Hundreds of ducks in winter, a hotspot for migrating shorebirds and passerines in spring and fall, a reliable summer site for waterbirds, and the chance of a rarity all year – these are the reasons I never get bored birding at Village Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, known to local birders as the Village Creek Drying Beds.
Water levels in the 46 beds of water fluctuate constantly, bringing in a variety of birds. When you enter the gate, walk slowly through the wooded areas that line the road and look for songbirds, blackbirds, and nesting Barred Owls. Ducks occur on the first large pond, and Common Yellowthroats often hang out in the foliage near the corner of the pond. At the top of the slight incline is an area to set up a scope to scan the beds. From here, I walk the dirt roads around the levees.
Shorebirds, gulls, and terns are the big attractions in spring and fall. The most common migrants in both seasons are American Avocet, sandpipers, yellowlegs, Wilson’s Phalarope, Franklin’s Gull, and Black Tern. The possibilities seem endless at this urban refuge. – Gail Morris
Short paved road at entrance, then dirt roads surrounding rainwater-filled beds.
Daily lists of 60-100 species possible depending on the season. Year-round: Egrets, herons, American Bittern, Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Meadowlark. Spring: Passerines, Sora, shorebirds, gulls, terns. Summer: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, King Rail, Mississippi Kite, Painted Bunting. Fall: Shorebirds, rails, Yellow-headed Blackbird. Winter: Ducks, Swamp Sparrow, Marsh Wren, Rusty and Brewer’s Blackbirds. Raptors in spring, summer, and fall. Rarities include one of two Texas records of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (May 1991), Long-tailed Duck and Surf Scoter (winter 2007), Black-headed Gull, Black Skimmer, Harris’s Sparrow.
When to go
Year-round for waterfowl and waders. March and April and mid-July through September for migrating shorebirds.
Just the birds! Restrooms about a mile east at River Legacy Park or at River Legacy Living Science Center.
Municipal wastewater-treatment plant. No fees. Gate always locked but access on foot is 24 hours. After hiding all valuables from view prior to arrival, park directly across the street in the Dunlop Sports Center lot. Cross Green Oaks Blvd. and enter through access provided behind the bricked entrance walls attached to gate. Easy walking, some pavement, some dirt trails.
Start just before sunup and listen for three owl species: Barred, Great Horned and Eastern Screech. Although it’s been years since I’ve seen one at this location, Barn Owl is possible. There is little shade beyond the entrance road, so a hat and sunscreen are essential.