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Rockport Area, Texas

Part 4:  Whooping Crane Boat Trip & Rockport Area



Met the crowd (not really--it was a nice-sized group) down at the harbor this morning to board the Skimmer in search of Whooping Cranes!  Ran into the British fellow and his wife that I met at Aransas, as well as a photographer and his parents who also happened to be staying at the Best Western and an aspiring adolescent photographer and his dad (assumed) that I had also run into at Aransas!  It was a gorgeous day, and Capt. Tommy made speed out to the refuge, giving us a little history on the way.  He did a great job of pointing out all the birds, including loafing pelicans and cormorants (both species of each), oystercatchers, peeps and plovers, Long-billed Curlews, and Roseate Spoonbill (the one other target bird that one of the passengers mentioned).  In the duck department we were treated to both Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers, Buffleheads, Lesser Scaup, and Pintail.



Great Egret

   

Hooded Mergansers

   
 

Boat-tailed Grackle



American Avocet



Willet



Loafers on the sandbars include both Brown and White Pelicans, cormorants, and Laughing Gulls.  The Neotropic Cormorant is standing behind the sitting White Pelican and has an arrow-shaped white mark on the jaw.

 
Here a Great Blue Heron joins the loafers.

       
Brown Pelican stretches his pouch.


Watchful White Pelicans


Roseate Spoonbills sail by


American Oystercatcher

It didn't take long before we spotted a few of the magnificent creatures, but we didn't get super close until towards the end of the route, where a beautiful bird was unconcernedly munching down on wolfberries.  We were told that early in the winter they'll stay in the vegetation until the berries are all eaten, then move out into the bay to work on the Blue Crabs, and that's when the boat can get REAL close!  We also had a cooperative Osprey guarding one of the NWR signs, and on the way back Tommy showed us his "finale", a beautiful Peregrine Falcon that always seems to be hanging out at these heron platforms!


Our first Whoopers consisted of Mom, Dad, and the kid!

    
Another pair sails in, told by their black primaries


Their smaller and more numerous cousins, the Sandhill Cranes, are gray overall.

       
One cooperative individual was gobbling wolfberries close to shore!

        
Good view of the bare red cap on the left.

    
 Other birds competing for our attention...
     
Forster's Tern

   
Caspian Tern


Turkey Vulture

   
Juvenile Reddish Egret

   
Immature Northern Harrier

   
Osprey (check out those claws!)

       
Peregrine Falcon

After kissing everyone goodbye I decided to explore some more Rockport areas on the map.  The little rest stop along Business 35 (officially called the Rockport Demo Bird Garden) had a nice little wetland with a quartet of waders at the end of the boardwalk:  "Sneg and Greg", a spoonbill, and a White Ibis!  A Long-tailed Skipper posed for pictures, and after taking a stroll through the oak woodland found a Ceraunus Blue next to the highway!
 

Boardwalk at the Rockport Demo Bird Garden


Female Brown Anole


Long-tailed Skipper


Ceraunus Blue

After getting lost (yes, you can do that quite easily in Rockport ) I finally found the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary and had a nice walk on their nature trail as well, although the only critters of note were a scolding titmouse, a Variegated Meadowhawk, and a couple of male Ceraunus Blues fighting.  The butterfly-finding guide recommended Memorial Park, and that was a great little place with a small lake and a paved trail encircling it; besides the normal woodland winter birds had a nice pair of Mottled Ducks that I'll bet dollars to donuts had been fed by the park-goers, because the minute I walked into the clearing and sat on the bench, they left their little island and swam tentatively over to where I was!  The male seemed to keep an alert eye on me nevertheless while his wife fed "naturally".

Critters at the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary...

Variegated Meadowhawk

Another Ceraunus Blue

Mystery frog

Paved trail around the lake at Memorial Park

Red-eared Sliders

       

Mottled Ducks (female has orange bill)

Yet another Variegated Meadowhawk

The paved trail goes into the woods

   

Ruby-crowned Kinglets

Years and years ago I remembered going to this terrific beachfront park in Rockport that was stuffed with skimmers, gulls, and terns, but I couldn't find it to save my life (was surprised it wasn't mentioned on the map); I saw what looked like it way over there from Fulton Avenue, but I wound up going back and forth on Allegro Key and on every other bayfront road it seemed, so I finally called it a day (seeing as I had a bazillion photos to process along with everyone else on the boat).

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