Sunday, January 11, 2009

Texas is for the Bird(er)s

Captain Tom
Whooping crane searching for blue crabs.
Two whoopers take flight.
Great Egret
Allan and Sharon Frey
Royal Tern
"White" Great Blue Heron
Up close with the dolphin.
Jim and Mark fish the shipping channel.
Dinner tonight

We took advantage of a couple days of beautiful weather and on one of those days went on a whooping crane tour aboard the Skimmer with Captain Tom out of Fulton Harbor. The tour explores the shorelines of the Aransas Wildlife Refuge and because of the Skimmer's shallow draft, it is able to access more of the refuges habitat which covers over 15,000 acres. There are larger boats but they are not able to get into the real shallow water (1 1/2 feet) like the Skimmer. We were told it is possible to see as many as 100 species of birds and although we lost count, we did see many different kinds of birds and other wildlife. We boarded the boat at 9:00 AM along with another couple from the RV park, Sharon and Allan Frey. It was a rare warm and sunny day with calm winds and water. There were approximately 40 other people on the boat, many of whom were "serious birders" with photo equipment that really put our little digital camera to shame and caused us to suffer from lens envy. Even so, because Captain Tom was able to get real close to several birds, especially the rare and beautiful whooping crane, we were able to obtain some very nice photos. Whooping cranes, magnificent birds which are found only in North America, stand approximately 5 feet tall with a wingspan measuring about 7-1/2 feet. Between September and November they leave northern Canada and migrate 2,500 miles to southern Texas where they mate and raise their young. Their favorite food in Texas is the blue crab which is in short supply this year because the lack of rain has reduced the needed fresh water flowing into the bay. They return to the very isolated Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada between April and May. This group of about 270 birds makes up over half of all the surviving whooping cranes, wild and in captivity in the world. They mate for life and travel in flocks of 2 to 7 with a family consisting of two adults and a yearling. Whoopers normally lay two eggs but usually raise only one chick though pairs may sometimes be found. In addition to the whooping cranes, we saw a "white" great blue heron which is a rare sight here in Texas. We also saw gulls, terns, sandpipers, egrets, roseate spoonbills, ibis, herons, king fishers, white and brown pelicans, oyster catchers, willets, osprey, a great variety of ducks and many more. You can see why this is truly a birders paradise. As an additional treat, there were several dolphins playing in the waters around our boat resulting in more great pictures. We really, really enjoyed this excursion and recommend it to anyone interested in seeing a variety of birds. We also recommend that you take this particular tour out of Fulton Harbor because the smaller boat allows you to see more and gives you greater photo opportunities.

The next day we went fishing out on the jetty in Aransas Pass. This is where the big ships come into the channel from the Gulf of Mexico. We met Mark and Renita Brackin, our RV park neighbors, and spent the afternoon enjoying the sun, watching the birds and dolphins playing in the channel and catching some fish. I even caught a keeper which Nanc cooked up for dinner that evening. Aahh, life is good!
One evening we had dinner with Gary & Deb Pearce, Class of 07 Escapees, who we have met several times on the road. Gary is work camping at a nearby RV park for the winter. We also had a visit from Gary & Anita Heke, who we met at Betty's in Louisiana, when they passed through on their way to the Rio Grande Valley. It is always great to see new friends we have met in our travels.

In other really big news, my pension has finally been finalized, I will get my first social security check this month and we can burn the mortgage on the motorhome. Aahh, LIFE IS GREAT!

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Evening. I found your blog on hitchitch. I saw Tom and he looked familiar. He was our captain when we went on the whooping crane tour in Nov 2006. I noticed you're at Watersedge in Rockport. That's also where we stayed. Dick and Dennise are still there. Maybe you know them. Anyway, great blog. Continue to have a great adventure
Sandy and John Bush - RV Gypsies