Birds of a feather flock to Texas coast
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The Aransas Bay's salty wind blew Marianne Barrowman's silver-blonde hair across her face.
The 70-year-old was one of six birding enthusiasts from North Carolina aboard The Skimmer for the recent early morning birding tour.
"To us, birds are like flowers that have wings," said Barrowman. "Flowers that won't hold still," she added with a happy chuckle.
The Skimmer, operated by Capt. Tommy Moore of Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures Whooping Crane and Coastal Birding Tours stays busy this time a year taking an average of 5,000 visitors on the coastal tour to the see a wide assortment of birds that call the coast home.
The boat is docked in Fulton Harbor in Rockport.
The bird-watchers' week-long trip, started in San Antonio. The group was working their way down the coast to bird watch.
Among the most highly anticipated birds to see was the whooping crane.
With their long and elegant white bodies and inky black-tipped wings, the endangered whooping cranes make their winter homes along this part of the Texas coast.
Whooping cranes are the tallest North American bird and their population is severely endangered due to habitat loss.
The largest population of the birds, expected to reach about 300 this year, winter at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Austwell.
Moore explained Texas' recent droughts have affected the region's blue crab populations, which only further threaten the whooping cranes.
Barrowman's birding group got to see not only several whooping cranes from aboard The Skimmer, but also several great blue herons, osprey, oyster catchers and a lot of pink and white roseate spoonbills.
By the end of the tour, the birds and other nature lovers saw about 20 whooping cranes.