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Count the birds at Aransas Natural Wildlife Refuge

The only naturally occurring population of whooping cranes spend their winters (November-April) at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Austwell, Texas. Courtesy photo Texas Parks and Wildlife

Sunrise or sunset at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge are the best times of day to get a gander at any of the more than 400 species of wildlife, whether feathered and furred.

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the refuge to protect migratory birds — especially whooping cranes, one of the rarest species in North America. Since the 1940s, the number of whooping cranes — which winter in South Texas — has significantly increased thanks to the efforts of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The comeback of this species is a top priority at the refuge.

Whether you're a morning or a night person, you'll have plenty of opportunity for wildlife watching. Just quietly sit in one spot to let the wildlife around you become accustomed to your presence, and you'll see plenty. Keep in mind that feeding any of the animals is strictly prohibited.

Activities at the refuge

For those who want to do a little more than observe, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for hunting deer and feral hogs, fishing, kayaking and bicycling.

Come to the refuge with a full tank of gas. The nearest gas station is about 14 miles from the visitors center. Mosquito repellent, a hat, a camera, field guides and binoculars are necessities for a comfortable and productive visit. (Binoculars and field guides are available to borrow.)

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is located at 1 Wildlife Circle in

Austwell in Refugio County. The refuge is open 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset. Entrance fees and federal passes are used to preserve and improve the visitors center. For admission fees and passports, visit the refuge’s website.

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