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.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hiking to Phelps Lake Fall 2023

Each year we hike to Phelps Lake. This fall we waited a bit too long and due to a bear closure, the short trail was closed and the hike turned into a longer one. It added an additional 1.2miles but it was still an easy hike with only one long hill to climb. There were warning signs posted as some of the black bears have raided people’s packs and coolers, (idiots had left them unattended, a fed bear is a dead bear as the bear that eats human food, will be captured and euthanized). We did not see any bears on the hike and yes, we always carry bear spray. The first part of the hike was through a section of grass and sagebrush.
Reaching the road, we had to stop for cars, (the Moose Wilson Road). Crossing it we reached the terminal moraine, (which forms the dam for the lake), and it wasn’t long before we reached the moraine damned lake. Taking an adjoining trail, we crossed a bridge and continued around the lake.
Fred and Becky had to leave early but we sat on the edge of the lake and enjoyed the peace and quiet. A pied billed grebe chased minnows and we did see a few rises, (next time up there I am going to take some fishing gear and we do practice catch and release). It was calm and we were able to take a picture with the mountains reflecting off the lake’s surface. Heading back down the trail we took it slow but didn’t see any wildlife. Just lots of people were heading up the trail. Some of the older people, (younger than us), asked us how far it was and turned around.
Reaching our car our luck was about to change, as we headed from the LSR Preserve to the Moose-Wilson Road. Cars were parked blocking the road, a bear jam! Now usually the bear is hidden from sight in the thick bushes, but this cinnamon black bear was balancing on top of a service berry bush as it devoured the berries. I was able to park alongside the LSR road and grabbing my camera got great shots of the bear. It ignored all the traffic and people on bicycles. We watched and took about sixty images as the bear seemed to pose offering us both profile views as well as one where it looked at us, (you can see it’s eyes).
We were even lucky enough to get pictures of it as it opened its mouth showing it’s fangs and even a bit of its tongue. The light was perfect, the sun in the right position and the pics are the best black bear pictures we have taken this year, (and we were at a safe distance).
Finally, the bear couldn’t find any more berries and climbed down the tree.
It disappeared from sight and the bear jam broke up. We never did see it again, but we were excited that we had been in the right place at just the right time, (Fred and Becky had already left).
It was great last hike and trip of the year! Clear skies,