Nature

Aransas County is a Birdwatchers Paradise Along the Beautiful Coast

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Aransas County is a Mecca for over 400 species of birds, which makes it paradise for birdwatchers from all over the world. You can spot migrating birds and birds in residence in the coastal county, a prime spot on the Great Coastal Birding Trail. Aransas County is perfectly positioned on the Central flyway migratory path.

It’s Whooping Crane season in Aransas County now. The largest, most accessible wild flock of the endangered species in North America is featured. Whooping Cranes make the area their home from November to April, migrating over 2,500 miles from Western Canada. And people travel from around the globe to view the Whoopers in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

An angered bird stands five feet tall, with a seven-foot wingspan. The Whooping Cranes can be seen in Lamar, near Goose Island. However, they’re best viewed from boat excursions, out of Rockport, Fulton, and Lamar Harbors. These special excursions allow a closer look at the birds in their nesting grounds at the wildlife refuge.

#1 Birding Spot: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Aransas County is a Birdwatchers Paradise Along the Beautiful Coast

Photo: Deb Strothman

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was voted the No. 1 birding spot and No. 5 National Wildlife Refuge in the nation for USA TODAY Readers’ Choice. Watch more than 400 species of birds, including Warblers, Vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, grosbeaks, Couch’s Kingbird, and American white Pelican as well as Whooping Cranes in the winter season. Other wildlife, like turtles, blue crab, and butterflies, can be seen as well. A magnificent Bald Eagle was recently spotted nesting in the refuge.

Goose Island State Park has diverse habitats that include hiking trails, paved roads, bird feeding stations, birdbaths, shoreline, and pier. It’s a good place to observe water birds, waterfowl, shorebirds, and passerines. There’s a fee to visit the park, but their free checklist of birds shows which species to see in which season.

Enter Rockport Beach to spot herons, shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Little Bay’s islands are nesting grounds for many species. An observation deck and protected area features Least Terns, Tricolored Herons, Reddish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Laughing Gulls, Killdeer, Clapper Rail, and Black Skimmers nests.

Aransas Woods—Take Highway 35 Bypass, at the Great Texas Birding Trail sign there’s a freshwater marsh. It’s surrounded by oak mottes and native grasses like little bluestem and bushy bluestem. The site has a windmill, walking trails, and an observation deck. Common Spring migrants include warblers, orioles, Tanagers, Vireos, and flycatchers. Fall migrants include Marsh Wren, Sora, Swamp Sparrow, and Common Yellowthroat.

Aransas County is a Birdwatchers Paradise Along the Beautiful Coast

Photo: Diane Loyd

Aransas Pathways has Birding, History, Kayaking, and Hiking and Biking Trails, with 32 Birding Sites. Find Pathways Pavilion kiosks with interpretive signage explaining each Aransas Pathway project. Popular sites include Pathways Center Pavilion and Bridge; and Tule Marsh East (Rockport Demo Garden).

Rockport Mayor Pat Rios said, “Most folks are aware of the great offerings in Rockport, our fantastic fishing, water activities, and beautiful Blue Wave Beach. Also many other attractions like the Texas Maritime Museum, Fulton Mansion Historic Home, and all the great restaurants. What you may not know are the great improvements and additions to our Aransas Pathways Sites. So many birding sites that you will need extra days on your next visit to take them all in.”

Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the area (performed by volunteer birdwatchers and administered by National Audubon Society) provides data used in science, especially conservation biology. For this year’s Aransas County count, 22 participants sighted 128 species in one day.

For more information about birding in Aransas County visit aransaspathways.com. For boat birding trips and additional birding information, visit rockport-fulton.org.