Bird Weekly Challenge #23: Long Legged Birds

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.

Thank you Lisa. for this Bird Weekly Challenge #23: Long Legged Birds

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.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane

Whooping Cranes running and splashing
Whoopers going for a run

Sometimes there would be Sandhill Cranes hanging around in the field, too. They are smaller than the Whoopers and have darker feathers.

Whooping Cranes and Sandhill cranes share the field
Whooping Cranes and Sandhill cranes share the field

One afternoon the Whoopers kept us entertained flapping their wings and jumping around.

I though he was just eating

Then he started to jump

High jump


Splashing around
Splashing around

Sandhill crane flapping with a whooper watching
Whooper watches a Sandhill Crane showing off

When they took off it was sad to see them go but spectacular to watch.

Whooping Cranes in Lamar, Texas
Whooping Cranes in Texas

The Whoopers were the star of the show but all around them there were a lot of other things going on in the field.

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.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane in Texas

Goose Island State Park, Rockport, Texas

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.

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.

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.

One pelican got a free lunch.

There was a lot to see in the 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.

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.

Pair of Whooping Cranes
Pair of Whooping Cranes

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.