Besides fishing we have been watching the heavy rains as
cold fronts have finally reached the Coastal Bend. It has been a severe draught
here and so the much-needed rain, has been really appreciated. Along with the
fronts, high winds have put the kibosh on fishing and so we decided to head over
to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge for a day of birding.
It is a short drive to the refuge, about forty minutes, and the
road is bordered by vast expanses of cotton fields. The cotton has been picked
and the fields replanted, or at least tilled and so the black soil seems to be a
nearly endless expanse.
Nearing the refuge, we passed a small place called Hoopers
Landing, which is basically a few buildings, including a bar, and a small rv
park with two rv I once tried to talk Renita into moving there but she said she
would miss me.
Reaching the refuge, we passed lots of construction as they
have finally started to rebuild the park headquarters and museum. The old
buildings were destroyed by the surge from Hurricane Harvey, measured at
The two new buildings are huge in comparison and we hope they
replace the museum as the old one was a good example of the birds, mammals, and
reptiles in the wildlife refuge. We walked out on the raised platform looking
for the resident alligator, but it was probably hidden in a warm area,) we
never did see any alligators).
Our first stop was at the Heron Flats Trail and we spotted
whooping cranes in the distance, (in the first picture you can see them as white
spots just below the middle horizon near the trees).
We started to walk the
rebuilt trail and it was sheltered from the wind making the hike enjoyable.
There were not any alligators, but we might have been the first people of the
day to walk the trail as the birds were everywhere.
Renita pointed out the great white herons, snowy egrets, a
little blue heron, and a tricolor heron, (which was at one time called a Louisiana
She called to me as I was in a hurry to reach the whooping cranes and
she pointed out to me a belted kingfisher.
We several spotted some Roseate Spoonbills and watched as
several more flew in to join the flock. An eastern phoebe, we think, displayed in
a nearby bush.
Every once in a while, an opening would present itself and we
would walk through the overgrowth to catch a glimpse of the whoopers.
As we neared them, we
spotted the two adults and a mottled juvenile, which as mostly hidden in a
hollow. The male whooper flew into the air and chased away several Great White
Herons, which may soon be separated into a separate species from the Great Blue
Herons. The male whooper is extremely aggressive as it defends its territory
and family, (over a square mile in size).
After taking some more images of the whoopers we returned
back down the trail and were treated to the sight of two pied billed grebes/least grebes, as one chased another who had a large baitfish in its beak.
terns dove on a school of baitfish, when we both heard the unmistakable sound
of an approaching flock of sandhill cranes, (they make a trumpeting agar’ro-ro
sound that can be heard up to a mile away. They landed in a patch of marsh not far from us and seemed
unconcerned as we neared them.
Our next stop was at Jones Lake and besides five deer we did see a small flock of Buffalohead ducks. The male has a large white spot and the female and the immatures have a little one.
We did not see any alligators. so we loaded up and drove to the viewing tower. There we climbed the long pathway above the treetops. There were two whooping cranes in
the far distance but again they were small spots of white, (we have really good
binoculars we purchased after we retired, and they allowed us to make the
As we stood on the tower strong winds blew and we quickly
got chilled. Before we started back down, we did see two deer below us and one paused
before it jumped a small inlet. I actually caught it in midair and it is “proof’
that deer do fly, or jump anyway, (unlike pigs).
Next, we drove drown the Eleven Mile Road carefully watching
our mileage as we wanted to stop at the eagles’ nest. The pair was recently photographed
next to the nest. While we ate lunch we watched for them, but we never did see them
make an appearance.
A US Fish and Wildlife service person did arrive and take
up another spot and was also watching for the pair, (it is the first pair to have raised a eaglet in the last fifty years on the refuge).
Finishing our lunch, we decided to head back to Rockport,
and we did spot a Caracara sitting with several vultures. Caracaras are strong
hunters and are related to parrots and songbirds, but in our bird, book are
grouped with falcons.
Arriving back home, we unpacked our gear and got ready for
our happy hour group. Two new friends safely arrived, and we sat outside being
careful to maintain social distance. Clear skies