Corpus Christi Bay Loop
- Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau, (361) 881-1888 or (800) 766-BEACH, www.VisitCorpusChristiTX.org/birding
JFK Causeway Wetlands
From Packery Channel County Park, return to PR 22 and turn right (west) toward Corpus Christi. After traversing the bridge over the Laguna Madre, the JFK Causeway becomes a rather low crossing that offers opportunities to park and view the bay. With recent upgrades to the causeway, exit Waldron Road, turn left (south) under the freeway turning back toward the island in order to access the lower section of the causeway. The flats along the causeway may be awash with herons, egrets (look for Reddish), pelicans, and shorebirds. Toward the west end of the causeway you will notice an area of beach that is protected for nesting Black Skimmers. The skimmers and their young may be seen here in summer, and also look for nesting Least Terns and Wilson's Plovers.
Redhead Pond Wildlife Management Area
Continue west on the JFK Causeway (which becomes South Padre Island Drive west of the Laguna Madre) and enter Flour Bluff. Exit Waldron Road, turn left (south) under the freeway and return to Laguna Shores Road. Turn right and continue south on Laguna Shores to Redhead Pond WMA. Do not park on Laguna Shores Rd. Redhead Pond's observation platform affords a protected view of the waterfowl that winter in the ponds. Redhead is particularly common, but a number of duck species (as well as grebes and Black-crowned Night-Herons) winter here. Watch for Common Goldeneye and Hooded Merganser, two species that may be difficult to see elsewhere along the coast.
Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens
Return to Laguna Shores Road, and turn right (south). Continue to the intersection with Yorktown Boulevard, and turn right (west) again. Travel on Yorktown Boulevard to the intersection with S. Staples Street, and turn left (south). Continue on S. Staples across Oso Creek to the entrance to the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center on your right. The center boasts an impressive assortment of South Texas habitats, including wildflower fields, nature trails through virgin mesquite, an herb-lined Bird and Butterfly Trail, and a reed-lined Gator Lake which can be observed from both the Palapa Grande (an open-air, thatched-roof gazebo) and a birding tower. The nature trails, which at some locations border Oso Creek, offer a glimpse of South Texas scrub birding, with species such as Groove-billed Ani, Long-billed Thrasher, Curve-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, and Olive Sparrow relatively easy to see here. At the lake and creek search for waterbirds, including Least Grebe (also look for Couch's Kingbird in the trees that border the lake). Additionally, the center has 10 formal gardens and floral exhibits and has planted more bird attractors in individual garden areas, such as the Butterfly Garden/Butterfly House, Hummingbird Garden, and border plantings with native trees.
(361) 852-2100 www.stxbot.org
Oso Bay Park
Travel north on Staples Street and turn right (east) on South Padre Island Drive. Continue to the Ennis Joslin Road exit. Turn left (north) on Ennis Joslin Rd. and continue along Oso Bay. Stop at the first small park on your right, and scan Oso Bay for pelicans, waterfowl, and shorebirds. This site (as well as sites CTC 069 and CTC 070) are best birded on a falling tide, so be sure to check the tide tables that are published in the local newspaper. Thousands of waterbirds pack these shallow waters, and a sunset here in winter should be unforgettable.
Hans A. Suter Wildlife Area
Continue north on Ennis Joslin Rd. for a short distance to Hans A. Suter Wildlife Refuge (on the right). The boardwalk here provides access to the lagoon, and be sure to check the tidal pools bordering the boardwalk for rails and shorebirds. The short nature trail that connects the parking lot with the boardwalk may be teeming with landbirds in migration, so don't be so quick to rush to the lagoon. The waterbird display at Hans Suter is staggering, so check the tides and be prepared to spend an hour or two relishing the show.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi Nature Trail
The third site from which to view Oso Bay is the nature trail at Texas A&M
University _ Corpus Christi. Continue north on Ennis Joslin Rd.to its merger with Alameda Street and veer right as Alameda ends at Ocean Drive. Turn right on Ocean Drive and take the first entrance into the campus. The guard at the security kiosk can give you parking instructions. As you walk the nature trail that follows the Oso Bay shoreline, inspect the tidal flats here for Piping and Snowy plover, and watch for flocks of Roseate Spoonbills in the shallow waters of Oso Bay itself. Each of these three sites (CTC 068-070) offers a different view of Oso Bay, so watch both the tide and the angle of the sun for determining which vantage point to choose.
Exiting Texas A&M _ Corpus Christi, turn west on Ocean Drive and travel into downtown Corpus Christi. Ocean Drive becomes Shoreline Drive as you enter the waterfront area, and continues north to the downtown business district. Blucher Park is located on Carrizo Street, next to the Central Library. Turn left on Cooper's Alley and continue up the hill. Take a left on S. Tancahua St., followed by a right on Kinney St., and a right on Carrizo St. This densely wooded park with a small creek flowing through its center attracts migrating landbirds. Stroll through the park and check every nook and cranny for flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, and warblers. An information kiosk is located at the corner of Blucher and Carrizo streets showcasing the birds and habitat of the park along with an interpretive map and two Chimney Swift towers.
Texas State Aquarium
Return to Shoreline Drive, and continue north on I-37. Take TX 35 / US 181 north across the high bridge over the turning basin toward Portland, and exit at Surfside. The aquarium is located on Corpus Christi Beach to your right. Although dedicated to the conservation of the oceans, the aquarium considers seabirds to be an integral part of the marine ecosystem as well. A bird rehabilitation center is operated out of the aquarium, and a number of injured and orphaned birds (such as pelicans) are kept on display. The aquarium also offers a rather extensive environmental education program, and information on area birds and birding is always available here. Follow the signs from the aquarium to US 181 north and stay on the frontage road until you reach the wetlands adjacent to the south end of the Nueces Bay Causeway. You'll have access to both Nueces and Corpus Christi bays. Peregrine Falcons, Brown Pelicans, Snowy and Piping plovers and all of the bay ducks can be seen here. Shorebirds are best viewed from the south frontage road.
(361) 881-1200 or (800) 477-GULF www.texasstateaquarium.org
Indian Point / Sunset Lake
Continue north on TX 35 / US 181 toward Portland, and exit Indian Point Pier. Indian Point is located to your immediate right on Corpus Christi Bay as you exit (follow the signs). With a boardwalk surrounding marshes, Indian Point is an exceptional spot for observing waterbirds. Look for various shorebirds on the tidal flats and along the beach, and search the bay for gulls and terns. Also in the immediate area is Sunset Lake (look for loons, grebes, and diving ducks here). There is a pedestrian-only trail as well. The salt cedars along the walkway are worth checking in migration for landbirds.
Fred Jones Nature Sanctuary
Return to TX 35 / US 181 and continue north to Portland. Exit at Moore Avenue
(FM 893), and turn left (west). Travel on FM 893 west approximately 6.5 miles to
the four-way traffic stop. Turn left (south) on CR 69E (Koonce Loop Rd.) and go
0.5 miles to the sanctuary on the left. Park only on the sanctuary side (east) of the road. This sanctuary is well worth the sidetrip during migration. Situated on the upper reaches of Nueces Bay, and well vegetated with native brush (mesquite, blackbrush acacia, brasil, agarita, Texas olive), this tiny site is an oasis in the middle of miles and miles of barren agricultural fields. Landbirds crossing the bay are naturally drawn to this spot, and the selection of vireos and warblers here in spring may be sizable. Donations are requested.
Nueces River Park
Continue west on FM 893 to FM 1074. Turn right on FM 1074 (eventually north), and continue to the intersection with FM 631. Turn left (west) on FM 631, and continue to the intersection with US 77 in Odem. Turn left (south) on US 77, and return to I-37. Take I-37 east toward Corpus Christi, and exit at Nueces River Park. The riparian woodlands along the river here attract migrant landbirds in spring, and kingfishers (Belted) often perch on low-slung branches over the water.
Hilltop Community Center
Continue east on I-37 and exit at Violet Road. Turn right (south) on Violet, and continue to the intersection with Leopard Street. Turn right (west) on Leopard, and drive a short distance to the Hilltop Community Center (on your left). The nature trail here traverses native brush habitat, so search for migrants as well as for residents (Groove-billed Ani, Pyrrhuloxia, Olive Sparrow). Walk along the creek and look for a variety of sparrows in winter (Swamp, Lincoln's), and listen in late spring for the incessant _chick three beers' song of the White-eyed Vireo.
Leaving Hilltop exit right onto Leopard Street then left on Violet Road. Exit right onto I-37 and travel on I-37 south to Southern Mineral Road exit. Exit and cross I-37 on Southern Minerals Road to Upriver Road. Turn left on Upriver Road to Tule Lake, approximately 0.5 miles on right side of Up River Rd. Park off road alongside two covered overlooks that provide an excellent view of this small fresh water lake nestled between the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and heavy oil industry traffic. Shorebirds, ducks, pelicans, spoonbills, egrets, herons, gulls, terns, rails, and in summer months, wood storks are a frequent sighting.
Return to I-37 and head north; continue on I-37 north to Sharpsburg Rd. Take Sharpsburg Exit, at bottom of hill, take right at Up River Road and take driveway at immediate intersection with Sharpsburg which will lead to parking for the pond. Take the driveway on the left side of the major drainage ditch to reach the best ponds. Used by the water department as settlement ponds, this collection of lakes and pools provides habitat for a rich assortment of waterfowl (Black-bellied Whistling-Duck). Look for Least Grebe here as well as Least Bitterns in the summer. The willows that line the ponds attract migrants (as well as White-winged Doves and Great Kiskadee), and Groove-billed Ani is often seen here in the low scrub. Excellent warblers in spring and fall and check for raptors during migration.
Hazel Bazemore County Park
Continue west on Up River Road (which becomes FM 624 at US 77) to the sign marking the entrance to Hazel Bazemore County Park (off CR 69). This park is renowned for its hawk migration in September and October. Tens of thousands (at times perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson's Hawks, Mississippi Kites, and accipiters pass along the Nueces River and through the park each year, and birders from around the world travel here to witness the display. Hawks will migrate on the first cold fronts of the fall (arriving this far south in late September and early October), so watch the weather reports. The nature trail here is also worth checking for Olive Sparrow, Groove-billed Ani, and Long-billed Thrasher, and search the ponds for rails and waterfowl.