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Rockport Area, Texas

Part 5:  Goose Island State Park



Dennis beat me to the punch:  went out to Goose Island SP first thing to road bird, and at my third stop just outside the park entrance (at the turnaround, actually), just as I turned to get back in the car what I assumed at first were three White Pelicans sailing past were in reality three Whooping Cranes!  What a thrill!  I told the lady at the entrance about them, and she happened to be Dennis' wife and made me promise to send him pictures!
 


Surprise Whooping Crane family comes sailing into the state park!



(The kid bringing up the rear has much brown in the plumage, hard to tell in this light...)





I was afraid it was going to be a law of diminishing returns today (I had been tempted to skip Goose Island and go to Goliad instead just to get some inland birds; I'm glad I stuck with the original plan!), but I actually added a handful of trip birds:  a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew over just before hitting that lovely oak-lined boulevard, and at the first Whooper stop a few White-winged Doves flew past.  While creeping through the campground I discovered a feeding station by the restrooms that had a Buff-bellied Hummer visiting, and just before I left the place came alive with Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Hermit Thrushes, and a single Catbird (besides the hordes of House Sparrows)! 

  A Carolina Wren calls...
  ...and then breaks into song with its mate scolding annoyedly and a second bird singing in the background.
 



Magnificent oak-lined boulevard coming in.

My disappointment at not being able to find Rockport Beach Park yesterday was somewhat alleviated when I saw the mob of skimmers along the road going down to the pier for some great photo ops!  Even though the tide was in (it had splashed over the breakwater so hard that only one lane was dry) several shorebirds were also right next to the road, including turnstones, Dunlins, a Semipalmated Plover, and a single Least Sandpiper.  Upon parking and readying myself to walk out on the pier, I scanned the marsh to see not only several White Pelicans but the Whooper family (Mom, Dad, and the kid)!  Granted they were waaaay out there, but it was so cool to see them "on your own"!  Besides getting some exercise and enjoying a five-minute sit at the end with the breeze and the view, the highlight of the pier walk was a pair of Oystercatchers out on a little sandbar which decided to fly in where I was parked just as I got back to the car!  How thoughtful!

 


Aransas Bay

   
Female Great-tailed Grackle

   
Great Egret taking off from the marsh

   


Laughing Gulls and Black Skimmers loaf on the shoreline.


Immature bird in the middle



   
Another car encourages the flock to take wing...




Laughing Gulls lose their black hoods in winter



   

Adult Ring-billed Gull

First-year Ring-billed Gull

   

Ruddy Turnstone turning the stones!

   

Semipalmated Plover

   

Least Sandpiper

   

Dunlin

The Whooper family found a secluded piece of marsh along with some White Pelicans!

Fishing pier heading out into the bay (look hard for the oystercatchers on the spit of land all by itself)

American Oystercatchers move to the parking lot after I return!

Road-birded over to the Big Tree area after that, enjoying the mammoth tree and adding a young Cooper's Hawk to the day list while I was at it.  Several folks confirmed that the huge pasture there is often visited by the Whoopers, but not today; even the blackbird flock was gone!  Just had both flavors of vulture to show for it...  The pond on 4th Street was missing its night herons, but still had the Anhinga, grebes, coots, and moorhen.  Returned to the park and hiked the Turks Cap Trail, which was a lovely walk but rather "critterless", especially with the same group of kids riding their bikes back and forth on it (they were rather apologetic after awhile, and I threatened to join them for Thanksgiving dinner if they came by again )!  Did manage to kick up a nice Chipping Sparrow for the Spizella Challenge...
 

Pretty leaf in the suburban part of the park


Pied-billed Grebe in the 4th Street Pond


Mystery frog along the Turk's Cap Trail

From there explored some more sites on the GTWT map on the way to Port Aransas and didn't really add much; the most picturesque place was Live Oak Park in Aransas Pass that had a nice little fresh-water pond and lovely oak woodland.  An early-morning perusal probably would have been productive, but it was rather quiet when I was there.  Took a quick peek at Conn Brown Harbor before taking the ferry to Port Aransas, where a new trip bird, a Sandwich Tern, squealed overhead!
 
Had a terrific prime rib for Thanksgiving dinner at Koby's, then came back to crash. 

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