Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Day at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, 2020

Each year we travel to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for a day of birding. The highlight of course is getting close enough to see whooping cranes, but we are usually left with a distant view from on top of the Birding Tower.
The birds are so far away that they look like little white spots, instead of the five-foot-tall regal birds. A good pair of binoculars is a must!
However, we got a much closer view as another pair has showed up and has claimed an area near the Heron Trial!
Arriving at the Refuge Headquarters we saw that the old building and museum has been leveled. The roof had been torn off by Hurricane Harvey. The refuge now has plans to start construction this summer, provided that the budget is passed and that the funds are not diverted.
The Volunteer told us that they were excited to announce that a pair of bald eagles had successful produced an eagle chick and that the nest was visible from the Nine-mile one-way loop. She also showed us what the nest looked like form the road and told us to drive exactly 5.6 miles, park in the turnoff and walk a little further for an unobstructed view. It’s the first pair to successfully nest in the last fifty years.
Deer were everywhere but it was very cold and windy, and the alligators were not in their usual places. We stopped at Jones Lake where we saw pied billed grebes, Green winged teals, and shovelers. There had been talk of two large gators, but they were not in sight, we did see a family of raccoons, one of the gators favorite food, and they tempted fate as they made a brief trip to the lakes edge.
We wee pleased to see that the boardwalk at the Towers had been reconstructed and allowed us to walk to the Big Tree trail. The Refuge’s Big tree is four hundred and eighty years old, about half the age of the Big Tree at Lamar. It has not had the care of the oak tree there and most of the large branches had been shorn off by the hurricanes direct hit.
The view from the Tower gave us a great panoramic view, and we watched the whoopers, along with a fly fisherman being guided as they polled along the edge of the bay. Returning to our car we next drove the Nine Mile Loop in search of the eagle nest. The directions we had been given wee excellent and we easily spotted the aerie with one of the adults standing guard. It dd leave the nest briefly made a dive and before returning with a fish!

Renita spotted an armadillo and so we stopped for images but the best view we got of armadillos was at the picnic area where she got an image of an armadillo standing up as it watched her. After lunch we finally stopped to see the alligator named George, by the refuge staff, and as usual it appeared to be sleeping while sunning on a muddy bank.
It was a good day filled with many wildlife moments. Lots of birds, deer, armadillos and a big gator. We also ended up with ten thousand steps for the day, its too easy to sit inside during the cold and not get any exercise, something 

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