Where Inspiration Soars

The City of Rockport is a treasure trove of diverse habitats attracting photographers, artists, birders and naturalists form all over the world. Come discover a natural place to be and a place to be natural.

John Martell Windswept Oaks

Wind Swept Oaks

Coastal prairie grasslands give way to wind swept oaks sculpted by time and the prevailing winds. At the top the trees you may see the nests of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. Some of the oaks are covered with Mustang Grape vines, a food source for birds and White Tail Deer.

Pamela Fulcher Rockport Fishing Hole

Marshes

Beyond the oaks is the coastal marsh, a gathering place for ducks such as Blue Winged Teal, Redheads and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks. Here you might find American Alligators lethargically waiting for a meal.

Mitchell Partly Sunny

Wetlands

Marsh gives way to bay wetlands, a nesting and feeding site for many wading birds. Here you can observe birds, such as Little Blue Herons, Willets and Snowy Egrets. Reddish Egrets can be seen scurrying here and there in search of small fish. The bay wetlands also provide a nursery for fish and shrimp.

Maria Nesbit Fire in the sky at Copano Bay

Bays

Wetlands open up into beautiful bays rich in an abundance of Redfish, Speckled Trout and Black Drum. On the small islands in Little Bay are the nesting colonies of White Ibis, Herons, Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills.

See Why So Many Flock Here

Rockport is in the main migratory path for many different species of birds. Rockport Beach provides a safe nesting site for not only gulls and terns but for the protected Black Skimmers.

Whether you are an avid birder, a photographer, artist or just love being close to nature, Rockport has much to offer. As the saying goes; “time spent in nature is time well spent”!

The central Texas coast is the only location during the winter months that you can see the last naturally-occurring population of Whooping Cranes. The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America standing at five feet tall and is one of the rarest and most endangered bird species in North America and the rarest of the world’s 15 crane species. The wild flock migrates 2,500 miles from Canada where they breed every summer to the Texas coast to spend their winters within and surrounding the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) just north of Rockport.

The International Crane Foundation has an elite group of scientists conducting research in Rockport. Program initiatives include engaging in developing water and land protection strategies, enhancing habitat quality, and encouraging community engagement to ensure the long-term survival of Whooping Cranes. These birds depend on healthy coastal marshes sustained by fresh water delivered from the Guadalupe-San Antonio River Basin, as well as in
surrounding coastal basins where Whooping Cranes will establish new wintering grounds as the
population increases.

The Texas Whooping Crane Program has been actively working on conservation and Whooping Crane recovery activities since 2011. In the past year, three new positions have been added and are increasing our impact through research and outreach activities that will promote Whooping Crane recovery. Nikki Davis and I, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and San Antonio Bay Partnership, immediately began assessing damage to freshwater wells from Hurricane Harvey, that are critically important to wintering cranes for drinking water under drought conditions.

Through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant and additional funding, the Texas team provided a priority list for restoring solar wells in key areas in the wintering grounds on both federal and private lands. We assessed crane use of these ponds through over 250,000 game camera images. The freshwater ponds on both Lamar Peninsula and Welder Flats near Seadrift comprised the highest use this past winter.

Our goal to protect and enhance coastal habitats for Whooping Cranes and all coastal inhabitants, including people, is our primary focus and will be particularly effective with continued funding and community support. We welcome your interest and participation to achieve our goals.

Liz Smith, Ph.D.
Senior Whooping Crane Scientist
Texas Whooping Crane Program
Email: esmith@savingcranes.org

Liz Smith ICF Texas Team ICF Logo

Rockport Big Oak Tree

Protection and Conservation Are In Our Nature

Rockport boasts a series of nature sites and trials created to promote birding, native gardening and wildlife observation. Among these are; Tule Creek East, Tule Creek West, Linda Castro Nature Sanctuary, Ivy Lane and the Connie Cottage Sanctuary.

The city has also purchased, for the protection of nesting Herons and Egrets, a nearly nine acre oak motte property adjacent to Little Bay.

Whether you are an avid birder, a photographer, artist or just love being close to nature, Rockport has much to offer. As the saying goes; “time spent in nature is time well spent”!

The City of Rockport provides a treasure trove of diverse habitats attracting photographers, artists, birders and naturalists to the area. Coastal prairie grasslands give way to wind swept oaks sculpted by time and the prevailing winds. At the top the trees you may see the nests of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. Some of the oaks are covered with Mustang Grape vines, a food source for birds and White Tail Deer. The oaks are not harmed by the vines rather than they are protected by them against strong winds that might otherwise uproot the trees. Beyond the oaks is the coastal marsh, a gathering place for ducks such as Blue Winged Teal, Redheads and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks. Here you might find American Alligators lethargically waiting for a meal. Alligators have a very low metabolism and only require about 50 pounds of food per year to survive. Marsh gives way to bay wetlands, a nesting and feeding site for many wading birds. Here you can observe birds, such as Little Blue Herons, Willets and Snowy Egrets. Reddish Egrets can be seen scurrying here and there in search of small fish. The bay wetlands also provide a nursery for fish and shrimp. Wetlands open up into beautiful bays rich in an abundance of Redfish, Speckled Trout and Black Drum. On the small islands in Little Bay are the nesting colonies of White Ibis, Herons, Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills.

Rockport is in the main migratory path for many different species of birds. Rockport Beach provides a safe nesting site for not only gulls and terns but for the protected Black Skimmers. Rockport boasts a series of nature sites and trials created to promote birding, native gardening and wildlife observation. Among these are; Tule Creek East, Tule Creek West, Linda Castro Nature Sanctuary, Ivy Lane and the Connie Cottage Sanctuary. These sites are planted and maintained by Texas Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists. The city has also purchased, for the protection of nesting Herons and Egrets, a nearly nine acre oak motte property adjacent to Little Bay. Whether you are an avid birder, a photographer, artist or just love being close to nature, Rockport has much to offer. As the saying goes; “time spent in nature is time well spent”!

Rebecca Stapleton,
Texas Master Naturalist, Mid Coast Chapter & Wildlife Artist

Fishing Therapy

The Fish Are Always Biting

One of the best fishing spots in the world, you’ll find all kinds of fish and of every scale in our coastal waters. But, Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout are the most common among sport anglers seek in Texas. Classified as game fish by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), they both have daily bag limits and size limits.

Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout are the most common marine fish anglers seek when fishing coastal habitats in Texas. Classified as game fish by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), they both have daily bag limits and size limits. Populations of these species fluctuate naturally each year, and abundance depends on several factors. Natural spawning in the bays and nearshore Gulf of Mexico provides young of the year. Two – three years later, these fish recruit into the size anglers target. Mortality, both from fishing and natural causes, must remain less than the overall replacement of young fish into the population, or abundance declines. Anglers are quick to notice reductions in abundance of catchable fish as the number of fish they can catch is highly correlated with the number of appropriately sized fish in the population. The TPWD monitors abundance, through the gillnet assessment program; and angler landings of these and other recreationally important fishes, through the fisheries survey program.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey damaged boat-access sites, and impacted TPWD’s sampling activities with cancelled surveys, declaration of “non-fishable” days, and a reduction in fall fishing activity. Effects were noticed coast wide, but significantly evident in the Coastal Bend, especially Rockport. Even so, we estimate over 400,000 spotted Seatrout were landed between May and November, 2017, and about 127,000 Red Drum were landed during the same time period (see figure 1).

fishing graph

Based on fall 2017 gill net data, the immediate impact of reduced fishing pressure in the Rockport area was an increased abundance of Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout compared the previous year. Spotted Seatrout were particularly more abundant. Fall 2017 catch per unit effort (CPUE) was 0.41 fish/hr, which is considerably higher than the 10-yr average CPUE of 0.29 fish/hr. Red Drum were trending near the 10-year average.

As of May 2018, fishing pressure is rapidly returning to normal as local hotels and Airbnb’s open up for rent. Generally speaking the fishing has been very good as abundance of the recreationally important species is above average.

The CPUEs for our 2018 spring gill nets (April-May) are as follows:
Spotted Seatrout: 0.86 fish/hr (way up from last year).
Red Drum: 0.93 fish/hr (also higher than the same time period last year).

This is just one example of many types of continuous research being done around the Texas Coastal Bend. Rockport-Fulton is open for business, and the fish are biting!

Chris Mace Texas Parks and Wildlife
Chris Mace, PhD, Texas Parks & Wildlife.

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