Last Time to Bird at Port Aransas, Texas

This should be my last post from my trip to Texas last May/June.  It’s taken awhile to get caught up on my blog.

Birding in Port Aransas this last time was bitter sweet in many ways.  First off I knew it was most likely the last time I would be visiting there.  I lived in Corpus Christi from 1982 to 1994.  With my parents living in San Antonio, it was an easy drive for us to go to the beach whenever I visited them.  The last time I posted about birding in Port Aransas, my dad was still alive and me and my parents had taken a 5-day trip to the beach.  It was in May during spring migration.  I had plenty of time there to explore all the bird sanctuaries.  All the wonderful boardwalks into the marshes and estuaries were so much fun to explore.

Since that last visit, I had forgotten that Hurricane Harvey had come through and dealt a lot of damage to the coastal towns of Padre Island.  So while I was excited to visit the beach, I was sad to know my dad wouldn’t be there to join us and that all the bird sanctuaries had been destroyed.

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Demolition and construction was still ongoing while I visited.  This restaurant still hadn’t been addressed. 

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Going to cost a pretty penny to get this boat fixed.

Birding this year was tough.  I believe a lot of the birds did not linger during the spring migration because the usual areas they visited were completely destroyed.  Also, I think a lot of the local birds had left and not returned.  Needless to say, it took a lot of driving around to find any birds.  But I did manage to find a few good spots.

The first evening we were there I drove to the ferry and the walkway along the intra-coastal channel.  The damage from the hurricane was very evident here.  Huge pieces of concrete were lifted like they weighed very little.

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Destruction from Hurricane Harvey

While here I enjoyed the antics of several dolphin getting dinner.  It was interesting to watch them herd fish toward the wall so they could catch them.  I spotted a mother and her calf working the wall.

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Mother dolphin with calf looking at me

The sunset was gorgeous!

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Beautiful!

The next morning was when I realized all the local birding hot spots were destroyed.  Thankfully I saw signs saying they already had funding in place to repair all the boardwalks.  It looked like their plans were even going to improve what was originally there.  Someday if I make it back there I will have to see what they did.

I headed to the beach and jetty where I knew terns had gathered in the past.  Thankfully, this spot was still favored by the terns.  The surf was rough and the birds were gathered in big numbers fishing.

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Terns and gulls fishing the rough surf at the jetty

I found an area where the birds were resting and grooming after tackling the rough waters.  I was able to get several good pics of the terns resting.

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Black Tern Juvenile

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Black Tern

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Forster’s Tern

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Royal Tern

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Sandwich Tern

From there I headed down the road toward the big bridge going to Corpus Christi.  There is a marina there.  I’ve seen birds hanging out there in the past so had high hopes I would see some that morning.

Along the highway I saw a hawk looking for breakfast in the coastal grasslands.  I had to take a second look as I realized it was a new bird for me!  A White-Tailed Hawk.  Gorgeous!!!

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White-Tailed Hawk

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White-Tailed Hawk

I saw a Roseate Spoonbill fishing the shallows not far from the marina.  I pulled into a construction area to get closer for pics.  I managed a few photos before I was run off by the foreman.  🙂

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Roseate Spoonbill

As I was driving into the marina I spotted a beautiful Osprey hanging out on the electric wire.  He let me take a few pics before flying off.

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Osprey

The marina was not a disappointment.  There were several birds hanging out hoping for a free meal.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Brown Pelicans

Near the marina is an area that shorebirds have liked in the past.  I drove over there to see if I could find anything.  I was thrilled to see a pair of Willets with two young babies.  I’d never seen Willet babies before.  Adorable! I sat for some time just watching this little family.  You can’t help but smile and enjoy new life.

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Willet juvenile

Soon though the parents grew nervous and started telling me to move along.

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Willet telling me to move along

There were also some Black-Necked Stilts and a Reddish Egret enjoying the shallows.

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Reddish Egret

The next morning I decided to go the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier.  Not sure if I would see anything here, but it was fun to go there at sunrise.

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Horace Caldwell Pier

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Beach at Port Aransas, Texas

I came across these two children fast asleep on the pier.  Their parent must have gotten them up really early to fish.  🙂

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Too early of a morning for these kids

The only birds I saw were White-Winged Doves and Pigeons.  What I found curious though, was a cross between these two species.  Interesting bird.

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The Rock Pigeons at the pier had very dark plumage.  Doesn’t make sense at a hot beach!

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Rock Pigeon and White-Winged Dove Cross Breed

After the pier I drove to the lone surviving boardwalk that overlooked a salt flat.  Most of the birds were too far away for photos.  I managed to see one bird closer to me.  And to my surprise it was a lifer!  A Black-Bellied Plover Juvenile.  Too bad it wasn’t an adult.  They are beautiful birds.   Even better, this is a rare sighting for the area!   I wouldn’t have believed I identified this bird correctly if it hadn’t been sighted by other birders on eBird.

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Black-Bellied Plover – juvenile

I spotted a few birds flying over and managed to snap a couple of photos on the fly.  🙂

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Black Skimmer

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White Ibis

During this trip I decided to take a ride on the Red Dragon.

While waiting to start the boat ride, I saw the local offshore fishing tour boats had come in as well.  They were hanging up the catch of the day.  Lovely Red Snappers with a few other interesting fish mixed in.

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Nice haul for the day

It’s was fun sailing with the pirates!

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Kelly sailing on the Red Dragon

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Arrrrrr…there be Pirates!

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Beautiful boat ride

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The Captain at his helm

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I took the sunset tour.  We boated along the intra-coastal and made it to the lighthouse.  We got there just as the sun was setting.  So lovely!

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Sunset over the lighthouse

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Gorgeous sunset!

One day at the ferry I spotted a juvenile Laughing Gull trying to swallow a whole fish.  He tried and tried to gulp that fish down.

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Laughing Gull juvenile

I love people watching.  I think most people do.  While there I captured a few fun moments of people watching.

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Skateboarding buddies

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The waiting line for the ferry was so long and slow, this girl had time to get into the back of the car and get cold drinks for everyone.  It was fun to watch her walk along with the car while digging in the cooler.

I saw lots of turtles about while birding.  I had never really seen turtles there before so it was fun to see several on this trip.

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Turtle moving along

I had a great time at the beach birding and spending time with my mother.  We enjoyed sitting on the beach, enjoying the warm summer days.  And we had fun shopping and eating delicious fish and shrimp dinners.  I’m so glad we took the time off to relax after all the stresses.

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San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

I feel like I’ve been going a lot lately and haven’t had any time to blog.  I’m still trying to catch up writing about my San Antonio visit last May/June.

While there I took the time to visit the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  The park encompasses 5 missions and an historic acequia (water canal).  Sadly, the park didn’t open until 9 am.  By this time, the best lighting had passed, and the weather was already hot as fire!  Despite the conditions, I had a good time exploring the missions.

I did manage to get a nice pic in the morning light just outside the monument walls.

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Mission San Jose

The first mission I visited was Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo.  This mission was constructed in 1768 and was designated a National Historic Site in 1966.  It had a large fenced in lawn with lots of buildings that used to house the friars that lived there.

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Mission San Jose

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Old well outside of the mission

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Mission portico

The front of the mission has been beautifully carved.  It’s amazing that these works of art are still in great condition after 250 years.

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Front doors of Mission San Jose

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Wonderful sculptures

The inside has been preserved beautifully.

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Sanctuary of Mission San Jose

The National Park is large.  It has about 15 miles of trails to hike and bike.  I wasn’t about to do either in the Texas summer heat and humidity.  So I drove to the next mission:  Mission San Juan Capistrano.  This mission was built in East Texas in 1716.  Then in 1731, the mission was moved to San Antonio.  It was designated at National Historic Landmark in 1972.

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Mission San Juan Capistrano

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Bell tower of Mission

Sadly I wasn’t allowed to go inside this mission.

Following that was Mission San Francisco de la Espada which was established in 1690 in central Texas.  It underwent several name changes until 1731 when it too was moved to San Antonio.  This mission was added to the National Historic Register in 1972.

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Mission San Francisco de la Espada

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Bell tower

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Mission Portico

I was able to step inside the sanctuary of this mission.  I didn’t realize there was a ceremony underway.  You can see the girl in the chair up front in her white dress.  She was celebrating her Quinceanera.  A celebration in the Latin communities for a girl’s 15th birthday.  I took a quick pic and left the patrons to their celebration.

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Quinceanera being celebrated

I then stopped at the Espada Aqueduct.  This aqueduct was built by Franciscan Friars in 1731 to supply irrigation water to lands near Mission San Francisco de la Espada.  The aqueduct is still in use today and is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.  It received these designations in 1964.

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Espada Aqueduct

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The double arches of the aqueduct.

I walked down to the stream.  Scarlett was so excited to see water.  Before I let her play and get a drink, I took pictures of the cool fish gathered in a pool.  There were lots of dragonflies about but very skittish.  I managed to get a pic of one little guy.

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Texas Ciclid – this fish was about 3 inches long.  You can see little babies it’s protecting

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Pretty damselfly

After the aqueduct, I drove to Mission Concepcion.  I loved the grounds surrounding this mission.  It had beautiful palm trees and expansive lawns.

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Beautiful old palm trees

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Mission Concepcion

This mission had a lot of rooms to explore along with a beautiful sanctuary.

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Alter at the Mission

I hope you enjoyed reading about my morning exploring the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  By now it was 11:30 am and it was over 100 degrees F, and I was so ready for a cold drink, a shower and air conditioning!