Every year, endangered Whooping Cranes fly south from Canada to spend their winter along the Texas Gulf Coast at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes some of the cranes can be seen in open fields near Goose Island State Park in Rockport.
Several years ago we spent a few days at Goose Island State Park in hopes of seeing some of these endangered Whooping Cranes. Every day we went out in search of these beautiful birds and every day we saw them. I posted about our experience at Magnificent Endangered Whooping Cranes.
Our main reason to visit Goose Island State Park was to see the endangered Whooping Cranes. They are the tallest birds in North America and stand nearly 5 feet tall with a wingspan of about 7.5 feet. Beginning in September or October each year, the cranes migrate south about 2,500 miles from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge about 35 miles north of the state park. After wintering in Texas, they begin their migration back north to Canada about mid March each year.
In the 1940’s, the Whooping Crane population had dwindled to about 20 individuals. Today, according to the International Crane Foundation, there are about 599 (captive and wild). A survey conducted in 2013-2014 estimated about 300 of the wild population winter on and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
A few of these spectacular birds sometimes make their way to a farmer’s field near the state park. There they feed and hang out with the cattle. There were sometimes as many as 11 Whooping Cranes at one time scattered around the field. Many thanks to Ingrid over at Live Laugh RV for the heads up on where to see them.
We went by the field every day to see what the Whoopers were up to. With their large size and brilliant white feathers with a rust colored spot on their head they are easy to spot.
Sometimes there would be Sandhill Cranes hanging around in the field, too. They are smaller than the Whoopers and have darker feathers.
One afternoon the Whoopers kept us entertained flapping their wings and jumping around.
When they took off it was sad to see them go but spectacular to watch.
The Whoopers were the star of the show but all around them there were a lot of other things going on in the field.
Great Blue Heron near Goose Island State Park
Roseate Spoonbills in farmers field
Snowy Egret with black-bellied whistling ducks
Occasionally the cows would walk by the fence to check us out
I’m happy to know that due to the work of many people, the population of these birds continues to grow. I feel privileged to be able to see them in the wild.
What a fabulous 3 days we had at Goose Island State Park!
We had plenty of things to see to keep us busy. The first morning I spotted these Roseate Spoonbills in the nature viewing area at the end of road in our campground.
Blondie and I spotted these Roseate Spoonbills in the nature viewing area near our campsite
Roseate Spoonbills and Egret,Goose Island State Park
Everything is bigger in Texas! A must see in Goose Island State Park is the Big Tree. This 1,000 year old Texas Live Oak is the largest of its kind on public land in the state of Texas. The live oaks here are not as tall as the ones in coastal Georgia because the gulf breeze affects their height. The tree measures 11 feet across the trunk, 5 feet around, is 44 feet tall, and 89 feet across the crown.
The tree is surrounded by a fence and is well taken care of. While we were looking at the tree we met a delightful native Texan who has been coming here all her life. She remembers when her 15 year old son could climb on the tree. She also told us a story of her grandfather or great grandfather (I don’t remember which) caught a record sting ray and has a picture of his record catch hanging in the big tree! These days no climbing on the tree is allowed.
The Big Tree
The Big Tree in Goose Island State Park in Texas is a 1000 year old live oak
Fishing is very popular here and we enjoyed going to the dock when the boats came in. We saw White Pelicans hanging around the docks waiting for a handout every day.
Some of the fishing charters go out in airboats
One group of fishermen had a great catch
Hey, you’re in our space!
Waiting for a free meal
White Pelicans, Goose Island State Park
One pelican got a free lunch.
It’s a mouth full
There was a lot to see in the state park.
Our campground is in the background as we took a walk to the pier
Fishing Pier at Goose Island State Park
Red head duck
Sandpiper with a tasty crab
The recreation building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps out of shell crete using oyster shells
Love the blooms here
Deer at Goose Island State Park
View from our campsite
Morning sky from our site at Goose Island State Park
We enjoyed seeing the sights around Rockport and Fulton. Our favorite drive was along Fulton Beach Road with homes on one side of the road with their docks jutting out into the bay on the other. Many of the homes were beach cottages with windswept oaks in the front yard. It felt like we had stepped back in time before condos and highrises became the norm along the coast.
Shrimp Boats in Rockport, Texas
Big Blue Crab in Rockport, Texas
Big Blue Crab in Rockport, Texas
Of course we had to try some of the local restaurants. Lunch at Moon Dogs on the docks in Rockport was fun. My fried soft shell crab salad was delicious. Our last night we had a feast of boiled crab, heads on shrimp, crawfish, sausage, potato and corn cooked with a Cajun seasoning. The servers poured it all on the butcher paper covered table like we serve our low country boil back home. Delicious and fun!
Our main reason for coming here was to see some endangered Whooping Cranes. We saw them every day and they are so spectacular they deserve their own post. Here’s a preview of those magnificent birds. Look for another post coming soon.
We camped in site 34 of the Bay campground near the nature viewing area. There are more sites near the fishing pier The sites are on hard packed sand right on the water. Each site has water and electric hookups and a shelter with a picnic table. Many people fish right from their campsite.