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Enjoy Birdwatching in the Nation's Birdiest City

Bird enthusiasts Robin and Denny Dennis took some excellent shots of brightly colored birds on a recent trip to Coastal Bend. Photo by Denny Dennis

Follow bird enthusiast Robin Dennis on a trip to Coastal Bend birding hot spots

Corpus Christi is known as the birdiest city in the United States and birders are among the most dedicated visitors to the area. Robin and Danny Dennis of Austin are avid birders and frequent visitors. They recently took several family members on a birding trip to the Coastal Bend. Robin recounts their experience for 101corpuschristi.com.As 20-year veterans of birding trips to South Texas, they know just where to go.

We began our first day of birding at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center on the south end of Ross Avenue in Port Aransas. Wednesday tours begin at 9 a.m. along a boardwalk to an observation tower that allows for easy viewing of birds on the large pond and surrounding flats. If you're lucky, you might see one of the resident alligators.

It is an especially great place for beginning birders as the marsh birds tend to stay in place long enough to be viewed, even without binoculars. The marsh attracts interesting species, such as roseate spoonbills, ibis, herons and pelicans.

Just a few blocks away is another great birding spot at Paradise Pond on Cut Off Road behind Shark Reef Resort. This is a two-acre freshwater wetland frequented by Gray Catbirds, migrating warblers and other interesting visitors.

In the afternoon, we visited Port Aransas Nature Preserve, bordering the Corpus Christi Ship Channel on Port Street. It has two miles of hike-and-bike trails, including crushed granite paths and boardwalks where you can view sparrows, wading birds and the passing ships in the channel. We were spellbound by an aerial battle between an osprey and peregrine falcon.

McAllen and Kingsville

Quinta Mazatlan at 600 Sunset Drive was first on our list of birding destinations along the World Birding Trail. For a $3 entry fee, you can visit this historical adobe mansion and 20 acres of beautifully landscaped property designed to attract the exotic tropical birds of the region.

This is a good choice to visit if you are unsure of the weather since it has both indoor and outdoor attractions. Staff will helpfully point out where the birds are hidden. On this visit, I added to my bird list: Chachalaca, Pauraque and Clay-colored Thrush.

In the afternoon, we drove to Weslaco to bird the Estero Llano Grande State Park, where you can expect to see the popular Green Jays, Vermillion Flycatchers, Great Kiskadees and a variety of hummingbirds and thrashers. Several ponds at this park attract a variety of ducks and waterfowl in the winter. You can sit on the porch and leisurely study the pond ducks or hike the five miles of trails.

The Alligator Pond lived up to its name on this trip. We were thrilled to see a Green Kingfisher and a pair of dueling White-tailed Kites. We returned the following morning and had a face-to-face meeting with a bobcat.

The second day in McAllen, we headed for Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, which looked very promising for good birding. We managed to see a lovely Buff-bellied Hummingbird. Then, it was on to Kingsville, where we had reservations for a tour on the King Ranch, another great birding destination.

On Saturday morning, we arrived via van at 7:15 a.m. for our half-day birding tour of the King Ranch. The tour guide was an experienced birder who delighted us with stories and patiently stopped at each request to take photos.

With temperatures in the 30s, the feeder drew numerous Green Jays, a tropical Olive Sparrow, the secretive White-tipped Dove and a Long-billed Thrasher. Deer and javelinas were everywhere.

The vast property includes multiples ponds, where hundreds of ducks spend the winter. It was a great way to end our trip, though there was still so much to see. Maybe next trip we'll get to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for a look at the whooping cranes!

—Robin Dennis

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