

If you want to check them out, the Houston Audubon sanctuaries in High Island are open 365 days a year from dawn until dusk. 

Brandi Smith on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Do you have a hidden gem we should check out? Let us know by emailing Brandi Smith at bsmith@khou.com!

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