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Sundown Island has been renamed to Chester Island
to honor former Warden,
Chester Smith.

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Port O'Connor, Texas

2000-12 Sundown Island Island

Volunteers Get Island Ready for 2015 Spring Nesting Season

Nesting Brown Pelican
Scott Haydel, Brylon Leblanc, and Todd Lancon on AQUA-BARGE 1 - after safely offloading volunteers. View a larger image.

February 20, 2015: Article by Tim Wilkinson, Coastal Warden
View the new photo album of workday.

Three boat loads of volunteers set out from Port O’Connor early Friday morning across a choppy Matagorda Bay. Our group was headed out to Chester Island Bird Sanctuary for the Spring Workday.

We were eager to get started working, and after unloading the boats on the island, we broke up into groups to tackle the different tasks.

  • One group headed out walking the shoreline for beach cleanup —bagging up all kinds of trash that had washed up on shore and create potential threats to our birds. They were surprised to be greeted by a beautiful pair of Chinese Swan Geese, that we guess swam or flew over from Matagorda Island. They found many interesting items, including a genuine “Message in a Bottle.”
  • A second group of volunteers got busy planting 30 Trees—all Texas Native species—for the birds to nest in. They also cleaned up around older trees, and scattered fertilizer around them. They got a big scare when they found a Rattlesnake curled up in one of the tree planting holes they had just dug—but everyone stayed safe. They collected seeds, berries, and cuttings from older trees—to be propagated by Formosa’s Ag Center for future plantings.
  • A third group re-installed some “No Landing” signs on the new shoreline created in last Fall’s dredging—where we expect large numbers of Tern may choose to nest this Spring.
  • And a fourth group worked to construct a small retaining wall as a defense against erosion.
  • A fifth group trimmed and cleaned up all around our small shed area, and straightened and braced up a wooden base holding our rain water collection tank. Everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch while taking a break.

We observed a few early tenants—including about 50 pairs of Great Blue Herons and Reddish Egret starting to build their nests. Also spotted along the shoreline were large numbers of Brown Pelican, Cormorant, Seagulls, and a few White Pelicans.

Special thanks go to our workday sponsors:

  • Formosa Plastics for sponsoring Spring 2015 workday!
  • Bisso Marine and Aqua-Tech Services for providing safe and comfortable boat transportation.
  • Tubular Resources for donating pipe used to build our wall.

A BIG THANK YOU to all our hard working volunteers! We completed quite a few jobs and are ready to welcome ALL our birds back to the island. The Spring 2015 Work Day workers included: Karen Barton, Allan Berger, Brigid Berger, Jeremy Cecil, Colt Cook, Randy Fluitt, Calvin Jackson, Kimberley Mason, Ethan Perry, Myron Smith, Steve Tripp, Barbara Van Horn, Jennifer White, Peggy Wilkinson, Dee Williams, Mike Williams, plus boat drivers Scott Haydel, Brylon Leblanc and Todd Lancon.

Upcoming events in 2015:

  • TERN training is planned for Port O'Connor (Feb 27) and in Rockport (Apr 15):
    Audubon Texas TERN Coordinator Kari Howard will engage citizens in the community to gather valuable data about bird populations in foraging grounds and rookery habitats. (See
  • Brown Pelican Tracking Project:
    As part of a Clemson University multi-year Brown Pelican tracking project around the Gulf of Mexico, Juliet Lamb and Yvan Satge’ will visit Chester Island several times throughout the nesting season. Juliet and her team fitted 14 brown pelican nesting on Chester Island in 2013-2014 with GPS trackers, and have been monitoring their travels (See
  • How to report banded Brown Pelicans:
    Also, Juliet’s group has banded many other brown pelicans—so if you see one with a leg band, they would like you to grab some binoculars and try to record the band code, color and when & where you saw it—and report that to this website (See 
  • Annual Chester Island Colonial Waterbird Survey, May 22:
    Volunteers from Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, and other volunteer birders will count the nesting birds for the annual census. View last year's census.

The Chester Island rookery is posted "no trespassing" and protected by federal law. If you see birds nesting elsewhere—please stay away.  You can disturb birds without even knowing it.  We ask all fishermen and boaters to cooperate with the Texas public awareness campaign encouraging citizens to "Fish, Swim and Play from 50 yards away".


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How to Help:

Contact Warden Tim Wilkinson for information, how to contribute, or how to volunteer at Be sure to visit the Audubon Texas Web site for information about other bird sanctuaries at: Audubon Texas Web site.