Surrounded by housing developments and strip malls, William Goodrich Jones State Forest is a woodland haven for wildlife and people. More than 1,700 acres in size, this forest of loblolly pine is owned and administered by the Texas A&M Forest Service. Its primary purpose is to educate Texas citizens and visitors about public forest stewardship, but to the naturalist, birder, and nature photographer it is much more.
Boasting an impressive list of more than 250 bird species, W. G. Jones State Forest is home to numerous southern specialties. Throughout the forest, the musical trill of Pine Warblers and the piping kidee-ee of Brown-headed Nuthatches rings out almost constantly. The two species are synonymous with the southern pine forest. Other birds of note include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Cardinal, and Northern Mockingbird. In spring, look for migrating warblers and other Neotropical visitors.
The main attraction for most birders is probably the chance to see the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker—along with the Brown-headed Nuthatch, another bird of the pine woodlands. The state forest contains approximately six Red-cockaded Woodpecker colonies, which represent the extreme southwestern edge of the the species’ range. Listen for the bird’s raspy skilt and liquid chattering as well as its relatively soft drumming.
Visitors can access the heart of the forest on a mile-long nature trail and more than 14 miles of dirt roads, well marked with signs. Only a 45-minute drive from Houston, W. G. Jones State Forest is a great birding escape for residents of—or visit.