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On 25-26 June, Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council hosted the third annual Hotter than Hell Big Day. This quirky birding event is designed to showcase the bird diversity that our Island and the coastal region offer at what most might consider the worst time of year for birding. 5 teams scoured the county from high noon Sunday through mid-day Monday, looking for every possible bird species that exist within Galveston County limits. This year we added half-day categories for those with limited time or perhaps the wisdom to limit their exposure to near-record temperatures. We were rewarded with two teams choosing this option, and each birding a different day. The combined species total for the event was 141, which was up from last year’s 135, and the inaugural 127 species counts.
We used eBird to craft this activity, and most of the teams used it to strategize where to go and which potential species to look for. With three years of results, it’s pretty clear that birding is tough, and the best you can have a chance to even encounter is about 127 species. It’s also a challenge to find “common” birds this time of year. Our team had 31 species which only amounted to a single individual bird seen or heard in the entire time we were birding across the county. The unexpected surprises make the chase more fun. Since 2021, we’ve added 16 unexpected “write-in” species to the master list. This year’s big surprise was a Black-whiskered Vireo teased from the branches in High Island’s Smith Oaks Sanctuary.
One of the biggest benefits we’ve seen in putting this event together is showcasing the tremendous birding community we have here in Galveston. This event “sweats” Bird City Texas principles with a strong core of local birders and the teamwork of conservationists to create and appreciate bird-friendly spaces. Without conservation partners like Artist Boat (Coastal Heritage Preserve), City of Galveston (East End Lagoon Nature Preserve, Laffite’s Cove Nature Preserve), Galveston Bay Foundation (Sweetwater Bayou Nature Preserve), Galveston Island State Park, Houston Audubon, Nature Conservancy (Texas City Prairie Preserve), and Scenic Galveston (Virginia Point), we would not have had the opportunity to encounter this diversity. All of the teams visited at least one of these large, protected habitat areas that allow birds to exist and thrive.
We encourage our Bird City Texas neighbors in Houston and Surfside to consider joining the Hotter than Hell Big Day efforts and showcasing their communities’ spirit and avian gems. And lastly, we want to acknowledge the hard work of GINTC staff in pulling this event together, the financial support of our sponsors, and the generous contributions of all those that made monetary donations towards their team’s efforts. Hotter than Hell Big Day is a success in showcasing Galveston as a model Bird City Texas.