Residents give a “big whoop” at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Bo Neill, 9, and Cole Neill, 7, look for birds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

When given a chance to visit the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, local residents gave a “big whoop.”

“I thought it would be fun,” said Cole Neill, 7, when asked why he came on the tour organized by the Museum of the Coastal Bend.

Neill and his family were among the group who braved the wind and rain on Jan. 16 in hopes of seeing whooping cranes – one of Texas’ signature birds – which winter in Aransas. Although the cranes were not forthcoming that day, the group did see a variety of wildlife, including a green heron, great egrets, many shorebirds and a hog.

“Is that a feral hog trail there?” asked Sam Neill, Cole's grandfather, as he pointed to a hole in the brush.

“That’s an alligator trail,” replied Ron Smudy, tour leader and five-year veteran of Aransas.

For two hours, Smudy pointed out geologic features, important native plants and historical details about the refuge, which was founded to protect shorebirds. The tour was offered through a partnership between the Museum of the Coastal Bend and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to highlight the bird biodiversity found along the state’s coast.

During 2016, museum visitors can learn more in the special exhibit “Flights of Fancy: Birds & Birding in South Texas” between 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Additional bird-related programs will occur throughout the year.

The Museum of the Coastal Bend is located on the corner of Red River and Ben Jordan streets on Victoria College’s Main Campus in Victoria. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and admission is pay-what-you-want. To learn more about the “Flights of Fancy” exhibit and other museum programs, contact Isabel Ray at (361) 582 2559 or

Published: Friday, 22 January 2016

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