As I stand on the 40 foot high observation platform at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, I’m mesmerized by the vultures. I savor the quiet solitude as I stand against the rail. I watch the vultures gracefully soar through the air while hunting for prey.
I’m totally lost in the moment. I’m in my own little word….that is until I’m abruptly snapped out of my trance by the shrieking tantrums of a three year old. So much for my fifteen minutes of solitude. Forty feet below me is the minivan whose occupants are clearly not happy.
The disgruntled family can be heard across the marsh. The deer move on. Birds fly off including my vulture friends. As I hear the wheels of a stroller clickety clacking over the slated decking with a crying occupant making it’s way up the platform ramp, I take that as my que to move on as well.
I scurry down the ramp passing the frazzled family. We exchange smiles and “good mornings”. I’m sure I was sporting a look of sympathy, although I’m not sure who I should feel sympathetic for; the kiddies who would prefer to see the likes of a Mickey or Minnie or the folks trying to expose the kiddies to some of natures beauty. Ah, I remember those days fondly.
With the truck started, the intent is to make my way back via the same road…..nope, changed my mind and I take the 16 mile Auto Tour Loop inland. This single lane, one way, paved road provides a leisurely ride through the ‘Texas savannah’. Along the way one might see deer, hawks, javelina, bobcat, or the occasional snake crossing the road. There are pull-outs every now and then, but since I’m the only one out here, I feel free to stop occasionally in the middle of the road. I jump out of the vehicle from time to time to photograph the landscape. Yep, just the landscape as this gal did not encounter any other wildlife – well except for the wasp wanting to free load a ride. Yeah, not the brightest thing I did that day leaving my car window open in front of this sign.
Loop completed, I stop once again at the ‘Heron Flats’ viewing area. Earlier in the day I had this place to myself. Now there are two other cars and a couple of cyclists. I look off to the right in the first marsh….nothing. I continue to the viewing platform…..very few birds. On my return to the truck a woman asks me if I’ve seen the whoopers. I respond, “I don’t think so. What do they look like again?”……Light bulb! “Oh, they were here earlier this morning”. Now I know. I’ve seen and photographed the endangered whooping crane without effort while folks from around the country are traveling to this area in hopes of their own personal glimpse.
While having a pleasant conversation with this woman, her husband who had remained by the marsh near the beginning of the trail yells out to his wife, “alligator”. She and I swiftly join him at his side as he points out the rather large gator in the distance. There are no fences or barriers. The alligator looks well fed and ready for a nap. I did not notice him earlier and am grateful the gator was pointed out to me.
Would I recommend a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge? I guess it depends on ones expectations. I talked to some local wildlife photographers near my RV Park and they personally have never had much luck with their bird photo captures from land at the refuge. I hear, via boat is the best way.The refuge is located 35 miles north of Rockport, Texas, out in the boonies. I made the mistake of not packing a lunch. I think it’s a great place to learn and experience. However, I was disappointed several trails and viewing platforms were closed due to damage. I enjoyed the day and would go back, but I would go early in the morning and prepare to spend the day.
That said, I have had better luck photographing birds off Fulton Beach Road and Lamar Beach Road……near Goose Island State Park, Texas.
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