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See More than Whooping Cranes at the Whooping Crane Festival

Chris Peterson is the founder and executive producer of BirdNote


While attending the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, north of Corpus Christi in Southeast Texas, the last week of February, BirdNote editor, Todd Peterson, and I went on some great field trips. Join us now for just two of them!

Field Trip I - To the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center with Gene Blacklock

It’s a cold morning, even with sun, and we head into a spectacular marsh. In typical generous birding protocol, recent visitors have left notes about what we, too, might see.


I’m a big fan of White Pelicans, so our field trip is off to a great start! And a Green Heron is a special treat.


Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and Laughing Gulls abound, plus the occasional Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Duck, and small flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and Roseate Spoonbills. Todd enjoys zeroing in on the Black-necked Stilts that have landed among Green-winged Teal.


Our guide is bird naturalist and conservation specialist, Gene Blacklock, who combines his deep knowledge with an easy and spirited delivery. As Todd says, “He’s not a fountain of knowledge, he’s a fire hose!” We find Gene to be like other speakers, guides, and volunteers for the festival – organized, enthusiastic, and approachable.


We’ll never meet Leonabelle Turnbull, but her legacy has enriched our lives as well as the lives of the birds and other wildlife she championed.


Field Trip II - Birding the Algal Flats of Port Aransas Nature Preserve with Joan and Scott Holt


During the high water times of spring and fall, salt water creeps (or during hurricanes, rushes) into the wide, flat expanse known as the Port Aransas Nature Preserve. During the winter and summer, much of the preserve is dry. We’re here in winter, with guides Joan Holt (left) and Scott Holt (right), who have been instrumental in creating and maintaining the reserve.


Today we see a coyote and evidence of fiddler crabs and raccoons.


And birds! Among them -- Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Black-necked Stilts, Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a solitary Eastern Meadowlark.

I’m always reminded of the fun of discovery when I take the time to get out and have a look!


Sometimes, in fact, you get more adventure than you ever imagined!


If you’re looking for a good birding festival, put the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, Texas on your list!

Read Chris' first blog post about the Whooping Crane Festival, "All Aboard to See Whooping Cranes."


Whooping Crane Festival - Consider attending in 2015 - February 19-22!

International Crane Foundation - Committed to a future where all crane species are secure

Texas Master Naturalist program - Developing a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities

Louisiana Whooping Crane Reintroduction project - Working to restore the Whooping Crane in Louisiana

Wood Buffalo National Park - The largest national park in Canada and the summer home of Whooping Cranes

Contact Gene Blacklock, Texas naturalist.

All photos © Chris Peterson

Sights & Sounds

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