2022-08-21 Sunday Tour of Blackjack Peninsula

Wood Stork - Mycteria americana
Whenever I visit Aransas NWR, I find it impossible to pass up Heron Flats without exploring its trails. During my spring visits in 2020 and 2021, I didn’t see any storks here. Yet on this August 2022 visit, I had the pleasure of some group flyovers, and some distant views of this lone individual foraging out on the marsh in the company of other waders.
Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
After touring nearby Aransas NWR, I returned to my camp in Austwell Texas to find an invasion of Cattle Egrets foraging on the lawns there.

After leaving High Island, and exploring Anahuac NWR, I continued south and spent some time at Brazoria NWR and San Bernard NWR. My next targeted destination was the Blackjack Peninsula, the winter home of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock of Whooping Cranes. Though the cranes aren’t expected to return here from Canada for another month, I still looked forward to an exploratory tour.

I spent two nights camped in Austwell’s City Park. The time I spent there was restful, though punctuated with alternating ferocious storms and sunny weather. While the bouts of wind and rain on Friday and Saturday morning discouraged my explorations of the nearby Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, I used the time to rest and recuperate from the rigors of the road and process the stories of recent days. 

With stormy weather behind me, on Sunday I set out to roam the refuge in search of subjects to photograph. As with most of my previous visits, my first stop on the refuge was at the coastal marsh called Heron Flats. In springtime, when I visited here in 2020 and 2021, there was a wider array of avian subjects to entertain me than there were during this late August visit. But I wasn’t surprised by the slim-pickings. I took a quick peek at Heron Flats and continued down the peninsula. I found scant and distant views of some birds in attendance at the nearly dry Jones Pond, and really no action at the Big Tree Lookout, so I returned to Heron Flats and hiked the trail half-way to the end. 

The genuine stars of the Blackjack Peninsula are the Whooping Cranes. But their arrival here was not expected until mid-September, still a month away.

The only subject that captured my imagination was a lone Wood Stork in the company of a mixed flock of egrets and herons. I tried my best to find the Sedge Wrens there that I met in 2021, but if they were there, they were quiet, and I struck out.

When I finished my visit to Heron Flats, I drove back to my RV Campsite in Austwell, just 8 miles away. To my delight, I found a large flock of Cattle Egrets grazing on the lawns where I hooked up my RV. These birds provided me with enough entertainment to make me feel my day was worthwhile.

When I finished my visit with the Cattle Egrets, I prepared the RV for the road ahead, and made plans to visit a series of wildlife reserves on Mustang Island, beginning with a Monday morning stop at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas. Stay tuned for that story.

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