Friday, April 26, 2013

Big Fish on Grand Isle, 2013

I watched as Eric fought the fish and for a novice fisherman he was really doing well. It took off for another run and I knew it was a bull red, exactly what we had hoped to catch. Now if the old line, reel, and old pole would all hold together, maybe just maybe we would be able to land the fish and take some images.

When the fish finally surfaced he gasped as the fish was a lot bigger then he imagined. He guided the fish away from the pilings and I finally got it to head into the net, far enough that I could fold it in and hoist it up, (Congratut Eric for your biggest fish ever, a 37 inch 23 inch girth bull red)!

After a good release I picked up my pole and now it was my turn. As I started to wind in I realized I had a big fish on and it was fighting more like a big black drum. It kept down and made several runs near the pilings before it finally tired and Eric hoisted up the net, (34 inches long and 25 inch girth, Black Drum).

We fished for a while more and caught quite a few gaff top catfish. We even caught several hard head catfish before it started to rain and begin to get colder. It didn’t matter as we had had a great three hours on the fishing bridge and so we headed back to Connie and Gary’s house.

It’s not all fun here as Gary picked up some oysters and it was time to teach Eric and Jenny how to shuck oysters. While none of us are any threat to anyone whose job is shucking oysters, we did manage to open them all without stabbing ourselves with the oyster knives.

Heading back to the Snyder’s we had a feast of a Grand Isle Shrimp boil, blue crab casserole, and fried oysters. I forgot to take any images and simply ate like there was no tomorrow, (Louisiana is not a good place to diet). Luckily I saved room for a slice of fresh blackberry pie, made from berries I had picked earlier that day.

Thanks Connie and Gary for all the great food! Clear skies

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beauty and the Beast, Flowers and Tar Mats, Grand Isle 2013

Renita knelt down among the bluebonnets and as I took the image the sweet smell almost overwhelmed me. We had met Janet and Lennie yesterday and they had told us that they had chased us, while reading our blog, in Alaska but had never crossed our paths. How amazing to meet them and to see their burst of blue in their Grand Isle front yard.

We had just finished walking the beach and it had been a pleasant walk on a long and vacant strip of sand. There we had seen a family crabbing in the surf, their strings attached to pieces of chicken. The father would wade out and net blue crab that refused to release their grip on the tasty meal. The waves were rather large, so it wasn’t the best day to crab but he was catching them anyway. The waters color had a green hue that I hadn’t seen before and I wondered what it was from.

Offshore, large slab shrimp boats were plying their trade, (and the shrimp boats all are getting ready for the butterfly shrimping soon to happen in the pass, (we hope it starts soon and we can fill our freezers with fresh shrimp). They butterfly when the large shrimp are migrating inshore and the boats lower their nets to catch the tide borne schools.

We stopped to read the crosses, with the names of those lost during the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Three years ago, almost to the day and we were here as the smoky clouds covered our camper at the state park. Gary told me we had passed the deadline to file a health claim and I told him I would probably never live long enough before BP would ever pay a cent,(right now the trial to place the blame has just begin and the judge will now determine who is/was responsible).

A sanderling ran away from us and we saw the carcass of a huge dead jack creville,(not caused by the spill, just a common sight to see large dead fish). Back from the beach Connie and Gary pointed out the tar mats, still visible in the sand. Digging down six inches, we still hadn’t reached the bottom and the tar and sand smelled with the stink of money, (you could pick it up and walk on it without staining so time is exacting a change).

It had still been a pleasant walk on a cool day and our shoes were clean. The least terns are starting to congregate on the beach near the state park, preparing their nests in clean sand and beach shell. Later we walked the Nature Conservancy woods and saw scarlet and summer tanagers.

During the walk, Connie pointed out the telltale blue of a female indigo bunting and Gary spotted a pileated woodpecker. We saw more yellow billed cuckoos and later drove around to see all the shrimp boats. If you are ever here, and notice wooden bells on some of the houses, that means that the house is over one hundred years old.

We talked with several fisherman and lots of redfish and huge black drum are being caught so the plan is for early start tomorrow and then fishing. The tides are really small so it’s not a good sign for catching, but the winds are supposed to lay down so I look forward to the next day’s adventure.

This place is so beautiful, and we love it here, even with the nightmare that happened. It’s much less visible but the scars are still here if you look close enough. I write of them not as a reminder but only as a witness to the changes we have seen taken place. There are still a few places closed, but Elmer’s Island is open and again the fish are being caught. I am reminded of the commercials that the Gulf is back and while I wouldn't agree its back, it is slowly returning, even with the tar mats and tar balls we have seen as far away as Florida. Clear skies.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Birding at Grand Isle, The 2013 Audabon Bird Festival

We were really looking for a pretty common bird, a yellow billed cuckoo. At least its common down here but for us its a new life bird and its getting harder to find new ones as our life list is now at two hundred and eighty six.
So as we started down the Nature Conservancy Trail and we had high hopes. The BTNEP, (Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program), yearly Audabon Grand Isle Bird Festival is going on), and so there were lots of birders everywhere. That helps a lot as they all are very willing to let you know what they have seen.
After passing the Botany tour,(I have a hard enough time indentifing rocks), we started down the raised boardwalk but didn't see anything, starlings don't count. As we entered the woods, Renita saw a flash of red and soon we were pointing out summer and scarlet tanagers. Males and females abounded and so we quickly forgot about the cuckoos and concentrated on what we were seeing.
One yard is open for birders and there the mulberry trees hold a special enticement for the birds. Connie spotted a red grosbeak and Renita spied a Baltimore oriole hiding in the foliage. Renita was also hoping for indigo buntings and painted buntings but it appeared that the fallout had happened last weekend.
Now a fallout happens when the birds fly across the gulf and encounter a strong cold front. Fighting the north winds they are exhausted and stop at the first thing they run into, oil platforms, sailboats and ships, and barrier islands. So last weekend, when the last cold front occurred our friends and family all talked about flocks of indigo buntings.....
We enjoyed the walk, and even saw some birders touring in the back of a pickup truck. They yelled and were drinking pina coladas, okay maybe they were just partiers or really casual birders. Anyway we decided to try another area tomorrow and so we headed back to the state park.
As we entered the park I saw a large brown backed bird with a underside spotted tail and a white breast, yup a yellow billed cuckoo. You can almost see it in my photo,(and we have decided we do need a good camera with a good telephoto).
Back at our campsite, Renita spotted a dead hummingbird below our states visited map, had it fallen dead after crossing the Gulf Coastline? Picking it up I took an image but as soon as I turned my back an ever present laughing gull,(rats with wings), swooped down and flew away with a small meal.
So today we will head out again hopping for a new bird. While I already have a painted bunting, Renita doesn't, and there is also a nesting colony of least terns near the beach. Clear skies

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breakfast At the Cafe Des Amis


I went upstairs to wake Renita, but she was already awake from the alarm clocks ring. Five am is early and I was surprised she was up, but we were leaving at six am and the thought of dancing to Zydeco, after eating breakfast was simply was not to be missed!

It was a forty five minute drive to Café De Amis and we were the first in line. Others soon arrived and finally the band arrived and hauled their sound system and instruments inside. At exactly seven thirty we were allowed to enter after paying the cover charge, (deducted from the meal).

Jim ordered everyone an order of beignets and so we ordered breakfast after the band begin to play. The dance floor filled up and it seemed normal to watch dancers and clap to the music at eight am. I ordered eggs and bodain while Renita had the omelet and both were as exceptional as the music!

After breakfast we both went and danced and the music and gyrations were about as good as an aerobic exercise as one could get at so early in the morning. Returning to Betty’s we rested before getting ready for the days happy hour.

On Saturday were scheduled to show our jewelry and cabochon collection, and it was so much fun to be able to talk with Betty and the others as they admired our collection. Unexpected shows are sometimes the best and we had a great show during happy hour.

So it was business as usual at Betty’s, fun business, that is, and the place lived up to its theme. Let the Good Times Roll! Thank you Betty! Clear skies

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Good Times at Betty’s Rv Park, Abbeville, LA

There is no other RV park like Betty’s. As soon as you arrive you are surrounded by other rvers who come out and meet you and of course invite you to happy hour. There Betty goes through the adventures that that are available and most bring a snack that turns into dinner.

The first day’s adventure was a free concert in the Abbeville Town Square. There we sat with our new friends, and some long time ones, and listened and danced to Zydeco. It was a true reminder of what Louisiana is all about, and a reminder of how blessed we are to be full time travelers.

The next day Jim and Nancy took us to Avery Island and the Tabasco factory, where we watched the sauce being bottled. After the tour, (did I mention the aroma was as you would expect?) we went to the tasting store where we sampled a lot of the different verities, including Habanera. With my mouth on fire they also provided Tabasco flavored spicy ice cream in of course, chocolate and vanilla. It was excellent!

Leaving we drove by two islands of nesting roseate spoonbills and ended the day with a crayfish and shrimp boil. Betty had brought out newspapers and after covering the tables we all dug in. I personally ate three pounds of the mudbugs and Renita tried them also, along with an order of boiled shrimp. It was by far the best crayfish I have ever eaten.

The day came and our new friend Donna Lin brought out her cabochons and wire wrapped jewelry. Her work is exquisite and her stones and necklaces show her outstanding eye for color. She is one of the finest wire wrappers we have had the pleasure to meet.

So the night finally ended and of course tomorrows activities are already planned. First thing is breakfast with a live zydeco band followed by our own little show, as Betty kindly asked us to show off our cabochons, necklaces, and wire wrapped art.

Like I said, there is no other place like Betty’s! Clear skies

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

High Island, Texas Birding

We hurried down the path keeping a wary eye out for alligators, (really)! Suddenly we turned a bend and there we got our first glimpse of the rookery. Before us was an island covered with birds, not just snowy egrets but roseate spoonbills all nesting in their finest breeding plumage. It really looked like a layer cake with the bright pink on the bottom, next a layer of the purest white, and topped with a thin layer of dark cormorants.

Reaching the viewing platform we both were speechless as the noises came alive with snowy egrets and roseate spoonbills all adding their clatter to the din. Male spoonbills were fighting over sticks for nests in a constant battle for home (nest), improvements.

Watching we saw egrets and rosettes turning their eggs as unpaired males displayed their breeding plumage and behavior. A beautiful male snowy egret spread his wedding veil feathers and bobbed in their timeless mating ritual.

Another birder pointed out the chicks in some of the snowy nests and Renita remarked on the large blue snowy eggs. The rosettes had larger white and brown mottled eggs which hadn’t yet hatched. She also pointed out the cattle egrets and cormorants nesting on the next island.

Below the constant bird scrum three alligators swam amidst the green algae, watching and waiting for an egg, or maybe even a chick or unwary bird to fall to their death. We both smiled as we had earlier walked past two alligators to reach the rookery and so we knew how the birds had to be on a constant vigil.

Later we returned to watch the evening flight as the missing parents reunited with their mates. Tricolors, American ibis, and little egrets all arrived and added to the din although they weren’t yet nesting. An American bittern flew in and the sky and islands were all alive with birds.

Returning home, (our fifth wheel), we both talked of the unforgettable sight we had just seen. So if you ever find yourself during April driving along interstate ten, In Texas, be sure to visit High Island. I know that we hope someday to return to this special place. Clear skies


ps special thanks to all the volunteers of the Houston Audubon Society, who keep this place special!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Matagorda 2013

Sometimes I think I have it all figured out, like fishing at Matagorda and big bull reds. After all it was so easy last year. Just chunk out a piece of cut mullet and sooner or later a big red would slurp it up and fish on… So by the tenth cast I still hadn’t had a bite and even the shark weren’t cooperating.

It was maddening still to watch as two persons were catching twenty five plus inch trout and stringing them all up. Why doesn’t a Texas Game warden ever check the fish on the pier? Of course I got checked last year as soon as I put a twenty one inch red on the stringer.

Renita finally showed up, with a bag full of shells, and I was finally able to complain to someone. She just nodded her head and pretended sympathy as she set the hook on a nice sheephead. I quickly joined her in the fun and we caught fish after fish, quickly having enough legal fish for the meal. I still left a big pole out for reds and shark but it was to no avail.

The next morning the wind howled and so fishing was out of the question. Deciding to head to town the engine only clicked and refused to turn over. Renita called Good Sam Emergency Road service and in the time stated a repair man showed up and jumped our truck, He then looked at the gauges and said the alternator was shot so he gave me a quick course in replacing the alternator. I thanked him for the advice and then asked him if he would repair it. Two hours later we were in the parking lot of a Bay City auto parts store and he finished the job, (I also replaced the batteries as they were seven years old).

Returning back to the campground we rested and then took a walk along the beach as Renita wanted to gather a few more sun dials,(a local shell). I took along my pole and cast for flounder but to no avail, finally giving in and helping her gather more stuff for the fifth wheel.

Tomorrow we head out to High Island and hopefully some good birding. We have also been told it’s a good place for Pleistocene mammal fossils, but we are not going to hold our breath for that. It doesn’t really matter much anyway as the real fun is in the hunting. Clear skies


Ps it was the first time we have ever needed Good Sam Emergency Road service and we were pleased with the great service.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Leaving Winter Camp 2013

It’s time to break camp and start our summer travels. So our Happy Hour group had one last hurrah as Bill and Sharon grilled oysters and shared with all of us, (my contribution was showing Bill how to shuck oysters and providing him with a good oyster knife). Riva helped with the grilling and it was a good time had by all!

Dave and I also celebrated by taking several fishing trips into St Charles Bay and the black drum cooperated. Black drum are my favorite fish, but I guess I say that a lot about ocean fish and I do eat them all, (excepting bluefish).

So we have finished our taxes and paid our bills and Thursday it’s off to Matagorda for a few days. From there we will cross by ferry and spend three days birding at High Island before putting on our Cajun hats and cranking up the zydeco cd. We plan on spending a week at Betty’s Rv Park and then spending time at Grand Isle with Connie and Gary.

After that we head north for Wyoming and doctors and stuff, before reaching our summer place at Star Valley, (we do hope the snow has melted by then). The summer promises to be a busy one as we have friends who have planned to stop by and visit us at our rv park, ( with one quick break as we head to the Escapade in Gillette where we are teaching a wire wrapping class and then hosting a star party).

The hitch itch is already more then we can stand but we still have a few more things to do. So it’s time to publish this blog and then oil the slides. See you down the road! Clear skies
ps I forgot to mention the Easter Bunny made a surprise visit early Easter morning!