Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A great day on the water and a temporary change in our lifestyle

Every time I looked toward Terry and Roy, they were either setting the hook or fighting another fish in to their kayaks! Roy hooked the biggest one yet and as it reached his kayak it ran around the boat, spinning the boat and Roy in a circle. I laughed as Roy resembled a whirling dervish as he fought the fish!
He finally subdued the fish and was able to net it. It was another red fish and this one was twenty six inches long, a big slot fish, (the fish here in Texas must be from twenty to twenty eight inches to keep).
Putting the camera away, my bobber started to move and it was my turn to spin in a circle as the fish swam around the kayak. We had both anchored in the middle so the fish had an easy time as it made runs around my boat. It also ran around my floating live well net and I was able to finally get it cleared. For its next trick it ran around the anchor rope. Clearing the anchor rope, I was able to grab the fish, I had forgot my net, and added it to the live well.
Meanwhile Terry was getting a bite on every cast. He had found the fish and had motioned us over to join him as the spot was large enough fro all three of us to fish, (if you get into a school of reds or black drum everyone needs to cast to the school)!
We ended up keeping six red fish and black drum and we were all tired as we fought large broadside waves as we paddled back to the truck. It was an outstanding last day in the kayaks, with family and friends. This year has been our best kayaking and fishing year ever!
Our other news is that we will be traveling back to Wyoming without our Durango fifth wheel, (our Bighorn fifth wheel is parked on our lot in Star Valley, Wyoming). I have grown really tired of pulling a fifth wheel around the USA, dodging idiots, and pulling over the many mountain passes.So we are storing our smaller fifth wheel here. Our friends told us of a storage rv place where they pull your fifth wheel to their ranch, store it, and then clean it before hauling it back to our rv park. The place is away from the coast, and the price is great at thirty five a month, (plus a cost for pulling the rig and cleaning it in the fall).
We are still going to Louisiana for the Grand Isle Bird Festival and the Blessing of the Fleet and then staying in motels as we drive back to Wyoming. Next year the plan is to travel south in our pickup camper. This should allow us to stay longer in Wyoming as we won't be at the mercy of sudden October snowstorms. Clear skies and safe travels!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Colds. taxes, and finally some warm weather

Renita and I finally caught the cold that everyone here has been suffering from. It started as a slight headache and sore throat followed by a harsh cough. I took care of her and then it was her turn to take care of me. Thank goodness we are both much better.
Not much in the way of news as the most exciting thing has been figuring out the new tax law. Of course, we must pay in more as we didn’t have enough withheld under the new withholding tables. Our taxes were less but not anywhere close to enough to buy a new car as stated by the treasury secretary.
So other than going outside for a picture of the supermoon. Not very super, (and where in the world did they come up with the term worm moon), Its been a long week. I do have several images from a recent fishing trip with John, Roy, and Dan, but that’s about it.
Oh, it reached 78 yesterday! Clear skies

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Birding at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, March 2019

It was March and we had not yet gone birding at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Having attended a lecture from Dr Elizabeth Smith, head of the International Crane Foundation, our appetites were wetted to see more whooping cranes, and so we packed lunches and headed out.
Our first stop was at Jones Pond, which was a shrunken marsh a few years ago and now has flooded nearly to the refuge road. We usually see alligators there but this year we saw common golden eyes, red heads, and blue wing teal, all ducks.
Also present were American coot and a common gallinule, also called a marsh hen.
Now there are about eight hundred and sixty whooping cranes today of which five hundred and five call the refuge home, or in the surrounding marshes, (this includes the birds in Lamar). We knew we would see a few whoopers when we reached the viewing tower.
Sure enough, we did see two pairs but they were far away, near the busy Intracoastal shipping channel. We also saw flocks of ducks, also far away, and snowy egrets along with great blue herons.
In the trees nearby a funeral of turkey vultures roosted, patiently waiting for something to die. A we walked down the tower walkway they checked us out but lost interest as we were still moving. Driving along the eleven-mile trail we had to stop so Renita could take a picture of an alligator sunning itself along the road.

As she watched it, three raccoons ran across the road one almost running over her feet! The alligator decided it couldn’t catch them, or Renita, so it went back to its siesta. There were lots of sign of feral hog activity alongside the road way, and they are a constant plague across the south.

We ate lunch in the truck and finished the eleven-mile drive before we spotted several herds of deer on the side of the road. At the Heron Flats Trail we parked and were besieged by mosquitoes. Still the wind was blowing and at the observation platform, we were able to see a pair of whoopers.
It’s the first time we have seen whoopers there in the twelve years we have wintered along the Coastal Bend, (each whooper pair claims almost a square mile of territory and defends it against all other mating pairs).
Now we usually walk down the trail itself, but the mosquitoes were so thick that they drove us into the truck. Renita and Pam decided that they wanted to look for alligators and they braved the blood sucking parasites. They were rewarded with a close view of nine large gators.

One even, had just crossed the trail and surprised Pam as she walked the gator trail, not noticing the tail drag marks.
Renita hurried back to get me and when we returned, I almost stepped on a snake. There are eight-foot diamond backs rattlers here along with coral snakes, copperheads, and of course water moccasins.
I jumped a bit before I recognized the harmless snake, wondering why I had forgot my walking stick/snake stick. The gators were huge and plentiful, and one was about fifteen feet away from the trail. I did take a picture of the whooper pair. We were also were treated to a yellow rump warbler as it fed on flying mosquitoes.
As we walked back, or should I say, were driven back to the truck by the mosquitoes, (dengue fever has occurred in southern Texas), We spotted a yellow rump warbler as it fed on flying mosquitoes.. Our last stop was ta the alligator viewing pond, but it was anticlimactic after all the gators alongside the Heron Flats trail.
The hurricane damaged museum and headquarters has not yet been repaired. The hurricane surge here was twelve and a half feet and was less than expected. One can hope that money to repair the damage will not be diverted to other uses, (no wall comments please as we try to keep politics out of our blog). If you love birds this place is a must! Clear skies.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A busy week of Cousins, Birds, The Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show, and another great day of fishing

As we were getting ready our first big show of the year, our cousin Angie texted us and asked if it was ok if they came down and visited us. They were particularly interested in the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show and were worried that they would bother us. Family and friends never bothers us, and we looked forward to seeing them!
They arrived on Friday, after we had set up for the show, and after catching up on old times, we took them on a birding tour of Lamar. It’s a short drive and we were rewarded with just what we hoped for, whooping cranes and rosette spoon bills, While Pete had seen them before, Angie never had and so it was a special day as we got to share one of our favorite birding spots.
We also visited Big Tree, the largest tree in Texas, and took the standard image of them posing proudly in front of the giant live oak. The next day they joined us at the show, and we were able to visit some more before we got slammed! It was the busiest we have ever been, for a two-day show, and it wasn’t until Sunday morning that we were able to take a little time to see the member displays.
It was another record show, we have been so blessed, and we are so thankful that our work is so well received! At times Renita and I both had to wait to record sales and make change! Of course, we talked and shared the geology of the rocks and we almost sold out of the ammonites we had brought here from the Cody collection, (just a few, we still have hundreds more).
The weather here has been particularly nasty and so the opportunities to go fishing have been limited. Still we had a rare nice day, and Bob invited us to go fishing. Waiting for the fog to lift we didn’t cross the bay until noon, but we did manage to arrive in time for a short but great bite.
Bob caught the first and second black drum and I pitched in catching another myself. Roy was along, but the fish seemed to ignore his hook, although he did have bites. Within several hours we had six blacks on the stringer.
The fish quit biting, or so it seemed, until I had a big fish on that seemed unconcerned as it pulled me into the posts, before breaking off. A little later Bob hooked the same fish only to have it break his line on a hard run. The fish didn’t seem to mind and again it bit Bob’s bait, again breaking his line on the first run. Its pretty obvious the spawning run has started. The record black drum in Texas is over seventy pounds).
Yesterday we attended a lecture from Dr Elizabeth Smith, the head of the International Crane Foundation. She told us that there were only two cranes in the western hemisphere, sandhills and whooping cranes, and only fifteen species worldwide.
Giving a brief history of the birds, at one time their numbers were down to ten birds, she talked of their recovery and even mentioned that in twenty to forty years they may reach a wild population of over a thousand and then be relisted as threatened instead of their current endangered species status.
(the above chart is from her presentation, be sure to visit the International Crane Foundations website and support crane recovery) This year’s count is still on going, but the numbers are now up to over five hundred! She talked about the habitat needed for whooping cranes, new counting methods, their food sources, cooperation in conserving wetlands, and the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Luckily the birds weren’t in Texas when the hurricane hit, and they greatly benefitted from the increase in fresh water flow and reduced salinity. That means more crabs, one of their main diet items. She also showed us videos of whoopers killing and eating snakes!
So, its been a busy an tiring week! Thanks Angie and Pete for visiting us, thank Bob for the great fishing, and thank you Doctor Smith for the great lecture! We have been truly blessed! Clear skies