Texas is a great place to be whooping it up. In fact, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the best place in the entire United States for whooping it up with Whooping Cranes, Grus americana.
An uncanny sense of timing put me in Houston, a mere 3.5 hour car ride from the Whooping Crane festival held in Port Aransas, Texas. With a little encouragement, several of my "normal" family members were persuaded to join me on a 4 hour boat trip to view the only naturally occurring colony of Whooping Cranes.
These mega-birds stand over 4 feet high, with an impressive 87 " wingspan. They have been wintering on this island in the Gulf of Mexico for as long as man can remember. In the 1930's this Aransas population had declined to 15 birds! At one time there were a handful of non- migratory birds in Louisiana, but they were wiped out by a hurricane in the 1950's. Fortunately, someone took note and steps were taken to ensure their population did not go the way of the Passenger Pigeon. This flock, now numbering 266, summers in Wood Buffalo National Park in northwestern Canada.
A day of sunshine and fantastic birds (Roseate Spoonbills, Long-billed Curlews, American Avocets and Boat-tailed Grackles) added up for a wonderful start to a vacation. I actually felt good about being a tax payer, if any of our money goes to support this nationally owned "treasure" island of endangered birds.
The weeds and butterflies have been wonderful too, but how can you top a 4 foot bird? It was an impressive sight, even for the non-birders.