Friday, December 3, 2021

A Fun Day at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, November 26th

 


Hmm, I just added them up and counting our two phones, we have five cameras…. So now Renita is using the T7Rebel with a 75-300mm lens while I am using the new EOS 90d with the 150-600 mm telephoto, (its too heavy for Renita to carry and hold steady).

Our dual camera system worked well on or recent trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. On the way there Renita took images of birds perched on power lines along the roadside. The light was not great, cloudy and hazy, but she got a great shot of a juvenile redtail hawk. You can identify it because it has a stomach band and dark bands along the patagial, (the front edge of the wings, I had to look it up).


She also got a good image of a cara cara. It is listed as a type of falcon and if not hunting it also can be seen on road kills. Entering the park, she pulled over and we switched positions as I got out the EOS 90D. On this trip we were also traveling with another couple, Fred and Becky, our friends from Wyoming. They have purchased a new camper van, their first, and were on their inaugural camping trip.






Our first top was at the Heron Flats trail. We were looking for the whooping crane pair and easily found them along the Heron Flats Trail. Another birder told us that a long-tailed duck had been spotted, and so we hurried to Jones Lake.


Unfortunately, we did not see that bird, but Becky spotted a huge alligator looking for a duck breakfast. We also saw numerous lesser scaup and buffalo head ducks.

Buffalo head ducks are also in Wyoming and had taken a picture of one there in October at Grand Teton National Park.

Next, we drove to the viewing tower. On the way a pair of black belied whistling ducks guarded their brood and a pied billed grebe watched the family.




The three whoopers there were a mile away, next to the Intracoastal, but we could make them out and their one new addition a brown and white mottled juvenile,

The young are called chicks and then colts as they seem to gallop while running. They can fly at three months and are then called juveniles.


We took a short walk on the boardwalk there and were rewarded, with a kestrel perching on a tall reed. Renita spotted a green heron,

and a reddish egret flew in front of us and landed.





A tricolored heron was fishing and quickly caught its breakfast!

We also got some pictures of a greater yellowlegs, which has a longer bill then the lesser yellowlegs.


The drive along the one way eleven-mile road did not produce much, but after lunch we stopped at the Heron Flats Trail and hit the jackpot!

The cranes had moved nearer and as we walked the trail we first stood in silence as we photographed a congregation of alligators.

They were huge ones and luckily on the other side of the narrow pond.


As we continued on our hike, a reddish egret was fishing and a group of Neotropic cormorants perched on some old posts.


Reaching an opening near the cranes we took quite a few images as they waded a shallow pond. One got some a meal that was a piece of blue crab but we both missed the shot.


A flock of rosette spoonbills flew and landed next to the whoopers and Renita got another great shot!

It was a great hike and returning to the cars, they had driven their new camper, we headed back home.

After we left the refuge Renita spotted a possum, which quickly ducked into the brush. Next, she spotted an armadillo.


Normally slow moving this won ran so fast, must have been camera shy, that I only got a hurried image that was slightly out of focus.

It had been a great day, birding with friends. The next day we learned that a pair of whoopers had showed up in Lamar with twins! We are heading there today!  Clear skies

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Whooping Cranes are back in Lamar!

 


We have been making trips to Lamar hoping the whooping cranes were back. The cranes make a 2000-mile migration from their summer home in Northern Canada to the Coastal Bend of Texas.

Loading our cameras and binoculars we decided to make another quick birding trip to Lamar, hoping that they had arrived. Sure enough, we saw a pair feeding near one of the deer feeders set up by some of the local residents.


They were along ways away, so the pictures are  not great, but at least  got a few,  (We have also read that two pairs and one fledgling/subadult can be seen at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge). After taking the pictures we next drove along the shorefront, where we heard the unmistakable squawk as they flew over the pasture. Of course, I had my battery fail and I had to manually focus so I missed the great shots as they flew overhead.


I did manage to get several shots and they clearly show them but not with the resolution possible with my new camera. Still, I did get a couple of passable images.

After they flew away, I took several images of cattle egrets and back on the computer I realized I had gotten a lucky shot of a cattle egret having a face off with one of the calves.


Next, we drove to Big Tree and the birds were strangely absent. Butterflies fluttered around and one landed just the perfect distance away in bright sunlight. As it unfolded its wings, I got a shot that made me really happy of the resolution with the new camera. In the image you can see the ends of the antennas and the fuzzy hairs on its thorax and abdomen.




A little further I took an image of a small blue flower. It was another happy accident and when we got back and when I looked on the computer, I could see that I had caught a small bee. I could actually see the veins in its wings What great resolution.


The Big Tree had large bracket like mushrooms growing on it. They are signs that the tree is rotting and the mushroom, (Ganoderma applanatum), feeds on the rotting heartwood. The mushrooms are not edible as they are woody, and they were once used to make tinctures and tea for treating heart conditions.


As we headed down eight street, we did spot three sandhill cranes. We did not know if they were a family group or if they had simply flown south together> One looked smaller than the others and so we tend to believe it is a family group.


It had been a good morning in Lamar! If you go, there you must keep in mind that most of the area is private land! The landowners have put up nice signage to remind people about trespassing. Stay on the right of way!

Clear skies

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Fishing, Birding, and A Rock Show: What could be better?

 


It has been a busy last two weeks, so busy that I have not taken the time to update the blog. The fish are biting, and we have eaten fresh fish. Added to that we made a trip to Lamar, looking for the whoopers, and even though they have not arrived there I got some good images of other birds. I also bought a new camera, a Canon 90D, dslr and so far we are happy with our results. Finally, we also traveled to Houston to the Houston Gem and Mineral Show where we got great new rocks!

Dave and I went to a spot along our shoreline, and we caught fish. Actually quite a few, as I caught four redfish in five casts. None were keeper size, but it was a fun. As I watched my bobber, I saw a huge sheep head swim past me, but I could not get it to bite.


We decided to go to our rv parks fishing pier and there we caught three keeper sheep head. Here a keeper must be over fifteen inches, and these were larger! Dave and I shared the fish and we both ended up with enough for a meal of beer battered fish! It was so nice eat fresh fish.

I have been saving up for a new camera, ours is pretty old, and finally I had enough to buy a new Canon 90D. While our old camera took great images, the far away ones lacked the resolution I wanted. The pictures here were all taken at a distance and the birds are,


an eastern bluebird,

three sandhill cranes, and a scissors tail fly catcher.

If you read our blog, be prepared to see lots of bird pictures. Our friends Barb and Dan also bought the same camera, and we look forward to seeing them to compare notes and images. All of our lens fit so we now have two cameras, one for Renita and one for me. We will still use the old waterproof camera when we are kayaking.


This last weekend we traveled to Houston where we stayed with Angie and Pete. He is a retired geologist and loves rocks as much as we do. The dealers were the same ones we had seen two years ago, and we found most of the rocks we were after. Now we need to limp by for the rest of the month as we spent more than we had planned. The time to buy something is when you see it and not regret ever making the purchase.

It has been a busy two weeks. A front is moving through this week and there will not be any fishing for a while. We have two meals of the fish in the freezer, as Dave and I went out and caught two black drum, one keeper red, and three sheep head.

Clear skies

 

 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Kayaking St Charles Bay, Fall 2021

 


We finally got a day with low winds and so we hooked up the kayak trailer and headed to the bay. After buying some live shrimp we crossed Copano Bay and found a spot to park near Big Tree, (it is the oldest live oak tree in the state of Texas).


It took us a little while to get the kayaks ready to launch but it was our first time out and we were making sure we did not forget anything. Our first stop was at a place where Renita had caught two keeper black drums. Anchoring we baited up and cast out. It took a while before I had a bite and setting the hook, I reeled in a hardhead catfish.


Of all the fish to catch, the hardhead is an oily fish, and no one keeps them. Releasing it I soon caught another and then another. Renita also caught one and so we decided to try another spot further up the bay.

After another short paddle we fished a spot where we had caught quite a few redfish, but this time the only bites were more hardheads. Our third paddle brought us to a spot further north, but this place was no difference, more hardheads.


Talking it over we had a few more spots to try. One was a new spot where game and fish had been trying to establish new oyster beds. Anchoring we both cast out and this time I caught a small black drum. Hopeful again, the next cast resulted in another hardhead. What gives? Shaking our heads, we headed to our last spot where we decided to eat lunch.


As we entered the back channel, we spooked up a night crowned heron. An osprey called from the top of a light pole before flying away and a little further a great blue heron watched us before it too took off with a loud squawk of disgust.


Reaching our lunch spot, we anchored and then started to eat lunch. This usually results in fish disturbing our meal and this time it was no different. You guessed it; it was more hardheads. At least we were catching fish and so we continued eating and releasing more catfish.





Deciding to head back to our first spot we were greeted with whitecaps. The wind had picked up and as our yaks have low sides, we started to take water into the boats. We usually fish in shallow water but we still decided the wisest choice was to head back to shore and call it a day.

It had been our first day out and it had been a good day of watching birds, paddling, and even catching fish. To top it off we had not come across any alligators, (they usually leave us alone and rarely chase after us looking for handouts or fish on a stringer). Next time we hope to try a spot we have never kayaked before. Until then,

 Clear skies!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

A Visit with Friends

 


It had been thirty years since we had last seen our friends Mary and Dennis. Life had happened and while we were living in Wyoming, they had moved to Minnesota. We were both a little nervous, but we need not have worried. Our friendship quickly rekindled as we walked and talked. It was just as if we had seen them yesterday.


They had flown into Houston, driven to San Antonio to see the sights and then drove to Corpus Christi. We had agreed to meet them and tour the Texas Aquarium. The aquarium was pricey, for us, but it turned out to be worth the price of admission.

Upon entering we first walked through the Gulf Coast exhibits, which of course included fish, reptiles, and invertebrates of the Gulf Coast. One held sea turtles. One display was of a megalodon jaw, and the girls posed inside it, (I call them girls as they were acting like best friends would, they had been friends since elementary school).


The next day we met them in Port Aransas. We met them at our favorite restaurant, Virginia’s, and had lunch. We all had our favorite, the garlic fish, and as usual, it was the best fish we had eaten all week!

Of course, we had to take them to the Turnbull Birding center where we showed them the huge alligator. The wind was blowing in the wrong direction and the smell was bad, but we did see quite a few nice birds.

No whooper’s have yet arrived, but we did take an image of a duck that confused us. It turned out it was a molting Green Winged teal, (thank you Facebooks Bird Id group).


From there we drove to Charley’s Pasture, another birding spot but nothing was happening, so we then drove to the South Jetty. Taking out lawn chairs we set them up and watched for Dolphins. Corpus Christi is the second busiest port in the USA, and it was not long before an oil tanker approached.

Dolphins were riding he bow wave and we were able to watch them, and they played, body surfed and leaped into the air.


Four large tankers passed by, and we got many shots of the marine mammals.

Several green sea turtles paddled nearby, and a ruddy turnstone begged for a handout, (we do not feed wild animals). It was a good day, and the ladies took a walk on the beach.

The third day Dennis and Mary moved to a hotel in Rockport and after we met, we took them over to Lamar and Goose Island State Park,


Dennis wanted to fish and no license is required in Texas State Parks. It did not take long before he was out fishing me catching two speckled trout, three white trout, and even a mass of oysters! He even had a big fish on that took the drag, but it pulled the hook during its run.

Dennis had wanted to learn how to wire wrap and so we spent a couple of hours at our fifth wheel as I taught him how to make a nice copper pendant. He was a fast learner, and he made a fine piece. I told him how much I would price it for, and then gave him enough square and half round copper wire to wrap more pieces.

We went out to dinner before we all went to our home and the hotel. It had been a busy three days and we agreed that we needed to see each other again. We said it had to be sooner as we did not think we could make it another thirty years. 

As they left, we told them to travel safely and that we would see them down the road.

Clear skies, and love to all our friends and family.