Birds of Aransas County

Rockport is located just across a narrow bay from Padre Island on the Gulf Coast in southern Texas. This whole area is appreciated by birders for its huge numbers of birds supported year round and being a stopping point for thousand of migrating birds in spring and fall. Steve (S. Bates) has been in Rockport, TX since last July. Tom and I arrived here in January. None of us are ‘birders’ as we know little about them and have not pursued bird photography with any seriousness. Our bird photography is largely the photography of ‘opportunity’. If we are fortunate to have an opportunity to photograph one of these gorgeous creatures within the limits of our lens we will do so. When it works we get all excited! Below is a collection of photographs that have opportunistically crossed our paths while staying in Rockport. Our apologies to our wonderful birding friends if we have mis-identified one of these birds. Let me know and I will set it right.

White Ibis adults and juveniles (the juveniles are molted brown)

White Ibis adults and juveniles (the juveniles are molted brown)

Tricolor Great Heron

Tricolor Great Heron

Male and female adult Whooping Cranes. They migrate north in the summer. Photographs of the Whooping Cranes were taken using a borrowed Canon 600mm prime lens.

Male and female adult Whooping Cranes. They migrate north in the summer. Photographs of the Whooping Cranes were taken using a borrowed Canon 600mm prime lens.

Red-billed Coot Moorhen

Red-billed Coot Moorhen

Roseate Spoonbills, referred to as ‘rosies’ around here

Roseate Spoonbills, referred to as ‘rosies’ around here

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

Cooper Hawk

Cooper Hawk

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal

Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans

Red-headed Aythya americana (salt water diving duck)

Red-headed Aythya americana (salt water diving duck)

Cooper Hawk

Cooper Hawk

American Coot

American Coot

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great-tailed Crackle

Great-tailed Crackle

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

White Ibis

White Ibis

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron with Sheephead fish

Tri-colored Heron with Sheephead fish

Red-headed Aythya

Red-headed Aythya

Laughing Seagull with Sheepshead

Laughing Seagull with Sheepshead

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Sanderling

Sanderling

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

American Pelican

American Pelican

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Herons atop tall live oaks where they have. built their nests

Herons atop tall live oaks where they have. built their nests

Colt (juvenile) Whooping Crane

Colt (juvenile) Whooping Crane

Colt Whooping Crane

Colt Whooping Crane

Colt Whooping Crane (dancing!)

Colt Whooping Crane (dancing!)

Brown Pelican waiting for his lunch at a fish cleaning station

Brown Pelican waiting for his lunch at a fish cleaning station

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

American Finch

American Finch

Brown Pelican (here’s lookin’ at ya baby!)

Brown Pelican (here’s lookin’ at ya baby!)

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Morning Dove at Steve’s feeder

Morning Dove at Steve’s feeder

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Great Egret

Great Egret

Male Cardinal

Male Cardinal

American Pelicans

American Pelicans

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew

Herons atop live oaks

Herons atop live oaks

Adult Whooping Cranes with their juvenile ‘colt’

Adult Whooping Cranes with their juvenile ‘colt’

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes

Great Egret

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

American Pelican

American Pelican

Front bird is a Kingfisher and the back bird is a Laughing Gull

Front bird is a Kingfisher and the back bird is a Laughing Gull

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Coot

Coot

Osprey

Osprey

American Pelican taking food from a Brown Pelican

American Pelican taking food from a Brown Pelican

Osprey (we think)

Osprey (we think)

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Turkey Vulture (where a hundred hang out on a nearby microwave tower)

Turkey Vulture (where a hundred hang out on a nearby microwave tower)

Snowy egret

Snowy egret

Whooping Cranes with a coyote nearby (he does not consider them prey and they ignore him)

Whooping Cranes with a coyote nearby (he does not consider them prey and they ignore him)

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Great Egret

Great Egret

Crackle

Crackle

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Wilson’s Snipe (we think)

Wilson’s Snipe (we think)

Split-tailed Fly Catcher

Split-tailed Fly Catcher

Split-tail Fly Catcher

Split-tail Fly Catcher

Tufted or crested Tit-mouse (lots of discussion on this one’s identity)

Tufted or crested Tit-mouse (lots of discussion on this one’s identity)

You might imagine the conversation in trying to name these birds. We have reference cards. “Well, that one has yellow feet so that makes it a . . . Now that bill curves down so that suggests it is . . . That red face makes it a . . . Hmmmmm . . . . . not sure about that hawk. . . . “

Ding Darling

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Sanibel Island in Southwestern Florida.  It is part of the US National Wildlife Refuge System with 230 species of birds, most of them migratory.  It contains one of the country's largest mangrove ecosystems with 2. 619 protected acres. Jon and Phyllis spent 5 days photographing these marvelous birds and are sharing them with the rest of us. I feel privileged to put them on my website!

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Great Egret

Great Egret

Spoonbill, young as it is still quite white.

Spoonbill, young as it is still quite white.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Anhinga

Anhinga

Spoonbills

Spoonbills

Tiny turtle

Tiny turtle

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

Pelican

Pelican

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

Spoonbills

Spoonbills

Spoonbills

Spoonbills

Spoonbills

Spoonbills

One of the mangrove ponds

One of the mangrove ponds

Double-crested Coomerant

Double-crested Coomerant

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Double-crested Coomerant

Double-crested Coomerant

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddhish Egret

Reddhish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Coomerant

Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Coomerant

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Pelicans

Pelicans

White Pelican

White Pelican

White Pelican

White Pelican

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Shore birds

Shore birds

Shore birds and pelican

Shore birds and pelican

White Pelican

White Pelican

White Pelican

White Pelican

Ibis with Osprey

Ibis with Osprey

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Mangrove

Mangrove

Mangrove pond

Mangrove pond

White Ibis

White Ibis

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret

White Ibis

White Ibis

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Great Egret

Great Egret

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Mangrove

Mangrove

Great Egret with Ibis on right

Great Egret with Ibis on right

White Ibis

White Ibis

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Tri-color Heron

Great Egret

Great Egret

White Ibis

White Ibis

Great Egret and White Ibis

Great Egret and White Ibis

White Ibis

White Ibis

White Ibis

White Ibis

Shore birds

Shore birds

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Great Egret

Great Egret

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Great Egret and White Ibin

Great Egret and White Ibin

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron, White Ibis and Great Egret

Great Blue Heron, White Ibis and Great Egret

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Juvenile White Ibis

Juvenile White Ibis

Anhinga

Anhinga

Mother Osprey

Mother Osprey

Whitewater Draw

Whitewater Draw is just a 45 minute drive from Sierra Vista and is home to about 22,000 wintering Sandhill Cranes.  There is a half mile looped path that is close to parking, easy to walk and has benches along the way, two viewing platforms with telescopes, and close access to see not only cranes but other birds.  Overnight camping is allowed, there are bathroom facilities and a few picnic tables.  There is no fee.  None of us are bird photographers and we don't have any of the long focal length lens that serious birders use.  But, just getting out there and being so close to the cranes, watching them fly in and out by the hundreds, listening to them call, and watching them preen was more than enough for me.

We were already frozen and the sun was just starting to come up.  Temperature was 17º, my hands too cold to set up my camera and then my long lens would not even attempt to focus!!

We were already frozen and the sun was just starting to come up.  Temperature was 17º, my hands too cold to set up my camera and then my long lens would not even attempt to focus!!

Looking westward across the pond.

Looking westward across the pond.

Tom got a few photographs of the cranes leaving.

Tom got a few photographs of the cranes leaving.

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Len told me that they return in the midday to rest before going back out in the early afternoon.  That approach sounded much more appealing to us.  We returned twice more to watch them come back to the ponds.

Len told me that they return in the midday to rest before going back out in the early afternoon.  That approach sounded much more appealing to us.  We returned twice more to watch them come back to the ponds.

This is a good representation of the ponds just before the birds start coming back in.

This is a good representation of the ponds just before the birds start coming back in.

When the cranes do return they do so in waves, some as many as 100+ birds.

When the cranes do return they do so in waves, some as many as 100+ birds.

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Sand Hill Cranes are not the only bird in the area of the ponds.

Sand Hill Cranes are not the only bird in the area of the ponds.

I was told by another photographer that brown Sand Hill Cranes are what is found on the East Coast.  Not sure if that is true.  This brown bird looked a bit out of place.

I was told by another photographer that brown Sand Hill Cranes are what is found on the East Coast.  Not sure if that is true.  This brown bird looked a bit out of place.

There are two viewing platforms along the route that is easily walked.  

There are two viewing platforms along the route that is easily walked.  

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That is not sensor dust.  Those are waves of returning cranes.  They are noisy as they fly in.

That is not sensor dust.  Those are waves of returning cranes.  They are noisy as they fly in.

There are white geese that rest with the cranes.

There are white geese that rest with the cranes.

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An early morning photograph.

An early morning photograph.

I tried so hard to get a good photograph of this Vermilion Flycatcher.  They are FAST!

I tried so hard to get a good photograph of this Vermilion Flycatcher.  They are FAST!

Steve spotted a hawk.†

Steve spotted a hawk.†

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'Altogether now!'

'Altogether now!'

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Several people mentioned that there were Barn Owls and Horned Owls in the 'barn' a structure near the parking lot.  We only saw this one.  He seemed very at ease with photographers being close by.

Several people mentioned that there were Barn Owls and Horned Owls in the 'barn' a structure near the parking lot.  We only saw this one.  He seemed very at ease with photographers being close by.

If birds are not your thing, there are plenty of other photo-opportunities to keep you busy.

If birds are not your thing, there are plenty of other photo-opportunities to keep you busy.