Saturday, March 23, 2019

Colds. taxes, and finally some warm weather

Renita and I finally caught the cold that everyone here has been suffering from. It started as a slight headache and sore throat followed by a harsh cough. I took care of her and then it was her turn to take care of me. Thank goodness we are both much better.
Not much in the way of news as the most exciting thing has been figuring out the new tax law. Of course, we must pay in more as we didn’t have enough withheld under the new withholding tables. Our taxes were less but not anywhere close to enough to buy a new car as stated by the treasury secretary.
So other than going outside for a picture of the supermoon. Not very super, (and where in the world did they come up with the term worm moon), Its been a long week. I do have several images from a recent fishing trip with John, Roy, and Dan, but that’s about it.
Oh, it reached 78 yesterday! Clear skies

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Birding at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, March 2019

It was March and we had not yet gone birding at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Having attended a lecture from Dr Elizabeth Smith, head of the International Crane Foundation, our appetites were wetted to see more whooping cranes, and so we packed lunches and headed out.
Our first stop was at Jones Pond, which was a shrunken marsh a few years ago and now has flooded nearly to the refuge road. We usually see alligators there but this year we saw common golden eyes, red heads, and blue wing teal, all ducks.
Also present were American coot and a common gallinule, also called a marsh hen.
Now there are about eight hundred and sixty whooping cranes today of which five hundred and five call the refuge home, or in the surrounding marshes, (this includes the birds in Lamar). We knew we would see a few whoopers when we reached the viewing tower.
Sure enough, we did see two pairs but they were far away, near the busy Intracoastal shipping channel. We also saw flocks of ducks, also far away, and snowy egrets along with great blue herons.
In the trees nearby a funeral of turkey vultures roosted, patiently waiting for something to die. A we walked down the tower walkway they checked us out but lost interest as we were still moving. Driving along the eleven-mile trail we had to stop so Renita could take a picture of an alligator sunning itself along the road.

As she watched it, three raccoons ran across the road one almost running over her feet! The alligator decided it couldn’t catch them, or Renita, so it went back to its siesta. There were lots of sign of feral hog activity alongside the road way, and they are a constant plague across the south.

We ate lunch in the truck and finished the eleven-mile drive before we spotted several herds of deer on the side of the road. At the Heron Flats Trail we parked and were besieged by mosquitoes. Still the wind was blowing and at the observation platform, we were able to see a pair of whoopers.
It’s the first time we have seen whoopers there in the twelve years we have wintered along the Coastal Bend, (each whooper pair claims almost a square mile of territory and defends it against all other mating pairs).
Now we usually walk down the trail itself, but the mosquitoes were so thick that they drove us into the truck. Renita and Pam decided that they wanted to look for alligators and they braved the blood sucking parasites. They were rewarded with a close view of nine large gators.

One even, had just crossed the trail and surprised Pam as she walked the gator trail, not noticing the tail drag marks.
Renita hurried back to get me and when we returned, I almost stepped on a snake. There are eight-foot diamond backs rattlers here along with coral snakes, copperheads, and of course water moccasins.
I jumped a bit before I recognized the harmless snake, wondering why I had forgot my walking stick/snake stick. The gators were huge and plentiful, and one was about fifteen feet away from the trail. I did take a picture of the whooper pair. We were also were treated to a yellow rump warbler as it fed on flying mosquitoes.
As we walked back, or should I say, were driven back to the truck by the mosquitoes, (dengue fever has occurred in southern Texas), We spotted a yellow rump warbler as it fed on flying mosquitoes.. Our last stop was ta the alligator viewing pond, but it was anticlimactic after all the gators alongside the Heron Flats trail.
The hurricane damaged museum and headquarters has not yet been repaired. The hurricane surge here was twelve and a half feet and was less than expected. One can hope that money to repair the damage will not be diverted to other uses, (no wall comments please as we try to keep politics out of our blog). If you love birds this place is a must! Clear skies.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A busy week of Cousins, Birds, The Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show, and another great day of fishing

As we were getting ready our first big show of the year, our cousin Angie texted us and asked if it was ok if they came down and visited us. They were particularly interested in the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show and were worried that they would bother us. Family and friends never bothers us, and we looked forward to seeing them!
They arrived on Friday, after we had set up for the show, and after catching up on old times, we took them on a birding tour of Lamar. It’s a short drive and we were rewarded with just what we hoped for, whooping cranes and rosette spoon bills, While Pete had seen them before, Angie never had and so it was a special day as we got to share one of our favorite birding spots.
We also visited Big Tree, the largest tree in Texas, and took the standard image of them posing proudly in front of the giant live oak. The next day they joined us at the show, and we were able to visit some more before we got slammed! It was the busiest we have ever been, for a two-day show, and it wasn’t until Sunday morning that we were able to take a little time to see the member displays.
It was another record show, we have been so blessed, and we are so thankful that our work is so well received! At times Renita and I both had to wait to record sales and make change! Of course, we talked and shared the geology of the rocks and we almost sold out of the ammonites we had brought here from the Cody collection, (just a few, we still have hundreds more).
The weather here has been particularly nasty and so the opportunities to go fishing have been limited. Still we had a rare nice day, and Bob invited us to go fishing. Waiting for the fog to lift we didn’t cross the bay until noon, but we did manage to arrive in time for a short but great bite.
Bob caught the first and second black drum and I pitched in catching another myself. Roy was along, but the fish seemed to ignore his hook, although he did have bites. Within several hours we had six blacks on the stringer.
The fish quit biting, or so it seemed, until I had a big fish on that seemed unconcerned as it pulled me into the posts, before breaking off. A little later Bob hooked the same fish only to have it break his line on a hard run. The fish didn’t seem to mind and again it bit Bob’s bait, again breaking his line on the first run. Its pretty obvious the spawning run has started. The record black drum in Texas is over seventy pounds).
Yesterday we attended a lecture from Dr Elizabeth Smith, the head of the International Crane Foundation. She told us that there were only two cranes in the western hemisphere, sandhills and whooping cranes, and only fifteen species worldwide.
Giving a brief history of the birds, at one time their numbers were down to ten birds, she talked of their recovery and even mentioned that in twenty to forty years they may reach a wild population of over a thousand and then be relisted as threatened instead of their current endangered species status.
(the above chart is from her presentation, be sure to visit the International Crane Foundations website and support crane recovery) This year’s count is still on going, but the numbers are now up to over five hundred! She talked about the habitat needed for whooping cranes, new counting methods, their food sources, cooperation in conserving wetlands, and the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Luckily the birds weren’t in Texas when the hurricane hit, and they greatly benefitted from the increase in fresh water flow and reduced salinity. That means more crabs, one of their main diet items. She also showed us videos of whoopers killing and eating snakes!
So, its been a busy an tiring week! Thanks Angie and Pete for visiting us, thank Bob for the great fishing, and thank you Doctor Smith for the great lecture! We have been truly blessed! Clear skies

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Jewelry, Fishing, Music, and A Crawfish boil! Retirement is a Busy Time!

It’s been a crazy busy week! Last week started off slow as it was too nasty to go fishing and so I taught a refresher wire wrapping class with our neighbor, Sue. She’s a retired art teacher and quickly remembered her lesson from last year!
The next day, I had hoped to go fishing but the weather was too windy for my kayak. Instead I was talking with my fishing buddy Terry, when a neighbor drove up and asked me if I wanted to go out in his boat! Of course, I said yes, and we were soon heading out across the five-mile-wide bay heading to San Jose Island.
We anchored and Bob had a bite on his first cast! He missed it but throwing back to the same spot his bobber disappeared and he set the hook on a nineteen-inch red fish. Now a nineteen is one inch short and so it went back into the water, a good release!
My turn was next as my bobber started to swim away and I set the hook on a nineteen-inch black drum, (black drum are one of my favorite eating fish)! Soon Bob was onto another black drum, but this one was twenty-three inches, a great fish. Not to be out done I caught two the same size before Bob set the hook and landed the biggest fish of the day, a twenty-seven-inch black!
We barely got back in time for the free concert in our clubhouse. One of our friend’s son, Kevin Motsinger entertained us with two sets of Country and Gospel music.
He has a good voice and he sure knows how to pick his guitar! He had already put on an impromptu concert that afternoon, so it was great to see forty people in the audience.
Saturday the weather turned windy, too windy to fish, so Renita and I worked on getting ready for this weekends Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show! It’s the first big show of our year and it is also an opportunity for us to buy needed gem stones.
I did have to take a break as Terry, Dave, and I went to the local fish market to pick up our order of shrimp and crawfish. Sunday we were having a crawfish/shrimp boil and o we needed two coolers for twenty pounds of shrimp and thirty pounds of crawfish. I asked the lady behind the counter about keeping them alive overnight and she said that wasn’t her job, that once they left the store it was our responsibility, (so I looked it up on Google). Suffice it to say I will never buy any seafood there again even though it’s the main seafood place in Rockport/Fulton.
The next day Jane and Dave organized the boil, cleaned the area, set the tables, and we started cooking. The potatoes and corn were first and when they were done, we put them into a cooler. Next came the shrimp, after pouring a huge bag of spices into the boiling water. They only took three minutes, most people cook them too long, and while Dave was doing that, I was purging the crawfish.
Now to purge them you cover them with water, some add salt which only kills more crawfish, and them stirring them with one of our kayak paddles. As you stir them the dead ones float up to the top and you cull them and throw them away.
We had a lot of dead ones, about ten pounds, and John came over and helped me pick out the live ones. Into the boil they went and after five minutes, (we did three batches), dinner was ready.
Now it’s always difficult to cook Cajun food for so many mid westerners and so we told the people to wash them off if they were too spicy. It really didn’t matter, as the crawfish and shrimp were excellent! It was a great boil and a lot cheaper then going to a restaurant.
The rain has started again today and if it stops and the wind dies down, I hope for a few hours in the kayak. Thank you to Bob, Kevin, Dave, Terry, Jane, John, Dan, and of course Renita. It was a great week!  Clear skies

Monday, February 18, 2019

Valentines Party, and Getting Out Fished By a Bird

Another crazy busy week and I hardly know where to begin. One day Roy and I went kayaking in the Sail Boat channel, another day saw all of us at the beach at Padre Island, and Valentine’s Day ended with a feast prepared by our friends Zeta and Alan!

The fishing has been poor. Roy, Terry, and I decided to try the Sailboat Channel near Aransas Pass. We unloaded our kayaks and started at the place where Terry, Renita and I had caught fourteen keepers, just the week before. Unfortunately, the fish had moved.
We did get a chance to watch a rosette spoonbill feed and we had small baitfish take bait after bait, so after an hour we moved to a second spot. There we caught several small red fish and a stingray, which is never fun to take of a hook when you are sitting in a kayak.
Another day found us at Padre Island National Seashore where we were joined by Pam and Roy’s friend, Chris and Michelle. No matter how hard we tried we only caught two small fish.
The first one was a nice grunt but when I took it off the hook and tossed it behind me, a great blue heron landed and grabbed the fish. It flew a little further away and then swallowed it whole!
We did find a few shells and I spotted a starfish that had been washed ashore. Renita took it up to show the ladies before she safely released it back into its home, (it is against the law to keep living creatures).
Renita did catch a whiting, but the Great Blue landed near us and caught a larger one that it again swallowed whole, (barely).
A few days later Valentines day arrived and the long-awaited dinner in our rv park.
Alan is an accomplished chef and he smoked and cooked prime rib for everyone in the park. It is the fifth year that Alan and Zeta have prepared the feast and as always, it was excellent!
The weather has continued to be windy and cold and so we are now hunkered down, waiting for a break. Perhaps then the water will warm up and the fish will start to bite.
Still it has been a good week as we had fun and haven’t had to endure in bitter cold and wade through heavy snow. Clear skies

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Blue Lagoons Show, Our first show of 2019

Our first show of the year finally arrived, and we moved our show goods about one hundred yards to the recreation hall. The purpose of the show is to get everyone out of their rv’s and show everyone in the park what skills and art/crafts are available. Renita and I organized the show, about five years ago, and the show is limited to people from the park or people that have stayed here.
Not everyone sells their crafts and we did have some empty spots, the weather here was cold, wet and rainy, so several people decided to not display.  Renita and Pam had driven around the area and placed posters about the event, (Pam and Roy, are from Iowa and also sell Roy's work at an art coop in Bentonsport, Iowa).
We arrived early, seven am, and soon Sue, Pam and Roy  carried in their supplies and arranged their tables. Sue crafts teddy bears, that she hand knits!  Pam and Roy also grind rocks and make their own style of jewelry.
Art returned with a new batch of his maple syrup, and he also had brought a slide show, demonstrating how he collects and boils the maple sap turning it into liquid ambrosia, (maple syrup from his Michigan land).
Evelyn paints, using watercolors for her medium, and she usually concentrates on birds and wildflowers. One of her works caught our eyes, a beautiful kingfisher, and so we had to purchase it! Diana crafts bracelets, silver wear holders, and other items, and we were happy to have her in the show.
For the first year, there were no quilters on display and one of our quilters who had committed had just left for two months in Florida. Another table, occupied by two sisters, sold flags and bead kits, (I am amazed at how small the beads are that they use to string into a picture). If I tried it, I would have beads all over the floor!
So the show was a success, because people enjoyed talking and sharing their passions, and even sold some of their work. Allowing them to buy more supplies! It also reminded us of all the friends that have shown in years past, we miss them all! Finally, we would like to thank Blue Lagoons for allowing us the space to hold the show. Clear skies