Two Birders of a Feather – Port Aransas, TX

Northern Mockingbird

Is this mockingbird unhappy to see us?

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.

American Alligator

This guy made sure we kept our distance from the water!

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.

Lowes Adventures

Girls gone wild – or just crazy!  Me with Ingrid of Live Laugh RV

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.

Port Aransas

Leonabell Turnbull Birding Center

The female Roseate Spoonbill posed for Ingrid at Leonabell Turnbull Birding Center

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.

Black bellied Whistling ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks having a good old-fashioned brawl

American White Pelican

American White Pelicans taking a break from fishing

Getting up close to the Roseate Spoonbills was the highlight of our time together:

This male Roseate Spoonbill is getting along with the Tricolored Heron.

This male Roseate Spoonbill was getting along just fine with a Little Blue Heron…

Roseate Spoonbill

…while nearby a female Roseate Spoonbill and a Tri-colored Heron had a bit of a spat

Roseate Spoonbill

A gorgeous male Roseate Spoonbill strutted down to the water

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.

Charlies Pasture, Port Aransas

Charlies Pasture

Boardwalk along the wetlands at Charlie’s Pasture

Greater Yellow legs

This Greater Yellow Legs wasn’t too shy

Rockport

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.

Whooping Cranes

A family of Whooping Cranes

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.

Whooping Cranes

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.

Reddish Egret

A Reddish Egret showed its beautiful plumage

Great Blue Heron Island

Great Blue Heron Island displayed the highest concentration of these guys I’ve ever seen

Roseate Spoonbill

See? We CAN all just get along!

Bull nosed Dolphins

Several Bullnose Dophins swam next to the boat, providing even more entertainment

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.”

Lowes Travels

Ingrid’s personal viewing platform.  See the white specs around the water in the background?  Those are the whoopers!

Whooping Crane

An unusual sight – a family of whooping cranes squabbling with Sandhill Cranes

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!

Whooping Cranes

Finally the family flew away, leaving us enthralled

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