84 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 TheCoastalBend.com While every category of visitor to Port Aransas continues grow, eco-tourists, and specifically birders, are among the fastest-growing. The town’s place on the northern edge of Mustang Island is a crossroads (and crosswinds) location for hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals. The University of Texas Marine Science Institute is not placed where it is by accident, and Port A’s most famous resident, oceanographer Tony Amos, was attracted to the island for its diverse and vast ovarian population. Birders from across the United States, and in fact around the world, descend upon this seaside village each winter to make use of its modern, well-maintained birding facilities, as well as the island’s many natural birding vantage points. The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center at the Port Aransas Community Park provides a boardwalk that extends into a freshwater marsh that is frequented by a wide variety of wetland species. Mustang Island offers few standing freshwater reserves, making this spot of particular importance. The Community Park is located off Cut Off Road; the entrance is at the bend in the road. You will find an observation platform overlooking a second freshwater basin at the Port Aransas Wetland Park, located off the main highway, TX-361, across from the U.S. Post Office. A native dune environment has been landscaped into the park, and attracts many species of migrating birds during the winter and spring seasons. Port Aransas is famously known for its many natural birding sites, including the Port Aransas South Jetty, which extends more than a mile into the Gulf of Mexico, creating the southern bank of the ship channel. Across the channel is the uninhabited St. Joseph’s Island that is accessible by taking the Jetty Boat from Fisherman’s Wharf. Across the ferry you will find the very active flats zone of Redfish Bay known as the Aransas Pass Wetlands, which is home to a vast array of water birds. South of Port A is Mustang Island State Park, which stretches the width of the island, including both gulf and bay front zones. Within the park Corpus Christi Pass extends into bayside flats, winter home to such species as the Piping Plo- ver and Long-billed Curlew. Many winter visitors are discovering the entire Coastal Bend while on their birding trek to the region, and Port Aransas offers so many reasons to return throughout the year. Some have even decided to stay! Grab your goggles! Port Aransas is home to superior, public bird watching facilities Coastal Bend neighbors who helped neighbors It had not stopped raining in the Coastal Bend when folks from across the area had already begun mobilizing crews of volunteers, along with donations of water, food, clothes and medicine, for residents most severely affected by Hurricane Harvey. Munchies Food Bus and The Exchange Corpus Christi loaded up with supplies and headed to Rockport first, and then Aransas Pass and Port Aransas, where they became a centerpiece of“Cow- boy Camp David,”the makeshift relief zone that popped up in the middle of town. Thousands of storm victims, first responders, volunteers and construction work- ers were fed at the camp over the month it was in place. After Hurricane Harvey, Kawasaki corporate called local dealers and asked which areas were the hard- est hit, and which communities would benefit in having an off- road vehicle like the Mule. Corpus Christi Cycle Plaza recommended Aransas County because of the intense devastation and on-going restoration efforts. A brand new, Kawasaki Pro DXT EPS Mule was delivered to the Aransas Country Sheriff’s Department in Rockport, an all terrain vehicle valued at over $15,000. Even before it became obvi- ous that FEMA would fail in its promises of trailers for homeless victims of Harvey in Port A, resi- dents came together to donate, and raise donations, for tempo- rary homes for their neighbors who had kids enrolled in PAISD schools. Homes for Displaced Marlins was born, and by the end of the year, they had purchased and donated thirty-five new trailer homes for families who lost their own homes in the storm. Meanwhile, few sightings of those $300k FEMA trailers have been reported in Port A. Upper: Munchies Food Bus at “Cowboy Camp David”; Volunteers organized by The Exchange Aransas Co. Judge Burt Mills and Sheriff Bill Mills accept a new Mule from Kawasaki USA represen- tatives and C.C. Cycle Plaza GM Matt Werkhoven One of almost three dozen Port A families who received a new trailer home from pop-up group. 84 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018