While I can’t say I’m a “birder” (I hardly know where to start when trying to identify an unknown critter… and distinguishing the minute differences between varieties of the same bird elude me)…..I do enjoy the great diversity of avian species we see in our travels.
A few years ago, quite by accident, we ended up at Goose Island State Park on the Texas gulf coast. When we heard that whooping cranes could be seen nearby, we sought out the advice of the park ornithologist as to what locations or tours we should take advantage of…. this inquiry resulted in a private tour of the area where we learned to distinguish more shore birds than we ever even knew existed!
Since then we have returned to this area during our winter travels… for the gulf views, the sunshine, the seafood (the oysters are delish)…. and, of course, the birds.
The Aransas Wildlife Refuge near Rockport, TX boasts the only population of freely migrating whooping cranes in the US. (The Florida group is led on their southern migration by volunteer humans ).
We have managed to see family groups of these majestic birds every time we have visited this quiet area of the Texas
If you visit during the winter you will likely find whooping cranes browsing in coastal residential fields near Goose Island State Park. Last year we watched a family of four… two parents and two juveniles, frolic in the fields alongside cows, deer, sandhill cranes and egret. Each evening we would return to watch them and were thrilled to see them fly in or out of the area.
This year we took a boat tour out of Fulton hoping to see more along the coast and barrier islands of the Aransas Refuge ….and without the bac
kdrop of human residences. We did see that and more… you will have to decide for yourself if it was worth $55 each for the 3 hour tour.
The relentless push of arctic cold southward this winter dampened our days and resulted in a new destination for us this year… South Padre Island. About as far south as we could get and still be in the US, this tourist destination proved yet another great location to both walk the beach on the gulf side and observe shore birds on the bay.
Boardwalks at the bird and nature center (small pp fee) and nearby at the convention center (free) provide opportunities to walk along the Laguna Madre bay side of the island.
Across the bay, on the mainland just outside of Port Isabel, Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge provides feeders, paths and backcountry tours for exciting glimpses of an amazing variety of shore birds and raptors.
We visited the refuge one sunny day and decided to sign up for a tour another day even though we knew rain and cold was in the forecast. What a treat it was to discover that our tour guide was to be a birding friend from Colorado… volunteering down here for the winter season!
The $4 tour ($3 for seniors) was well worth the trouble of digging out long johns and getting up early to be there by 8:15. We got an up close and personal view of many of the unique raptors and waterfowl found in this area. Great fun with friends…and great pictures!
And we’ll be back…For the birds, and the fun!