Whooping It Up

THU 12/18

Houstonians often complain that we don't have seasons. But that's not a problem for Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Joe, who hustle south each winter to enjoy our mild Gulf Coast weather. Nor do migratory birds seem to long for salty roads and frozen lakes. A group of endangered whooping cranes -- worldwide population, 400 -- migrates from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada's Northwest Territories to near Port O'Connor, Texas, every November. They dine on berries and grains but prefer blue crab (who doesn't?).For the last ten years, Matagorda Island State Park and Wildlife Management Area has been sponsoring monthly bus tours to view the whooping cranes. The birds are easy to spot, since, at about five feet tall, they're the largest standing birds in North America. "They are of awesome size and beauty," says park manager John Stuart. "Especially when they fly right above you." Get a glimpse of them now, because, like Aunt Myrtle, come April, the cranes head back North. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, December 18. 16th Street and Maples in Port O'Connor. Get there around 8 a.m. For information, call 361-983-2215. $4 to $8. Reservations required. -- Eric Norvell


Hoot and Holler

MON 12/22

Rice University athletics finally picked itself up by its nerdy bootstraps last summer when its baseball team won the national championship. And men's basketball coach Willis Wilson believes that this season his boys will dominate on the pines. "We're more athletic than ever before; we have more speed than ever before," he recently told ESPN. "We have a chance to be a very, very good team." The Owls, who went 19-10 last season, have three full-time starters back on the floor, including Michael Harris, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding. He's sure to be on the ball when Rice tips off against Navy this week. 7:05 p.m. Monday, December 22. Autry Court at Rice University, entrance no. 8 (off University Boulevard). For information, call 713-348-4068 or visit www.riceowls.com. $11 to $15. -- Keith Plocek

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