Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Walk in the Woods, Grand Isle

We hadn’t yet taken a walk in the woods. The Nature Conservancy wisely purchased an area of Grand Isle.
Saving it from development it remains as a place for the birds and flowers and it always draws the birds tired from their migration across the gulf.
With the incessant rains and flooding here we didn’t know what to expect but the rain had stopped and so we walked through the forest pausing to enjoy the flowers and birds. I wish I knew the flowers here better, (C could you and other readers help me?).
White oleander, and white and red honeysuckles are just three of the flowers we enjoyed but there were also reds,(turks cap), and purples,(wood sorrell), and yellows all attracting the bees and the birds.
It was really a quiet time for the birds and so we strolled but only saw a few little grey birds, including the ever present catbird.
At the end of the the path a local birder had put out some bird seed and there we enjoyed the beauty of an indigo bunting.
It perched and showed its front before turning to display its back before it flew off and disappeared into the forest.
A few steps more and there a red breasted grosbeak fed on mulberries. It flitted from spot to spot and I couldn’t get a good clear shot until it flew away and posed on a small young tree. We never did spot any scarlet tanagers but that’s okay you take what you can get.
A house had set out four hummingbird feeds and as many as eight hummers were fighting and feeding for the man made nectar. The most I could get in one shot were three, all posed in a face off as if to decide which one was the dominant bird
Driving to another spot we parked and then strolled along a dirt road. It was another forested area protected by the Nature Conservancy. A white ibis perched in a tree and a roseate spoonbill flew overhead, as if to cap the day’s activities.
It was a fitting end to our stay hereand we were to leave the next day, but a strong and violent storm arrived and forced us to stay until it was safe to leave, (the winds blew a train off the Huey Long Bridge which is not very far away).
We are now in Livingston, Texas at the Escapee Park where we will celebrate Renita’s birthday, catch up on the laundry, and get our mail before running through tornado alley and on to Rapid City.
Clear skies

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Frontlining Shrimp, Grand Isle, Louisiana

Our time here is drawing short and on Monday we head north by northwest, driving first to Rapid City and then on to Star Valley, Wyoming. However there are still things to do here and it mostly revolves around shrimp.
Hearing that the shrimp boats were front lining we headed to the Grand Isle bridge to watch them fighting for the best spot. During the outgoing tide the shrimp boats fill the pass, all trying to achieve the frontline of boats. (boats in back catch few shrimp).
If they are successful they then partly lower their nets, (if in shallow water they call this butterflying as they resemble a butter fly with outstretched wings). Then with their motors always running they crowd the legal and imaginary line as the shrimp swim with the outgoing tide, right into the boats open nets.
The net result of course, pardon the pun, is shrimp to sell at the shrimp factory. There customers wait in line, meaning us, and we filled our cooler with thirty pounds of sixteen-twenties, (this means that there are 16-20 shrimp per pound costing $5.50 per pound). The next step is to hurry home and then break heads before placing shrimp for two into vacuum bags and then the freezer.

So now our freezers are full and hopefully we have enough shrimp and fish to keep us living the high life during our summer season in Wyoming. Who knows, if you stop by and visit, and we haven’t eaten all the shrimp, we might even make, “po’boys”! If we have eaten them we can always make you cornbread. Clear skies

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blackberries……and a return to Grand Terre with signs of recovery as nature rebounds

It’s springtime here and that to us, and many others, means blackberries. Loading into our truck we took a short ride to Elmer’s Island. We had seen bushes there with red and black berries and soon we were deep in the brambles watching out for fire ants and deerflies while trying to fill our sacks and bowls.
 Returning home we saw a positive sign of recovery as the shrimp boats are lining up in the pass. There they were jockeying for position as they tried to assure their position in the frontline. It’s the boats in the frontline, which catch the most shrimp as the shrimp ride the tide into the back bays.
Nature does have an amazing recovery power and here on Grand Isle and Grand Terre there are many other signs of recovery. So the next day, when the wind calmed and the rain stopped, Gary offered to take all of us on a boat ride.
Beachcombing has always been one of our favorite pastimes and the uninhabited beaches here are full of flotsam and jetsam, (flotsam was lost as stuff washes overboard from boats, and jetsam is stull that was tossed). Gary collected buckets, a life ring, a crab trap, and some beautiful driftwood. Before long he had talked me into helping him carry it back and so Renita had to take an image of us returning from our beach safari.
We also collected some beach glass, shells, and pottery shards including a beautiful shard with an image of George the Third. Among the beach glass we both found some black glass, used for grog bottles in the early 1800’s and some dark opalescence glass typically used for perfume bottle. Looks like we had better get busy and do some more wire wrapping.

A calm day, with clear blue skies, and a picnic on the beach. Lots of stuff for our already filled fifth wheel, and a fine day with family, (not to mention the blackberries)! Thank you Connie and Gary! Clear skies.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Five years after the BP Oil Rig Exoloded, My Personal Look

Five years ago we camped at Grand Isle and heard that an oil rig exploded.  Little knowing the severity of the disaster, we still refused to climb the beach dune to look across the Gulf. Seeing the disaster and knowing the loss of life did not draw our curiosity only our prayers.
A few days later we saw the black cloud that approached as the smoke from the fire neared.  It rained and black spots of sooty residue settled on our fifth wheel. For the rest of our stay here the winds shifted but we still watched in horror as the lies of the size of the oil spill were put forth from British Petroleum.
Luckily we were gone when the oil reached shore killing all that it touched. Today the Gulf is not back to what it once was, regardless of the lies still spewing in the commercials. Tar balls still wash up, released from the vast under sea tar mats, (no one is testing them and we were told that if you want to prove where they are from you will need to pay for the testing). On Grand Terre a disgusting black debris washes the beaches and the shells are all somber shades of grey.
The birds and fish are making a comeback, most notable the sharks have returned but they are transitory black tips. There are still no acre size schools of feeding reds and I cast my jig and bobber into the dark waters but nothing hits my offering, (hardly a valid test). I wonder if they will school again in my lifetime or if I am here at the wrong time.
A short boat ride and we see birds again nesting on Bird Island so you do see improvements in places. Here for the bird festival, my friend spotted a painted bunting, and the migrants are passing through. Trying to keep this blog positive is hard today, and a few years ago a reader commented and labeled me a,”hippie”.
Not too many geology teachers are labeled hippies. I would rather be one than a fool who blindly accepts the lies. And that’s something I learned from my father. Never the less I will leave you with some images I took yesterday and pray of course for clear beaches and seas. Praying that the area I love will someday be all the way back.
Clear skies

Grand Isle is a very different picture as millions were spent to clean the heavily visited beaches. Birds are abundant and shrimp boats ply the waters, below is an image Renita took on her beach walk in Grand Isle State Park.

Tar balls are also present on Elmers Island but the state owned land was closed to the public during the Bird Festival, for at least for two days, I wonder why?

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Painted Bunting At Grand Isle State Park

Dave and Jane were getting ready to go to the store and so I walked over to talk with them when Dave spotted a painted bunting!
I hurried back to tell Renita and to my surprise it stayed there and fed. Jane and I took image after image and before too long I had over three hundred shots!
Its a new bird on all of our life lists and one we have hoped to see for years. Finally one stopped right behind our campsites.
It fed on grass seeds and even ate some while hovering! Its amazing how a great camera can make anyone look like a great photographer, (ok a pretty good one).
Between shots a frigate bird flew over, They are called rain birds here and it was no surprise as the heavy rains last night.flooded some of the campground.
What a beautiful bird and what a blessing to the day! Clear skies.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Black Tip Mania, The Sharks are in!

We were really hoping for red fish, bull reds to be exact. Dave's personal best was a forty four inch red caught and released last fall. Mine was a forty one inch from a while ago. So we had good cut mullet and shrimp out and just playing the waiting game hoping the reds were in shore.
It didn’t take long before Dave’s pole went off and he fought in a black tip shark. Not a real big one mind you but a black tip none the less. As shark season is closed right now, and the fish was undersized anyway, he safely released the fish and we both watched it swim away.
My pole went off next and I hoped the fish was a red. Unfortunately the fight didn’t start with a big run so I kind of knew what to expect. As it neared shore I saw the distinctive tail of a sting ray and carefully removing the circle hook I released it.
Dave caught another shark before it was my turn and still no reds. Our friend John had caught black
drum the week before but they had disappeared and it was turning out to be a shark filled day. It has never really mattered to me what I catch I just like catching fish. I could see Dave smile as he fought in the largest shark of the day.
As we picked up our poles I felt a fish run and again hoped for a red but it turned out to be another black tip. Still it was another fun fight and another nice black tip. We had caught other fish, four gaff top and numerous hard head catfish. All were safely released and everyone should use circle hooks!

Driving back we spotted my brother in law Gary being filmed by a NBC news crew. He had been picking up tar balls, still washing ashore perhaps from the Deep Water Horizon spill. It seems that very few care anymore but Gary does and so he walks the beach.
It had been a fun day with lots of shark and other fish. We didn’t have any thing for the table but that’s ok.  A beautiful day on Elmers Island fishing for shark! Clear skies.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Taking a Swamp Tour on Lake Martin, Louisiana

In all the years we had been coming to Louisiana we had never taken a swamp tour. The day before we had actually paddled our kayaks along a small bayou in Palmetto Island State Park. So when our friends, Jim and Nancy, (their blog is Running Down Our Dream), set up a group tour we took a while before we decided we would join the adventure.
As we drove away from the dock the beauty of Lake Martin, with Spanish moss draped bald cypress and sweet gum trees, was obvious.  So before our tour guide Gary pointed out the first alligator it really didn’t matter what else we saw as we were enchanted by beauty of the place.
A little further Gary pointed out pink moss growing on the north side of the tress, (it reminded me of watermelon snow which occurs in the high mountains and has a distinct watermelon taste but cause diarrhea),
A night crowned heron waded and fed posing for a bit before flying away. Slowly motoring deeper I saw a large bird in the thick trees and as it flared I swung the camera, pushing the shutter button. It was a pileated woodpecker, the one the character, Woody Woodpecker was based on.
I never really got another good image of it but a as we continued on we passed gator after gator.
 A little blue heron waded on top of some floating vegetation and the guide told of people plunging through the supposed solid ground and then drowning as the plants floated back over the openings, (we have similar places near where we live in Yellowstone where vegetation mats cover water in small glacial kettle lakes).
More gators and more birds as the guide used a combination of stories and some jokes to teach us about the environment. Stopping we spied a yellow crowned night heron and then another black crowned one. A barred owl flared and then landed above us posing for our cameras and more clicking shutters!
He pointed out the largest bald cypress in the swamp which has a twenty three foot circumference and had been determined to be about five hundred years old. A large area of the swamp was closed due to the nesting rookeries of great and snowy egrets but we were able to catch glimpses of them as we passed along.
Another place Gary pointed out purple iris and then an alligator nest along with a nearby female and male gator. He drove the boat expertly though the shallow water. At one point he rode his own bow wave to pass through a particularly shallow spot. I had seen the technique used before with a Texas skinny boat but never with a large john boat loaded with sixteen passengers.
More alligators and more birds, a redhead and then a red wing blackbird. An anhinga flew by too fast for me to catch with my camera. Several double crested cormorants perched atop a cypress drying their wings, the common local name for them is a water turkey.
More gators and more gators, including a large male who showed us his back in a dominance display. The gators were really plentiful along the shore and Gary told us it was a sign of an approaching cold front.
Renita identified a cattle egret near the public boat ramp and we later talked about returning here to paddle with our kayaks. The two hour tour passed too quick and as we docked our group applauded our excellent guide, (be sure tip the guide)
It had been a great day and a great tour! A special thank you to Jim and Nancy for setting it all up!  Clear skies

Ps We highly recommend Champagne’s Cajun Swamp tours and if you haven’t noticed we take no advertising and accept no fees!