Ruth & I hadn’t been to Port Aransas since the year after we got married, so it was a treat to return. It had changed for the better, which isn’t always the case. Our favorite stop, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, was a new experience and a place to take really good photos. LTBC was created in 1994, long after we got married.
Birding is big in Port Aransas. There are 12 active birding sites and seasonal checklists available. I’m sorry we missed seeing the Whooping Cranes that winter here. In 1941 there were only 21 of them left in the wild. Now there are reportedly 400+.
The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is a bit hard to find down at the end of Ross Avenue, but tourists manage and we surely didn’t see it alone, which is fine because people watching wildlife become socially engaged. I never would have spotted that at-risk nutria if it hadn’t been for a helpful stranger.
Port Aransas, population about 3,700, is at the north end of Mustang, a long barrier island. The nearest city to it is Corpus Christi. There are 2 common ways to get to Port Aransas, the JFK Causeway and a free ferry that usually means a long wait. Port Aransas began to develop in the mid 19th century and has had several names–Ropesville, Tarpon, Sand Point, etc.
Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center has a raised boardwalk so visitors don’t have to step over resident alligators, ponds alive with aquatic plants and birds, a viewing tower, a groomed park-like atmosphere at its entrance, and a too small parking lot.
Nutria are semiaquatic rodents introduced from South America. When beavers became very reduced in numbers, fur was still needed for men’s hats. Nutria fur seemed a fine substitute, and these animals adapted well to their new Gulf Coast home. Many locals now consider them nuisances and are happy that alligators like to eat them.
Note to avid golfers. The Palmilla Beach Resort and Golf Club here is home to the only seaside links-style course in North America designed by Arnold Palmer.