Third Times a Charm

Today is our last day along the Texas Gulf Coast.  We’ll be working our way back to Phoenix Sunday morning, and although we did contemplate extending our stay, the pull of appointments, seeing our children, and the anticipation of the desert blooming can’t be ignored.  This was our third January camped near Rockport, Texas, and was our best visit yet.  Perhaps the saying third times a charm is true, because this visit certainly was a charmer.

a birders delight!
a birders delight!

Last year’s visit found us dealing with the Polar Vortex meaning lots of cold, wet weather.  I also contracted pink eye aka conjunctivitis which put a real damper on my photography.  This year with all the talk of El Nino along with the fall flooding in Texas, Al and I actually thought about canceling this trip to the coast, but since we already had the RV park reservation lined up, as well as friends waiting for us, we hit the road and arrived New Year’s Eve.  And boy, am I ever glad we decided not to cancel.

This kind of water is a kayakers dream
This kind of water is a kayakers dream

Al and his buddy had a fun month of taking the boat out into the St. Charles Bay every morning doing what guys do best; hunt, fish and BS.  I had a fantastic time playing with my camera(s) but when new neighbors pulled in next door my fun was taken to another level.  During a casual get to know the neighbor conversation, Mary Ann informed me she enjoys photography.  Well, she didn’t have to tell me twice.  Next thing she knew, I was getting her out of bed early, loading her in the truck, and sharing all my favorite (and not so favorite) photography spots with her.

The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.
The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.

Our first full-day outing was up to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I skipped a trip here last year because of my eye illness, and therefore, I was looking forward to a visit this go around.  And just like my first visit, I was somewhat disappointed with the refuge.Aransas Wildlife Refuge

There were very few birds to be seen with the exception of the vultures, but we did spot a javelina in the far, far distance.  We even saw one cross the road, but quickly disappear into the brush.  Looking at the photo, I do wonder if this is a hog and not a javelina.  Regardless, I’m telling my friend, Mona Liza, I finally saw my Javelina 😆

Took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or is it a hog?
it took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or could that be a hog?

VultureThe showing of birds at the refuge was poor, and several trails / viewing overlooks were closed.  I don’t think I could honestly recommend going out-of-the-way to visit the Aransas NWR.  If you’re in the area and interested in a picnic outing, then by all means, but if you’re looking for a well maintained, wildlife rich place, this isn’t it.

Next…. I always enjoy a visit to Mustang Island and the town of Port Aransas.  I cruised the island twice by myself and once with Mary Ann.  Commutes via ferry never get old, and are a fond addition to a day of adventure.

This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her.
This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her. He was hungry that morning and on the move.

In the town of Port A (aka Port Aransas) a stop at the Leonabella Turnbull Birding Center and stroll at Charlie’s Pasture is always worthwhile.  Then there’s driving on the beach and sharing lunch with feathered friends.  Seagulls can always be counted on for a little entertainment.Seagulls

It wasn’t long before I discovered my partner in crime (Mary Ann) was adept at spotting those vibrant pink beauties; the roseate spoonbill.  I can never seem to take enough photos of these unique characters.roseate spoonbill

But then I do love the vibrant white of the egret ….. How about a little vibrant pink and white together with a touch of striking yellow?  Aren’t these two beautiful?birding

The highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast was the morning Al’s friend, Dennis, took me out for a boat ride for the specific purpose of photography.  I just can’t thank him enough for two hours of sheer perfection and joy.  We launched the tiny vessel twenty minutes before sunrise.  It was a cold 32 degree morning (one of the coldest all month) with no wind and clear skies.  He thought for sure I was going to cancel due to the cold.  Not a chance!  I couldn’t wait to get out on the water.St. Charles Bay

I wore my winter coat with one of Al’s camo coats over it along with earmuffs, camo hat, warm gloves, and sweatpants tucked into rubber rain boots.  Sorry folks, no photo of this fashionista.  I was super comfy and with no wind, it was a perfect morning.

Can you see the two whooping cranes?
Can you spot the two whooping cranes?

As we slowly cruised the waters, the sun rose.  We kept an eye on the shoreline in search of wildlife, and from time to time, we could hear the familiar call of cranes.

Once we spotted the cranes, the boat motor was turned off, and we floated toward shore.  I carefully stepped on the front of the boat steadying myself and raised my camera up over my head as high as my five foot four frame would allow.  This is one time I was grateful my Panasonic FZ200 had a flip out monitor.

The three front sandhills are getting ready to fly.... camera ready.
The front sandhills are getting ready to fly…. camera ready.
And they're off
And they’re off

I was thrilled to see not only the endangered whooping cranes, but a smorgasbord of coastal birds;  egrets, sandhill cranes, killdeer and those lovely pink roseate spoonbills.  I was tickled pink with delight and this was by far the highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast.coastal birds

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the highlight of Dennis’ morning.  While I was clicking away, he was drinking his thermos of hot coffee and enjoying the scenery around him and that’s when he spotted a dolphin.  In a whispering tone, he informed me of the dolphin.

Center right - dolphin feeding
Center right – dolphin feeding

When I turned around to look out over the water, there was a sudden flurry of activity as the dolphin was feeding.  Dennis had never seen this before and was as giddy as a school child…. or as giddy as me seeing the wonderful variety birds.

He and I both enjoyed our morning out on the water.  My boat ride ended with a photo of this trio.Birding

Yes, this was one fun month filled with a bunch of wonderful surprises.  Al and I are already looking forward to returning next January, and who knows, we may even extend our stay.  The desert or the coast?  I’m glad we can split our time between the two, because I don’t think I could pick.  Let the tug of war commence!

We're on the move!
We’re on the move!

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