Any avid birder comprehends the universal “law” of birding: timing is everything. In other words, there is no point trying to see a hawk migration in mid-summer, or looking for owls at noon. Productive birding excursions require careful planning and pursuit of the right types of birds at the right places. The following list describes some of the most fruitful birding locales in the Corpus Christi area and, most importantly, when to visit.
1. The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, located behind the waste water treatment plant, is typically the first site visited by avid local birders. The wetlands behind the plant provide surprisingly suitable habitat for birds, turtles, and even alligators. Over one hundred species of shorebirds, waterfowl, hawks, and songbirds are residents or migrants through this area. The park hosts numerous species of birds year-round, with magnificent frigate birds occasionally stopping by in the summer.
2. Hans Suter Park, located near Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi along Ennis Joslin Road, contains several miles of forested trails and a boardwalk overlooking the adjacent Oso Bay. Wood storks, black skimmers, and reddish egrets are just a few of the common visitors to the park. This park is also populated year-round, although migrants are more commonly seen in the fall and spring seasons.
3. Goose Island State Park near Rockport is a particularly interesting birding locale. In the winter, whooping cranes are commonly seen in the open fields and nearby waters around the park. Year-round upland and shorebirds can be seen.
4. The fields around Chapman Ranch Road, in between Corpus Christi and Kingsville, host scissor-tailed flycatchers in fall and spring, and – in the winter – sand hill cranes. In the fall, hawks also hunt the fields for rodents and other small animals.
5. Padre Island National Seashore is the longest undeveloped stretch of seashore in the world. Endangered species such as the piping plover are rarely seen, and other interesting and unusual birds, including peregrine falcons and Baltimore orioles, migrate through the park. Shorebirds can be seen year-round, peregrines are rare visitors in the summer, and neotropical migrants pass through the more inland and woody areas of the park in the spring.
6. Located behind a local taqueria, Paradise Pond in Port Aransas hosts huge numbers of roosting birds. Some songbirds can be seen flitting through the trees year-round, but the best time to see large numbers is in the early morning in spring.
7. If you're seeking upland birds, Blutcher Park in Corpus Christi, located downtown, is the place to go. Just don't visit this one alone or after dark
8. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the famous winter home of whooping cranes. The park offers chartered boat tours out the the cranes' habitat, where it is not uncommon to see adult and juvenile cranes from a close distance.
9. Hazel Bazemore County Park, near Calallen, has several full-time birdwatchers on staff in the spring and fall. The annual migration of broad winged hawks from the East coast of the United States to Central America passes through this area, with numbers in the hundreds to thousands in one sitting. Other hawks and some shorebirds migrate through this area as well. The best time to see migrations is in early morning of September.
10. Polliwog pond, near Robstown off I-37, is another treasure trove of upland birds.
11. Packery Channel Park on North Padre Island sits along mudflats, sea grass beds, and the Laguna Madre – a perfect combination for viewing estuarine and shorebirds. A strange plethora of small fish inhabits the waters around this area as well.
12. Nesting black skimmers and other shorebirds can be seen in spring and summer in Sunset Lake Park along the Nueces Bay Causeway near Portland. This park is easily viewed from the highway.
13. Many species of shorebird bird can be seen when driving along Laguna Shores Road in Flour Bluff.
14. Rosehill Cemetery near Miller High School contains more upland birds that may not have been viewed in Blutcher Park.
15. The new Birding Center in Port Aransas provides hiking trails as well as birdwatching, and is located adjacent to the ferry terminal.