Tales From The Camping House

Tales From The Camping House

Monday, February 27, 2012

Goose Island State Park And More Whooping Cranes

It was a foggy morning.  We were really lucky the weather was so good on Sunday, as it was our only nice day while we were at Mustand Island State Park.  Today we are going to drive to Rockport to eat at Charlotte Plummer's and look around Goose Island State Park.

We loaded onto the ferry to cross over to the mainland.

We arrived at Charlotte Plummer's about 1:00 and had a wonderful lunch on the second floor overlooking the bay.

 After lunch, we drove over to the Big Tree to see if we could find a pair of whooping cranes we had been told were sometimes there. They were not there so we drove around and saw two tall white birds in a distance. As we got closer, we know we had found the pair. They were feeding at a deer feeder.  The deer feeder gives you a perspective of how  big they are.

We watched them for awhile and then drove over to Goose Island State Park. We didn't see anything over there, so we decided to go back one more time to see if the pair we had seen were still there.  They were, and a pair of sandhill cranes had joined them!

We watched them and I attempted to digiscope with my flip camera and scope.  It's not the best, but here is a one minute video of it.

We were watching and all of a sudden they took off.  Jim was talking to another man, but managed to get this picture of them flying off.  It was really neat to see such big birds take off and fly away!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Whooping Cranes!!!!

The sun did come out today! The winds died down and it was the beginning of a beautiful day! We arrived and loaded onto the boat for our 8 o'clock tour.

We are looking for Whooping Cranes on the shoreline of the Port Aransas Wildlife Refuge.
We began the trip and had to take another picture of the lighthouse with blue skies.

We were excited to see our first Whooping Crane! It was quite a distance, but we were able to get a good look with our scope and binoculars. The Aransas Refuge estimates there are approximately 245 whooping cranes there this year. (You can click on the picture to see the full size)

We continued on and saw this kestrel watching another whooping crane.

 And right next to it a little farther to the right was a Crested Caracara

We were able to see them closer and closer.  You can see the yellow band on the left whooping crane.  It is a radio signal device so its whereabouts can be monitored.

This isn't a great picture, but I was experimenting with digiscoping with my flip video and our scope. I did get a little bigger picture.

We even saw five at one time! The other bird in the background to the left is a sandhill crane.

We had a wonderful time and saw about 40 whooping cranes.

Later that afternoon, we went to the UT Marine Science Institue Wetlands Center and saw

a snowy egret on the left and a great egret on the right.

a blue heron

We watched for awhile when we saw this little duck catch a big fish.  He worked on getting it into his stomach

And he worked some more

But all along, while the duck was trying to eat the fish, this brown pelican was watching waiting for his chance to seize the fish....

The duck wasn't too happy, but went off looking for something else to eat.

It's so wonderful watching nature!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rain, Photography, and Bird Trip

We woke up this morning and the rain was coming down in buckets. You can't be too upset since rain is needed so badly here, and thank goodness this morning's session was a photography class indoors!  It was a nature photography class and we did get a few tips.  After that, we met Gary and Lisa to eat lunch before we went on the van birding trip we had planned for the afternoon.

I had figured out where we would be going on this trip, but was I wrong.  We got in a large van with 3 other people, 2 guides, and the driver.  The man in charge of taking us to birding spots was hilarious.  He made everything so fun and enjoyable with his excitement.  We ended up going to a pond at an rv park and a pond at a golf course.  It is so much more fun to be with people who can identify the birds so you know what you are looking at.

Some of the birds we saw for the first time were

A Killdeer



Pied-billed Grebe

Common Moorhen

We also saw a Least Grebe, Snipe,  and Loggerhead Shrike.

Tomorrow, we are going on the Whooping Crane tour and the weather is supposed to be great!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Birding 101/Nature Boat Tour/Freezing Winds

Unfortunately, the weather forecasters were correct today.  About 3 in the morning, the rains came pouring down, then the rain stopped and the winds began to howl.  The flaps on our bedroom slides were making a racket.  It wasn't hard getting up early, since we were already awake.  I layered all the clothes I could with a hat, muffler, gloves and coat and managed to stay warm.  We went to the Turnbull Birding Center which is completely outside, no indoor places to gather.  We were scheduled to be on a 4 hour birding class with Gene Blacklock who has written quite a few birding books.  The wind was so loud, the poor man could barely be heard.  He was extremely knowledgeable and we did learn a lot.  We went to several places to observe birds.  There were not many since they were hunkered down in the bushes and trees trying to stay out of the wind.  

We did go down to the jetty to see what birds could be seen, but the wind was blowing so hard you could not get out of your car without being sandblasted.

There were several ships by the jetty, as the waves hit, the water would fly over the deck.

There were hundreds of gulls sitting by the jetty, just hunkered down out of the wind.  Something made them take off which made a pretty cool picture.

 After we finished the class, we headed over to the docks before going home. We were scheduled to go out on another boat at 2:00.  We rescheduled the trip for 4:30 as the winds were supposed to start dying down about 2:00.

The winds did die down in the afternoon.  By 4:00, there was a breeze, but nothing like it had been earlier.  The sun even made some appearances.  We left on the Island Queen to see what was around.

The boat pulled up pretty close to the white pelicans and we could observe some of their antics.

There was also this neat lighthouse owned by the Butt (H.E.B.) family who still keeps a full time lighthouse keeper there.

So, even though the weather didn't cooperate, we were still able to enjoy our day.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dolphin Tour

This was the first official day of the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, Texas.  My brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Lisa, came in today.  They will also attend the festival, going on many of the same tours we are.

The only thing we had today was the Dolphin Cruise at 4:00.  It was overcast and windy, so it was chilly out on the water.

We left the harbor and saw the

 Brown Pelicans

and the 

White Pelicans

We went out into the harbor to seek dolphins.  Our captain could not throw food to tempt them in (it's against the law), so he played Jimmy Buffet music.  He said it worked better than food. We did see quite a few in the water.  Sea World has spoiled us, none of them just came out of the water to perform. ;)
It was fun seeing them close.

Tomorrow, we begin at 7:00 a.m. with a Birding 101 class. I'm not sure how it will be since it looks like the weather will not be very good. There are predictions of 30-40 mph winds coming from the north. Brrrr!!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Birding At Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

February 22, 2012

We had to get up early in order to be at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas by 9:00.  Each Wednesday, volunteers set up scopes and help to identify birds that are there.  It is a little slice of nature by the water treatment area where hundreds of gallons of fresh water fill the lagoon.

 We saw all three kinds of teal ducks, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, but everyone was excited about seeing this cinnamon teal.  They have a smaller range and are rarely seen up north.
Since many people there are from the north, it was a life bird for some of the people there.  Of course, they all seem to be life birds for us, since we are just learning their names.

We always enjoy watching the antics of the brown pelicans!

And this is a Northern Shoveler.
 And finally, a Cormorant.

Next, we went to the Civic Center for a lecture by Lowell Schake.  He wrote a book entitled On The Wings of Cranes where he told the story of his father-in-law, Larry Walkinshaw and how he helped save Sandhill Cranes, Whooping Cranes, and the Kirkland's Warbler from extinction. It was a pretty amazing story.

There will be more the next few days. You may get tired of looking at bird pictures. :)

Moving Day and a Walk on the Beach

We left Goliad State Park yesterday to drive 110 miles to Mustang Island State Park in Port Aransas, Texas. On our way we drove in between giant windmill turbines.

We have to learn to not depend on our GPS. After several detours, we made it safely to

The park itself is basically a parking lot, but on the other side of the dunes

is the beach!

We're here for the Whooping Crane Festival which starts Thursday. There will be several boat trips, birding 101, a photography class, and driving to several birding spots. We're hoping we'll be able to identify a few birds when we are finished.

This morning, we took a walk on the beach.

The shorebirds were out to greet us.

This gull was working diligently on the fish.

There is also a man of war warning for the water, some have washed up on the beach.  We're not planning on getting in the water. It's still a chilly 64 degrees.

We walked to the jetty and then returned back to the state park. 

The afternoon was warm and we spent it outside reading. It was a great day!