Saturday, April 19, 2014

Corpus Christi - Aransas Area

Texas is a big state. Texan's like to tell you that its the largest state, but Alaskans take exception to that. In fact, if you cut Alaska into 3 pieces, Texas is still only the 4th largest state. All of that being said, Texas is still a big state. We drove for hours to get to some of the places that you have been reading about but somehow it doesn't seem that far when you look at the map. I guess it's all relative. For instance, it took us 2.5 hours to get to Blucher Park. We left there and went out onto the barrier islands - Padre to the south and Mustang to the north of the bridge. We saw some usual suspects like this Black-bellied Plover along the back bay.

Black-bellied Plover - Texas
We also saw some not-so-usual birds - another target species for me - the Franklin's Gull. I had no idea that we would see them in flocks. I kind of expected one here and one there. But they were very obvious in flight. They look almost exactly like our Laughing Gulls only they have different wing pattern at the tip and they also look pinkish when you see them flying. Check it out.
Franklin's Gulls - Texas
 This is a good comparison shot for those who care. The Franklin's Gull is closest and farthest. The Laughing Gull in the one over to the right. Can you tell the difference?
Franklin's and Laughing Gulls - Texas
We went out to the coast hoping for some shorebirds or other gulls but all we saw was wind and whitecaps.
Windy Beach - Padre Island
Thanks goodness the park rangers came along. They told us to go to Port Aransas for lunch and take the Ferry over to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Here we are at Virginia's Bar and Grill where we had lunch. It was terrific.
Bird Nerds at lunch
This is the FREE ferry! It took all of 5 minutes to get to the other side. We have no idea why they don't just build a bridge.

Ferry Ride
Aransas NWR was a bust. We were hoping for Whooping Cranes but we didn't see any. The sign at the Visitor Center told the tale - they leave in Mid April. We were there on April 15th. Sigh. We were delightfully surprised to see Upland Sandpipers along the road into the park. In fact, we counted 16 of them. It was difficult to get a good shot since they would fly away if we got out of the car. They are unmistakable to identify since they are one of the very few shorebirds that is found in grassy fields. Birders call them "Uppies".They are rare in our area as they prefer open grasslands. Lakehurst Naval Airstation in NJ is the closest place to see them.

Upland Sandpiper - Aransas Texas
Of course, you can't throw a stone in South Texas without hitting a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. They were everywhere along our drive. I can't help but snap photos of them.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
After the Whooping Cranes leave, Aransas is kind of empty. We climbed the observation tower anyway. We asked a lady to take our photo. She added her thumb to the top left corner. . .

Bird Nerds - observing nothing
We got a few species to add to the Texas list - Least Bittern and Sora - both calling from the Alligator Pond. It was a long drive back to San Antonio.
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