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Endangered Whooping Cranes: A Celebration of Life

Program Number: 18333RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/19/2013 - 2/24/2013;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Port Aransas, Texas
Price starting at: $946.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 1 Brunch, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

South Texas is the only spot in the United States where the endangered whooping crane can be viewed at close range, and the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce celebrates this astonishing natural wonder with an annual festival. Cruise along the intracoastal waterways to observe the crane in a winter habitat shared by a diverse group of wildlife. Hear about current efforts to protect and rehabilitate cranes and other birds.


• Take a study cruise in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and marvel at the only flock of endangered, naturally migrating whooping cranes in the world.
• Birding and wildlife sightings abound on a hay-wagon ride in the rich habitat of the Fennessey Ranch.
• Learn about bird and turtle rescue on a field trip to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute’s Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK).

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one-half mile. Boat trips up to four hours.

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.

Coordinated by University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

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 hotel 2½ blocks from Gulf beach.
Meals and Lodgings
   Best Western Ocean Villa
  Port Aransas, Texas 5 nights
 Best Western Ocean Villa
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located approximately 2 1/2 blocks from Gulf beach and close to shops and restaurants.
  Contact info: 400 E. Ave. G
Port Aransas, TX 78373 USA
phone: 361-749-3010
  Room amenities: Standard, well-appointed rooms with 2 queen beds, cable TV, microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, and hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: WiFi, swimming pool with tropical landscaping and game room with Wii.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Additional nights prior: Call hotel for price Reservations for additional nights must be made directly with the hotel. We cannot make these reservations for you.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Call hotel for price Reservations for additional nights must be made directly with the hotel. We cannot make these reservations for you.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:30 pm. Welcome in hotel meeting room. You will be staying at Best Western Ocean Villa that night.
  End of Program:
10 am. Program ends. Check out hotel 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 Marine Science Institute programs
  Parking availability:
Free parking at hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Port Aransas, Texas
  Nearest city or town:  Port Aransas
  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 details.

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 (358 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.
  From the North (San Antonio) Take Highway 37 South to Corpus Christi. Exit Hwy. 358 (South Padre Island Drive/Park Road 22) and travel south to Padre Island. On Padre Island, turn left at the light on Hwy. 361 leading to Mustang 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 8x42 or 10x50 preferable.
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: Welcome, meet & greet reception before dinner
(Tuesday, February 19)
 Arrive To: Check in to hotel at 3 pm
 Afternoon: Welcome refreshments, orientation and introductions at 4:30 pm in the hotel meeting room.
 Dinner: Dinner at local seafood restaurant.
 Evening: Discussion of schedule destinations, target birds and binocular use.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: • Cruise along the shores of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and marvel at the sight of these endangered whooping cranes. The only flock of naturally migrating whooping cranes in the world. In 1943 there were 14 birds now we have more than 300 thanks to dedicated conservation efforts. The cranes stand a commanding 5 feet tall. A wonderful photographic experience.
(Wednesday, February 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Early morning departure to Rockport for a fully narrated cruise along the shore of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to study and view the only wild, naturally migrating flock of endangered whooping cranes left in the world. Oyster Catchers, plovers, hawks, and herons are among the many other birds we can expect to see. Deer, javelina, and other examples of local wildlife are often seen as we travel through the refuge.
 Lunch: Delicious picnic lunch at the Rockport Beach Park. We'll watch the shore birds while we relax!
 Afternoon: Birding on Lamar Peninsula near Big Tree (second oldest Live Oak in Texas).
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Lecture on shore birds by Nan Dietert.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: • Birding and wildlife opportunities await you as you take a fun hayride over riparian land and explore the rich habitat diversity of the Fennessey Ranch. • Observe some of the injured birds and turtles and hear about their injuries on a tour of the University of Texas Marine Science Institutes, Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK)
(Thursday, February 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Early departure the Fennessey Ranch, a working cattle ranch managed in an ecological manner. Birds and wildlife abound on the Fennessey!
 Lunch: Lunch at Croufutt's Deli & Bakery.
 Afternoon: Private tour of the the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) - home to recovering sea turtles and birds, followed by a walk around The Wetlands Education Center, a saltwater marsh on the UTMSI campus.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Public Lecture Series presentation on Albatross by Dr. Robin Doughty.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Whooping Crane Festival starts with expert speakers and trade show.
(Friday, February 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: We'll have an early start to catch some birds at the Birding Center and then attend the Whooping Crane Festival - we provide passes to all scheduled speakers.
 Lunch: Lunch at the University campus cafeteria.
 Afternoon: We'll return to the auditorium for the remaining speakers. Afterwards we will bird along the beach as we return to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Presentation TBA
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Back to the Festival!
(Saturday, February 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Early morning birding trip to Paradise Pond and morning festival speakers.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch.
 Afternoon: Festival activites, we'll spend a short time at the trade show and then more local birding. If you want to enjoy a free afternoon on your own, this is it! We can get you back to the hotel by 2:00. Suggested activities: Explore the Gulf beach, the Port Aransas Birding Center or Paradise Pond. Take a bay fishing trip (all tackle and bait provided), browse the local shops or explore Corpus Christi's Texas State Aquarium, USS Lexington, Museum of Science and History and Columbus Fleet.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restauant.
 Evening: Social and wrap up.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Birding with Nan.
(Sunday, February 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Guided birding walk
 Brunch: Pick up boxed lunch at 10 am. Check out hotel 11 am
Meals Included: Breakfast, Brunch
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

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

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 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 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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