Two Birders of a Feather – Port Aransas, TX
Two deep-south states – Texas and Florida – are known for their amazing assemblage of birds and other animals. The “Sister States in Birds”, as they are sometimes called, share many of the same birds – even going so far as to both claim the Northern Mockingbird as their state bird.
Texas gets more western birds, while Florida hosts some Carribbean species and Atlantic sea birds. Both states have extensive birding trails throughout the state, and I’ve seen many birds here that were also present in Florida. But those are just some birding facts; today I’m writing about “human” sisters in birds, Ingrid and I.
I can probably be most accurately labeled as a “wanna-be birder”, who just loves to photograph them. When two lady bloggers share the same interests they instantly become sisters – in this case sisters in bird photography.
Ingrid and I enjoyed our first birding outing together when we got together in Galveston, and her account of our escapade was quite hilarious – complimented by her excellent photography.
Meeting up again here in Port Aransas, we explored a top spot for Coastal Birding when we took advantage of the first decent weather day. Off we went on our adventure, to see and capture our feathered friends in action.
There are many coastal birding trails in this area, and we chose to venture through several: the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center and the Port Aransas Natural Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture in Port Aransas, and to Live Oak Park and Goose Island State Park in the Rockport-Fulton area. Looking back, those were about the only two decent weather days we had to hang out with the birdies.
We spent hours watching and photographing a variety of wetland birds, including many species of ducks. As you might imagine, we had a blast capturing their antics and filling up our SD cards with thousands of images.
Getting up close to the Roseate Spoonbills was the highlight of our time together:
At the Natural Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture, we moved along the boardwalk as we endured the gloomy day – walking about 3 miles. This area used to be pastureland and is now part of the local heritage on Mustang Island Preserve as a natural habitat.
On another day when the weather cooperated I drove up to visit Ingrid, who had moved on to Rockport, TX at the beginning of the year. This time I had a specific goal while visiting her: to see the Whooping Cranes. Followers may recall that I visited the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI last summer and observed first-hand their efforts to recover and reintroduce the endangered Whooping Cranes back into the wild.
At that facility, the foundation had made great strides in the recovery and protection of these endangered birds. It was here that I learned about Operation Migration, an organization that has played a leading role in the reintroduction of Whooping Cranes into eastern North America since 2001.
One of their more interesting endeavors has been leading migrating cranes via Ultralight – see more about their inspiring journey of the “Class of the 2014 migration” here.
While the Whooping Cranes migrating here are from Alberta, Canada, the ones I saw in Wisconsin migrated to St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in Florida. To get the best views of the birds here, I joined an early morning Whooping Crane and Coastal Birding Tour that departed from Fulton, TX. This guided boat tour glided along Aransas Bay and into the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where we observed these incredible birds hunting the marsh in search of Blue Crabs, while defending their territory from other family groups.
While the cranes are the most famous winter Texans at these refuges, other feathered species have been documented, making the area one of the nations’s richest birding areas.
After my boat tour, I met Ingrid at the dock so we could continue stalking the Whooping Cranes. Most importantly, she took me to her “secret spot” to watch these majestic birds on private land near Live Oak Park. Using her truck as our observation platform, we had a good view of the area “migrants.”
If you’d like to see and learn more about the Whooping Cranes, Ingrid’s latest post is an excellent read. She was very fortunate to have parked near where these guys were hanging out. I have a feeling she was visiting them every day!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ingrid. Not only were we sharing the same interest of being wildlife enthusiasts, she was also generous with her time and gave me a private tour around Rockport and at Goose Island State park. I guess that’s just what “sisters” do!
If you want to see more, my Bird Gallery has been updated.
Next up: Our final days along the Gulf