Great Texas Birding

Black-bellied whistling duck. Copyright © Justin W. Moore. See more photos at OutdoorPhoto.com

Black-bellied whistling duck
Copyright © Justin W. Moore

Location: Corpus Christi, Texas, and vicinity
Time of Year: Mid-August
Weather: Sunny, windy, and hot
Activities: Birding, photography

As our last trip of the summer, we made a whirlwind visit to over a dozen sites on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. We tried to pack a lot of birding and photography into each day, but with 95 sites on the Central Texas Coast (CTC) section of the trail, we barely scratched the surface. Eventually, the entire Texas coast will feature birding trail sites, each marked with brown signs featuring the trail’s black skimmer logo.

Our Central Texas Coast birding report follows:

Site: En route from San Antonio to Austwell, Texas:

We usually see at least one crested caracara during our drive to the Texas coast. This trip, we were treated to at least six caracaras!

  • Snowy egrets (rookery)
  • Cattle egrets
  • Turkey vultures (roost)
  • American crow
  • Crested caracaras

Site: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (CTC-37; 512/286-3559):

No birding or wildlife watching trip on the Texas coast is complete without a visit to Aransas NWR. Thanks to a sustained 32 mph wind, we enjoyed a completely mosquito-free visit — a rarity!

Viewing Location: Park Roads / San Antonio Bay

  • Roseate spoonbill
  • Little blue heron
  • Laughing gulls
  • Turkey vultures
  • Black vultures (roosting and feeding)

Viewing Location: 1.4-mile Heron Flats Trail
We didn’t encounter any javelinas or alligators on the trail during this visit, as we had in the past.

  • Killdeers
  • Greater yellowlegs
  • Black-necked stilts
  • Great egret
  • Snowy egret
  • Great blue herons
  • Northern cardinals

Viewing Location: Jones Lake Trail
We spent a considerable amount of time here observing the diversity of birds and wildlife from the wooden observation platform.

  • Cattle egrets
  • Great blue herons
  • Black-bellied whistling ducks
  • Black-necked stilts
  • White ibis
  • American oystercatcher
  • Killdeers
  • Green heron
  • Also: 7+ javelina, 2 American alligators

Viewing Location: .9-mile Hog Lake Trail
This time last year, Hog Lake was entirely dry due to the Texas drought. This year, the lake was teeming with bird life, including several dozen juvenile black-bellied whistling ducks that were well-concealed in the vegetation.

Site: Goose Island State Park (CTC-48; 512/729-2858)

Usually, we find numerous American white pelicans, great egrets, and several great blue herons near the park’s boat ramp. Numerous folks were out for a day of fine fishing, but we didn’t find many birds in the area.

  • Laughing gulls
  • Great egrets
  • Turkey vultures

Site: Hans Suter Wildlife Refuge (CTC-69)

The boardwalk leads birders across tidal pools to a lagoon, offering spectacular birding opportunities year-round. We returned to this site several times during our trip because it attracts large numbers of birds.

  • Roseate spoonbills (40+)
  • American white pelicans (40+)
  • Great egrets
  • Great blue herons
  • Laughing gulls
  • Black-necked stilts
  • Brown pelicans
  • Marbled godwits (?)
  • Black skimmers
  • American coot

Site: Indian Point Park / Sunset Lake (CTC-73)

Two boardwalks extend into the surrounding marshes, allowing birders to get up close to numerous shore- and waterbird species. Like Hans Suter, we found this park deserved repeat visits during our stay.

  • American avocets
  • Piping plovers
  • Laughing gulls
  • Black-necked stilts
  • Willets
  • Great blue herons
  • Roseate spoonbills
  • Black skimmers
  • Royal terns
  • Reddish egret
  • Snowy egret
  • Great egret
  • Brown pelicans
  • Herring gull
  • Barn swallows
  • Tricolored heron
  • Sandpipers/
  • Rock doves
  • American oystercatcher
  • Little blue heron
  • Neotropic cormorants
  • Black-bellied plovers
  • Ruddy turnstones

Site: Port Aransas Birding Center (CTC-57)

The boardwalk and observation tower provide fine birding opportunities of this freshwater marsh. We spied numerous turtles, but no alligators (two have been observed in the area).

  • Great egrets
  • Snowy egrets
  • Laughing gulls
  • Greater yellowlegs
  • Great blue herons
  • Neotropic cormorants
  • Least bittern
  • Sandwich terns
  • Black-bellied whistling ducks (incl. juveniles)
  • Green heron
  • Roseate spoonbills (15+, seen from observation tower)
  • Brown pelicans
  • Red-winged blackbird

Site: Port Aransas Jetty (CTC-58)

Two jetties offer birders a unique vantage point, since each extends several hundred yards into the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Royal terns
  • Herring gull
  • Laughing gulls
  • Brown pelicans

Site: Mustang Island State Park (CTC-60; 512/749-5246)

Diverse habitat, ranging from saltwater marshes to stabilized sand dunes, attract numerous bird species and birders.

Viewing Location: Dunes & Beach

  • Brown pelicans
  • Laughing gulls
  • Sandwich terns
  • Great blue herons
  • Common grackle
  • Sanderlings
  • Royal terns
  • Great-tailed grackles
  • Long-billed curlew
  • Semipalmated plovers

Viewing Location: Wetlands across from HQ

  • Reddish egret
  • Great egrets
  • Long-billed curlews
  • Sandwich terns
  • Tricolored heron
  • Laughing gulls
  • White ibis
  • Snowy egret

Site: Packery Channel (CTC-62)

  • Great blue heron
  • Great egrets
  • Tricolored heron
  • Laughing gulls (incl. juveniles)

Site: JFK Causeway Wetlands (CTC-65)

We visited the causeway regularly during our visit, enjoying the numerous bird species drawn to the flats. The west end of the causeway beach is protected habitat for nesting black skimmers, but the adult skimmers we observed with their sand-colored chick preferred a site further down the beach.

  • Reddish egret
  • Great blue herons
  • Great egrets
  • Black skimmers (incl. chick)
  • White ibises
  • Laughing gulls
  • Tricolored herons
  • Great tailed grackle
  • Semipalmated sandpiper
  • Roseate spoonbill
  • Snowy egret
  • Least sandpipers
  • Brown pelicans (30+ in flock flying in v-formation)

Site: Padre Island National Seashore (CTC-63; 512/949-8068)

Viewing Location: Bird Island Basin

  • Cattle egret
  • Barn swallows
  • Pied billed grebe
  • Laughing gulls (incl. juveniles)
  • Royal terns
  • Reddish egret
  • Tricolored heron
  • Roseate spoonbill
  • White ibis
  • Black skimmers
  • Great egret
  • Great blue heron
  • Little blue heron
  • Black-bellied whistling ducks
  • Black-necked stilts

Viewing Location: Gulf-side beach

  • Yellow-crowned night heron (immature)
  • Piping plovers
  • Laughing gulls
  • Royal terns
  • Great-tailed grackles
  • Herring gull
  • Brown pelicans

Site: Oso Bay Turnaround (CTC-68)

Excellent birding opportunities are available here, as well as awesome sunsets.

  • American white pelicans (cooperative feeding)
  • Great blue herons (incl. 1 feeding w/pelicans)
  • Great egrets
  • Black-necked stilts
  • Snowy egrets
  • Reddish egret
  • Rock doves
  • Royal terns

[aom url=”http://www.wildtexas.com/BG_290060_030795790X_The-Sibley-Guide-to-Birds-2nd-Edition”]

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