It’s quarter to eight on a Friday morning in early January. I grab a full cup of coffee, camera gear, and hop in the truck. Today’s destination is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. I have the directions jotted down on a piece of paper….. in large print so I can read them without the aid of glasses. No GPS for this gal. Hildi stays home.
It’s a longer drive than I thought it would be on rural farm roads. I keep my eyes peeled for deer and am grateful I noticed them in time to stop for all to cross. Somehow I don’t think hubby would be pleased with a deer mounted on the front of his truck.
I arrive at the visitor center at 8:30 and am the first visitor of the day. The refuge opens a half hour before sunrise but the visitor center doesn’t open until 8:30. So I’m sure I’m not the first guest, just the first to the visitor center. There are bound to be other folks already running around the refuge.
The two women and one gentleman behind the counter are all volunteers and fellow RVer’s. They get a free place to park in exchange for a little volunteer time. All three volunteers were passionate and quick to share information about the refuge.
We’ve already established I am not a birder. Many a time I’m unfamiliar with the name of a bird I’m photographing. I’m ok with that. I have enough stuff swirling through my head day in and day out without having to remember the names of birds. Half the time I forget what’s his faces name and call him hon or hubby so remembering a birds title is low on the totem pole (you can laugh, he is! After thirty years of marriage, it’s all about the laughter).
One of the volunteers lights up and says, “Oh, I hear the whoopers were seen this morning off Heron Flats trail and the blah blah blahs were seen……. And the watcha ma call it’s can be seen….. ” It was all Greek to me, but I pretended to know exactly what she was talking about, smiled and enthusiastically replied, “Oh, how exciting. Thank you. I better get going before they all fly off.” I nod as if I understood all the information, wave goodbye, and am off to capture some birds on
film media card.
With map in hand, I jump in the truck and drive up the road stopping at the various viewing areas. For the time being I have the place to myself. The first stop is to see if I can spot an alligator. I know – alligators in Texas? – Who’d a thought! No alligators, moving on.
I stop at the Heron Flats viewing area. I do remember the volunteer highly recommending I stop here. I cross a foot bridge looking into some swampy water for any signs of wildlife…..none. I continue and walk onto the viewing platform. There are two really big large white birds in the distance off to the right. Hmm, wonder what they are. (I know now that they are the endangered whooping crane) They are magnificent. I look off to the left and see ton’s of birds. There were all kinds of different birds, even some pink ones but they were all pretty far away. None the less, I enjoyed being an observer.
I remembered there were a few cars that had pulled into the visitor center as I was leaving. Enjoying the solitude and tranquility, I wanted to savor this place alone for awhile. Thus, I continue down the road and only slowed at the next few viewing areas vowing to stop and explore on my return to the visitor center. My goal was the 40 foot platform at the end of the road.
Upon my arrival, I’m excited. Not another car in the parking lot. But I wonder what all those black things on the railings are? I know they’re a bird of some kind. As I start climbing the platform walkway, I’m concerned these birds aren’t flying away. Just how close will they allow me to get? Should I continue? Images of Tippi Hedrin of Hitchcocks “The Birds” come to mind. Gosh, I’m out here all by myself. No one would ever hear my screams.
I continue but in a rather slow non aggressive pace up the platform. Bird one flies off….she wipes the sweat from her brow…..bird two flies off…..feeling more relaxed she continues. Bird three….doesn’t move. Ah, sh*t, why isn’t he flying off. As is my custom, I talk to the animals. “Hey, there handsome. Let’s you and me make a deal. I’ll walk past you slowly and I won’t pepper spray you if you don’t claw my eyes out with those talons. Do we have a deal?”
I press my back up against the railing and shuffle past this unique creature all the while making small talk. I’m so close if I reached out I could touch him or her. Apparently, we had a deal as my eyes are still intact. I continue up the platform with less concern and a new found fascination for what I assume is a vulture.