Rockport, Texas: A Bonanza of Wintering Birds Nov 13—17, 2017

Posted by Michael O'Brien


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field ide...

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We had a very pleasant visit to this bird-rich part of the country, and we enjoyed a wonderful mix of wintering waterbirds, South Texas residents, and of course, the magnificent Whooping Cranes. Before arriving, we had concerns about how well this area was rebounding after being devastated by Hurricane Harvey back on August 25. Rockport was at ground zero when this storm made its first landfall, and the damage was considerable. Much cleanup remains to be done, and rebuilding will likely take years, but we were pleased to see that many businesses were fully operational and most birding sites reasonably intact.

Whooping Cranes hunting Blue Crabs

Whooping Cranes hunting Blue Crabs— Photo: Michael O’Brien


On our first morning, we jumped right in with the trip every birder visiting the Texas Coast needs to take: a boat cruise to the back bays of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge aboard The Skimmer with Capt. Tommy Moore! Capt. Tommy is a real pro at this gig and always runs a great trip. It was a delightful cruise from start to finish, highlighted by up-close views of several Whooping Crane pairs, including one with a juvenile in tow. The pools, channels, and vast Aransas saltmarsh harbored many other birds including hundreds of pelicans, cormorants, and ducks, and numerous Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and Long-billed Curlews. During our transits across Aransas Bay, we frequently had Sandwich and Forster’s terns feeding around the boat, and we also came across both Greater and Lesser scaup and a single Common Goldeneye. After lunch, a visit to Cape Valero Drive provided great learning opportunities with a mixed flock of shorebirds, including Long-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, and Least and Western sandpipers. We also had close views of a Wilson’s Snipe hiding in the ditch right outside our vans! This stretch of marsh was also full of waterfowl, with large numbers of Redhead, Pintail, and Green-winged Teal, along with several Canvasback, Mottled Duck, and others. Nearby, we had excellent views of a small flock of Sandhill Cranes.

Read Michael’s full report in his Field List.