|Many Majestic Red Crowned White Cranes （丹頂白鶴）
and Many Other Winter Birds Along Texas Gulf Coast
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One of more than 12 red crowned white cranes (whooping crane) feeding on the large grassland on the
southern tip of the Lamar Peninsula near the famous Big Tree just north of Goose Island State Park which is
about 5 miles north of Rockport, Texas. We saw these 12 whooping cranes while we were touring this area
and Goose Island State Park on January 29, 2015. This is part of our 13-day winter birding tour of Texas Gulf
Coast from January 23, to February 4, 2015 to see many interesting birds and other wildlife.
The whooping crane is the tallest North American bird, stands up to 5 feet and have a wing span of 7.5 feet.
An adult whooping crane is white with a red crown and a long, dark, pointed bill. Whooping cranes are
migratory birds and undertake a spectacular migration of over 3,000 miles between their summer breeding
ground in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada and their wintering areas in the Aransas National Wildlife
Refuge (NWR) and nearby areas a few miles north of Rockport on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The migratory route, the summer breeding ground and the wintering area of whooping cranes can be seen in
Map 1 .
The famous Big Tree, the national champion Live Oak estimated to be around 2,000 years old, located just off
12th Street, between Oak Shore Drive and Lamar Beach Rd., in the town of Lamar and just north of Goose
Island State Park, Rockport, Texas. Some other visitors in previous years have seen whooping cranes in areas
near this Big Tree. While we were taking pictures of this 2,000-year old big tree, we heard the fantastic sound
of cranes, so, we drove quickly to the nearby large open grassland and saw more than 12 whooping cranes
feeding in the middle of this grassland.
Map 2: Click here to see interactive Google Map showing the location of this large grassland often with
whooping crane activities
Whooping cranes often come to this large grass field bounded by 12th Street on north side, Lamar Beech Road
(Lamar Bay and Saint Charles Bay) on east side, 8th Street on south side and Palmetto Street on west side.
The circular green area off 12th Street is the Big Tree area. This large grass field has two ponds in the middle
where most cranes are feeding.
When we arrived at this large open field, there were several cars parked on the 8th Street and several visitors
standing on the 8th Street watching something interesting. This grass field is so large that the cranes near the
ponds in the middle are at least 100 yards away from visitors standing on the street or the road watching.
Those cranes are so far away that cameras with very long focal length or long zoom are necessary to zoom in
to get good pictures of the cranes. I was using my new compact super-zoom camera, Canon PowerShot SX 60
HS, with 65X optical zoom, with equivalent focal length of 1,365 mm.
The benefits of using compact super-zoom camera for tourists are described on my web page at:
晴空萬里，仙鶴遨翔碧空， 前引長頸，後伸秀腿 的優美風姿， 長空鶴鳴聲， 清音入
We saw not only several whooping cranes feeding on this grassland, but also some whooping cranes flying in
This family of three cranes are just flying in to this area.
丹頂白鶴剛剛降落草地， 輕舒兩翼，鼓羽亮翅，更見羽毛的美， 輕盈地踏著舞步。
The family of three cranes just flew in and landed on the large grass field. The two parent cranes are on two
sides protecting the juvenile crane with yellow color on the head in the middle. I was using the Sport Mode of
my camera to take photos of these cranes in action. In Sport Mode, the camera focuses very fast and takes
several shots in every second as long as the shutter release button is pressed down and held down.
A parent whooping crane and its nearby juvenile whooping crane with cinnamon-yellow color on its head and
Red crowned white cranes are generally mate for life. The pairs return to the same area over consecutive
In addition to whooping cranes, there are also several sandhill cranes with gray color feeding on this large
I reduced the zoom somewhat on my camera to show more whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and one of
several cows near the ponds in the middle of this large grass field.
There are also many red winged black birds in the middle of this large grass field.
A close up view of the massive trunk of the 2,000-year old Big Tree, with 35 feet circumference around the
trunk. It withstood and survived hundreds of hurricanes.
After viewing the whooping cranes and sandhill cranes on the large grass field, we did drive into the nearby
Goose Island State Park and saw several other birds including this turkey vulture. The entrance of the Goose
Island State Park is located at 202 Palmetto Street, Rockport, TX 78382.
Red-crowned white cranes (丹頂白鶴) are highly revered big birds in China and in Japan for their elegance
and beauty, symbolizing auspicious (吉祥的靈鳥), longevity (壽), nobility and fidelity. Red-crowned white
cranes often appear in many artistic paintings, poetry, songs, silks and sculptures in China and in Japan. In
Taoism, the red-crowned crane is a symbol of longevity and immortality. In art and literature, immortals (神仙)
are often depicted riding on cranes (仙人駕鶴西去). A mortal who attains immortality is similarly carried off by
a crane （仙鹤）. Depictions of the crane have been found in Shang Dynasty tombs and Zhou Dynasty
The official logo of Japan Airlines features a red-crowned crane. The colorful Japanese wedding gowns
(kimonos) have large images of red-crowned cranes as symbol of happiness.
長風萬里送白鶴， 遨翔碧空， 閑雲野鶴， 空中芭蕾，翩翩起舞， 精彩絕倫, 再加鶴鳴
聲，振翅飛翔，沖霄高天去， 形成一幅浪漫的畫卷，令人心曠神怡，賞心悅目， 看著
While in flight, their long necks are kept straight and their long dark legs trail behind. Adult whooping cranes'
black wing tips are visible during flight.
這區域 （Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and nearby areas along Texas Gulf Coast) 是最大的丹頂白鶴冬季
聚集地， 南下過冬的時節， 南歸丹頂白鶴多宿於此區。
The whooping cranes winter along rivers and in coastal and freshwater marshes in the Aransas National
Wildlife Refuge and nearby areas along Texas Gulf Coast.
On the next day of January 30, 2015, we came to Fulton Harbor to get on a tour boat to see more whooping
cranes and many other water birds. The name of the tour boat company is Rockport Birding & Kayak
Adventures with phone number of 361-463-5003. Fulton harbor is located at 215 North Fulton Beach Road,
Fulton, Texas 78358. This harbor is about 2 miles north of Rockport and several miles south of Goose Island
Map 3: click here for interactive Google Map showing location of Fulton Harbor.
Two more views of this tour boat named Skimmer. It has a lower deck and an upper deck. It is important for
interested visitors to call ahead of time to make reservation because of the limited capacity of this tour boat.
The ticket office is a small blue building on the roadside/parking lot of Fulton Harbor.
From the tour boat, we saw more red crowned white cranes (whooping cranes).
Red-crowned Cranes are highly aquatic cranes with large home ranges. They feed in deeper water than other
cranes. In winter they use coastal salt marshes, rivers, freshwater marshes, the brackish bays, estuarine
marshes, and tidal flats of the Gulf of Mexico in and near Aransas NWR of Texas Coast. These cranes feed
primarily on blue crabs, clams, fiddler crabs, shrimp, other aquatic invertebrates, small vertebrates, acorns,
snails, insects, rodents and other plants. They typically forage by keeping the head close to the ground, jabbing
the bill into mud when something edible is encountered.
Map 4: Click here for a map of winter habitat of whooping cranes in and near Aransas NWR
The yellow color areas on this map are the winter habitat of whooping cranes. In recent years, Matagorda
Island supports about one-third of the whopping crane flock, even more than Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Tour boats pass through the waterways, giving tourists better opportunities for some good views of the
Whooping cranes as they forage in such areas.
On the other hand, the 16-mile auto tour loop in Aransas NWR is too far away from the yellow areas of winter
habitat of whooping cranes such that many visitors indicated that they did not see any whooping cranes while
driving on this auto tour loop in Aransas NWR, although they have seen many other kinds of birds, many deer
and some javelina (wild pigs) in this NWR. There is an impressive observation tower about 100 feet high above
tree line at the southern part of the auto tour loop for visitors to see a few whooping cranes wading in the
coastal saltwater marshes very far away.
The boat tour and the large grassland with two ponds described above provide better opportunities for visitors
to see whooping cranes.
Some birders on the upper deck of Skimmer watching and taking pictures of whooping cranes and other birds
very far away along the shore.
However, it was a windy day with lots of waves causing the boat to rock and shake a lot making it a
substantial challenge to take good pictures because these cranes are usually miles away that require very
long zoom camera. But long zoom is very sensitive to shaking boat. Again, I was using the sport mode of my
super-zoom camera which focus very fast to take several shots of action photos in every second. Usually in
every burst of shots, only one or two shots had the cranes in the picture frame while in several other shots in
the burst, the cranes were totally out of the picture frame because of the shaking of the boat.
The tour boat provides a heavy duty tripod tied to the guard rail on the left side so that a photographer may
attach his/her camera with long lens to the tripod. But the windy day with shaking boat makes it hard to take
good pictures even with such provision of a tripod.
An old lady in our boat tour group was using a DSLR camera with a huge and long (大砲) lens. She said that
her huge and long lens weighs more than 10 lb. The cost of such huge and long lens ranges from $10,000 to
Some more sample photos of several whooping cranes that we saw from the tour boat.
Some of the whooping cranes seen from the tour boat are very very far away such that even my compact
super-zoom camera with 65X optical zoom is still not powerful enough to get good and clear pictures over such
In addition to whooping cranes, we also saw many other kinds of birds, such as this American Oystercatcher.
Many redheads and pintail water birds are flying low above water in this area.
Many shorebirds in flight over the mudflats.
One of several great blue herons in the air.
One of many beautiful Caspian terns flying low above the beach.
More terns and shorebirds.
Some redheads and pintails on the water.
More shorebirds on the mudflat and in the air.
Some white pelicans, brown pelicans and cormorants.
A flock of American Avocets.
Many cormorants and some brown pelicans.
Two views of several large flocks of birds in the air far away seen during the boat tour.
One of several fishing boats in the bay.
Some egrets along the shore.
One of the brown pelicans flying just above the water surface.
A reddish egret.
One of the white pelicans flying just above the water surface.
Several white pelicans also flew over this area.
Some white ibises.
This whooping crane got a crab in its bills.
The inside, lower deck of the tour boat, Skimmer.
The white pelicans are bigger than brown pelicans.
An egret in the air.
How I use information age technologies to enhance my enjoyment greatly of sightseeing large driving tour loop
of thousands of miles and of one to two weeks in duration covering many Points of Interest is described on my
web page at: