Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Mustang Island Loop

Mustang Island Loop map

Mustang Island Loop mapParadise Pond and Port Aransas Birding CenterPort Aransas JettyPort Aransas Wetland ParkMustang Island State ParkCorpus Christi PassPackery ChannelPadre Island National SeashorePackery Channel Park

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More information:

  • Port Aransas Area Chamber of Commerce
    Tourist & Convention Bureau
    421 W. Cotter, P.O. Box 356
    Port Aransas, Texas 78373
    (361) 749-5919 or (800) 45-COAST

057.gif CTC 057 Port Aransas Birding Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migration

Site open for day use only.

Continue on TX 361 to the ferry landing. After crossing on the free ferry (enjoy the Bottle-nosed Dolphins and Brown Pelicans during the brief trip), deboard the ferry and follow the signs to the Port Aransas Birding Center (take Cut-Off to the right to Ross Avenue). This birding facility is a vivid example of what a community may do to attract birds and birders alike. The boardwalk extends into a freshwater marsh associated with the adjoining wastewater treatment plant. Little fresh water is available for much of the year on barrier islands such as Mustang, and the ponds here offer a consistent supply of water for a wide variety of wetland species. The boardwalk here allows for close observation of many birds. Walk to the observation platform and look for waterfowl (Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal), grebes (Least included), heron and egrets, cormorants, shorebirds (such as Black-necked Stilt), and flaming pink Roseate Spoonbills. The parking area and land along the boardwalk are being planted in native species, so be alert for landbirds here in migration.

058.gif CTC 058 Port Aransas Jetty

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to Cut-Off Road, turn right, and continue to Alister. Turn left, and continue north to Port Aransas Park and the Port Aransas Jetty. The jetty extends for several hundred yards into the Gulf, and furnishes an excellent vantage point from which to look for a variety of open water species. Gulls and terns often roost at the base of the jetty, and shorebirds may be seen feeding along the beach. Scan the Gulf, particularly in winter, for species such as Northern Gannet, Bonaparte’s Gull, and jaegers, and in summer for Magnificent Frigatebird, Masked and Brown Booby (also seen at times perched on rocks of the jetty itself), and Sooty Tern. Day use is free, with a fee for overnight camping.

It is possible to ride as an observer on a fishing boat out of Port Aransas. The snapper boats travel out to deep water, and at times (particularly in the fall) a number of pelagic species such as boobies, shearwaters, and jaegers may be seen. Contact the Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Aransas (361-749-5760, 361-749-5448) for information about offshore birding opportunities (such as on the Scat Cat). In addition, boat trips to The Nature Conservancy of Texas Shamrock Island may be arranged by contacting the Port Aransas Area Chamber of Commerce. The island hosts immense numbers of nesting herons, egrets, and spoonbills in the summer.

059.gif CTC 059 Port Aransas Wetland Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migration

Site open for day use only.

Enhancements: Parking, Landscaping, Boardwalk, Observation Platform

Return on TX 361 S to Cut-Off Road. Continue south on TX 361 for 0.3 miles from this intersection to the new Port Aransas Wetland Park (look for the sign on your right). This park is a joint project of the City of Port Aransas, TXDOT, and TPWD. The observation platform overlooks a freshwater basin that may be thick with a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds during wet periods. As with the Port Aransas Birding Center (SITE 57), in dry periods this location may offer the only freshwater habitat within miles. However, unlike the ponds at the Birding Center, this site is ephemeral. The park itself has been landscaped to establish a native dune community, and during migration the scrubby vegetation and grasses may attract a number of migrant landbirds.

060.gif CTC 060 Mustang Island State Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

As you resume the trip south along Mustang Island, cut back to the beach whenever possible to look for gulls, terns, and shorebirds. A Lesser Black-backed Gull returned each winter for over a decade to the beach near Port Aransas, and

Glaucous Gull are seen here with some consistency in early spring. At high tide check along the beach for small flocks of Piping and Snowy plovers, as well as Red Knots. Mustang Island SP is located on PR 53 (TX 361) approximately 14 miles south of Port Aransas. The state park subsumes an entire barrier island ecosystem, encompassing dunes, coastal grasslands, marshes, and bayside tidal flats, and sloughs. The beach may be particularly rewarding in winter for gulls, terns, and shorebirds (scan the Gulf for seabirds), and a walk in the coastal grasslands should uncover Sedge Wren and perhaps LeConte’s Sparrow. Look for nesting Wilson’s Plover along the beach and on the tidal flats in summer, and Horned Lark among the dunes themselves. Camp sites with hookups are provided in the park.

Mustang Island State Park
P.O. Box 326
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
(361) 749-5246

061.gif CTC 061 Corpus Christi Pass

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

As you proceed south along Mustang Island toward Corpus Christi, you will cross several hurricane wash-over sites. These inlets or passes have been cut through the island by the scouring action of past tropical storms, and are a relatively common phenomenon on coastal barrier islands. Corpus Christi Pass slices across the island south of Mustang Island State Park, and the bayside flats here are the wintering haunts of such species as Piping Plover and Long-billed Curlew. Search the inlet waters for waterfowl (such as Hooded Merganser), and look for nesting Snowy Plover in late spring.

062.gif CTC 062 Packery Channel

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue south to Packery Channel, another “boca” that divides the island. The bayside flats at Packery Channel may retain thousands of shorebirds at low tide, and search the flocks for Marbled Godwit, American Oystercatcher, and Long-billed Curlew. Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, and Snowy Plover often scurry along the edges of the pass, and watch for diving ducks, loons, and grebes in the clear waters of the channel.

063.gif CTC 063 Padre Island National Seashore

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Continue south on TX 361, and turn left (south) on PR 22 to Padre Island National Seashore (TX 361 / PR 22 also continues to the right or west to Corpus Christi). Untrammeled and pristine, a visit to Padre Island National Seashore (along with Matagorda Island) is unrivaled among Texas barrier island experiences. Continue along PR 22 to the entrance and visitor’s center (approximately 10 miles). Ask for a bird checklist, as well as a map of this 133,000-acre park. The national park extends south for over 80 miles to Port Isabel, and most of the beach is accessible only in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. From the visitor’s center, it is possible to drive approximately 5 miles beyond the end of the paved road before encountering soft sand. However, the flavor of Padre Island may be tasted near the visitor’s center and along the entrance road. Peregrine Falcons pass through the park by the hundreds in fall, and migrant landbirds swarm the scrubby vegetation in the spring. Gulls, terns, and shorebirds line the beaches, and a variety of raptors (White-tailed Kite, White-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk in winter) may be seen perched on the power poles along PR 22. Also try Bird Basin Road, which can be reached 2.6 miles north of the visitor’s center as you leave via the park entrance road (look for the signs on your left as you depart the park). In the marshes along this road you may find gallinules, bitterns, and shorebirds, and nesting colonies of colonial waterbirds (herons, egrets, terns, Black Skimmer) may be seen by scope from the end of the road. Both primitive and developed camping facilities are furnished in the park.

Padre Island National Seashore
9405 S. Padre Island Drive
Corpus Christi, Texas 78418
(361) 949-8068

064.gif CTC 064 Packery Channel Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migration

Site open for day use only.

Return north on the park entrance road, and turn left (west) on PR 22 toward Corpus Christi. After a short distance turn right into Packery Channel County Park. The park offers another view of Packery Channel (see site 62), and the birds normally associated with the “bocas” are present here. As you enter the park, however, notice the oak mottes to your right among the private houses. These woods attract landbirds in migration, and birders from Corpus Christi consider this to be one of their most fruitful spots in spring. Walk along the public roads (do not trespass), and examine the trees for migrants. A number of rarities have been discovered here in the past, including Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Gray Kingbird, and Black-whiskered Vireo.


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