Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

It’s quarter to eight on a Friday morning in early January.  I grab a full cup of coffee, camera gear, and hop in the truck.  Today’s destination is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I have the directions jotted down on a piece of paper….. in large print so I can read them without the aid of glasses.  No GPS for this gal.  Hildi stays home.Aransas Wildlife Refuge

It’s a longer drive than I thought it would be on rural farm roads.  I keep my eyes peeled for deer and am grateful I noticed them in time to stop for all to cross.  Somehow I don’t think hubby would be pleased with a deer mounted on the front of his truck.White Tail Deer

I arrive at the visitor center at 8:30 and am the first visitor of the day.  The refuge opens a half hour before sunrise but the visitor center doesn’t open until 8:30.  So I’m sure I’m not the first guest, just the first to the visitor center. There are bound to be other folks already running around the refuge.

The two women and one gentleman behind the counter are all volunteers and fellow RVer’s.  They get a free place to park in exchange for a little volunteer time.  All three volunteers were passionate and quick to share information about the refuge.

We’ve already established I am not a birder.  Many a time I’m unfamiliar with the name of a bird I’m photographing.  I’m ok with that.  I have enough stuff swirling through my head day in and day out without having to remember the names of birds. Half the time I forget what’s his faces name and call him hon or hubby so remembering a birds title is low on the totem pole (you can laugh, he is!  After thirty years of marriage, it’s all about the laughter).

One of the volunteers lights up and says, “Oh, I hear the whoopers were seen this morning off Heron Flats trail and the blah blah blahs were seen……. And the watcha ma call it’s can be seen….. ”   It was all Greek to me, but I pretended to know exactly what she was talking about, smiled and enthusiastically replied, “Oh, how exciting.  Thank you.  I better get going before they all fly off.”  I nod as if I understood all the information, wave goodbye, and am off to capture some birds on film media card.

With map in hand, I jump in the truck and drive up the road stopping at the various viewing areas.  For the time being I have the place to myself.  The first stop is to see if I can spot an alligator.  I know – alligators in Texas? – Who’d a thought!   No alligators, moving on.

I stop at the Heron Flats viewing area.  I do remember the volunteer highly recommending I stop here.  I cross a foot bridge looking into some swampy water for any signs of wildlife…..none.  I continue and walk onto the viewing platform.  There are two really big large white birds in the distance off to the right.  Hmm, wonder what they are.  (I know now that they are the endangered whooping crane) They are magnificent.  I look off to the left and see ton’s of birds.  There were all kinds of different birds, even some pink ones but they were all pretty far away.  None the less, I enjoyed being an observer.whooping cranes

wildlife refuge
wildlife refugevultures

I remembered there were a few cars that had pulled into the visitor center as I was leaving.  Enjoying the solitude and tranquility, I wanted to savor this place alone for awhile.  Thus, I continue down the road and only slowed at the next few viewing areas vowing to stop and explore on my return to the visitor center.  My goal was the 40 foot platform at the end of the road.

Upon my arrival, I’m excited.  Not another car in the parking lot.  But I wonder what all those black things on the railings are?  I know they’re a bird of some kind.  As I start climbing the platform walkway, I’m concerned these birds aren’t flying away.  Just how close will they allow me to get?  Should I continue?  Images of Tippi Hedrin of Hitchcocks “The Birds” come to mind.  Gosh, I’m out here all by myself.  No one would ever hear my screams.Alfred Hitchcock Tippi Hedrin

talonsI continue but in a rather slow non aggressive pace up the platform.  Bird one flies off….she wipes the sweat from her brow…..bird two flies off…..feeling more relaxed she continues.  Bird three….doesn’t move.  Ah, sh*t, why isn’t he flying off.  As is my custom, I talk to the animals.  “Hey, there handsome.  Let’s you and me make a deal.  I’ll walk past you slowly and I won’t pepper spray you if you don’t claw my eyes out with those talons.  Do we have a deal?”


vultureI press my back up against the railing and shuffle past this unique creature all the while making small talk.  I’m so close if I reached out I could touch him or her.  Apparently, we had a deal as my eyes are still intact. I continue up the platform with less concern and a new found fascination for what I assume is a vulture.

From the 40 foot high viewing platform one has a bird’s eye view of the refuge below.  To be continued…..wildlife viewing


68 thoughts on “Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Pingback: An Unlikely Infatuation | Live Laugh RV

  2. Pingback: Isn’t He Just Adorable? | Which Way Now 101

  3. Don’t you just love it when they share such wonderful boardwalks for us to venture over the marshes and swamps! That vulture has quite the claws…ouch! I think he was as much interested in your as you were with him. What a lovely shot! Where’s Part II….he didn’t come back after you did he, or is it a she? :O)

  4. Thanks for a very entertaining post! The pink birds are roseate spoonbills (maybe someone already mentioned it).

    • Yes, I’m aware, but thank you. I’m now on the hunt to capture some close ups of these pink beauties. Somehow that face doesn’t seem to match the body….all the more intriguing. Thank you 🙂

    • Thanks…..oh, I don’t mind more than one comment….. LOL I removed the other one 🙂 Loving it here but I’ll be ready to return to the mountains!

  5. Those talons really do look very scary, Ingrid. I don’t think I would have dared walk past that vulture if it was very close. The whooping cranes are so amazing and those pink birds look like Roseate Spoonbills. Great pics and post. 🙂

  6. Beautiful photo of the whooping cranes! We admire the vultures, too — and appreciate the “clean up” work that they do. But every time we see one, we say to each other, “Look alive!”

    • LOL….how funny. I just learned the ‘Black Vulture’ photo’d will attack weak live animals. Most others do not attack live prey. So “look alive” is good advice.

    • I enjoyed my time at the refuge very much. Initially I too thought the vultures were ugly, but after watching them for a while I discovered their beauty. Kind a strange, I guess 🙂

  7. LOVE the whooping cranes and hope you get to see their mating dance. The vulture photos are great, funny, in the Everglades they warn you about these guys eating the rubber on your windshield wipers and sometimes loan out covers, they especially seem to like dark colored cars. Also, when we were bicycling, we had to take our bike bags with us as the crows have figured out how to open zippers! Crazy birds! Sounds like you’re having a wonderful time, hope you continue to enjoy!

    • I had heard that about the birds in the Everglades. We had problems with Ravens at the Grand Canyon. I’m definitely enjoying the whoopers. So whatz happening in Phoenix? 🙂

      • We left Phoenix and are in Quartzsite now but really enjoyed McDowell, although it’s way far from everything. Our favorite tour was the Apache trail, beautiful! We were visiting a few folks there so didn’t get to see as much.

  8. Thank you for taking us there, Ingrid! Magnifient captures! But, that bird…he didn’t look friendly 😕 The 40 foot high viewing platform is impressive!

    • You welcome! No, he didn’t look friendly, a little scary at first but after watching them soar I have a new found admiration for the vulture.

    • Funny you would say that because after hanging around vultures (well, not exactly hanging…they are soaring around the areas I walk and bike) the past couple of weeks, I find them to be gorgeous and majestic. Watching them soar and glide through the air, they possess a special beauty.

  9. Last year we were visiting the Everglades and encountered posted official warnings about the “turkey vultures” gnawing rubber trim off the parked cars. The park service went so far as to provide storage lockers with free blue tarps and bungee cords to cover your windshields and doors, keep the buggers from destroying your truck’s weatherstripping. The birds looked the same as your buddy on the railing.

    Great pix, keep it up!

    Jim and Debbie
    dreamstreamr odyssey

    • Wow….how interesting. We ran into problems with Ravens at the Grand Canyon destroying our sewer hose. Fortunately we always travel with a backup. Gotta watch out for those birds 🙂

  10. Yep, Roseate Spoonbills..You oughta see the mug on those birds..pretty feathers, especially in flight, but a face only a birder could love…Den and I are certain that those Vultures follow us on our walks…don’t fall down or you are dead meat!

    • Pretty name roseate, pretty pink body, but a face only a mother could love LOL. Have you seen the vultures when they dry their wings? Very cool. I’m fascinated with those vultures, but don’t dare fall down 🙂

  11. Haha! This exactly how I view birds. Some are very pretty and attract my attention but I really don’t care to learn all their names. I like the pink birds! Good you and that old gal had a heart to heart before you tried to get by!!!

    • The pink ones are called roseate spoonbills. The reason I enjoyed learning the name is it just glides off the tongue…. rosie etta. The name and it’s body are so pretty and then we see the face…..oh dear – stay turned 😆

  12. It doesn’t really matter if you know what they are, you’ve gotten great photos of the birds! I talk to them all the time as well. You don’t have to worry, they won’t bother you, not even the vultures.

    • Funny thing is I’m surrounded by some absolutely beautiful birds but keep being drawn back to the vultures. I’ve captured them drying their wings….very cool. I love watching them soar……magnificent. I’m sure I’ll be doing a post on them alone 🙂

  13. I can truly see you talking to these birds because I do it too – ha! Some birds look so prehistoric to me – have to look for the beauty at times too. Great Post – loving your captures:) Happy Weekend!

    • I can so agree with the prehistoric look. And I guess it’s true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have found the vulture to be quite magnificent AND beautiful 🙂

    • I already have a little list in my head ready for you whenever you head in this direction. I think you and Steve would really enjoy the area. I’m sure Erin (Erin and Mui of Two to Pha…) will be putting out some great info on the area as well. So between the two of us, you’ll be set 🙂

        • We haven’t met but have emailed. Al and I have been fighting colds and are trying to stay away from folks as to not spread our germs. We still don’t know where we’re going in Feb. Can you believe that. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. But we’ll be back in Phoenix in March. I have to pick up my little truck at our sons house. This summer back in CO.

  14. Yeah, that park is a bit of a ride. I bought my senior parks pass there which is good for free admission to all national parks. Your pictures are better than you know. Good stuff, thanks Ingrid.

    • Al got his old geezer card two years ago when we went to Death Valley and it has come in real handy. Since he wasn’t with me that day, I paid my 3 bucks and enjoyed. Thank you for such a nice compliment. All I know is I’m having a great time….isn’t that what a hobby is all about?

      • That is what everything isl about, having a great time, hobbies included. Doesn’t make much sense to stress, if it can be avoided.
        Lol, old geezer card. We have to be close in age. What year did he graduate high school?

        • I was being nice….usually call it the ‘old farts’ card. He’ll turn 65 in a few months. From previous comments, I think you guys just passed each other at Navy bases. I still can’t believe he flew on and off the USS Lexington….tiny carrier compared to the others.

  15. More beautiful pictures! The pink birds are probably Roseate Spoonbills. We’re thinking of a trip through this part of Texas sometime in the future. Would love information about where you are staying. Looking forward to the next post.

    • Yes those are Roseate Spoonbills. I’m still on the hunt to get closer for better pix. I see you have contact info on your site. I’ll send you an email with a couple of places to stay 🙂

  16. Vultures, which I’m sure is what the last one is need thermals to aid them to fly high and will quite often sit till the feel a good updraft for flying… he looked placid enough and there is probably a feed station or something for this bird to be roosting on the platform…
    Below the whoopers, (which I love by the way, wish we had them here) I see herons and storks.. and what looks very like gulls… The next photo down I see herons (big ones too) Egrets, Ibis and even what looks like terns flying… that place looks like paradise to me…
    Don’t worry about not knowing the names… take the photos ,,,, there are so many communities on the net to aid with the ID’s and there are good books as well… Just keep taking the photos…

    • Trust me, I do not concern myself with the names too much although I am learning some of them. I’m sure over time it’ll just be natural to know what I’m photographing. You would love it here. More photos forthcoming 🙂

  17. Ah, Ingrid nothing like making my first read of the morning a cliff hanger! 🙂 Sounds like you are having an awesome time (or did you – you might be gone by now). I love the cranes, did you find out if the pink ones were a form of flamingo? The closeups of the vulture were awesome, but he is NOT a “handsome fellow.” LOL

  18. These photos are fabulous! Had to laugh as you were talking to the vulture. I’m sure he was just waiting for you to fall off the platform and break a leg so he could swoop in! 🙂 Love that photo of his talons. I would not want to mess with that bird. 😉

    • Thanks Lu. Being so close to these guys was a real treat and those talons were rather evil looking. No I did not want to mess with them. The vultures looked more perturbed than anything as I approached the ramp. 🙂

  19. Ingrid these are fabulous photos! I love the vision of you nodding as though you are taking it all in. Definitely one of my techniques when traveling in countries where I don’t understand the language. Always hopeful I am not buying a python.
    I agree about the laughter at 30 years of marriage. You just have to be having fun. Great post!

    • Oh yes, visiting a foreign country and not speaking the language….nodding and smiling always work and the volunteer might have been speaking a foreign language as I wasn’t at all sure what she was talking about. Gotta laugh 🙂

  20. That picture of the vulture peering down reminds me of what Lewis looks like as he watches Dave exercise on the floor next to the bed. Lewis treats the bed as “the top of his dog house” and surveys all things happening in Beluga from its vantage point!

    Can’t wait for your next installment.

    • My dog used to do that as well whenever I was on the floor attempting to do sit ups. He would stand over me peering down as if to say, “Really mother, and how long will this attempt last?” These sit up attempts always ended with Bear being snuggled …..they are so smart and loveable 🙂

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