stood on the bow holding my breath and trying not to move. My binoculars and
the telephoto lens my friend lent me were not necessary. For a brief
moment, I thought the whooping crane wading in the marsh less than ten yards
away would step onto the boat and join our small party of birders. Instead, a
blue crab caught the crane’s attention and we had the opportunity to watch it
pound the crustacean into submission before swallowing it whole. Its mate was
feeding about twenty-five yards away. Both cranes were unconcerned by our presence
and after our initial excitement, the camera lens starting clicking.
|Photo by photographer Mike Sloat|
was just after sunrise rise. I was with two photographer friends on the Aransas
National Wildlife Refuge. Captain Kevin Sims had maneuvered us into the marshes
of the only wild whooping crane wintering habitat in the world. I had taken
several other boating tours into the bay, but the boats were too big to motor
through the shallower parts of the refuge.
Aboard Kevin’s double-decker
customized boat, birders, photographers, and nature enthusiasts have the rare
opportunity to view birds not often seen from land.
Kathleen: How long have you been in business and
what got you started?
Kevin: We have been in business for ten years
now. We got started on a whim. I was maintaining the boat for the previous
owner he was interested in retiring so when he wanted to sell I bought the
business and took over.
Kathleen: What do you enjoy the most about
conducting birding tours?
I enjoy showing people the Whooping Cranes and other birds. It is fun to share
my experiences with them especially if they are from land locked locales.
Kathleen: Do you operate all year long, if so,
what are your busiest months?
Kevin: We operate from mid-October through
mid-May and sometimes into the first of June. January through April are our
busiest months since the migratory birds are on the refuge and the rookery is
alive with nesting.
Kathleen: What type of people take your tour? How
does it differ from others in the area?
Our trip is different from the others in several ways. We cater to the
photographer. We will stay on one subject as long as they want. We only take
out small groups, no more than six people. We are on the customers schedule
instead of him being on our schedule. We only run one trip a day so that we
will not have to rush a customer back to the dock to take out someone else. The
boat is custom made with photography in mind. Ninety-eight percent of my customers
are professional or serious amateur photographers. I do get the occasional
family with small children and birders who do not wish to take a group tour
Kathleen: Besides the whooping crane, what birds
are tourists most interested in seeing?
Everyone is interested in the Whooping Crane but they also want to see anything
they haven't seen in the past. Most want Roseate spoonbills and anything that
is unique such as white morph reddish egrets and white morph blue herons.
Photographers are happy with anything that is different. Mostly they are happy
with anything they can get a picture of. Oyster Catcher and Black Skimmers
are always popular. Reddish Egrets are often requested as well.
time you’re planning a birding trip on the Texas Coast, check out Kevin Sims’ Aransas Bay Birding Charpters for an intimate encounter with North America’s most endangered
Labels: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, bird watching, birders, birding, cranes, endangered species, whooping crane, Whooping Crane Conservation Association, wildlife