Monday, March 30, 2015

The Whoppers are leaving, Back to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

On close inspection the above image, Renitas, represents fifty whooping cranes in a flock and heading north.

Our winter visit here in Texas is drawing to a close and hitch itch has started to drive us crazy. Still we have a few more days which gives us time to get the rig ready. time to wish our friends safe travels, and time for a little more birding.
So Pam and Roy joined us for a trip back to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and, somewhat surprised, we found that only two of the three hundred and eight whooping cranes have left! Making our usual stops we also found out that Jones Lake has water in it! The heavy rains have flooded quite a bit of the grass area and there were even a few ducks taking advantage of the area.
At the Towers we found two of the four whoopers were still putting on a display. Unfortunately a couple of birders tried to get closer and caused them to move to a more secluded site. It never fails to amaze me at how often the birding community seems to think nothing of disturbing the magnificent birds. Enjoy but do not disturb!
Stopping for lunch we walked down several trails but also discovered that the mosquito's are really healthy and really hungry. Guess that's just how it is in a salt marsh. Walking down Heron Flats trail the alligators have moved back into the flooded areas. The trail itself is still closed, part way down, as the refuge workers have yet to replace the boardwalk across a now flooded low spot.
One of the refuge volunteers had spotted a purple gallinue but when we attempted to hike to the spot the mosquito's quickly drove us back to the truck.
Its always a nice day there, but as we returned back to the RV park we found ourselves thinking of all the things we need to do. Wednesday is approaching and then its off to Louisiana for a month of family, friends, and oh the food! Clear skies

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fishing the North Jetty, March 2015

Roy and I hadn’t yet fished the North Jetty this winter, and so we headed out on a foggy day to remedy the situation. First time Jetty fisherman, Bill and Ed, joined us and we all hoped to catch some fish for the table.
Our target for the day was the snowbirds favorite, sheephead, along with maybe a keeper red or two and perhaps a black drum to fill out the stringer. Driving from Fulton, we encountered some serious fog and we barely made the seven am Jetty Boat.
Carefully stepping from the boat to the North Jetty dock, it didn’t take Roy and Ed long to catch a couple of keeper sheephead. Bill and I also caught several fish but they were all undersized and safely released back into the channel.
Spreading out we kept searching for larger fish and I even worked my way out to the Tombstone Rock, but the fish remained small. Roy meanwhile had switched sides of the Jetty, hoping to pick up a red in the gulf.
I joined him but it was all to no avail as the fish simply weren’t there. At nine am another jetty boat arrived with more fisherman who took their place and also begin to catch small fish. It is always fun to catch any size fish but the visions of fresh fish for dinner faded as the sheephead remained small.

Later we learned that the fish caught at the Fina dock, one of the heaviest fished spots in the Aransas Channel had also only produced small fish. Still we all like cornbread so as returned back to the RV Park we talked of days past fishing the North Jetty. Maybe next year will bring larger fish, after all a fisherman is always an optimist! Clear skies.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Break Senior Style, at Padre Island National Seashore

The weather has finally warmed and we finally had a break from the much needed rains. The Happy hour group here at our rv park decided to return to the National Seashore for a picnic and another attempt at fishing. Not sure if we could go, we got the call from the repair shop that our truck was fixed and we could join the group, (we had a bearings wear out in the drive train).
Soon after we arrived a whiting was caught and then another, (whiting are kind of like fresh water perch). Soon Renita and I were busy with our new poles and we both added more fish to our ice chest. Our new poles are fourteen feet long and telescope to less then a yard!
Our friend John bought two just like ours and before too long he had also started a stringer. The water had warmed since last month and everyone was catching fish! While we fished others took off for the mandatory shell hunt along the beach and of course Joyce found a beautiful shell.
Lunch time arrived, the grill was lit, and the hot dogs and bratwurst were soon done. The non-fisher persons set up a picnic buffet and Renita and I took turns watching the poles and eating our fill. The bite remained steady as the waves increased in size.
Just before the tide went slack, Bill had a hit and set the hook on a large fish. Soon everyone stopped whatever they were doing and gathered round him as we all gave him lots of encouragement and advise, (which he didn't need).
The fight wore on and still we couldn't see what it was. As it neared shore it seemed to lay down on the bottom, just as a stingray would do, and sure enough that's what it was a huge stingray! Trying to net it it quickly became apparent that my net was way to small for the huge fish.
As Bill worked the fish ashore I guided it with the net and it basically beached itself. After numerous images were snapped, we immobilized  the large stinger and safely removed the hooks. Turning the fish around, they are related to sharks, it gathered strength before it swam back into the Gulf waters.
We estimated the stingray as weighing at least fifty pounds and it was the largest fish that Bill had ever caught! It capped the day off and as it was time to go we wound in our poles for the trip back home. A perfect day of sunshine, sand, a beach barbecue, and fishing with friends! Clear skies.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Whoopers are Getting Antsy: March in Lamar

The juvenile waded and grabbed a frog. First it pinned it in its beak and then it shook the frog, stunning it before swallowing it whole. It was the first time we have seen a feeding whooper so close and we could actually see the frogs being eaten as it waded the flooded field and ate two more.
Meanwhile two juvenile males were chasing each other, displaying their strong wings to a female, ready to pick a lifelong mate. There have been nine juveniles that have frequented the area here and some are definetly ready to settle down in adulthood.
A few sandhills still remain but most have headed north as if they know that the snows are finally melting, As we watched two more whoopers, a mated pair perhaps, flew by from the other feeder, followed a little later by four more sandhill cranes.
The flooded field in front of us, we got three inches of rain yesterday, was full of blue winged teal and mottled ducks. A flock of American white ibis fed on a shallow island, too engrossed to be bothered by the stopping cars of birders. They were joined by four black bellied whistling ducks and yes they do make a loud whistle call to one another as they fly
A little later we drove over to Big Tree and spotted a herd of the small Texas deer grazing in a nearby field. Later a doe alongside the road surprised us as we left Goose Island State Park allowing Renita a great shot. The smaller deer here have a higher surface area/ mass ratio allowing them to dissipate the heat and as you go north the larger mammals all increase in size, (the bigger you are the harder time you have losing excess heat).

It had been an excellent afternoon bird watching and we look forward to the upcoming rookeries. If we are in the right place at the right time we may even see a fallout as the songbirds return form South and Central America. This is such a great birding time! Clear skies

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Gulf Coast Rock Show 2015, A whole Lot of Wrapping Going On

I had an order to wrap three cabochons of turquoise and I was too busy to make them on Saturday, so I decided to wait till Sunday morning. It started out quiet, as I expected and a couple of hours later I delivered them to our friend Dana.
A few sips of coffee later another person asked me if I could wrap some more turquoise and a blue falcon eye piece and again I sat down at the back table. The turquoise cabochons were delicate and I took extra care as the thin edge, called a girdle, can flake off at any time. It doesn’t happen often but it still happens, luckily it didn’t happen this time. Two hours later I handed all three pieces to Renita.
I had just started to relax when a lady sat down and asked me if I could wrap a treasured keepsake. She described how much the thin wood scrimshaw piece meant to her and so with the added pressure I soon retreated into the wrapping world again.

A person spoke to me and said he was amazed at my concentration, apparently I hadn’t heard him ask me the first time. I thought a bit and said that to me my art/craft was somewhat zen-like, and that it required my complete concentration or mistakes would happen.
I had just finished the piece placing it in a presentation box, when the lady reappeared, and almost cried when she saw the finished pendant. I told her that her treasured heirloom was now protected by a ring of gold wire! She said she was so pleased that she could kiss us but I told her that we were Escapees and that we preferred hugs.
Thankfully no more people wanted pieces wrapped and I took a walk around the show. Seven pieces in a day was my record as I usually quit after two. Of course I stopped at the wrong place and ended up returning to our booth with five slabs of green British Columbia jade. It was funny really as the jade I bought here was better quality then the jade sold to me at Jade City, British Columbia.
Meanwhile Renita had been busy at our booth, (along with Pam and Roy who helped out and gave us much needed breaks thank you both), and we were both tired as the show ended. It had been our best two day show ever and now we will take a break till June and Alpine Days, in Alpine, Wyoming.

Clear skies, (and good rock)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Day Birding on Mustang Island, March 2015

I looked down to see something stirring and roiling the green algae ridden water. Expecting to see a turtle I was surprised to see the unmistakable webbed feet and tail trying to desperately keep the ducks head under water as it fed . Suddenly it popped up and the sight of the bright blue bill was just as much of a surprise to me, It was a male ruddy duck!
The weather was taking a break from the cold fronts and so we had decided to cross the ferry to enjoy a day of birding at Mustang Island. Two of our favorite birding places there are the Birding Center at the water treatment plant and Paradise Pond.
Turning the first corner of the boardwalk at the water treatment plant greeted us with the sight of a resting flock of rosette spoonbills. It’s the start of the breeding season here and the birds are all decked out in their bright pink plumage.
Behind them two large alligators sunned themselves and probably dreamed of nice fat nutrias, (they were everywhere) or perhaps a duck or grebe dinner. Blue winged and green wing teals were busy feeding as were numerous northern shovelers.
A tricolored heron<( I prefer the name Louisiana heron), flew in and began wading the muddy water.
Nearby a greedy american coot gave me a glimpse of water on a ducks back, and we actually got an image of the water with our new camera!
Renita caught sight of a small little grey bird, and taking an image with our 75-300 telephoto lens let us identify the bird as a female yellow-rumped warbler. A little further a least grebe paraded by us. It’s the smallest of the grebes and southern Texas is one of the best places to add one to your birding list.
Spotting a Sora rail we were unable to take an image before it quickly ducked into the thick marsh grass and disappeared from sight. Black bellied whistling ducks also swam near the alligators and we were able to add them to our day’s bird list along with several cinnamon teal.
Leaving the water treatment plant we made the short drive to Paradise Pond. For some reason the bush has been severely cut back and while it’s opened up the small area we were disappointed at the small numbers of birds.
Normally the small pond provides a resting spot for large numbers of night crowned herons but today only three were present. Still Renita took a great image of a night crowned heron perching on an overhead branch.
Pam pointed out a ladder backed woodpecker and it actually seemed to pose for a picture.  It’s so unusual for any woodpecker to stand still in its endless search for grubs. A snowy egret waded in the back of the pond dodging between the trees to make focusing it a challenge.

Too soon it was time to head back home. It had been a great day of birding on Mustang Island and it had whetted our appetite for more spring time excursions on the Gulf Coast. What a great day made especially fine as we were able to share it with Pam and Roy! Clear skies