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The Specialty Birds of South Texas: The Big Enchilada of Birding

Program Number: 8162RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/24/2013 - 3/30/2013;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Port Aransas, Texas
Price starting at: $1,277.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding
Meals: 17; 6 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 6 Dinners    

More than 350 species of birds call Mustang Island and King Ranch their home. In this spectacular birding adventure in South Texas that is sure to add a variety of species to your life list, join experts from the acclaimed University of Texas Marine Science Institute Research and Education Laboratory for an exploration of sandy beaches, major bay systems, extensive marshlands, grasslands and more.


• At the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, spot Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills and a myriad of shorebirds.
• Join an ornithologist at the legendary King Ranch to search for Green Jays and Vermillion Flycatchers.
• Venture south in search of specialty birds such as Ferruginous Pygmy Owls and Hooded Orioles.

Activity Particulars

Walking 1.5 miles a day, fairly even terrain, frequent stops.

So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Date Specific Information


Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Port Aransas/Mustang Island, 2 nights; vans to Kingsville/King Ranch, 3 nights; vans to Port Aransas, 1 night.

Coordinated by University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is a protected area of some 114,657 acres. It was established in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a refuge for birdlife including ducks, herons, egrets, ibises and the endangered Whooping Crane. Other animal residents include alligators, musk hogs, snakes and bobcats.

King Ranch

King Ranch is nearly as important in Texas lore as cowboys and cattle. Founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King and Gideon “Legs” Lewis, it’s one of the world’s largest ranches at 825,000 acres. Still very much an active ranch, King Ranch is also dedicated to protecting its varied natural habitats, which are home to many South Texas specialty birds.

Corpus Christi

The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, 500 years of history, fresh seafood, a fine selection of museums, world-class performing arts centers and abundant recreational opportunities make Corpus Christi a popular destination.

Port Aransas

Perched on the northern tip of Mustang Island, Port Aransas is a coastal community three hours south of San Antonio. Known for its spectacular birding — almost 500 species migrate here each spring — this part of the Coastal Bend offers deep sea fishing, nature boat outings and miles of beaches.

Comfortable motels with swimming pool.
Meals and Lodgings
   Best Western Ocean Villa
  Port Aransas, Texas 2 nights
   Comfort Inn
  Kingsville, Texas 3 nights
   Best Western Ocean Villa
  Port Aransas, Texas 1 night
 Best Western Ocean Villa
Type: Motel
  Description: Located approximately 2 1/2 blocks from the Gulf beach and close to shops and restaurants. Trolley stop in front.
  Contact info: 400 E Avenue G
Port Aransas, TX 78373 USA
phone: 361-749-3010
  Room amenities: Standard, well-appointed rooms with 2 queen sized beds, cable TV, microwave, refigerator, hair dryer
  Facility amenities: Internet access in lobby, outdoor swimming pool with tropical landscaping, game room with pool table.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights prior: call hotel directly for price. Reservations for additional nights must be made directly with the hotel. We cannot make those reservations for you.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: call hotel directly for price. Reservations for additional nights must be made directly with the hotel. We cannot make those reservations for you.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

 Comfort Inn
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Comfort Inn® hotel is conveniently located on Highway 77, close to the L.E. Ramey Golf Course. Popular tourist attractions in the area include King Ranch and the Naval Air Station Kingsville. Visitors will enjoy touring the nearby John E. Connor Museum and the King Ranch Museum.
  Contact info: 505 N Highway 77
Kingsville, TX 78363 USA
phone: 361-516-1120
  Room amenities: Cable/Satellite TV Computer Hook-up Free Coffee Free Local Calls Free Newspaper Mon-Fri Hi-Speed Web Access In-Room Air Conditioning Iron & Ironing Board
  Facility amenities: Wake up each morning to a free breakfast with hot waffles scrambled eggs and breakfast meat, and free coffee. Guests are welcome to enjoy special hotel amenities, including a free weekday newspaper, free high-speed Internet access, a seasonal outdoor pool and an exercise room. The on-site business center with meeting rooms, and fax and copy services should prove useful, especially to business travelers. This Kingsville hotel offers spacious rooms with many superior features, including microwaves, refrigerators, coffee makers, hair dryers, irons and ironing boards. There is a coin-operated laundry facility located on the premises for guest convenience.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:30 pm orientation in hotel meeting room You will be staying at Best Western Ocean Villa that night.
  End of Program:
Check out after breakfast. Check out time is 11 am. You will be staying at Best Western Ocean Villa the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Liability release is required for all University of Texas programs.
  Parking availability:
Free parking at hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Port Aransas, Texas
  Nearest city or town:  Port Aransas, Texas
  Nearest highway: Hwy. 361
  Nearest airport:  Corpus Christi, Texas
  From End of Program
  Location: Port Aransas, Texas
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Corpus Christi


From Airport




American Cab
phone: 361-563-2294
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$75 for up to 5 people
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Up to 1 hour 




40 miles


There is limited public transportation available in the area. All major car rental companies are available at the airport. We recommend making a reservation 24 hours in advance. Make sure you have you flight arrival time and flight number handy when you call, and confirm the price. Check out the Corpus Christi International Airport website for a listing of rental cars.

Driving Directions
  Corpus Christi There are two main approaches to Mustang Island and Port Aransas: 1. Take I 37 to Corpus Christi and turn south on Hwy.358 (Padre Island Drive) Continue through CC on Hwy.358 which becomes Park Road 22, to Hwy.361(at the light on Padre Island). Turn left on 361 to Port Aransas. Go to the light at 361 and Ave.G, turn right on Ave. G and proceed to the Best Western Ocean Villa on the right. 2. Take Hwy. 35 through Aransas Pass to Hwy. 361. Follow the signs to Port Aransas across the causeway and to the free 24 hour passenger car ferry for the short ride across the ship channel.When you get off the ferry, turn right at the first light. Continue on that road through the second light and the Best Western will be on your right.
  Corpus Christi Airport Head east on Int'l Dr for 0.7 mi. Turn right at Agnes St/TX-44 E (signs for I-44 E) 0.2 mi Merge onto TX-44 E via the ramp on the left to Bayfront/Padre Island/I-37/TX-358 1.7 mi Take the exit onto N Padre Island Dr/TX-358 W toward Bayfront/I-37 1.4 m. Take the exit onto I-37 S toward Bayfront/Shoreline Blvd 4.4 mi Take the exit onto US-181 N toward Portland/TX-35 10.2 miContinue on TX-35 N 20.6 mi Turn right at FM-3036/TX-35 Turn left at TX-35. contonue on to Best Western on the left.
  From the North (San Antonio) Take Highway 37 South to Corpus Christi. Exit Hwy. 358 (South Padre Island Drive) and travel south to Padre Island. On Padre Island, turn left at the light on Hwy. 361 leading to Mustand Island and Port Aransas. Go to Ave. G in Port Aransas at the light and turn right. The Best Western Ocean Villa will be two blocks down on the right.
Equipment Requirements: Binoculars and/or spotting scope are recommended.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrival & Welcome
(Sunday, March 24)
 Arrive To: Check in hotel by 3 pm
 Afternoon: Welcome, introductions and orientation
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Presentation and discussion on birding "etiquette," target species, and field marks.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: World Class Birding in Port Aransas Area
(Monday, March 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Depart for birding to selected "hot spots" including Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center - a world class birding site.
 Lunch: Buffet lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Field birding continues
 Dinner: Buffet dinner at local restaurant
 Evening: Documentary: The King Ranch: Birthplace of American Ranching
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Whooping Cranes in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
(Tuesday, March 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Early departure and check out of Best Western Ocean Villa. Depart for Rockport and cruise to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for whooping cranes and other birds.
 Lunch: Catered picinc lunch.
 Afternoon: Depart for Kingsville with birding stops enroute (time permitting) Check in at Comfort Inn.
 Dinner: Dinner at Kingsville restaurant
 Evening: Discussion and bird list
Accommodations: Comfort Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Target bird - Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
(Wednesday, March 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Early morning departure for birding field trip to King Ranch Norias Division. Approximately 1 hour drive each way in passenger van(s).
 Lunch: Picnic box lunch at King Ranch headquarters.
 Afternoon: Birding continues on the Norius Division, returning to the Comfort Inn around 4 pm
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant
Accommodations: Comfort Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Birding on two divisions of the King Ranch
(Thursday, March 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Birding on the Santa Gertrudis Division of the King Ranch. Look out for Green jay,and Olive sparrow.
 Lunch: Sandwich lunch at the Ranch under shaded trees. Also an opportunity of visit the King Ranch gift shop for souvenirs.
 Afternoon: Afternoon birding continues to Laureles Division of King Ranch and returning to the Comfort Inn by 4 pm
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant
 Evening: Go over bird list
Accommodations: Comfort Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: More Birds!!!!
(Friday, March 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Check out hotel and depart at 8:30 am for field birding to selected "hot spots"
 Lunch: Sack lunch in Corpus Christi Park.
 Afternoon: Return to Port Aransas and check in Best Western Ocean Villa late afternoon.
 Dinner: Shrimp Boil and Social at Ms. K's Bistro
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Departure
(Saturday, March 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Depart after breakfast at your convenience. Check out time is 11 am.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Life on the King Ranch

Author: Toni Frissell, Frank Goodwyn

Description: "This is the story of me and my ranch friends, of the heritage that was ours, the way we worked, the tales we told, and the fun we had on America's largest, most progressive cattle ranch," says Frank Goodwyn. The creed of the King Ranch cattlemen was simple: "If you want to make a kid into a cowboy, start him out as soon as he can sit on a horse." Being the son of the foreman on the Norias Division of the ranch, Goodwyn started working cattle every summer at an early age. Except for the bookkeeper and the bachelor boss Caesar Kleberg, the Goodwyns were usually the only Anglos present. Goodwyn thus spent most of his time with the Spanish-speaking ranch hands, and, he writes, "among them I learned the beginnings of all I know." With photographs by Toni Frissell, Life on the King Ranch is replete with tales told by Goodwyn's compadres such as cow camp foreman Euvence Garcia and Jose ("Joe One-Wing") Cantu; fun and games in the prickly mazes of mesquite; and the real work of roping, branding, dipping, and just-plain working cattle. Goodwyn also tells of the founding by Captain Richard King of the legendary ranch and of the ways that the King Ranch was modernizing its operations while contending with the age-old elements of the semi desert South Texas plain. First published in 1951, the old-time cowboying and creative techniques, campfire cuisine, and memorable personalities of Life on the King Ranch make it a book of timeless interest.

Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire

Author: Don Graham

Description: This book is about the King Ranch, but it is about much more than that. A compelling chronicle of war, peace, love, betrayal, birth and death in the region where the Texas-Mexico border blurs in the haze of the Wild Horse Desert, it is also an intriguing detective story with links to the present--and a first-rate read.

Aransas: A Naturalist's Guide

Author: Wayne H. McAlister

Description: This naturalist's guide offers a comprehensive overview of the natural and cultural history of Aransas, taking an ecological approach to show how the plants, animals, land, and sea form a living web that sustains an amazing diversity of creatures. Individual chapters discuss the land itself, the whooping cranes and other endangered species, game animals, introduced species, mammals, birds, herptiles, fish, invertebrates, and woody and herbaceous plants. With this information, visitors to the refuge and everyone interested in the natural history of the Texas Gulf Coast will enrich their knowledge of this environmentally crucial region.

Birds of South Texas, Including the Lower Rio Grande Valley: A Guide to Common and Notable Species (Quick Reference Guides) [Pamphlet]

Author: Greg R. Homel

Description: Laminated Pamphlet. A 12 panel weatherproof foldout guide to the birds of south Texas, including the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Stunningly detailed photographs depict 128 common and notable birds enabling users to I.D. nearly every commonly-occurring and regional bird they encounter in a wide geographic area. Aimed at beginning and intermediate birders, this guide, by Quick Reference Publishing, will fit into any day-pack for easy field identification. Published by Quick Reference Publishing Show more Show less

Butterflies of South Texas including the Lower Rio Grande Valley: A Guide to Common and Notable Species (Quick Reference Guides) [Pamphlet]

Author: Roland Wauer

Description: This waterproof guide beautifully illustrates over 80 species of butterflies and most of their caterpillars found in South Texas, including the Lower Rio Grand Valley, considered the number one butterfly watching area in the U.S. This pocket-sized guide, by Quick Reference Publishing,features color photos in a side-by-side format that makes it ideal for field use. The guide includes, along with many of the more common species, several of the region's most unique species: Giant White, White Angled-Sulphur, Tailed Orange, Silver-banded Hairstreak, Re-bordered and Blue Metalmarks, Red-bordered Pixie, Mexican Silverspot, White Peacock, Malachite, Red Rim, Mexican Bluewing, Guava and Violet-banded Skippers, Two-barred Flasher, and Erichson's White-Skipper. Common and scientific names, adult size, season when they can be found, and their caterpillar host plants are listed. Nature enthusiasts of all ages will enjoy using this marvelous guide.

Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights of a Birding Mecca [Paperback]

Author: Mel White

Description: Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail examines highlights of this popular route: locations ranging from national wildlife refuges with tens of thousands of acres to small city parks to stretches of isolated road passing through birdy habitat. In this guide, expert birder/writer Mel White profiles more than 80 of the best sites along the trail, chosen for diversity of habitat, species, and seasonality; productivity; and accessibility. Site listings give general (and often specific) directions, contact information (including websites when available), advice about when and how to bird the location, and a listing of some of the notable species that might be found. Also featured are nearby museums, nature centers, festivals, and accommodations of particular interest to the visiting birder.

Great Tales From the History of South Texas

Author: Murphy Givens

Description: The history of the Old West has deep roots in South Texas where the Wild Horse Desert was a lawless land controlled by no authority. The western region of South Texas, from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, stretching west and south to the Rio Grande, was the birthplace of the big cattle ranches, the cattle barons, rustlers, hide thieves, outlaws, and bad men operating on both sides of the border. Murphy Givens brings the stories of the Old West to life in "Great Tales From the History of South Texas" Available at

National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America

Author: Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer

Texas Gulf Coast Stories

Author: C. Herndon Williams

Description: The middle Texas coast, known locally as the Coast Bend, is an area filled with fascinating stories. From as early as the days of de Vaca and La Salle, the Coastal Bend has been a site of early exploration, bloody conflicts, legendary shipwrecks and even a buried treasure or two. However, much of the true history has remained unknown, misunderstood and even hidden. For years, local historian C. Herndon Williams has shared his fascinating discoveries of the area's early stories through his weekly column, "Coastal Bend Chronicle." Now he has selected some of his favorites in Texas Gulf Coast Stories. Join Williams as he explores the days of early settlement and European contact, Karankawa and Tonkawa legends and the Coastal Bend's tallest of tall tales.

The Book of Texas Bays

Author: Jim Blackburn

Description: In a dazzling tribute to the Texas coast, conservationist and lawyer Jim Blackburn has teamed with photographer Jim Olive to give us the most intimate and important portrait yet of Texas bays and of those who work for their wise use and preservation. While giving life and sustenance to plants, animals, and people, the bays and estuaries of Texas have other stories to tellabout freshwater inflows, deep port construction, disappearing oyster beds, beach resorts, industrial pollution, and more. At a certain point, each story brings opposing forces into the courtroom for vigorous debates on the future of some of our most valuable and irreplaceable resources. The Book of Texas Bays is a personal account of legal battles won and lost, but it is also a fine work of natural history by someone who has a deep spiritual connection to the Texas coast and all it has to offer. Jim Olives stunning photographs present us with a dramatic perspective of our relationship with the Gulf and remind us of both the grandness and the fragility of our coastal treasures.

The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story

Author: Kathleen Kaska

Description: Millions of people know a little bit about efforts to save the whooping crane, thanks to the movie Fly Away Home and annual news stories about ultralight planes leading migratory flocks. But few realize that in the spring of 1941, the population of these magnificent birdspure white with black wingtips, standing five feet tall with a seven-foot wingspanhad reached an all-time low of fifteen. Written off as a species destined for extinction, the whooping crane has made a slow but unbelievable comeback over the last seven decades. This recovery would have been impossible if not for the efforts of Robert Porter Allen, an ornithologist with the National Audubon Society, whose courageous eight-year crusade to find the only remaining whooping crane nesting site in North America garnered nationwide media coverage. His search and his impassioned lectures about over development, habitat loss, and unregulated hunting triggered a media blitz that had thousands of citizens on the lookout for the birds during their migratory trips. Allens tireless efforts changed the course of U.S. environmental history and helped lead to the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Though few people remember him today, his life reads like an Indiana Jones story, full of danger and adventure, failure and success. His amazing story deserves to be told.

The Shorebird Guide

Author: Michael O'Brien & Richard Crossley

Description: Join the experts in birding by impression, a revolutionary approach to bird identification. Experienced birders use the most easily observed characteristics — size, structure, behavior, and general color patterns — to identify birds even before looking carefully at plumage details. Now birders at all levels can learn how to identify shorebirds quickly and simply. This guide includes more than 870 stunning color photographs, starting with a general impression of the species and progressing to more detailed images of the bird throughout its life cycle. Quiz questions in the captions will engage and challenge all birders and help them benefit from this simplified, commonsense approach to identification.

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Author: David Allen Sibley

The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande [Kindle Edition]

Author: Keith Bowden

Description: A first work from a new voice that is parts gritty, elegant, and contemporary. The Rio Grande is simultaneously one of the most watched and least understood rivers in the world. Some stretches of the Rio pass for endless miles through remote wilderness, boxed in by canyons hundreds of feet high and inhabited by only the hardiest animals and humans. Other stretches go straight through the center of massive urban areas, all but ignored by the thousands of city folks above. It is a national border, a water source, a dangerous rapid with house-sized boulders, a nature refuge, a garbage dump, and a playground, depending on where you are on its 1885-mile course. That's why journalist Keith Bowden decided to become the first person to travel the entire length of the Rio as it forms the border between America and Mexico. This is his fascinating account of the journey by bike, canoe, and raft along one of North America's most overlooked resources. From illegal immigrants and drug runners trying to make it into America to the border patrol working to stop them; from human coyotes-smugglers who help people navigate their way into the United States-to encounters with real coyotes, mountain lions, and other flora and fauna, Bowden reveals a side of America that few of us ever see. The border between the U.S. and Mexico is, in many ways, a country unto itself, where inhabitants share more in common with fellow riverside dwellers than they do with the rest of their countrymen. With this isolated and colorful micro-world as his backdrop, Bowden not only explores his surroundings, but also tests his inner mettle along some of the most dangerous and remote riparian wilderness in North America.

The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos

Author: Robb Walsh

Description: Join Texas food writer Robb Walsh on a grand tour complete with larger-than-life characters, colorful yarns, rare archival photographs, and a savory assortment of crispy, crunchy Tex-Mex foods. From the Mexican pioneers of the sixteenth century, who first brought horses and cattle to Texas, to the Spanish mission era when cumin and garlic were introduced, to the 1890s when the Chile Queens of San Antonio sold their peppery stews to gringos like O. Henry and Ambrose Bierce, and through the chili gravy, combination plates, crispy tacos, and frozen margaritas of the twentieth century, all the way to the nuevo fried oyster nachos and vegetarian chorizo of today, here is the history of Tex-Mex in more than 100 recipes and 150 photos. Rolled, folded, and stacked enchiladas, old-fashioned puffy tacos, sizzling fajitas, truck-stop chili, frozen margaritas, Frito Pie, and much, much more, are all here in easy-to-follow recipes for home cooks. The Tex-Mex Cookbook will delight chile heads, food history buffs, Mexican food fans, and anybody who has ever woken up in the middle of the night craving cheese enchiladas. Available on

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