2017-06-01 / Birdwatching

Port A is mecca for bird watchers

The coastal area is a birding mecca due to the wide variety of habitats in the Port Aransas area. The gulf beaches, salt marshes and wetland areas provide homes to both the full-time resident birds and those passing through.

The longer days of summer provide birders with better lighting conditions to snap photographs and identify birds.

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.

They are the Wetland Overlook, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, the Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond, the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture and the south jetty near I.B. Magee Beach Jr. Park.

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. The 10-acre marshland features a 500-foot boardwalk that extends into the marsh, an observation tower and two free viewing scopes – one on the tower and a second ADA-accessible scope at a viewing stand along the boardwalk. Visitors also may catch a glimpse of some American alligators that call the place home. The boardwalk and parking lot are planted with native species that attract birds. Free guided bird walks take place every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the birding center.

The I.B. Magee Jr. Beach Park and the south jetty, which extends for several hundred yards into the Gulf of Mexico and 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.

The Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture is a 1,200-acre site. It features more than two miles of hike and bike boardwalk and granite trails. Covered seating sites along the trails provide birders places from which to watch. A viewing tower overlooks the wetland areas around Salt Island.The extensive tidal flats provide feeding areas and habitat for shorebirds including endangered and threatened species. There are two entrances, one at the end of Port Avenue and an entrance on State Highway 361 near the airport.

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