Holiday with the Cranes

Presented By Coldwell Banker TGRE

DECEMBER 10 – 11, 2022

Soon we’ll have several hundred of these elegant Sandhill Cranes wintering with us, as they take advantage of our milder climate and plentiful food resources.

To celebrate the arrival of these 3-4 foot tall, red-capped visitors, we invite you to join Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council in what’s been dubbed by the New York Times as “one of the quirkiest events in Texas” – Holiday with the Cranes!

For a unique holiday experience, spend a wild weekend in Galveston celebrating the return of the Island’s Sandhill Cranes at Holiday with the Cranes, Dec. 10 – 11, 2022. Join us for our indoor and outdoor nature activities combined with the ambience and warm hospitality of historic Galveston Island!

Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council is a membership organization that connects people with Galveston’s natural environment. One of the ways we do that is through our events like Holiday with the Cranes. This year our Sandhill Crane celebration is presented by Coldwell Banker TGRE

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Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022          


  • Dawn Patrol: Breathtaking Views of Sandhill Cranes in Flight at Sunrise (6:30 – 7:30 am)
  • Coffee & Cranes with Special Guest Karla Klay, Breakfast & Crane Crawl (8 – 11:30 am)
  • East End Winter Coastal Birding: Exploring Diverse Habitats of the East End (1:30 – 4:30 pm)


Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022


  • Dawn Patrol: Breathtaking Views of Sandhill Cranes in Flight at Sunrise (6:30 – 7:30 am) 
  • Winter Birding on the Isle’s West End: Birding Hotspots Out West (9:00 am – noon)

Galveston Bay Area Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist Advanced Training Credit: 2 Hours

Current GINTC Members enjoy a 10% discount on all events!

To learn more about membership or to join, go to

Registrants should be at least 10 yrs old, and those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Registration is required of all attendees regardless of age.


What It Means To See Or Hear A Crane



Tickets: $40, 10% discount for GINTC members

What does it mean to see or hear a crane in person, in a dream, in an image, or in a story? Are cranes divine messengers or have spiritual symbolism? Join Karla Klay as she explores the long history humans have of integrating cranes into myth and lore, iconography, and storytelling. The next time you see or hear a Sandhill Crane following this presentation, you will take in more than just their biological attributes and beauty. You will take away inspiration the cranes have provided by gracing us with their presence throughout history.

Coffee and a light breakfast will be served. After the program, if weather permits, participants will head out on Holiday with the Crane’s signature Crane Crawl. This self-driving tour to nearby crane hotspots will be a real-time opportunity to see Sandhills as they forage and play. You will be given a map and directions. 3-4 viewing areas will be outfitted with spotting scopes and experienced birders will be on hand to assist and answer questions.

MEET Karla 

Karla Klay is the founding director of Artist Boat. She has 30+ years of experience in arts and environmental education, eco-tourism, public engagement in coastal experiences, and development of programs to teach students and members of the public about coastal and marine ecology along with actions that result in improved environmental quality. Artist Boat provides inspiring and unique coastal experiences to people of all ages through art, science, and conservation. Since inception, over 180,000 participants have engaged in Artist Boat’s unique eco-art programs. Over the past 19 years, more than $17.7 million have been awarded through Karla’s leadership to conserve 898 acres of land on West Galveston Island – forming the Coastal Heritage Preserve.

Karla was raised in the Florida Keys by parents who developed the technology to ship live sharks all over the world to large educational aquariums. Her neighbors worked with dolphins of the Dolphin Research Center. She had a unique childhood with sharks in the backyard and dolphins as childhood playmates. This shaped an individual that has an extreme love of coastal margins, the marine environment, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Karla Klay holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University in Marine Biology.

Karla and husband Kristopher Benson enjoy great travels around the world to dive places in Indonesia (Komodo and Bunaken), Honduras (Cayos Cochinos), and the Florida Keys (Looe Key and Coffins Patch); bird places on the US coastlines to see whooping cranes, shorebirds, migratory fallouts, and pelagic species; and collect textiles in Latin America and Indonesia.  Karla lives to see marine animals in the wild and hopes someday to swim with Sperm Whales or Humpback Whales somewhere on this great planet.

Photo Credit: Rotary International Magazine


Space is limited and this activity fills quickly. We are offering it on both Saturday and Sunday!

Saturday, Dec. 10 & Sunday, Dec. 11 

6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.

Private Nature Preserve on Galveston Island’s West End 

Tickets: $50, 10% discount to GINTC members.


Photo by Barbara Rabek

It’s no wonder that our two Dawn Patrol events fill up so quickly – This early morning nature adventure is truly a magical and unforgettable experience. With special access to this private preserve, Dr. Alice Anne O’Donell will lead our small group within viewing distance of the prime Sandhill Crane roost on the Island. Numbers have varied over the years from 100 to 250. The past three years, we have seen 125-150 during our early morning viewing.

You also should see Brown and White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbill, ibis, herons, ducks, grebes, rails, sparrows, cormorants, hawks, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara and sandpipers along with the majestic Sandhill Cranes!

Don’t miss this opportunity to watch the real ‘early birds’ of Galveston Island as they awake, stretch, dance, stroll, vocalize and take flight.

Bring binoculars if you have them. Spotting scopes will be provided. Photographers are welcome but space is limited on the nature observation platform with no room for registrants to use tripods.

Driving directions will be emailed prior to the event.


Saturday, Dec. 10, 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. This field trip is full. 

Seawall’s East End Marshes, Lagoons, Ship Channel, Beach & Salt Flats

Tickets: $40, 10% discount to GINTC members

Driving directions to the meeting site will be emailed prior to the event

Bring binoculars if you have them


This field trip is designed for folks who want to see a variety of wintering coastal bird species.

NOTE: Sandhill Cranes will not be seen. See the target list below.

Explore the diverse habitats of the East End of Galveston Island and see the birds that make Galveston their home in the winter months. We will travel by bus stopping at key coastal habitats including the beach and South Jetty. We should see hundreds of wintering gulls, terns, pelicans, avocets, skimmers, small and medium sandpipers and plovers, egrets and herons. Weather permitting, there will be some short walks on this part of the field trip.

After leaving East Beach, we’ll spend time along the loop road that will take us past marshes and the lagoon on the north before returning to the Seawall.

Local field trip leader Dr. Alice Anne O’Donell will lead participants on this adventure designed for birders of all skill levels.

During the winter, there is an abundance of Snowy, Piping and Black-bellied Plovers, the American Oystercatcher, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Northern Harrier and more. Ducks include the Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Mottled Duck, Northern Shoveler and Red-breasted Merganser. Savannah and Lincoln’s Sparrows are often sighted, too.

Spanning almost 700 acres of diverse habitat, the East End Lagoon Nature Park & Preserve includes both tidal and nontidal wetlands, beach dunes, a freshwater pond, black mangroves, upland prairie, and an extensive marine coastline. 


Sunday, Dec. 11, 9:00 a.m. – noon 

Tickets: $40, 10% discount to GINTC members

Driving directions to the meeting site will be emailed prior to the event.

Bring binoculars if you have them.


Photo: Billy Blues


Local birders love birding Galveston during the winter months! Traveling by bus, we will hit all the favorite West End hotspots including freshwater ponds, coastal marshes, bay waters and the beach. Our focus will be from Moody Gardens to 8 Mile Road. Although we’ll see some of the same birds seen on the East End trip, we’ll also see Sandhill Crane, a greater number of species of ducks and hawks, White-tailed Kite; and we’ll get closer looks at sandpipers, gulls, terns and American Oystercatcher. The areas we will visit also provide habitat for Piping, Snowy and Black-bellied Plovers, American Avocet, godwit, and curlew.

Local field trip leader Greg Whittaker will lead participants on this West End adventure designed for birders of all skill levels.

The Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council would like to thank our partners and sponsors

for their generous support of Holiday with the Cranes.