Memories of Port Aransas

I visited the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center next to the Port Aransas Nature Preserve on the last day of February in 2021. I learned there was a popular boardwalk over the freshwater marshes on the property until 2017’s Hurricane Harvey dismantled it beyond use. Not ones to give up easily, Texans rebuild what nature breaks, and this boardwalk was no exception. There are about three miles of pathways planned, but the 1500 feet they’d completed were enough to provide me with some lovely meetings.

The big treat for me was meeting a family of Whooping Cranes about 600 to 700 feet away, which is as close as I’ve been to them. They were walking away, while feeding in the fields near the entry point when I arrived, but I captured some worthwhile images before they ambled beyond reasonable camera range. I learned later that the pair have been coming to the marsh here for several years, but this was the first year they brought a youngster with them. Most of the Texas Whooping Cranes winter in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on Blackjack Peninsula, almost 30 miles to the north. With the population of these tall birds slowly increasing, perhaps this pair wasn’t able to find a plot of their own with the main flock.

It was a good thing I got to the boardwalk early. The popularity of this place brought a growing crowd as the morning advanced, and it became increasingly difficult to maneuver into a position where the views of the birds on the marsh were clear. But who could blame these folks? This is the best birding place in the region.

I experienced some camera equipment problems and cut short my morning shoot to do some repairs. Before I headed back out to the boardwalk, a younger photo-enthusiast approached. He was parked next to me, and wanted to engage in a conversation, which I enjoyed. I learned he was a native to the area, but a military life had him moving all over the world. He was now living in Colorado, but I got the idea he intended to move back to the Texas gulf coast. Who could blame him? By the time we finished chatting, it was noonish. The thin cloud layer that greeted me in the morning was burning off and the crowds on the boardwalk congregated, seemingly more interested in conversing with each other than they were in the birds on the marsh. I took a few more shots to test out the repair I’d just done, then I wound up my visit, pleased with those birds I met, and happy to have found this lovely place.

After I left the region, I drove north to explore more of the Texas Gulf Coast. Later, while looking over maps of this region, I noticed more trails probing the wetlands of the Port Aransas Nature Preserve. If ever I visit this area again, I look forward to exploring some of these trails.

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