On Friday we drove 200 miles down to Rockport in pouring rain to go on a Whooping Crane cruise. (As you'll see in my next blog, the cruise was cancelled.) On the way, we stopped in at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where we were lucky enough to hit a 3-hour window of more or less dry weather.
The recent months of drought have badly affected the refuge and birds were comparatively few and far between. However, the beautiful grasses and blooming yuccas alone would have made the visit worthwhile.
Apart from Great Blue Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, and Great and Snowy Egrets, we didn't see any large wading birds. Shorebirds were scarce, except for a handful of Long-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs and Sanderlings.
Lesser YellowlegsThe highlights of the visit were distant views of two small groups of Whooping Cranes, new life birds for us. We also had looks at a White-tailed Kite and two more new 2009 birds, an Osprey and a Northern Parula.
The Rail Trail didn't have any rails but it did have American Coots and Common Moorhen.
If birds were hard to find, other animals were much more plentiful. The alligator pond had an alligator, while a Javelina was wandering nearby.
White-tailed Deer were everywhere, and at one dried-up lake they were accompanied by a family of wild pigs.
From Aransas to Rockport
Driving from Aransas to Fulton, we stopped at the causeway to admire our first Black-bellied Plover of the year.
In Rockport, the shoreline and bay were largely empty of birds but the jetty opposite the Magic Sun Tan Motel was crowded with Laughing Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, Brown Pelicans and a Great Blue Heron.
Our final sighting for the day was a small flock of Redheads, another new bird for 2009.