Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rockport, TX

Majestic Oak RV 
Rockport, TX
February 3-8, 2018

The Texas Gulf has been on our radar for several years.  We have made plans in the past and for one reason or another, plans changed.  Since we made the trip back to Georgia in January, this was the year !  It's all about the birds...birds we have never seen before...that drew us here.  Galveston was unharmed by Harvey, but it's a different story here in Rockport (less than 180 miles away) where the eye of the storm hit land.  Folks are working hard and will be for months to come, but everywhere we go, people are smiling, are friendly and have stories to tell centered around hope and the future.  

Majestic Oak RV was our home for the 8 nights we spent here.  It's all new concrete roads are wide and pads are strategically placed for spacing.  

And...the oaks are still here.  

We went birding 4 of the 7 days during our visit.  A couple of the days were cold, drizzly, and windy (We don't do cold !).  I have read all of Ingrid's blogs about Rockport so I knew that a pasture near Big Tree was a good place to see Whooping Cranes.  The first time we were there, we did see the stately  Big Tree, but no Whooping Cranes.
Low clouds hiding the sun... 

We rode along the St. Charles Bay.

There are no more docks and piers, but we did see a few birds.  I read that Crested Caracara (in the falcon family) often feed on carrion and will chase vultures away from road kills.  Road kill was present and so were the vultures (quite a few of them).  This Caracara sat for awhile deciding what to do...

...eventually he flew away. Just look at those talons !

Also, hanging out along the shore were...Great Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, a lonely Killdeer and a Greater Yellowlegs.
Great Blue Heron and Roseate Spoonbills

Tricolored Heron

Killdeer (a member of the Plover family)

Greater Yellowlegs (in the Sandpiper family)
 We visited the pasture several more times and did see the Whooping Cranes at a distance.  It was a struggle to get pictures of them.  

One day we rode about 18 miles (which includes a free ferry) to Port Aransas.  Port A (as the locals say), is the only established town on Mustang Island.  Our first stop was Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.   

A damp morning on Port A...

We were reminded that alligators live here too...beware!

After a very short walk, the boardwalk came to an abrupt stop.    
Mornings start out a little foggy here...

We stood for awhile enjoying the Ibis.  It was fun watching this White Ibis try to eat his breakfast of yummy crab...taking one bite at a time...  

 until the immature White Ibis was sure he was invited.  
The Ibis with his catch of the day politely wandered off to a less busy spot.

We did spot a big gator a ways away.  
Click on the picture for better detail.

The next stop was Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond.  This birding spot also had damage prohibiting our view of much of the 2 acre habitat and pond.

We enjoyed a nice walk and picnic at Roberts Point Park before heading home.  It's a nice park with a marina and fishing and a huge grassy area for picnics and playground.

One day after our visit at "the pasture", we stopped at the pier on the south side of the Copano Bay Bridge.  The pier is closed, but there is a path to access the shore.  I had spotted a group of White Pelicans from the bridge as we drove know what that means !

As with most crowds, there is always one in the group that stands out.  Pelicans are no was this fellow that caught my eye.

Our last excursion was aboard the Skimmer with Captain Tommy.  His 3 hour birding journey makes it's way to Aransas NWR.  

Aransas provides a protected habitat for endangered Whooping Cranes as well as many other birds and wildlife.

It was awesome to see several pairs (they mate for life and raise their chicks together) of one of the rarest and largest birds of North America.  

These birds (about 600 of them) that winter on the Texas Gulf will make a 2400 mile trek north to nest in Wood Buffalo National Park in central Canada.  

 Whooping Cranes love blue crabs.  That's a good thing because blue crabs are needed to build up their body resources and reserves for their long journey home and for successful nesting.  Not only are the blue crabs high in protein, but the meat and shells are highly rich in calcium, necessary for strong bones and for forming eggshells. 

An adult crane can eat up to 80 crabs a day.

Not a real clear photo, but we did see an immature Whooper.  According to Capt. Tommy, they are only 4 to 5 months old when they make their first trip south.

We also saw other birds.  American Avocets have the prettiest blue/gray legs and feet. 
Adult non-breeding...a first for us!

 American Oystercatcher (the bird with the red beak) was yet another first sighting.  

Guess what oystercatchers like to eat...duh!  Below they are gathered on a live oyster bed enjoying a mid-morning snack !

That wraps up our time on the Texas Gulf.  It has been a fun adventure full of lots and lots of wonderful birds.  I'm so happy we finally made it here.   

Today was another chilly day with a high of 46 degrees.  It was nice and warm inside our cozy little home.  A great day for puppy snuggles and naps.  Tomorrow will be cleaning and packing day along with some cooking.  Saturday we begin the three day drive to Tucson for doctor visits, MH stuff, and hopefully some fun.    We are looking forward to some warm temps and I can't wait to see the Saguaros. 

So until then, take care and...

Great Blue Heron, St. Charles Bay

Immature White Ibis as Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port A

Ducks at Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, Port A

Roseate Spoonbills in flight on a foggy morning, Aransas NWR
Aransas NWR

Red-tailed Hawk, Aransas NWR


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Galveston Island RV Resort
Galveston, TX
January 29, 2018

Joe and I had no expectations about what we would find at Brazoria NWR.  It just seemed like a good destination.  The refuge is located about 48 miles from Galveston Island RV Resort...a nice drive...about an hour.  
Google maps had a bit of a problem finding the exact address so when we saw a sign for Brazoria we turned in.  The gravel road took us to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters for the park.

There is no way to enter the park from there so a very nice ranger gave us a map and an address Google would like.  He says it happens all the time.  

Once on the correct road (CR 227) the ranger said we might see Sandhill Cranes in the field so we were moving slowly with eyes wide open and sure enough...

So, if you are in the area and want to visit the refuge, enter 2022 CR 227, Freeport, TX 77541 to Google and it will take you right to the entrance sign.  You might even be as fortunate as we were to spot two Crested Caracaras in the trees there.  WOW !  We had already seen Sandhill Canes and Crested Caracaras and we hadn't even entered the refuge. 

Our first stop was the Discovery Center for maps and information.  Just behind the center is a beautiful walking trail...Big Slough Trail.

It starts out along a boardwalk that takes you over the marsh.  A mama alligator calls the marsh home, but it was a little chilly and we didn't see her.  The volunteer at the center said she had 20 babies a couple of months ago.

We were entertained by Common Gallinules (which we had never seen before)

 and Coots.  I just love the babies !

 The trail is a 1.25 mile lollipop hike...

so you get to do the boardwalk twice.  Heading out, we saw a Sora...a common and widely seen rail, but a first sighting for us.

From there it was off to do the auto tour.  At the Discovery Center we were given a map to follow with 14 stops to make.  We didn't actually make all those stops, but we did stop frequently.  We passed by several ponds on the tour.  One of the nice things about winter visits is there are no crowds.


Another first sighting was a White-faced Ibis...  

White-faced Ibis Adult Nonbreeding

 and Black-necked Stilts.  

Brazoria NWR has nearly 43,000 acres which are more water than land...both fresh and salt water.  It was established in 1966 to protect coastal wetlands for migrating birds and other wildlife.  The expanse of marshes, sloughs, ponds, prairies, and forests offer a feasting and lodging paradise for wildlife.

This concludes our two week stay on Galveston Island.  Joe and I have had a wonderful time and we agree another stay here would be nice.  While here, we have had 10 new bird sightings.  Galveston is rich in history with proud residents who have rebuilt time after time to keep their history alive.  Also, the local restaurants should be at the top of anyone's list of things to do when here...fresh seafood right from the Gulf is an important commodity here.  Galveston Island RV Resort has been a quiet and comfortable spot to call home.     

So, until next time...