Saturday, December 9, 2023

Flamingoes, Fishing the Jetty, and more Birding at Port Aransas

Our friends Dan and Barb arrived and wanted to see the flamingoes. While they had seen them in zoos, they had never seen them in the wild and so they could add them to their birding life list. They started it after they retired and have taken a picture of each bird and added it to the list. They have spotted over two hundred and seventy birds and that’s a lot of pictures!
We drove to Charles Pasture, North, and the flamingoes were still there, (and they still are today). What was great was that they were the closest we have ever seen them and have some pretty good images! After the flamingoes we next went to the Leorna Turnbill birding Center looking for the clapper rail but no luck.
Still, we got some great pics and especially a Wilson’s snipe, a willet eating a blue crab and a white ibis also eating a crab meal. A white ibis also joined the crab feast.
I really got a kick out how the willet stunned the crab and then swallowed it tail first so the claw would be closed.
Later we made another trip Port Aransas but this time we added fishing to the day’s agenda. We had hoped that the sheepshead had moved in, but nothing was happening. The fishing was mediocre as the fish were tiny. Dave caught five small grunts and I caught four small catfish.
While we fished, Betty, Renita, and Jane watched the huge tankers entering the shipping channel. Some were accompanied by bottlenose dolphins, which were of course bow riding. After fishing we went to eat at a Mexican restaurant and after lunch, we decided to go birding. Without our good cameras the pictures were not the best. Hoping for a clapper rail we were again thwarted, spotting both the sora and Virgina but not the rail we wanted. Still the huge alligator was sunning, and the water was covered with ducks as hunting season has started and the ducks like the refuge.
pictured is a redish egret. It extends its wings while wading after fish in what is described a as drunken walk. Today several fronts are moving towards us and perhaps they will bring the sheepshead into the jetty and back bays. They come into the rocks and bays for spawning. Hope they come in soon as we are running out of fish in the freezer! It was the worst fishing ever and the jetty had very few people on it. Clear skies

Saturday, November 25, 2023

November 2023 fishing Report

The weather here is the limiting factor on our fishing. When we first got here it was so hot and humid that we stayed inside. In Wyoming we rarely use our air conditioner, and when we had a house, we didn’t have air conditioning for thirty years. Here it’s a must. We did manage to have some breaks in the weather and have gotten out three times. The first time was at Goose Island State Park, where we caught small, speckled trout, an alligator gar, and small sand trout. Its always fun to catch fish but we had hoped for some to eat. A week later the wind was down, and Renita and I took our kayaks out to our favorite spot. Arriving we were dismayed to see a boat sitting on it. We fished in other places with no luck. Finally the boat left the spot and we paddled frantically to the shell ridge.
On the first cast I caught an eighteen-inch sheepshead! It’s one of our favorite eating fish along with black drum, pompano, flounder, and speckled trout. Lots of people here love redfish, and while we do keep ones for grilling on the half shell, its down our list of fish to eat, (leaving the skin on and grilling the fillet). The flesh is somewhat coarse compared to our other favorites. It was Renita’s turn next, and she caught several speckled trout, a nice sting ray, and even wound in a blue crab! I got lucky and added a keeper speckled trout. Just before we left. Renita landed a large sting ray and the biggest speckled trout of the day, over sixteen inches! This all happened in less than two hours before the wind came up and we had to leave. It was starting to whitecap. Our kayaks are small and while we could handle the waves it’s too hard to paddle and so we headed back to our car..
On our third trip we returned to the state park. This time the speckled trout were hitting and we both caught several but Renita took the cake. I had to go back to the car and when I returned, she was fighting a nice fish on my pole! We were both surprised when she landed a nice pompano. Usually, we only catch them while surf fishing and this was the first and largest pompano we have caught! I later filleted the fish, and the two fillets were more than we could eat at one setting. So the fishing has been good, when we get out, and we have had three meals from our catches. There is nothing better than fresh fish. However, another cold front, with strong winds, has passed through and it looks like we won’t get out till next Wednesday.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Houston Gem and Mineral Show, Humble, Texas

Each year we attend rock and fossil shows. One of the purposes is to purchase rough rock, slabs, and even finished cabs to turn into jewelry, (over 90% of our cabs are ones we grind ourselves). One of our favorite shows is th Houton Gem and Mineral Society’s show held in Humble, Texas. It’s about two hundred plus miles from us. We were delighted when Angie and Pete,(cousins), invited us to stay at their home, (Pete is a retired Petroleum Geologist and has a lifelong passion for rocks)
. Arriving at their house we ate a quick lunch, visited a bit and then headed to the show! We try to attend all three days for any special rocks or sales taking place and this year it was a great plan. Arriving at the show Renita and I hurried to one of our favorite dealers.
He had a sign up, “Going out of business, 60 percent off”. He didn’t have much left,
but he did have a Mexican opal and a 300-gram piece of polished Larimar, (that’s about two thirds of a pound). One of the mail reasons we went to the show was to purchase Larimar cabs. Stopping at another of our favorite dealers we saw she had a case of larimar cabs. Deciding to wait till Saturday, we quickly walked around and then headed back to Pete and Angie’s house. The next morning, we had breakfast before heading to the show and didn’t get there till about ten thirty.
Our first stop was at the business with the case of larimar cabs and we saw she had sold some. Now Larimar is only found in one place, the Dominican Republic, and the one mine in the world has been closed. The price is going up and so we bought eight nice cabochons. We next went to another dealer and bought two more larimar cabs, spending more than we wanted, (larimar is tough to grind and we spent a lot for a piece of rough that shattered). From there we split up and looked for whatever caught our eye. A new dealer specialized in wooly mammoth teeth, wooly rhinoceros’ teeth, and other fossils.
They were the best we have ever seen and so I had to buy the best wooly rhinoceros’ tooth in his shop. They were all from Siberia. I also wanted to buy one of his wooly mammoth teeth, but I had already blown through our budget.
Lunch time came and passed so we left the show and ate at our favorite café, The Humble Café. The serving size was more than we could eat and we ended up taking home almost half of what they had served us, (I managed to eat all of the four fillets of my catfish). The third day of the show and we returned to find out that several dealers had sold all out and were and packing up. We ran into members of our Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society.
Still Renita did find several pieces for her own collection,
and I bought several of the Moroccan fossil sand dollars.
Joining forces, we walked around and bought a slab of Mexican Crazy lace agate.
It’s one of our favorite materials and we should be able to make three or four cabs from the large slice. The next day we said our goodbyes, and headed south ot our place in Rockport, Texas. It was a great show, and we will soon start wire wrapping the pieces for next year’s shows. Our first Texas show is in February and then the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society show. It’s always the first weekend in March! Clear skies

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Leorna Turnbill Birding Center October 28th, 2023

From Charley’s pasture we next drove to the Leorna Turnbill Birding Center. As usual the parking lot was almost full and after parking, we headed to the first viewing Tower. We noticed a birder with a huge lens that was attempting to take pictures of a Northern Parula and Common Yellowthroats. We stopped and got some great pictures ourselves.
Another bird that posed was a Lesser Yellowlegs and as we walked out, we watched a great egret hunting for its meal.
Another birder stopped to talk and told us that he had seen Sora, Virgina and Clapper rails.
That got my attention as we have yet to add a clapper rail to our life list.
Would we have two new birds in one day? We never did see the clapper rail. Reaching the first fork in the elevated boardwalk we turned towards the second Tower, Underneath the Tower, a night crowned heron perched,
and the huge resident alligator was lying in the tower’s shade. It started to come out from under the tower, and Renita took quite a few pictures.
American White Pelicans, shovelers and mottled ducks were crowded together, along with blue-winged teals and White ibis.
Still looking for a clapper rail, I left the tower and walked further along the boardwalk but didn’t spot one. We had had a pleasant morning and so we left for our winter spot. It’s always fun to have such a good birding partner, to share our discoveries, and to learn from the knowledgeable birders that live in Port Aransas. Clear skies

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Flamingos At Charles Pasture, Port Aransas, Texas

We were watching the local Corpus Christi News, when the story switched to Flamingos along the Coastal Bend. Having already heard of ones being spotted on the Bolivar Pennisula we both sat up when the announcer mentioned Port Aransas! He further said that three of the birds were currently at Charles Pasture! Renita and I turned to each other and said, “We are going to Charles Pasture!”. The next morning, we got up early, loaded up the binoculars, cameras, and Renita packed a lunch. Taking the scenic route, along the coast, we drove past feeding rosette spoonbills, kingfishers perched on a wire, and lots of feeding cormorants. We ignored them all, we were birders on a flamingo mission!
Having seen flamingos in zoos, we have never seen wild ones, and they must be wild to count on our lifetime bird list. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity! The birds had been scattered north from their normal migration, from Cuba to Yucatan Pennisula, when they were caught up in Hurricane Idalia’s fierce winds. There were flung as far north as Wisconsin and all along the east coast. Luckily the traffic was light, and we were able to drive on the ferry. Crossing the Shipping Channel, we turned right at the ferry light and drove to Charles Pasture. However, there was just one car and only one birder. Walking quickly to intercept her I asked if she had seen the Flamingos. She said she had seen them the day before and that they were located at the south end of Charles Pasture. She kindly called up Google Maps on her phone, showing us where to find them. Thanking her, we drove through the Port, missed the South Charley’s Pasture sign and had to make a u turn. There was one spot left in the parking lot and in the distance, we could see a group of people at the far observation tower.
We donned our cameras and binoculars and hiked the well-made trail. At places the boardwalk was raised above the tidal waters, and it was a about one mile hike before we climbed the tower stairs. Reaching the top of the shaking tower, other birder’s pointed their location out to Renita who then helped me to spot the distant bright pink birds, (I had been looking further out. As we watched white egrets and rosette spoonbills landed in the same bay and it made a good comparison of the difference between the two pink birds.
It was a family group of two adults and one juvenile, who was a lighter pink. The birds were about three hundred yards away. Not a good distance but we could make out their distinctive features. As we watched them were feeding, they would occasionally lift their heads. Their beaks were unmistakable and their colors so much brighter than the rosette spoonbills. After an hour of watching them, we returned to our car and decided to stop At the Leorna Turnbill Birder Center. Buts those pictures deserve their own blog entry. A strong cold front is approaching, and we do not know if the flamingos will escape southward. It had been a great day with a new bird for our life list! Clear skies

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Yankton, South Dakota

We arrived at our Nancy and Bob's new home in Yankton, South Dakota. They have a beautiful and large apartment in a fifty-five plus complex. After the welcome hugs they showed us where to park in the underground garage and they helped us with our bags. Their apartment has an elevator, which is just what we needed. The evening was spent in reminiscing about old times, and it was an early night as we were tired from the two days of driving. The next morning, we rested a bit before going on a walk in the park along the Missouri River. We also crossed an old railroad bridge that had an elevated/suspension roadway that had been turned into a pedestrian and bike path. It felt good to be able to walk again and to stretch out our legs after the prolonged trip. That night Nancy and Bob taught us how to play dominoes, a simple game called chicken foot. The game took quite a while and Nancy could do no wrong. She won five different hands and she easily beat all of us!
The next day they drove us to the Gavin Point Dam. The dam headquarters had exhibits about Lewis and Clark and from the overlook we could see boats lined up, fishing for paddlefish. The paddlefish do not bite and so the people were tossing rigs with treble hooks and sinkers. As soon as the rig hit the water each person would rip their rod upward hoping to snag one of the giant fish, (we never saw anyone hook up with one of the monsters).
The exhibits had a mounted golded eagle, an American indian pipe with pipestone from Minnesota, and a bull boat. The bull boat was made from a buffalo hide, (we highly reccomend the new Ken Burns documentary on American Buffalo). The road crossed the dam to a nice park and campground where we walked along the shoreline enjoying the nice day. One of the boats caught a fish, it kind of loo
ked like a perch, which is great to eat! Finding a nice picnic table, we enjoyed the lunch Nancy and Bob had packed. That evening we tried another game of Chicken Foot but again Nancy won. We decided that we should rename the game and call it Nancy’s Foot. She said that she had just been lucky, but it seemed to us that we would need another rematch the next evening before we renamed the game. The next day we had planned on leaving but high winds and rain made us rethink our decision to leave and so we stayed another day and night. As we hadn’t eaten out yet, we went out to eat at one of our favorite fast food places. Culvers. The food was good, but the hot fudge sundae was great, (I have gained back some weight and so ice cream is now pretty much out of my diet).
After lunch we went to the Mead Sanitarium. The first exhibits were dedicated to the nurses who trained and worked with the patients. One exbibit contained a straitjacket, (it made me remember when one of my fellow teachers had a break down and was subdued and hauled away), and another had an exhibit of techniques for lobotomies(barbaric).
There were other exhibits including several rooms describing the Lewis and Clark Expedition. That evening, Bob grilled steaks on his new Ninja Grill! After the delicious supper out came the dominoes. Perhaps Nancy eased off, but I won and Renita came in second. Talk about kind hosts! It had been a great stop, it always is with friends. They may visit us in Rockport or even come out to Wyoming for some fly fishing and bear watching. Clear skies

Saturday, October 21, 2023

From Star Valley to Yankton South Dakota

We finished the winterization of our fifth wheel and headed south, (kind of). The plan was to cross Togwotee Pass, heading first for a short visit with our friends Nancy and Bob. However, as we neared Moran Junction Renita saw on Google Maps, that there was a traffic jam along the Pilgram Creek Road. Probably a bear jam! Changing course we drove to Pilgram Creek to see rows of cars with many photographers having tripods out all set up.
They had seen a morning grizzly and were waiting for it to make another appearance. Finding a place to park, we saw there were bear management people present and that orange cones blocked the Pilgrim Creek Road. We waited for a couple of hours but the only thing we saw were more cars. Stalling for more time we ate our lunch, but we never saw any bears> we finally gave up and so we headed for the pass. Our goal for the first day was to reach Douglas but with our delay we only made it to Casper.
The next day we planned on driving over five hundred miles to reach our friend’s new residence in Yankton, South Dakota. Following Google Maps, we crossed into Nebraska and drove parallel to the South Dakota border. The road was named the Outlaw Trail, and it was a narrow and rough old road, in need of maintenance. It was the first time we have driven through the Sand Hills of Nebraska. Below the high weathered cliffs sand dunes were everywhere. The dunes are partially covered in vegetation which has anchored them in place. A small change in climate would cause the vegetation to disappear and the dunes would move again, which would be a disaster for the ranches in the dune fields.
You could see blowouts on some of the dune faces, white areas where the vegetation was striped and the underling sand was exposed. The land seems to be hovering on the edge of a knife. With climate change will the desert soon reappear?
Crossing into South Dakota we arrived at our friend’s new home. They had sold their house in Kansas, due to the high taxes on their house and because Kansas taxes pensions and Social Security. South Dakota does not have any income tax, (like Wyoming). Being welcomed with open arms we were glad to visit their new place and to rest for a few days before we headed south to our place in Texas! Clear skies ps The sand dunes are on the flat plains below the cliffs. IT is difficult to see them as they are very gradual slopes covered with the short grass prairie. In places you can see the sand peeking through and even places where lagre spots are bare of any vegetation.