In 2006 Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine names the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center #1 of the Top Ten Boardwalks in Texas.

FREE guided birding tour for anyone, novice to expert. Wednesdays at 9am at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center at end of Ross Ave, with local guide Nan Dietert.

Leg deep in murky water, a tricolored heron stands perfectly still, its eyes sharply focused on something moving within the marsh’s shallow depths. Oblivious to the small crowd that’s gathered on the nearby boardwalk, the slender-necked, gray-feathered bird moves ever so slightly, then darts its long yellow bill into the water.

“He got a minnow!” exclaims an onlooker. “A pretty good sized one, too!”

At the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, you’ll get an up-close look at life in a wetland from a wooden boardwalk that extends past a jungle of cattails and into a large body of brackish water. Birders armed with binoculars gravitate to an elevated observation deck (located midway down the boardwalk) that offers panoramic views of the marsh.

As you stroll down the boardwalk, red-winged blackbirds call out raucously from their hiding places amid the cattails. In the water, turtle heads pop up here and there while a sociable group of cormorants sun themselves on a triangle-shaped roost fashioned from wooden boards.

Around the marsh’s edges, brown pelicans, great egrets and roseate spoonbills hunt for meals. Two American alligators — nicknamed Boots and Bags — also claim the marsh as home.

At the end of the boardwalk, a bevy of noisy black-bellied whistling-ducks, northern shovelers and dowitchers feed and feud in the shallow water.

Less than a half-mile away from the birding center, you can slip into a heavily wooded wetland habitat via another wooden boardwalk at Paradise Pond. Three outboxes offer views of the freshwater pond, where an abundance of birds, including great blue herons, warblers and other songbirds, feed and nest.

Within a short drive, you’ll find the 361 Wetland Overlook, a short boardwalk and gazebo that overlook tidal flats, home to many water birds and cranes.

1356 Ross Avenue, Port Aransas, Texas