Welcome to Port Aransas, Texas – the ‘birdiest small coastal city’ for the third year in a row!
Port Aransas is located in the Central Flyway along the Texas Gulf Coast. An ideal setting for birds and birders alike who enjoy a barrier island filled with miles of protective dunes and hundreds of native and migrating species. During peak migration, a plethora of species are observed at our many birding sites. From the natural wetlands, inlets, and 18 miles of natural beaches and dunes to the rock jetties, piers and marinas, the island offers dozens of perfect vantage points to marvel at the magnificent migrating birds that consider ‘Port A’ the perfect rest stop. Encounters with nesting species such as the Roseate Spoonbills, Least Grebes, Reddish Egrets, Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, Bitterns and Rails bring birding enthusiasts back to this island sanctuary time and time again.
Five sites are listed on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Wetlands Park, Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Mustang Island State Park and the South Jetty. Boardwalks and observation towers are built over wetlands with vegetation pockets specially designed to attract birds. Newly developed sites, Port Aransas Nature Preserve and The University of Texas Marine Science Institute’s Wetlands Education Center were designed to give birders the “up-close” ability to observe hundreds of species in their natural habitats.
Birders are always welcome in ‘Port A’ to enjoy the 18 miles of beach on Mustang Island, dine along the ship channel, and of course, rest your head for the night in one of our many accommodations. You’ll want to save the last weekend in February each year for the annual Whooping Crane Festival, where you can enjoy knowledgeable guest speakers, professional workshops, tours and trips to view the cranes and other species, a nature related trade show and much more!
Enjoy birding in Port Aransas, Texas ~ Island Style!
Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond
Set on two acres surrounded by giant Black Willows and native prairie, Paradise Pond is the only permanent freshwater wetland on Mustang Island. A ‘secret hot spot’ that fills with colorful songbirds each spring and fall, more than 100 species of Neartic-Neotropical migratory birds have been observed in this little oasis. Popular species include Swainson’s, Golden-winged, Chesnut-sided, Worm-eating and Cerulean Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Painted Buntings. Don’t forget to check the chalkboard at the entrance to the boardwalk: the day’s sightings are often noted. (Located between Cut Off Road and the ship channel.)
Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
From SH 361 at the ferry landing, take Cut-Off Road to Ross Avenue and follow the signs to the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. This birding facility attracts birds and birders alike. The boardwalk stretches nearly a mile over the shallow, brackish water and allows for close observation of many birds. From the observation platform look for waterfowl (Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal), grebes (Least included), heron and egrets, cormorants, shorebirds (such as Black-necked Stilt) and flaming pink Roseate Spoonbills, the official Port Aransas city bird. The parking area and land along the boardwalk are planted in native species, so be alert for landbirds during migration. Keep your eyes open for the resident American alligators “Boots” and “Bags!” Guided tours take place every Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. Free viewing scopes.
Port Aransas Nature Preserve
The Port Aransas Nature Preserve encompasses 1,217 acres in an area formerly known as Charlie’s Pasture, where early island residents once grazed their cattle. The Preserve features over three miles of hike and bike trails and includes a pavilion, boardwalks over algal flats, crushed granite trails on the uplands, covered seating sites and two towers overlooking wetland areas around Salt Island.
The natural area’s extensive tidal flats provide feeding areas and important habitat for shorebirds and endangered and threatened species such as the piping plover. There are two entrances to the Preserve: the end of Port Street and off State Highway 361 near Mustang Beach Airport.
South Jetty/I.B. Magee Beach Park
The most popular place to view waders and shorebirds is at the South Jetty located at the northern tip of I.B. Magee Beach Park. The jetty extends several hundred yards into the Gulf of Mexico and furnishes an excellent vantage point from which to look for a variety of open water species. Gulls and terns often rest at the base of the jetty and shorebirds may be seen feeding along the beach. Scan the Gulf, particularly in winter, for species such as Northern Gannet, Bonaparte’s Gull, and Jaegers and in summer look for the Magnificent Frigatebird, Masked and Brown Booby (also seen at times perched on rocks of the jetty itself) and Sooty Tern. Brown pelicans are year round residents. Day use is free, with a fee for overnight camping.
Wetlands Education Center
The Wetlands Education Center, offers an educational resource for the citizens of Texas and a “living laboratory” for students and scientists. The Wetlands is a 3.5-acre salt marsh surrounded by sheltering dunes on the campus of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute. An extensive boardwalk system and observation platforms allow people to walk around the marsh area without disturbing the environment. Explore the marsh and learn how plants and animals adapt to life in this wet, salty habitat during biweekly guided walking tours. Tour days and times change seasonally.
The Wetland Park, located on SH 361 across from the Post Office, is another viewing area for birders to enjoy. The boardwalk and observation platform overlook a wetland basin that may be thick with a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds during rainy periods. Unlike the ponds at the Birding Center, this site is ephemeral. The park itself has been landscaped to establish a native dune community, and during migration the scrubby vegetation and grasses attract a number of migrant landbirds.
Info on the Whooping Crane Festival
Enjoy birding …. island style! Every February, Port Aransas showcases its rare and famous winter neighbors, the Whooping Crane. The festival is open to avid or amateur birders, families interested in learning about birds, photographers, and anyone that loves all things nature related. The 17th Annual Whooping Crane Festival begins on Thursday, February 21st with activities scheduled through Sunday, February 24th, 2013 in Port Aransas, Texas on Mustang Island.
Festival-goers will be able to travel by boat to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, which is the wintering home of the spectacular endangered Whooping Crane. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service anticipates a record population as the cranes return to their winter home. These surviving cranes are all descendants of the last 15 remaining migratory flock of cranes in the world that were found wintering in Texas in 1941. The Whooping Crane is one of the rarest and tallest birds in North America with the adult male approaching five feet in height. Males are slightly larger than females.
The four-day festival attracts hundreds of birding enthusiasts each year and features world-renowned speakers, birding experts, boating excursions, as well as guided bird and nature bus tours. Exhibits, interactive workshops and seminars, a charming children’s art exhibit, and free nature-related “Bird’s Nest” trade show will also take place.
The 17th Annual Whooping Crane Festival also offers the opportunity to see and experience a plethora of additional wildlife including white and brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, cinnamon teal and even alligators.
Keynote speaker is Dr. George Archibald, an award-winning conservationist and co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and known globally as the world’s leading scientific authority on cranes. The United Nations placed him on the Global 500 Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement. Many other speakers in the birding and nature field will round out the festival activities.
Early registration will open in December – check www.whoopingcranefestival.org frequently.
Download a Brochure:
Getting to Port Aransas
Corpus Christi International Airport
1000 International Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78406
Airlines: American, Southwest, United
Mustang Beach Airport
State Hwy 361
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Telephone: 361-749-4008 or 361-749-4111
3500’ lighted runway, taxi way. Small, privately owned airplanes only