The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Port Aransas Birding
Bill Lindemann, Fredericksburg Standard/Radio Post, Kerrville Daily Times, April 2003, © 2003

The Texas Gulf Coast is a springtime Mecca for birders from all over the country as the millions of migrants pass over the shoreline heading northward to their breeding areas. Many of the birds take the direct approach over the water from the Campeche Peninsula in Mexico to the United States Gulf of Mexico coastline. Some prefer to travel up the coastline over land - a longer, but safer trip. Many great spots along the Texas coast afford opportunities to find them, but the city of Port Aransas, aware of the potential eco-tourism dollars, has developed a number of excellent birding sites.

The first venture the city undertook was to make their wastewater facility available to birders. They built boardwalks and towers for birders to be able close looks at birds that prefer wet habitats. As enticement, the city painted murals on the sides of their water storage tanks of birds that can be seen on the premises. From the boardwalks, birders can see ducks, egrets, shorebirds (and occasionally an alligator) up close and personal - so close that binoculars are not necessary. Native plants are planted around the parking lot perimeter to add to the site's education and esthetic value.

Last week I passed through Port A, as it is known to the locals, and found new construction at Paradise Pond, a migrant trap just south of the water treatment plant mentioned above. A migrant trap is a wooded area along the coast where tired migrants take refuge after completing the 500 plus mile journey over the Gulf of Mexico. Paradise Pond, has been a favorite place for birders, but it was undeveloped and behind private property - not an easy place to view birds around the pond.

Port A officials who have now designated the site as a birding center, have built a parking lot, a concrete sidewalk to the pond and a wonderful board walk out into the pond, making it almost too easy for us hardy birders now. However, we will enjoy with much appreciation the results of the city's efforts. The timing of my visit to the pond was fortunate; a north wind was making travel for the migrants difficult so the tired travelers were taking refuge there.

Thirty or more Black and White Warblers were foraging along the willow tree limbs looking for bugs to replenish their lost body fat. Many of the warblers were within an arm's reach and not taking notice of us gawking birders. There were nine species of warblers working the vegetation around the pond, including Nashville, Yellow-throated, and Black-throated Green warblers and a couple of Louisiana Waterthrushes.

The checklist of birds for the Port Aransas area includes almost 300 species of resident and migrating birds. Located on the north end of Mustang Island, the city is close to Corpus Christi, Padre Island, and Rockport, all good birding venues. Many habitats, i.e. coastal prairies, jetties, beaches, tidal flats and the migrant trap woods give birders many opportunities to find a wide variety of birds. For example, a good bird I was pleased to find was a Peregrine Falcon perched on one of the water towers.

All cities interested in bringing eco-tourism to their area should look at what Port Aransas has done to make birding more accessible and fun. If you want to take in this spring migration spectacular, take a few days off in April and visit Port A and surrounding areas. Birding doesn't get much better, anywhere.


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