Texas – Day 3 (March 24): Rockport to Harlingen

After our slow day of birding, we awoke early knowing we had quite a day ahead of us. We arrived at the Rockport dock at 7:00 am and were soon in for one of the more memorable experiences of the trip. Our boat and its fifteen other passengers was on its way to the marshes of Aransas NWR in hopes of getting views of one of North America’s rarest birds: the Whooping Crane.

It took around thirty minutes to get out to the marsh and we were soon on one of my major targets of the boat trip, Long-billed Curlew.

Long-billed Curlew

Soon after we began encountering some birds typical of this habitat here including a couple singing Seaside Sparrows.

Seaside Sparrow, Gulf Coast race

Boat-tailed Grackle

It didn’t take long to locate our first Whooping Cranes. Our first and best looks were at a family of three, one juvenile and two adults.

The two adult Whoopers

The first year bird with a crab (Blue I suppose)

The family of three

The young bird with one of the adults. Note the "fluffy" appearance of the younger bird as well as the presence of rusty-brown on the face

Much of our time was spent with these amazing and majestic creatures as we watched them preen, feed and interact. Finally it was time to move on. Up ahead we encountered another group of Whooping Cranes as well as two American Avocets and a Crested Caracara that zoomed by the boat, told apart from the abundant Turkey Vultures by the telltale white wing-tips and rump.

Crested Caracara

During the rest of the trip we enjoyed a whole slew of highlights including 7 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, 2 Green-winged Teal, a couple Neotropic Cormorant, 2 Reddish Egret, 1 Wilson’s Plover, 1 Caspian Tern, 2 Gull-billed Tern and 2 Common Tern plus a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins following the boat.

Overall, it was a highly successful and very well-run trip. Ultimately, this would set the tone for the remainder of our trip.

It was soon time to leave the Rockport area to start on our way to the Valley. Unfortunately, we were unable to (somehow) not find our next stop (Pollywog Ponds) in the North Corpus Christi area. However, we did get great looks at 2 Golden-fronted Woodpeckers evidently nesting in a hold in a power pole by the side of the road. If only I knew how abundant they’d be in the valley….. 🙂

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

The ride down US-77 was ruled by hawkwatching and in this case not your regular kind! It entailed balancing your binoculars to your eyes making sure you could locate a hawk at a distance and thus identify it. This went on for quite some time until finally my arm started to get pretty tired. At one point I located a hawk that was perfect for my big target, White-tailed. It was a buteo with a white belly and underwings. Unfortunately, I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t remember to look for this bird’s most important field mark: the white tail!

Thus, it still remains unidentified even to this day. However, a good number of Crested Caracaras were seen as was one White-tailed Kite.

Other highlights seen during our drive down 77 included: 2 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, 3 American Kestrels, 1 Green Jay, 2 Loggerhead Shrike and a bunch of singing Eastern Meadowlarks.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

American Kestrel

After a brief siesta in our motel room we were back on the road again, chasing Red-crowned Parrots in downtown Harlingen. After waiting 1.5+ hours for the birds to show we finally saw a few scattered groups fly over the car. These scattered bunches turned to many and soon we had a whole lot of birds going over at once. Quite the adventure ensured as we chased these birds though the streets, finally locating their “staging” site.

Red-crowned Parrots

Red-crowned Parrot

A small portion of the approx. 75 bird flock

Overall a highly successful day. Even so, this was only the beginning….


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2 Responses to Texas – Day 3 (March 24): Rockport to Harlingen

  1. Michael Corcoran says:

    Great pictures Alex! Obviously, a great trip.

    Come and see us at banding, we’re starting to get migrants!


  2. Brendan says:

    …….. WOW. Whooping Crane pictures Somers of thé n’est I’ve Ever seen of that species.
    – Brendan

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