March 2, 2006 - Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

We were told that we needed to visit Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, whose entrance is about 35 miles north of Rockport.  This is the place to see the endangered Whooping Crane. 

We made the drive and we didn't even get to the refuge before we saw a bird we wanted pictures of, a Crested Caracara:

We had seen these birds before in Florida, but didn't have a chance to take their picture.

We stopped at the visitors center, paid our $5 and had our picnic lunch. 

We took our binoculars with us, they are more powerful than the camera telephoto, so we saw the wildlife better than the pictures show.  Some of our pictures are from a long distance and are not very clear.  They also had telescopes all over the refuge, if you go you will see the wildlife better than the pictures here.  But a lot of the wildlife is a long ways off, especially the Whooping Cranes. 

We started with the Heron Flats trail, which had enough pictures for its own web page.

The next trail was a short one to the Bay:

We caught a Brown Pelican in the air:

We also caught this Reddish Egret in the air:

This is the first Reddish Egret we had seen, we were thrilled. 

We stopped at Jones Lake, but most of the wildlife was not evident.  But there were some cormorants here:

For more and better cormorant shots see these pictures from the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park.

Bill noticed these berries by the trail picking up the sunlight:

Our next stop was the viewing platform.  Everything was a long ways away and we used both the binoculars and the supplied telescope.  Most pictures we took were not high enough telephoto to show what we saw.  Here are some pictures of wild pigs, crosses between feral domestic pigs and wild boars brought to North America for hunters:

We took many pictures of the one Whooping Crane we could see, this is the best shot we have:

Not very good, huh?

Down on the boardwalk we had a bit more luck.  Most of the birds were too far away but here are a Little Blue Heron and a Killdeer reflected in the water:

We could see many wild pig and raccoon tracks in the mud.  We could also see some Great Blue Herons, but again the camera did not have enough telephoto.

We were done with the main two-way road and decided to take the one way scenic loop.  Just up the loop there was a boardwalk to a lake where another couple were birding.   There were glossy ibis here:

The man in the other couple went to get his camera, he was a professional photographer and had a top end Canon digital with a huge zoom lens.  He would have fit in with the crowd on the Anhinga trail in Everglades with all the other pros and retired amateurs with money enough to afford $8,000 cameras.

The fun started when some deer came into view and walked across by the glossy ibis, first one came and then the other:

We also saw a Tri-colored Heron and some coots:

The rest of the scenic drive we saw more deer and a few birds in the distance but didn't see anything new till we were leaving the refuge.  That is when this wild turkey appeared:

He waited till we started to drive off before displaying his tail, but he was a big male.

Visiting this refuge we could see why the serious birders have large birding scopes and some have digital cameras they can attach to those scopes.  If you want to see the interesting birds, and other wildlife, you need all the telephoto you can get.

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