Monday, March 16, 2015

Rockport, Tx Whooping Cranes

 As a little change from our time in the Rio Grande Valley, we drove up to Rockport, TX to visit our Wisconsin friends Terry and Ken Smeltzer.  They were staying at Goose Neck State Park for a couple of weeks so it was a good time to visit this area again.  Rockport is a quiet coastal town that is popular for camping, birding, and sightseeing.

The first day of our visit we went to see the "Big Tree", which was adjacent to and part of the State Park where the Smelters were staying.

This live oak is over 1000 years old and is now cared for by the State of Texas

Other trees in this small grove are said to be the off-springs of the main tree.

Live oaks have a habit of dipping their branches toward the ground.  They become so heavy they often break off.  To avoid this, trees that are cared for, often have supports under large extended branches.

Marlin caught Terry and I in an unexpected photo op!

Later that day we toured the harbor area, then had lunch at one of their favorite cafes.

The park at the harbor has multiple sculptures of birds and other ocean creatures.

Up close and personal!

This charming little chapel was on the grounds of a Schoenstatt Catholic compound that was situated on beautiful grounds overlooking the ocean.  Currently the school is closed and under renovations, but the chapel, grounds, and a gift shop were open to the public.

The school grounds also had a very old live oak that overlooked the ocean.

An enjoyable evening listening to local music with Terry and Ken kept us in Rockport for Saturday night.  On Sunday morning , after breakfast, Whooping Crane sighting was on the agenda.  A field, directly across the road from the ocean, is a spot where the cranes are often seen.  When we arrived there were many Sandhill Cranes in the field and soon some of the whooping cranes appeared.

Sandhill cranes along with some Black-bellied Whistling ducks

Aransas National Wildlife Sanctuary, about 45 minutes north of here, is the wintering grounds for a flock of about 150 wild Whooping Cranes.  This is one of only two wild migrating flocks of whooping cranes left in the world.  These endangered, five foot tall birds spend the winter in this area of Texas, then fly 2400 miles to Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada, where they mate for life and raise their young. With a black tipped, white wing that measures  7-1/2 feet the birds are hard to misidentify. But there are few places where you get any chance of doing just that.  The best viewing is by boat or at the Wildlife Sanctuary observation deck.  The few that hang out in this spot satisfied me.   This winter we have been very lucky to add some rare birds to our list.

The cranes share this pasture with a small herd of cows.  They seem happy to coexist.

In the background of the above picture, you can see a black feeding station on tripod legs. There are several of these feeding stations in the area.  Apparently, the blue crabs that the Whooping Cranes feed on, were in short supply and the cranes were going hungry.  Local residents set up these stations to fill in the crane's diet.

Having the tripod too high is probably why my pictures are not sharp!

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