2018-06-01 / Birdwatching

Port Aransas known for diverse bird population

Port Aransas and the Coastal Bend are among the most diverse birding areas in the United States.

The Gulf beaches, salt marshes and wetland areas provide homes to both the full-time resident birds and those passing through. Summer is the best time to see some water birds that are only present this time of year.

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, a trail that ties together birding sites from Beaumont to Brownsville, passes through Port Aransas and five locations are sites on the trail here.

Although Hurricane Harvey inflicted severe damage to all the birding sites, restoration has been underway and the sites are all open to visitors.

The Wetland Park is on State Highway 361, south of Avenue G., across from the U.S. Post Office. The observation platform overlooks a basin that is a large shallow wetland habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. The basin is normally thick with waterfowl and shorebirds during wet periods.

The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is at the south end of Ross Avenue, down the street from the Port Aransas Community Park, next to the water treatment plant adjacent to the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. Hurricane Harvey severely damaged the boardwalks and downed trees throughout the birding center. The birding center is open with limited access. The gardens at the front of the center are restored and a fresh water drip was installed, which brings birds in looking for fresh water, and is an excellent photography site. The boardwalks will not be accessible during the summer. Rebuilding is ongoing, with downed trees being removed and new trees being planted. Visitors also may catch a glimpse of some American alligators that call the center home.

The I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park and the south jetty,which extends for several hundred yards into the Gulf of Mexico, furnishes an excellent vantage point for observing a variety of open water and shoreline bird species. Gulls and terns often rest at the base of the jetty and shorebirds may be seen feeding along the beach. Resident brown pelicans and gulls may be seen gliding over the dunes and Gulf.

The Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond Birding Center is in the 400 block of Cut-Off Road, behind San Juan Restaurant. It is the only natural permanent freshwater wetland and pond on Mustang Island. The park is recognized as an important stopover site for migratory land birds along the Central Texas coast. The boardwalk leads out into an area where one can find both songbirds and more than 100 species of migrating birds. Repairs have been made, replanting is ongoing and the center is open to the public.

The Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture is a 1,200-acre site. The extensive tidal flats provide feeding areas and habitat for shorebirds including endangered and threatened species. Most of the nature preserve is off-limits due to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. The hurricane destroyed the boardwalks in the preserve. People may walk the trails that lead from the Port Aransas Community Park to the preserve’s pavilion. They may not go any further because the rest of the preserve is closed. Stay on the trails to keep from disturbing ecologically sensitive areas. Guided birding tours take place every Saturday at 8 a.m. The tour meets in the parking lot of the Port Aransas Community Park, 700 Clark Pkwy.

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