The more time I spend immersed in Fort Bend County’s natural beauty, the more I am left in awe.
My visit to Cullinan Park on Sunday was no exception.
The Cullinan Park Conservancy, led by board president Robbin Mallett, hosted a series of guided bird watching events for people of all ages in celebration of Houston Bird Week, a program led by the Houston Audubon Society.
Early Sunday morning, 54 people attended the adult bird hikes, which were split into groups of three and led by six local volunteers, Mallett said. She estimated about 50 participants attended the “Family Birding Fun” event led by Kelsey Low, another conservancy board member and the adult programs manager at the Houston Arboretum.
Mallett said it was the first time the conservancy has hosted a Houston Bird Week event.
“I’m a serious bird nerd,” Mallett said. “So I’ve been working toward having more birding opportunities not just for hard core, serious birders, but also to introduce people who are new to birding and Cullinan Park is a great place to do that.”
When the state was locked down during COVID-19 pandemic last year, she said Cullinan Park, which is free to enter, was an outlet for many people looking for safe, fresh air.
“It’s 754 acres, we have lots of trails,” Mallett said. “People can come out here and space out and social distance and still enjoy the great outdoors.”
If you go, you should visit the following link beforehand and print out a copy of the conservancy’s bird checklist to take with you on your trip: https://cullinanparkconservancy.org/birding.
According to the conservancy, 267 species of birds can be found at Cullinan Park, second only in Fort Bend County to Brazos Bend State Park in Needville.
Recently, I visited Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center in Round Mountain, an hour outside of Austin. Cullinan Park’s lush landscape and tall grasses surrounding White Lake was a strikingly similar environment, though the wildlife I saw was quite different.
Low pointed out the Tricolored Heron, the Blue Heron, and the Carolina Wren. She instructed the children and parents in attendance how to watch and listen for the calls of the White Ibises, the Gallinules and the Great Egrets as we moved along the boardwalk to the top of the observation deck overlooking the water.
I found myself watching for planes landing at nearby Sugar Land Regional Airport as often as I was looking for birds, perhaps because I couldn’t help but notice the irony.
Nonetheless, it was captivating to watch the majestic Great Egret take flight, and I gained an appreciation for how challenging nature photography can be as I tried and failed to capture it.
More than anything, though, it was fulfilling for me to be around so many families enjoying themselves in a beautiful natural setting that was as educational for the parents as it was for their children.
So it was while I was chatting with longtime Sugar Land residents Vicki Warren and Kraig Warren and their daughter Kayley, 5, who said one of the highlights of her visit to Cullinan Park was spotting a Whistling Duck.
Vicki Warren, who formerly served on the city’s parks and recreation advisory board, said she had driven by the park and that it had come up several times in conversation, but she hadn’t visited it with her family until Sunday.
She and her husband said it would be beneficial to have multiple birding events each season, to coincide with the migration patterns of different birds.
“This is a good idea for them to engage the community,” Kraig Warren said. “I didn’t realize the magnitude of all the stuff that they have here, and the observatory location. It’s pretty nice. We’ll probably come back.”