RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Audubon Warden Brian Beller docks his boat and then unlocks the gate to historic Green Island in the Lower Laguna Madre of southernmost Texas.

Next, he walks down the dock passing a sign encouraging boaters to respect nesting birds.

Following a barely visible thickly wooded trail, he disappears into the island’s interior where a paradise of birds awaits him. It is peak nesting season, and thousands of colonial waterbirds noisily crowd into an impenetrable bramble of mesquite, ebony, and granjeno to build nests and raise young.

The 35-acre sanctuary, just northeast of the mouth of the Arroyo Colorado, is one of the most important nesting sites along the Texas coast, and like all other nesting islands owned by the state is protected by law from trespass.

The National Audubon Society first leased Green Island from the state in 1923, and this year celebrates a centennial of conservation, now encompassing the protection of 175 islands along the entire 367-mile Texas coast.

“I see good things. This year, I have seen the most birds I have ever seen, and so it just seems to keep getting better and better,” said Beller.

In cooperation with the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, Audubon protects more than 20 species of colonial waterbirds totaling 50,000 to 75,000 nesting pairs throughout the Texas coast.

Historic Green Island is home to one of the world’s largest Reddish egret and Roseate spoonbill colonies in the world, and during peak nesting season reddish egret numbers may exceed 1,000 adult birds.

Hundreds of Roseate spoonbills, ibis, Great blue herons, and other species depend on Green Island as a sanctuary to raise their young.

“I encourage everybody to stay 50 yards offshore and observe the birds and enjoy what we are doing here. That is what we are doing it for, them and the birds, just make a point not to disturb the birds,” said Beller.