Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Whoopers have arrived in Lamar, November 2020

It is a short drive for us to go view the whooping cranes in Lamar, Texas. We only have to cross the Copano Bay bridge and then turn right to reach the bay front. From there we drive past the duck hunting club building and reach a small pond.

The pond is occupied by some birds but also contains a huge alligator that waits for any unsuspecting birds or birders.

The people who live in the house have to put up with the gator and with all the birders who often stop to photograph both. They have posted no parking signs along their property line. Good luck with that, (if you want you can park around the corner and walk back to see the birds).

A little further and you reach a huge open field where you can see more another pair of whooping cranes. Each adult pair occupies about a square mile of territory and does not suffer with letting other pairs into their territory.

Sand hill cranes also flock to the field and try to get close to the whoopers food source but they quickly leave when the larger whooping cranes threaten them, (adult whooper cranes stand five feet tall). There is also a small pond in the field which contains snowy egrets, black belied whistling ducks and rosette spoonbills.

You may also see night crowned herons, but we did not on this day, and of course the ever-present turkey vultures. All in all, it is a great place to see the whooping cranes. We do plan on taking a ride on the bird boat, the skimmer, after we have gotten our covid shots. Another option is to drive out to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, which was created to protect the whooping cranes. We usually do that each year.

Our count for the day was eight whooping cranes, numerous sandhills, rosettes, and black belied whistling ducks, We also saw the one alligator. Not too shabby for a two-hour time frame. Clear skies

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Fall 2020 Day of Birding at the Leorna Turnbill Birding Center in Port Aransas


After a tough day of fishing, Renita and I decided to head out for a morning of birding at the Leorna Turnbill Birding Center in Port Aransas. Our friends Jane and Dave had told us of seeing thousands of ducks and a flock of rosette spoonbills, all close to the boardwalk.

So, we grabbed our binoculars and cameras and headed over, watching for birds along the way. We did spot a cooper’s hawk, four belted kingfishers, and even a magnificent frigate bird, probably hiding from Hurricane Eta. We also spotted hundreds of flocks of duck heading south and we hoped they would land at the birding center.

While crossing the ferry pods of dolphins entertained us and we tried to get some images, but Renita had the beat luck, with our small camera. Disembarking from the ferry we were confused by the new lanes, the ferry crossings have been relocated, but we left and headed directly to the birding center.

There were quite a few people on the boardwalk, including several classes of students and so we wore our masks. It was a hot and humid day, and this kept our visit short and sweet as we do not do well in humidity. We glassed for the whooping crane pair that last year had made it their territory, but they must not have arrived. We did see lots of ducks but not the thousands that Dave and Jane had spotted.

Even thought the fall birds are drab, compared to their breeding plumage they still had color and we enjoyed watching them as they fed and napped on the still water. A green winged teal even woke up, at least opened its eyes so we could photograph in and a blue winged teal paddled by.

Northern pintails were evading the hunters and American coot went about their business. A northern shoveler, along with ruddy ducks posed below us.

American white ibis waded and fed, and the ever-present common gallinules fed below us.

We did see an unusual colored bird which looked like an immature purple gallinule or perhaps a purple swamp hen, which was introduced to Florida, but we are think it was a young purple gallinule.

We left the birding center tired and hot but we enjoyed ourselves and will return there again. A couple of cold fronts are forecast to pass thorough the coastal bend and cool things off a bit. Clear skies.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Big Black Drum!

 I baited my hook with a small piece of fresh shrimp, hoping that I could catch a sheepshead. I felt a sharp tick as my bait was being picked up and setting set the hook my pole doubled over. The fish made a run from under the bridge and swam through an opening in the structure forcing me to try and get the fish to swim back through the gap. The edges of the pier and the iron work were covered with barnacles and I knew it would not take much to slice my thirty-pound test braided line.

Holding the tip of the pole underwater I kept the line away from the shellfish encrusted structure and after a long fight lead the fish through the iron work and into the waiting net. The problem was that the fish was too long for the net! Dave expertly slid the net under the fish’s head and then rolled the fish in, most of it anyway. Together we were able to lift the oversized black drum into the boat. Taking a quick picture, I slid the fish back into the water and watched it swim away, (the black drum over thirty inches must be released as they are the spawners).

That morning we had decided to first go to a spot near Cove harbor, but after two hours all we had caught were small reds and hard head catfish. Dave suggested we should try where we had caught fish two days earlier, so we loaded the boat up and drove ten miles to another boat ramp.

It did not take long to reach our spot and hooking up to the structure. We both cast out. I dropped my bait to the bottom and after missing the first bite I set the hook on the fish above. Dave meanwhile cast out again and set his hook into a nice nineteen-inch black drum. He quickly caught another keeper while I was busy with undersize fish.

The fishing slowed and we went to our next spot. There the fishing started out slow, but I finally set the hook on another keeper black. One more fish and we would have enough for dinner and Dave landed his third keeper of the day.

Now he cast out again and holding his pole felt the fish take his bait and then make a powerful run. It was another big black drum but after a strong fight the fish broke off on some oysters. He put on a new leader and he quickly set the hook on another monster. That one also found the sharp edge of the structure and again cut the line. Another cast and another big fish was lost.

Things settled down and we ate lunch. My friend took me to another spot where we started catching small fish. I baited up with a small piece of live shrimp and lifting it off the bottom a huge fish took the bait and swam with the tide! I was finally able to stop the fish but getting my line back was another matter.

Over and over I would gain some line only to have the fish make another run taking the line I had gained. It seem like forever but thirty minutes later the fish grew tired and we were able to lift the fish into the boat. This black drum was 37 inches!

We were about ready to leave when it was Dave’s turn. He set the hook on another huge fish and after another half hour I was able to net his fish, a forty-two-inch bull drum. It was hot and we were tired and sore. so, we headed back in. Howeever our day was not over as the shifter broke, but between the two of us we were able to get the boat into gear. Thank goodness we did not have to paddle in. I doubt we could have managed it.

What a day! Big fish, little fish and just enough fish for dinner. Thanks David! Clear skies

(Using the length, we estimated the three released large fish as weighing twenty-three, twenty-six, and near forty pounds)

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Comgratulations Renita!


We wrote in early September about Renita catching the Colorado Cut Throat. She was so excited about meeting all of the requirements for the Wyoming Cut Slam Award and she finally got the award in the mail yesterday, here in Texas. She has been beaming ever since!

She worked hard for it a she took up fly fishing about five years ago and started as most do by learning to roll cast. Its a simple technique that works really well in small streams and we have many small streams here in Western Wyoming.( Pictured below is her first ever fly fishing cutthroat trout, any trout for that matter)

Later her friend Val, her main teacher, took her out to a grass lawn in Star Valley and showed her how to lay out some line. That's a technique for making longer casts, usually in large rivers or when fishing our mountain lakes.

Besides the casting she had to learn to mend her line, stripping the line as necessary, and most importantly concentrating on her fly during its drift. Often you don't see the tiny fly and so setting the hook requires you to set on any rising fish.

Finally you have to play the fish in remembering that she is using a five x tippet. That a piece of monofilament line that's not very strong and is easily broken by a large fish! Of course there are trees in the way and snags always waiting to cause problems, (along with keeping an eye out for bears, wolves, and moose).

She has mastered all the techniques including handling the fish and safely releasing the fish using a medical forceps. Now she has joined the ranks of successful fly fisherwomen! Well done Renita!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Kayaking, Black Drum, and A Great Day on the Water


On Sunday we went for a drive. Our goal was to do a little birding and to check out the fishing at some of our places we kayak. The whoopers are not here yet, but we did see quite a few cattle egrets and some really light pink roseate spoonbills. At one place two people were wade fishing and they were catching black drum! As black drum are one of our favorite fish to eat, we hurried back home and worked on the kayaks and poles. It took the rest of the day, but we finally went to bed and of course could not sleep.  

Getting up early I putzed around knowing it was not wise to wake Renita before she was ready. I drove to our favorite shrimp store only to be told that the store had no shrimp and was closing. Instead I bought a quart of live shrimp and the shrimp were so big that we had to cut them up to get them onto the hook.

The day before there were not any kayakers but when we arrived there were seven kayaks already out! Additionally, there were two wade fishermen so when we finally pushed off from the bank many of our spots were taken. Still we found a nice spot and anchoring we fished some newly made oyster reefs.

We did have a few bites but the fish were really small and so we decided to move closer to shore. I had caught a small black drum and a hardhead, (terrible eating), when Renita set the hook on a nice fish! It was almost comically as we did everything wrong, but we were still able to net the fish. I It was twenty-two-inch black drum, a perfect size for our dinner.

Casting back out she had another bite, but the fish came off. I cast on the other side of the structure she was fishing, and I was rewarded with a nice seventeen-inch black drum. We spent the rest of the day there and caught speckled trout, sand trout, and Renita had a large fish that swam around some posts before snagging up and getting away.

My big fish of the day was a stingray and several more hardhead catfish. It did not matter as we ran out of bait and headed back to the car. Now the decision of the day was how to cook the black drum. We ended up sautéing them and then we covered them with a lemon crème and caper sauce. They were excellent!  Clear skies


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Traveling South to Fulton Texas, with a brief Picnic at Choke Canyon State Park


One of the signs of fall is when the deer invade our yard. They are looking for the tasty bushes we have planted and cultivated and are really unconcerned by our presence. Each year we leave when the weather turns cold and so we winterize our fifth wheel before heading out.

The first day we drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming which is a long drive. The reason we drove so far was to beat the high winds that were forecast for the next day. The forecast was that the winds would exceed eighty mile per hour.

Getting up early we dove to Lamar Colorado and checked into a motel. Its was good we pulled off the road early as the front arrived and a dust stormed slammed into the town. Visibility plummeted to about one hundred yards and semis disappeared. They never slowed down.

The next day we traveled to Lubbock, Texas. Each night we stayed at a motel and we got out our cleaning and sterilizing wipes to carefully disinfect all of the surfaces. Again, we got up early and drove to Boerne, Texas which is just north of San Antonio. We took a rock on the drive and shattered our windshield so for Christmas we are going to get a new one!

As we were only two hundred and fifty miles from our winter spot in Fulton Texas, we actually planned for a picnic at one of our favorite birding spots, Choke Canyon State Park. Entering the park, we spotted a green jay but were not able to get an image.

We drove to the eighty-acre pond got out our binoculars and cameras. Walking out to several birding points we saw the usual birds. A white ibis stood on a log and coots and swamp hens paddled around oblivious to our intrusion. The water was extremely low and areas that were usually flooded were high and dry.

We did not spot any alligators and had to be contented with a great egret, a great blue heron, and some drab ducks in their dull fall plumage, (gadwalls perhaps?). Driving through the campground was not any better but as we got near the parks exit, we saw a male and female scissortail flycatcher.

They were on a power line in about the same exact spot we had seen our first one twelve years ago.

The flycatchers made our day and so we drove the rest of the way to find our fifth wheel parked and waiting. We were home at last!  Clear skies

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Last Trip to the Tetons for 2020, Hiking the Bradley Trail

The smoke here has been really bad but finally the wind shifted and cleared things out. It was time to head to the Tetons for a hike with our neighbors and friends, Fred and Becky, and hopefully a close encounter with a bear.

The aspens had finally turned and so it was a colorful drive to Grand Teton National Park. We took the Moose Wilson road as it has the best potential for bear spotting due to all the hackthorne berry trees.

We entered the park and drove past the potholed gravel stretch of road before things finally smoothed out. We did not get far before we spotted stopped cars and a park bear volunteer waving us past. Luckily, we were able to get parking spots, (Fred and Becky drove their own car due to covid), and we did not have to walk far to get back to the bear.

It was close to the road and there were actually two bears, although you could not see either one. All you could see were bushes shaking and the occasional sound of branches breaking as the bears pulled the trees down to eat the berries, (the hackthorne has long thorns but the bears did not seem to mind).

One of the bears came into view and we watched as he/she fed and fed and fed. The bear specialist said that the bear had gotten in trouble begging for food from tourist and reminded us that a fed bear is a dead bear. The bear had been trapped, tagged in the ears, and radio collared and if he started begging for food would be euthanized.

He did not seem bothered by us as he continued to feed. The park volunteer said the bear would feed for a bit and then cross the road to a pond where he would drink before returning to the berry feast.


We had a good hike ahead of us and so we left heading to the Taggert Bradley Trailhead. Our plan was to hike to Bradley, a new hike for us, and maybe return to Taggert. It would have been a hike of about six miles.

The trail is steeper than the one we hiked in Glacier National Park and started at over six thousand feet in elevation. It was not too bad we started to climb but the trail got steeper and Renita dn I stopped to measure our heart rates.

We let our heart rates tell us when to stop and so Fred and Becky got ahead of us. They stopped for us to catch up and so the hike became a lot longer than we had planned. It took us over two hours until we finally sighted Bradley lake through the trees.

After lunch we took the obligatory pictures before we head back down the trail. Deciding to head directly back we skipped Taggert Lake and arrived back at the cars in a little over an hour. Our friends had to leave, their dog was waiting at home, but we decided to drive to Pilgrim Creek in search of more bears.

We never did spot any more bears, but we did get to enjoy the sight of colorful trees reflecting on the surface of Jackson Lake. It had been a good hike and my ankles had survived without any problems, (going downhill is tricky for me as I sometimes roll my ankle. I did wear my good high top hiking boots and used a hiking staff which also helped.