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Rockport Area, Texas

Part 3:  Aransas NWR

If this had happened on Thanksgiving Day it would have been hysterical:  drove in to Aransas at dawn to road bird, and there blocking the road was a whole herd of Turkeys, with one Tom in full display!  (I thought they only did that in the spring!)  What a hoot!  They wound up entertaining a lot of folks as the morning went on!

 
Displaying Wild Turkey two days before Thanksgiving! 

Did the BBS protocol along the tour route, picking up calling Clapper Rails near the Rail Trail and wondering who in the world was playing a Mexican radio station back on the trail, only to discover later it was coming from one of the boats in the bay!  The lady at the VC yesterday said someone had spotted a Northern Parula in the lush picnic area, and sure enough, she was still there!  (The warbler, not the lady...)
 
One of the stops happened to fall at Jones Lake, so I took another peek and spooked a whole mess of Wood Ducks!  The Least Grebes were still trumpeting, and joining them and the Pied-bills was a single Eared Grebe!  A flock of Lesser Scaup literally came tearing in as I was leaving:  the wind through their wings as a couple screamed in at 60 mph sounded like a fighter jet!
 
   

Two views of Jones Lake



Lesser Scaup (female on left), with a Ring-necked Duck hiding behind!



Fuzzy Least Grebe

I confess that I'm totally out to lunch regarding the thrashers here:  I kept hearing something making the "duit" call our Long-billeds make, but I was also hearing something chucking that sounded rather like a Hermit Thrush on steroids, and was wondering if that could have been the Brown!  According to the checklist, both are expected this time of year (although the Brown is more common), and since both make the smack and fuss, I honestly had no clue as to what I was hearing.  (Those "chucks" were interspersed enough with the other calls that I'm assuming Brown until told otherwise...)
 


The more conspicuous member of the thrasher family (Northern Mockingbird)
Call note with Gray Catbird and Eastern Phoebe in the background

   

Crested Caracaras

But along the one-way section of the auto tour, one of the stops at an open area had the obligatory Sedge Wren calling, but in the distance I couldn't believe my ears:  a Whooping Crane was calling!  The rolling trumpet of the Sandhills were here and there (and also very familiar), but when this single "ba-GOP!" hit the air several times, it sent chills down my back!  Too bad they didn't show themselves!  (Hopefully that will be for the boat trip...)
  Dry fit of the Marsh Wren
  Brighter chirp of the Sedge Wren



Back side of the tour loop



Lingering Scissor-tailed Flycatcher



Variegated Meadowhawk blends in superbly with the pebbled road!

Things quieted down rapidly, and did the rest of the loop with not much else of note except a pair of lingering Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.  Hiked as much of the trails as my bum foot would allow after that, and the highlight was definitely along the boardwalk at the observation tower:  a double-chack got my attention, and out popped a Winter Wren, just long enough to see the pertinent field marks, and then he was gone!  Frantic pishing only brought out a Ruby-crowned Kinglet...  A pygmy blue fluttering around drove me nuts by not posing properly, as it could have been the rarer Eastern Pygmy Blue, but what photos I could get made me lean towards Western Pygmy after all...
 
   

There's enough pale to the base of the wings to convince me that this is a Western Pygmy Blue, but I'm willing to be corrected!

 

Obscure Skipper



Mystery grasshopper on the boardwalk

The Panoquins were still at the same bush along the Heron Flats Trail, but the star of the show was the big mama Alligator basking on the shore!  The Big Tree Trail produced a nice Palamedes Swallowtail and a cute little brown frog I haven't been able to ID, and the only "birds" the Birding Trail #2 produced were the big bird grasshoppers (plus some smaller ones--and that's the one field guide I forgot to bring!)



Wind-blown live oak on the Bay Overlook Trail



Mystery frog on the Big Tree Trail



Flighty Palamedes Swallowtail

       


Common Buckeye



Birding Trail #2

   

These interesting red-legged grasshoppers were either confronting each other or soliciting a more meaningful relationship!

   



This probable Kiowa Grasshopper was very tiny...

   

...whereas the bird grasshoppers (American left, Leather-colored right) are huge!

   

Great Golden Digger Wasp



Front part of the auto tour, overlooking Aransas Bay



Rafts of ducks out in the bay include American Wigeon (blue bills) and Gadwall

   


Big mama Alligator along the Heron Flats Trail



Greatly enhanced Twin-shielded Leaf Beetle



Yet another Obscure Skipper



Another mystery grasshopper

   

The turkeys have moved to the visitor center's parking lot!

   

A slight change in exposure reveals more iridescence!



One of the toms wanders over in search of a handout...

Both feet were totally shot after all that careful treading, so I headed towards Rockport, enjoying a huge flock of Sandhill Cranes on the way!  Made a reconnaissance swing through Goose Island SP, where the ranger said someone had actually seen Whoopers there the day before, but the closest thing I found were White Pelicans begging scraps from the fishermen, along with the Browns!  A spit near the north end of the park had Black Skimmers in with the terns, and wheeling through the neighborhood towards the "Big Tree" I discovered a little wetland where I added Anhinga for the trip and Black-crowned Night Herons for the day.  Enjoyed a huge flock of blackbirds along the road that hugged the bay.  The woodlands here were absolutely stupendous!
 
   

White Pelicans hanging around the boat ramp at Goose Island State Park

   


   

Brown Pelicans are more aggressive when it comes to grabbing scraps!

   

   
       
Brown Pelicans portraits



Anhinga at the 4th Street Pond



Non-breeding Pied-billed Grebe



Common Moorhen



Female Shoveler



Black-crowned Night Herons

   
Red-winged Blackbirds flock in a neighborhood pasture

   
Red-winged Blackbird (left) and Starlings (right)



Black Vulture on the shore

Headed on in to Rockport after that. 

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