Wild Texas: Birding Bonanza - Trip Report #8
|American white pelican|
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: Corpus Christi area
Time of Year
: Early-to-Mid January
: Sunny, heavenly days with highs in the low to mid-70s and 10-15 mph breezes
: Birding, photography
: Shannon Moore
Justin and I made our semi-annual pilgrimage to the birding mecca of the Texas coast on Thursday, January 8. While still near my home in northwest San Antonio, we made our first bird sightings of the trip--crested caracara and red-tailed hawk. We observed American kestrel, crested caracara, red-tailed hawk, turkey and black vulture while driving to Corpus Christi.
Since this trip was as much for relaxing as it was for birding, we took our time rather than striving to see as many sites as possible. What follows are the highlights from our trip:
- Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (CTC #37)
We viewed mourning dove, Northern cardinal, Northern mockingbird, red-tailed hawk, and American kestrel while driving to the refuge. The refuge's roadsides, freshwater ponds, and lakes were filled to the brim. Jones Lake was teeming with ring-necked ducks and American coots. After a short stay at Jones Lake, we headed to the Observation Tower & Boardwalk. Sightings of the whooping crane family whose territory the tower overlooks had been made prior to our visit, but we failed to see them. We did observe white-tail deer and javelina feeding in the marsh and mud flats below. A short walk on the boardwalk provided sightings of reddish egret, great blue heron, American white pelican, long-billed curlew, great-tailed grackle, and various sparrows.
- Aransas Woods (CTC #47)
This site is still under construction, but it has good potential when completed. Nest boxes and platform and hopper feeders are provided for the birds, and walking paths (semi-completed) and benches are available for birders.
- Goose Island State Park (CTC #48)
We drove through the park, and viewed long-billed curlew, laughing gull, American white pelican, great blue heron, great-tailed grackle, crested caracara, and mourning dove.
- Port Aransas Birding Center (CTC #57)
Although this site does not have the sheer numbers of birds found at Hans Suter (CTC #69), it does have the variety of species. We viewed approximately 18 species during our short visit to the area. In addition to the "regulars"--great blue heron, great egret, great-tailed grackle, and neotropic cormorant--we also sighted belted kingfisher, pied-billed grebe, blue-winged teal, starling, tricolored heron, American coot, and lesser scaup. We also observed an adult and juvenile American alligator and several slider turtles.
- Port Aransas Wetland Park (CTC #59)
This site serves as an example of ephemeral tidal flats, areas periodically exposed and flooded by wind and storm tides. We viewed great egret, herring gull, laughing gull, snowy egret, savannah sparrow, and snowy plover from the observation platform. We observed Northern harrier hawk and belted kingfisher shortly after leaving the park.
- Padre Island National Seashore (CTC #63)
Mother Nature has been good to the seashore recently, creating large freshwater pools along the roadsides and inland areas. Bird Island Basin has been disappointing in the past due to drought. During this visit, however, we viewed American white pelican, great blue heron, Norther harrier hawk, long-billed curlew, sanderling, ruddy turnstone, American coot, Eastern meadlowlark, and sandhill crane. The seashore itself was in pristine condition--virtually no refuse on the beach and superb driving conditions. We birded the Gulf beach by car, driving to the beginning of the four-wheel-drive only section before turning back. Species sighted from the beach included: great blue heron, red-tailed hawk, American white pelican, sanderling, long-billed curlew, common loon, royal tern, herring gull, and mourning dove.
- JFK Causeway Wetlands (CTC #65)
Yielded snowy egret, reddish egret, yellow-crowned night heron, herring gull, American white pelican, little blue heron, great blue heron, common loon, and neotropic cormorant. The protected black skimmer nesting area was deserted; skimmers nest during the summer months.
- Hans Suter Wildlife Area (CTC #69)
We visited Hans Suter several times during our stay in Corpus Christi. During each visit, we viewed over twenty species and literally hundreds of birds. Gulls, black-necked stilts, and American coots were the most abundant species. Approximately one dozen great blue herons appeared to be nesting together, with a couple of great egrets. Thanks to this visit, Justin and I added the following species to our life lists: green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, black duck, gadwall, and pintail. We spent much of our time identifying and comparing the various duck species, all of which were nesting near the boardwalk. Additional sightings at Hans Suter included: roseate spoonbill, snowy egret, lesser yellowlegs, Northern shoveler, black skimmer, tricolored heron, Northern cardinal, American white pelican, and pied-billed grebe.
- Texas State Aquarium (CTC #72)
We spent two hours enjoying familiar exhibits as well as the new "Raptor Roost" which features sick or injured wild raptors. Two red-tailed hawks and a Swainson's hawk were currently on display. The outdoor marsh and neighboring grounds of the aquarium offered viewing opportunities for gulls, American white pelican, and great blue heron.
- Indian Point Park (CTC #73)
Our summer 1997 visit to the park yielded numerous species, including reddish egret and roseate spoonbill. This visit, however, was rather quiet; we observed gulls, snowy egret, brown pelican, bufflehead duck, neotropic cormorant, and American oystercatcher.