Greetings autumn birders! Jeff Patterson, George Kerr, and I piled into the van and headed to Corpus Christi, Oct. 4-7, to experience the wonder of HawkWatch and fourteen other nearby birding hot spots.
The guys indulged my breaking into song every once in awhile, occasional grammar lessons, and needing directions at every turn. We only got stuck on the beach once! In an attempt to position the van "just so" on the beach, per Jeff's wishes (Sorry, Jeff!), I backed the van neatly into an unseen hole. The guys were very calm. Jeff thought the two of them could shoulder the van out of the predicament, but not Coast Guard George, who never the less put some muscle into it. Then, Beach Patrol materialized, and with a shovel and a few back and forths, we were free. We spent the next three hours happily sitting on the beach, eating dinner, drinking beer, watching birds, waves, and stars. Life is good! We came home with 100+ birds, 11 of them raptors. Only two hours at the HawkWatch provided three nice kettles and a bald eagle riding the sun's edge.
What follows is a general report on the accessibility of our hotel and particular birding sites in alphabetical order.
We stayed at the Comfort Suites on Ennis Joslin, close to Texas A&M. One of the benefits of this location is that birders can check the nearby Oso Bay in the mornings and early evenings as time allows.
The hotel has nice handicapped accessible rooms, but be warned! The bed height is approx. 27", requiring a herculean scramble up and a precipitous venture down for people in wheelchairs. The staff is wonderful and the breakfast pretty darn good!
1. Blucher Park
Although the park is inaccessible for wheelchair users, birding along the quiet street around the perimeter, including the areas just opposite the park can be very good. We saw a vermillion flycatcher here among others. Parking is easily available on the street. No restrooms.
2. Calallan Sod Farms
Viewing Upland Sandpipers here requires parking on the side of the road, getting out and setting up a scope. Not an ideal set up for wheelchair users. But, if the birds are on the east side of the road, they very well may be viewable with binoculars or a window mounted scope.
3. Hans Suter
I have been birding this spot for 15 years and really enjoy it. No official handicapped parking space, but ample parking available. No restrooms. Over the years, I am sad to say, the asphalt path leading to the boardwalk has seriously deteriorated, so much so that using a manual wheelchair I can no longer manage it without help. Likewise, the boardwalk is hard to navigate as well. I can still do it, but it is difficult. No restrooms.
4. Hazel Bazemore
I have enjoyed this great hawk watching venue for a decade. It's very comfortable for people with mobility challenges. Green Jay, Great Kiskadee, Olive Sparrow are reliable at feeders here. There is only one van space at the very front of the completely accessible platform, but other parking options exist within easy access. There are Porta Potties and a brick and mortar restroom, but I am unsure if these are accessible. I will follow up.
5. Mustang Isle
Wheelchair users rejoice! Driving on the beach means you can see and study at length all these confounding shorebirds up close. Endlessly satisfying! No restrooms.
6. Oso Bay
Enter the Texas A&M facility and park in the very back lot closest to the water. Plenty of parking spaces. Though the trails are not accessible for wheelchair users, a nice paved walk originating in the parking lot is perfect for people with mobility challenges. Follow the path around to a nice viewing pavillion. No restrooms.
7. Oso Bay Wetlands and Preserve
What a delightful find! Handicapped parking and lovely wide sidewalk throughout. I did not see restrooms. We picked up Long-billed Thrasher and Groove-billed Ani here in a fun, drawn out challenge!
8. Packery Channel, Image Lake
Not wheelchair accessible without help. No official parking nor restroom. Saw an immature Magnolia Warbler last time! Hard but satisfying ID with help from comrades.
9. Pollywog Pond
Completely inaccessible for wheelchair users, but reportedly a pretty birdy spot. Maybe a nice place for walking birders to bird and wheelchair users to nap in the van. I enjoyed long, up-close views of Least Flycatcher from the drivers seat!
10. Charlie's Pasture South Trail
Crushed granite trails are not ideal for wheelchair users, but are manageable. I enjoyed a nice boardwalk here before Hurricane Harvey destroyed it. Accessible restrooms.
11. Paradise Pond
Lovely little site. Handicapped parking, but no restrooms. Very accessible trail through butterfly garden and into woodsy space.
12. Ship Channel Jetty
Not accessible for wheelchair users.
13. Turnbull Wetlands Center
Wheelchair accessible and plenty of parking, but no restrooms. The new boardwalk is great except the railings at eye level limit viewing. The woodsy area between the parking lot and the boardwalk often holds migrants!
Lunch at Moby Dick's in Port Aransas. Great hamburgers!
14. Rosehill Cemetery
One of my favorite places to bird in Corpus Christi, this site often offers all kinds of migrating warblers along with a reliable Chuck will's Widow. It is easy for wheelchair users to bird here. After parking on the side of the road, you can wheel along the winding road throughout the cemetery. We picked up yellow-throated warbler here. No restrooms.
15. Tule Lake
Located on Up River Road. Parking is on the road, but just opposite the viewing deck is a nice little unofficial parking space for a van. For wheelchair users, getting onto the deck is tricky because of overgrown grass, but it is doable with a little help. I like this spot. Good birds and well placed railings. No restrooms.
Dinners at Snoopy's Pier, Senor Jaime's, and Water Street Oyster Bar