I’m home.  After spending the weekend at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast, I’ve returned to Dallas with plenty of photos to share and plenty of stories to tell.  What a phenomenal time I had!

Lest I repeat myself, here’s the e-mail I just sent to the TEXBIRDS list regarding my visit:

I treated myself to a weekend at Aransas NWR in hopes of seeing whooping cranes and other goodies (mainly I went for the whooping cranes).  Well, let’s just say weather forecasters made it as difficult as possible by predicting clearing weather but instead delivering days-long dense fog—with drizzle to boot!

Despite the poor viewing conditions, I walked away with not only seeing two whooping cranes on Sunday morning (visible from the Heron Flats blind as they preened before taking flight), but I also was treated to an abundance of great kiskadees, so many gray catbirds that I practically tripped over them on the Rail Trail, a low fly-over by a mouthy tundra swan at the boardwalk, a solitary male Canada warbler, and a horde of other birds.  In two days I saw 111 [bird] species.

Though the heavy fog limited presentable photography to nearby subjects only, good binocs meant being able to see some of the other goodies hiding in the soup (though I have lots of white-washed photos from a 400mm lens showing I at least tried).  The air never was quiet—the sound of birds was as thick as the fog.

All the heavy rain down there appears to have improved the area tremendously and the amount of active wildlife is breathtaking.  Aside from overflowing birds, I saw many deer and javelinas, a gray fox, several coyotes, a very friendly armadillo, several snakes and an alligator who all moved slowly—if at all—in the cool air, two striped skunks, multiple swamp rabbits and one cottontail, a badger [alive!], and one very healthy bobcat who scared the bejeesus out of me when it ran by so close that I thought it was aiming for me.

Basically I spent Saturday walking and re-walking all the trails and spent Sunday sitting in various spots (both of the Heron Flats Trail observation platforms and the marsh boardwalk, Jones Lake and Hog Lake viewing areas, the seaside marsh boardwalk and observation tower, and—because I drove it very early each morning before anyone else arrived—pretty much all of the pull-overs along the auto tour loop). Even if the weather didn’t cooperate, it was definitely a trip worth taking.

Though I have yet to review and process the more than 1000 photos I took, here’s a quick fix from the batch so you don’t think I’m just teasing.

A male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) strolling through a winter meadow (2009_12_13_044027)

A male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).  A young buck for sure.  He stood amongst the cordgrass and bluestem in the still-wet meadow where mosquitoes wanted to be vicious but just couldn’t get the strength in the cool temperatures.  When I stopped to take his portrait, he sauntered into the distance and became but a shadow moving in the white that painted the world.

Driving in to the refuge Sunday morning had me staring in awe at an eight-point male feeding along the entryway.  As luck would have it, he dashed off for cover the moment I stopped to snap a photo.  But don’t be sad.  Deer were plentiful and amiable, so I have some great shots of them.  Females mostly, though perhaps one of the other males paused long enough for a good photo…  We’ll see when I finish processing the pictures.

Needless to say, and weather notwithstanding, this trip gifted me in ways I can’t describe.  More to come later…

4 thoughts on “111”

  1. Hey! Welcome back. I’m glad you had a good trip despite the weather. I have a friend who works in Aransis in the winter months and she keeps telling us we need to make a trip down there. I look forward to seeing some more of your photos and descriptions.

    1. Thanks, Swampy! Oh, you would definitely like Aransas. It’s so full of life, and when it’s warm the herps really start hopping. But even when it’s cold it’s like an amusement park for naturalists, and it holds such diverse ecosystems that the variety of flora and fauna can be astounding.

  2. Hey,

    Sounds like you had a great a fantastic trip! There should be enough material for a multipart – photothread (5 at least!!) 😀

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you brought back with you.

    1. It was absolutely a fantastic trip, Nicholas. Even though the weather was uncooperative, the refuge still offered plenty to see and hear. Oh, I’m sure I can get at least a few posts out of the material!

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