Another Day at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, 2010
Renita of course, spotted the gator. It was about six feet long and sunning itself on the bank,(In my defense I was scanning the trail for western diamondbacks). She pointed it out to us and I could see the nervousness in Jennys eyes. It was still wet from crawling out of the water onto shore and seemed to be sleeping......I pointed out an alligator trail that intersected the path we were walking, the Heron Flats trail, and Jenny's nervousness seemed to increase. We had driven to the Aransas National Wildlife to spend the sunny afternoon hiking and birding. The wind was dying and the temperature was in the fifties so it was a pleasant day to hike the trail. During the drive we spotted a white tailed hawk, several crested cara caras and the ever present vultures. Arriving at the park we checked in and while Jenny and Renita checked out the displays I read the latest bird list. There wasn't anything unusual but there had been whooping cranes spotted at the tower, so that was good. Our first stop was Heron Flats overlook and the Heron Flats trail head and we were rewarded with views of feral pigs and white ibis. Several little blue herons flew and landed and a white egret fished in a nearby pond. We hoped that the gators would be sunning themselves so Jenny could see one and, as the opening paragraph says, we were rewarded with a nice size one right away. The next two pond each held a progressively larger gaters and an eight footer watched us, but he(she), was too comfy in the warm sun to make any moves. You could see its large teeth, without the binoculars, and I was reminded of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. We hiked the trail and saw snow geese resting on a point of land that stuck out into a backwater. An armadillo ate bugs and was totally unconcerned with our presence as we tiptoed by. We were so close we could see scar marks from where something had tried to have an armadillo sandwich. Reaching the truck we drove to the Tower and luckily found a parking spot as the refuge was really busy with holiday birders. Climbing the tower we spotted a crane on land. It was so far away that it was really only a small dot but at least it was a crane. A mans loud booming voice came from below the tree tops and he and his wife soon joined us. He asked if we had seen any cranes and then almost yelled at Renita to tell him how to see the one we had spotted. A totally obnoxious jerk he soon started to yell at me for directions and I took pity on him and told him where to look. He didn't thank me but instead started to yell at everyone that climbed up the tower, telling them the location of the bird and describing his ideas as to the life history of all whoopers. Luckily he finally left and we spotted two whoopers that were wading nearby. They were feeding on snails and crabs and were the closest we have been to them while viewing from the tower. Now, Jenny could say she had seen the whoopers, besides hearing them at Big Tree. We were chased by mosquitoes at the wooden birding trail. The sun had warmed things quite a bit and the wind had died down. Returning to the truck we took the eleven mile loop but the sun was setting and we didn't spot any wildlife. Several deer were feeding by the park headquarters and Jenny commented on their small size. I reminded her of the relationship between temperatures and mammal sizes but I didn't need to as she is a Brackin and knows everything,(she had remembered it from her ecology class in high school). It had been an easy day for the start of the new year. Whoopers, gators, and best of all a day spent birding with our daughter. On the way home she talked about her bird list and we could see that another new birder had been hooked. Clear skies.