Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Trails:
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Overview
Back on the mainland and just south of Matagorda, North America's biggest and loudest bird, the whooping crane, has found its perfect home. Locals proudly call them whoopers and are eager to discuss the cranes' Cinderella comeback story in the salt marshes of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Only 14 birds existed in 1937, the year Franklin Roosevelt created the 54,829-acre sanctuary in a last-ditch effort to save the species. Today, 150 of the gangly creatures descend on Aransas in late October to, among other things, enact their goofy mating ritual they bow heads, sound their trumpeting calls and leap high into the air. When the excitement ends, they return to Canada in early April.
To see this spectacle by land, coat yourself with mosquito repellent and strike out early along the Heron Flats Trail, which winds through a twisted scrub oak forest before meandering a ridge between tidal marshes to the right and narrow ponds to the left. Look into the sunrise over the marsh and search for the "Willow Creek Pair" (cranes live in two- to seven-member families and return to the same spots). Whatever you do, never keep your eyes off the ground for too long. The refuge teems with water moccasins, rattlesnakes, alligators and snorting javalinas, so take care. If you don't sight any whoopers here, try the Observation Tower and scan Mustang Lake for the "Tower Pair."
Since most of the refuge is closed to foot traffic, the best way to see whoopers en masse is from outside the sanctuary by sailboat. Three-day bare-boat charters at the Corpus Christi International School of Sailing run for $600 to $700 (512-881-8503). From the Coopers Alley L-Head dock in Corpus you're about three tacks west of the Port Aransas Municipal Marina, where you can dock for the evening. In the morning, sail four hours north with the wind along the Intracoastal Waterway until you reach the narrow passage between the refuge on your left and Bludworth Island on your right. Creep up on whoopers munching on crabs and raising a racket. Then, dock for the night at Municipal Marina in the quaint artists' colony of Rockport Texas's answer to Sausalito.
Non-sailors should check in at Rockport's Blue Heron Inn, a Federal-style, two-story home built in 1890 and overlooking Little Bay (512-729-7526). At the Boiling Pot on Fulton Beach Road, you can sift sand through your toes at an outside table, listen to live blues and watch the waitress dump the "Cajun Combo" boiled crabs, shrimp, sausage and corn-on-the-cob onto your paper-covered table.
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- Where are we most likely to see Whooping Cranes other than at Aransas?
Asked on January 10, 2013 by mary kaye | 36 views
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