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Island Sampler: Birds, Biology, Bays, Beaches, and Buccaneers

Program Number: 1966RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/3/2013 - 3/8/2013; 2/28/2016 - 3/4/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Port Aransas, Texas
Price starting at: $630.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Science & Nature; Birding Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    

Experience the rich barrier island ecology and unique island culture on display in one of Texas’ best-kept secrets, Port Aransas. A relaxed island atmosphere freshened by breezes from the Gulf of Mexico awaits as you discover miles of sandy beach, salt marshes and birds. Turn back the clock in this Gulf port and hear tales of pre-Columbian peoples, pirates, soldiers, scientists and others in its extraordinary history. Learn about the region’s many ecological and historical gifts on beachcombing outings, at vintage properties and aboard vessels in sheltered bays.


• Discover 70 miles of protected coastal habitat and an array of animal life at Padre Island National Seashore.
• Collect marine specimens aboard the M/V Mustang and see dolphins up close.
• Aboard the vintage aircraft carrier USS Lexington, learn about the ship’s distinguished role during World War II.

Activity Particulars

Walking at easy pace on flat terrain, city streets, beach fronts. Some stairs, no elevators.

Date Specific Information


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

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.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Linda Fuiman

A native of Scotland, Linda Fuiman has maintained her Scottish brogue while living on the Texas Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. Through her work at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Linda shares the wonders of nature and the ocean with students of all ages. Most recently, she has led Birding 101 courses for kids, and serves as the education chair with the Coastal Bend Audubon Society. Linda also produces “South Texas Birding,” a monthly segment featured on a local television channel.
Nan Dietert

Nan Dietert is a skilled sculpturist, but she freely admits her “magnificent obsession” is birding — influenced by the remarkable variety of birds that live, winter, and migrate through the coastal bend and South Texas. Nan and husband Lyndon run a private guide service in Port Aransas, and they have offered their birding expertise on a river boat in Port Aransas during the Whooping Crane Festival, as well as on the intercoastal canal between Port Isabel and New Orleans.
Meals and Lodgings
   Best Western Ocean Villa
  Port Aransas, TX 5 nights
 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, refrigerator, hair dryer, coffee maker.
  Facility amenities: WiFi Access throughout hotel, guest computer in lobby, outdoor swimming pool with tropical landscaping, 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 those 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 those reservations for you.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check-in 3 pm. You will be staying at Best Western Ocean Villa that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends at 10:00 am You will be staying at Best Western Ocean Villa the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Release form required by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
  Parking availability:
Free parking available at hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Port Aransas, TX
  Nearest highway: Hwy. 361
  Nearest airport:  Corpus Christi
  From End of Program
  Location: Port Aransas, TX
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Corpus Christi


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
American Cab Service
phone: 361-563-2294
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


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


Travel Time:


1 hour 






Be sure you mention both Road Scholar and The University of Texas Marine Science Institute when you make your reservation. A list of other cabs will be made available to you 3/4 weeks prior to your trip.

Driving Directions
  Corpus Christ International Airport There are two main approaches to Port Aransas from the airport: Driving time 45-60 minutes 1. Via Mustang Island. - 40 miles 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 will be 3 blocks on the right. 2. Via Car Ferry - 37 miles Head east on International Blvd toward Agnes St 0.7 mi Take the 2nd right onto Agnes St 0.2 mi Take the ramp on the left to TX-358/​I-37/​Padre Island/​Bayfront 0.1 mi Merge onto TX-44 E 1.6 mi Keep left at the fork, follow signs for TX-358 W/​I-37/​Bayfront and merge onto TX-358 W1.5 mi Keep right at the fork, follow signs for I-37 S/​Bayfront/​Shoreline Blvd and merge onto I-37 S 4.7 mi Continue onto US-181 N 9.8 mi Continue onto TX-35 N 7.4 mi Exit onto TX-35 BUS N/​W Wheeler Ave toward Farm to Market Rd 1069/​Aransas Pass 2.6 mi Slight left onto Cleveland Blvd/​W Wheeler 28.7 mi – Aransas Pass, TX Head northeast on Cleveland Blvd/​W Wheeler Ave toward N Lamont St Continue to follow Cleveland Blvd 0.6 mi Turn right onto N Commercial St 0.7 mi Turn left onto TX-361 S/​E Goodnight Ave Continue to follow TX-361 S 6.4 mi Take the Aransas Pass - Port Aransas ferry 0.3 mi (Free and runs 24/7) Continue straight to light Turn right onto Cut-Off Rd 0.5 mi Road turns into W Ave G Go through light and the Best Western Ocean Villa will be 3 blocks on the right
Equipment Requirements: Binoculars 8x42 or 10x50 if you have them.
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:
(Sunday, March 3)
 Afternoon: Check in to hotel 3 pm
 Dinner: Welcome, introductions and orientation at 4:30 pm in the hotel breakfast room. Then on to dinner.
 Evening: Discuss the program for the week.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Be a Sand Detective and discover the origin of sand. Explore a large worldwide sand collection and identify it's content, quartz, minerals, corals etc.
(Monday, March 4)
 Breakfast: Served at the hotel
 Morning: Birding with the experts at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center and Paradise Pond, then on to other birding locations in Port Aransas.
 Lunch: Lunch at the university campus cafeteria
 Afternoon: Presentations and Hands-on beach activities: trash, shifting sands, currents, barrier islands, and shells.
 Dinner: Local restaurant
 Evening: Movie: LaSalle's Voyage of Doom. The French explorers ship lay buried on the bottom of Matagorda Bay. Learn how historians excavated the site to find a wealth of artifacts including cannons, muskets and leather shoes. LaSalle's reputation as a bold explorer was thwarted however by pirates, mutiny, navigational nightmares, foul weather and foul luck.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Explore the vintage aircraft carrier USS Lexington which was on active duty during World War 11. She has set more records than any other carrier in the history of naval aviation since she was commissioned in 1943.
(Tuesday, March 5)
 Breakfast: Served at hotel.
 Morning: Corpus Christ Museum of Science and History for a presentation on the Karankawa Indians and a tour of the replica Columbus ship, La Pinta
 Lunch: Lunch included.
 Afternoon: Tour the aircraft carrier the USS Lexington. Imaginations run wild aboard the USS LEXINGTON. The sights, the sounds are so real and so intense you become a part of the story the second you step foot aboard this World War II era aircraft carrier. There's an adventure around every corner as you make your way through the maze of tunnels and ladders.
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Stroll around the Corpus Christi Water Gardens and esplanade after dinner.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: The Padre Island National Seashore. The longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world with 70 miles of protected coastline and diverse animal life and habitats.
(Wednesday, March 6)
 Breakfast: Breakfast included.
 Morning: The Padre Island National Seashore. The longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world rich in natural and cultural history. With 70 miles of protected coastline, including a coastal prairie, a dynamic dune system, wind tidal flats teeming with life. A sanctuary and nesting grounds for the endangered Kemp?s ridley sea turtle. A haven for 380 species of birds, a rich cultural history including the 1554 Spanish shipwrecks; and the Laguna Madre, one of the few hypersaline lagoon environments left in the world.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch on the beach
 Afternoon: The Bay Education Center provides the visitor with an innovative way of exploring and learning about these important bodies of water, estuaries, and the life they support. Plus see the amazing Science On a Sphere?, a spherical display system created by NOAA to illustrate Earth science concepts to people of all ages.
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Presentation
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Marine specimen collecting trip aboard the University of Texas Marine Science Institutes R/V "Katy" . Take a look at plankton through a microscope, see a myriad of marine live including while watching dolphins up close and personal.
(Thursday, March 7)
 Breakfast: Served at the hotel.
 Morning: Sampling/collecting trip aboard the Research Vessel 'Katy'
 Lunch: Lunch included.
 Afternoon: See how scientists are raising fish in a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the Fisheries & Mariculture Lab. Visit our Animal Rehabilitation Keep and see endangered Sea Turtles in recovery.
 Dinner: Dinner included.
 Evening: Marine Science Lecture - Title TBA
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6:
(Friday, March 8)
 Breakfast: Served at the hotel.
 Morning: Birding and Beachcombing. Program ends at 10:00 am
 Lunch: Boxed lunch to-go at 10 am Check-out hotel by 11 am
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Port Aransas, TX Art Museum of South Texas
The Art Museum and the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center are located in Corpus Christi. The Padre Island National Seashore, is located 25 miles south of Port Aransas, For additional information, visit
  Texas Maritime Museum
The Texas Maritime Museum, Fulton Mansion and Goose Island State Park are all located north of Port Aransas, in Rockport. For additional information, visit
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

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.

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.

Kayaking the Texas Coast

Author: John Whorff Ph.D

Description: Half of the nearly 400-mile Texas coastline is flanked by barrier islands. Behind them, large and small bays shelter estuarine marshes, oyster-reef communities, and sea grass meadows that teem with wildlife, creating a bird watcher's and angler's paradise. For an intimate encounter with these natural treasures, no other water craft can compare to a kayak.

Lady Lex and the Blue Ghost: A Pictorial History of the USS Lexingtons CV-2 and CV-16

Author: Steve Ewing

Description: This is a short pictoral history of the lady-lex.

Lady Lex and the Blue Ghost: A Pictorial History of the USS Lexingtons CV-2 and CV-16

Author: Steve Ewing

Description: This is a short pictoral history of the lady-lex.

Bird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird [Hardcover]

Author: Tim Birkhead

Description: Most people would love to be able to fly like a bird, but few of us are aware of the other sensations that make being a bird a gloriously unique experience. What is going on inside the head of a nightingale as it sings, and how does its brain improvise? How do desert birds detect rain hundreds of kilometers away? How do birds navigate by using an innate magnetic compass? Tracing the history of how our knowledge about birds has grown, particularly through advances in technology over the past fifty years, Bird Sense tells captivating stories about how birds interact with one another and their environment. More advanced testing methods have debunked previously held beliefs, such as female starlings selecting mates based on how symmetrical the males plumage markings are. (Whereas females can discern the difference between symmetrical and asymmetrical markings, they are not very good at detecting small differences among symmetrically marked males!) Never before has there been a popular book about how intricately bird behavior is shaped by birds senses. A lifetime spent studying birds has provided Tim Birkhead with a wealth of fieldwork experiences, insights, and a unique understanding of birds, all firmly grounded in science. No one who reads Bird Sense can fail to be dazzled by it.

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

How Birds Migrate (Paperback)

Author: Paul Kerlinger

Description: The mysteries of migration have puzzled birders and prompted scientific inquiry for years. In this revised and updated edition, Paul Kerlinger unravels the intricacies of migration. Using case studies and illustrations, he explains the basics of flight, the effects of weather and geographical barriers, and flight strategy. Readers will learn how fast and how high birds fly, how far they go in a day, and how they navigate. This fascinating guide on bird migration makes the latest scientific findings available to birders and nature-lovers alike.

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 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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