Monday, December 28, 2009

Port Aransas and the Birding Center

Our daughter Jenny, had arrived from Minneapolis and we wanted to show her some of the Coastal Bend area. We packed a picnic lunch and headed to Port Aransas and Mustand Isand State Park. Our intent was to visit the jetty and then drive onto the beach at the state park.
On the way from Aransas Pass to the ferry, we saw several roseatte spoonbills but always just a glimpse. Crossing the ferry we saw our first dolphin and Jenny excitedly pointed out a brown pelican, sitting on a pier. We drove off the ferry and parked along the sea wall of the jetty.
The waves were breaking on top and it was pretty cold, fifty eight, with a biting north wind. The dolphins were posing and so we spent a little time walking out on the cement walkway, where Renita and Jenny concentrated on watching and photographing their antics.
I threw in a couple of poles with some cut mullet but nothing picked them up and of course I lost both rigs in snags, but that wasn't unexpected. We got back in the truck and drove along the beach front, pointing out the camping areas, before heading to Mustang Island State Park.
At the entrance booth the lady told us that the red tide had cleared and that the beach driving was a little iffy, but ok once you got onto the beach itself, in other words pretty typical. We drove out toward the park jetty and we immediately found that the tide was really high. That, plus the strong onshore wind was not giving us much room to keep dry yet out of the soft sand.
We parked with some other cars and walked along the beach looking for shells and stuff. The beach was littered with starfish, which was the first time we had ever noticed them. Renita asked me what the bird was, as we walked by a flock, and we took some photos as we couldn't identify them. We thought at first that they were elegant terns but we decided that they must be royal terns, which was a new bird for our life list.
Returning to the truck we headed back toward home. I asked Renita if she remembered the name of the park in Port Aransas, where our friend Judy went for birding, and she couldn't remember but we neared a sign that said the Birding Center and we turned down the road.
Unexpected pleasures are usually the best part of any day and we certainly had one as we arrived at the wooden walkway. A sign told of the dangers of alligators and of course we had to pose as other birders walked by and gave us strange looks.
A flock of blue winged teal greeted us, then a roseatte flew and landed just on the other side of some turtles. Jenny noticed that there appeared to be another and so we climbed the wooden observation tower to discover not two but six spoonbills preening themselves and washing their wings. It was quite a sight to see them shaking all the water off and we had quite a display that we had never seen before.
We continued down the wooden deck and watched green winged teal and northern shovelers paddle by. A least grebe busily paddled and swam under the water. It was such a tiny bird and it was so fast. We were barely able to get a photo.
The girls told me of a much larger birding trail they had noticed while on the tower and we watched as a turtle tried to sneak by our position. More teals, and shovelers, and even a little blue heron paraded by us, all unconcerned with the birders. They quacked and made other calls that I had never heard before, there is so much to learn and so little time to do it in.
Returning to the truck we headed home and talked about the great day we had experienced and the joy that birding has brought Renita and I. Jenny mentioned that she had seen a lot of colorful song birds since she moved from downtown Saint Paul, to a house surrounded by trees in Minneapolis. A day with our daughter, enjoying birds and beach, what could be better! Clear skies.

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