Sunday, January 04, 2009

December 8th: Aransas Wildlife Refuge

On Monday, we took a trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. We came by the North Route. In a grain field being harvested by a farmer, we saw a flock of Sandhill Cranes with two Whooping Cranes feeding on the leftover grain in the field. We stopped at the Visitor's Center to obtain a pass, hit the restrooms and purchase bottled water. I bought my uncle a cap for a keepsake. As I stepped outside of the building, my uncle was conversing with the Head Staff Biologist. He told us that they had been keeping track of the Whooping Cranes along their migration route, but that they had lost them as they approached the refuge. My uncle told him where we had spotted the two cranes and I explained that we'd come by the North route and approximately where the farm was. About five minutes later, two women and a man, all of whom must have been staff biologists, hopped in a vehicle and sped north to find the cranes. The head biologist told me that they were using DNA analysis on the captive bred Whooping Cranes to prevent inbreeding. They had no control over the breeding of the wild individuals. He also made the astounding admission that the Whooping Cranes leave the refuge at night to roost around Aransas and Corpus Christi. I thought it remarkable that the refuge really isn't much of a refuge for the Whooping Cranes. Their roosts need the protection as well as their winter habitat, but the roosts must be on either private land or marshes owned by the State of Texas. (The state owns the first 100 feet or more of shoreline along the coast.) The federal government has the authority and the power to obtain that land if needbe. Either there's no problem, or there's not enough money to make a deal. It'd be a shame to waste money saving a species and lose the entire species because the roosting areas were lost.

Viewing Area Number 1 at the Refuge

Adult American Alligator in the middle of the frame.


















Shortly, afterwards, I spotted an Eastern Phoebe and a Red-shouldered Hawk. We also saw Javelina, feral Pig, Armadillos, and a Gray Flycatcher within the refuge.

Juvenile American Alligators

Three Juvenile American Alligators sunning themselves. Within the puddle, one can see the eyes and snouts of 7-8 more juveniles.





















Crested Caracara with Turkey Vultures Eating Carrion

Turkey Vultures and One Crested Caracara Feeding on a Feral Pig Carcass. The caracara is the faint smudge to the right of the second group of three vultures on the far right. It's between the far right group and the next group of vultures. Unfortunately, it was too far away for my phone's camera to get any resolution.

















Here's a better photo.

Crested Caracara




















North Padre Island, Corpus Christi, TX.

Sunset: Moon Rising over the hotel A minute earlier, White Pelicans were using the updraft of the sea breeze as it hit the hotel to gain lift. They seemed to be riding an invisible elevator upwards, then they veered off towards the ocean. My uncle remembers them being Brown Pelicans.



















That night, my uncle and I ate at Snoopy's. We spotted a Great Blue Heron, a Black-Crowned Night Heron, and a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron on the walkway next to Snoopy's rear outdoor dining area.

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Comments:
Looking at those and other photos Corpus Christi is looking more like a mini Miami Beach.

Pete
 
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