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Endangered Whooping Cranes: A Celebration of Life

Program Number: 18333RJ
Start and End Dates:
2/16/2014 - 2/21/2014; 1/10/2016 - 1/15/2016; 1/31/2016 - 2/5/2016; 2/21/2016 - 2/26/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Port Aransas, Texas
Price starting at: $1,289.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 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.

Date Specific Information


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


The Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas starts February 25-28, 2016. Independent from your Road Scholar program participants interested in this festival may want to extend their stay a few days to attend. For information regarding the festival contact the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce 361-749-5919 or

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.
Tommy Moore

Throughout his life, Captain Tommy Moore has been an avid outdoorsman who has explored the bays and estuaries of the Texas Coastal Bend since the age of 15. After giving up the corporate life in 2003, Captain Moore began piloting coastal birding explorations into the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see endangered Whooping Cranes. He continues to lead birding adventures around the Texas Coastal Bend where more than 400 species have been documented.
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:
8 am. Program ends at breakfast. Check out hotel 11 am You will be staying at Best Western Ocean Villa the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. Liability release is required for all University of Texas Marine Science Institute programs. Please return completed form 3 weeks prior to the start of your program to: Lynn Ulch, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, 750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, TX 78373
  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


Check the Road Scholar website to see if a fellow participant would like to share a taxi as there is limited public transportation available in the area. Taxi - we recommend making a reservation at least 24 hours in advance to get this discounted price. Have your flight details handy when you call and confirm the price. For a listing of rental car companies go to

Driving Directions
  Corpus Christi International Airport To hotel, Best Western Ocean Villa, Port Aransas 1. Head east on International Blvd toward Glasson Dr - 0.7 miles 2. Take the 2nd right onto Agnes St - 0.2 miles 3. Take the ramp on the left to TX-358/​I-37/​Padre Island/​Bayfront - 0.1 miles 4. Merge onto TX-44 E - 1.6 miles 5. Keep right at the fork, follow signs for TX-358 E/​NAS-CCAD/​Padre Island and merge onto TX-358 E - 14.1 miles 6. Continue onto John F Kennedy Memorial Causeway (signs for Park Rd 22/​Padre Island) - 5.0 mi 7. Slight right onto S Padre Island Dr/​Park Road 22 - 0.9 miles 8. At traffic light turn left onto TX-361 N. Port Aransas- 17.5 miles 9. At 2nd traffic light turn right onto East Avenue G. The Best Western Ocean Villa will be on the right - 0.2 miles
  From the North (San Antonio) To Best Western Ocean Villa, Port Aransas. 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 Port Aransas on Mustang Island. At the 2nd light turn right on to Ave G. 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 and discuss the weeks schedule before going to dinner
(Sunday, February 16)
 Arrive To: Check in to hotel at 3 pm
 Afternoon: Welcome, orientation and discuss weekly schedule at 4:30 pm in the hotel meeting room.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Free time after a days travel.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Birding sites along the Great Texas Birding Trail
(Monday, February 17)

Note: Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Shorebird presentation by Nan Dietert followed by a field trip to the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center one of the most diverse sites in Port Aransas year round
 Lunch: Delicious wholesome lunch at the university cafeteria while watching ships navigate the channel from the Gulf of Mexico. Some larger vessels are accompanied by the skills of a US Pilot.
 Afternoon: Birding along the beach and bays on Mustang Island looking for shorebirds.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Movie: The Flight of the Whooping Crane. This movie is a great source of information prior to your cruise the following day.
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Whooping Crane Cruise
(Tuesday, February 18)

Note: 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.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Early departure to Rockport/Fulton for cruise aboard the M/V Skimmer . Sail along the intracoastal waterway to the shores of the Aransas Wildlife Refuge and the Whooping Cranes
 Lunch: Have a picnic lunch at the Rockport Beach pavilion while watching the gulls and herons forage on the waters edge
 Afternoon: Continue birding on Lamar Peninsula near the Big Tree (second oldest live Oak in Texas)
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Optional: DVD or Free time
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Birding Hayride on Fennessey Ranch
(Wednesday, February 19)

Note: The ranch consists of 4,000 acres of abundant wetlands, meadows, natural lakes, riparian woods and brush land and bordered on three sides by the Mission River. The Fennessey is located in the heart of the Central Flyway along a region of the Texas coastline known as the “Coastal Bend.”

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Travel approximately 45 minutes to Fennessey Ranch located on the Mission river. Open-wagon hayride - watch out for a variety of Hawks and other wildlife on the ranch.
 Lunch: Lunch at family owned Crofutt's Deli. A favorite with the locals.
 Afternoon: Tour the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) and the Wetlands Education Center (WEC) and shopping opportunities at the campus store
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: Presentation TBA
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Port Aransas Nature Preserve
(Thursday, February 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Birding at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve expect to see ducks, waders, shorebirds, gulls and hawks.
 Lunch: Pizza and salad
 Afternoon: Continue birding the area to perhaps pick up some species that may have eluded us during the week.
 Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant.
 Evening: The University of Texas Public Lecture Series. Ask A Scientist Series - Saltwater Fishing in Texas: The Science, Aquaculture and Management
Accommodations: Best Western Ocean Villa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Program ends at breakfast
(Friday, February 21)

Note: GENERAL NOTE : Participants may want to extend their stay in Port Aransas to attend the annual Whooping Crane Festival, February 20-23, 2014. For more information contact; or call the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce (361)-749-5919

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Program ends at 8 am Check out by 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

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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