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!



91 thoughts on “Third Times a Charm

  1. Now that is a choice I’d love to have, to spend winter in the desert of the coast. Hmm … decisions, decisions. I think you’re right, Ingrid. Why not both?

  2. So glad that your trip turned out well this year. That’s interesting that the wildlife at the refuge wasn’t that good, too. I will keep that in mind for a future trip, for sure. Your photos are fabulous, as always! I don’t know where you are headed on your way back to Phoenix, but I know there are some big wind warnings out in far West Texas. I can tell you from experience that it can get bad in a hurry out there when those kinds of winds kick in. Hope your trip back is uneventful!

    • The birds were a little illusive this visit, but with all the additional standing water due to rain, I think they had more options to feed and roost out of the public eye.
      We’re sitting in San Antonio waiting out the winds. We’re thinking maybe Tuesday we can drive from San Antonio to Fort Stockton, but we’ll keep an eye on the weather. What do you think about Tuesday or does Wednesday look better?

  3. Gorgeous pictures – love that spoonbill and snowy! What I remember most about our one trip to Aransas in April years ago was the mosquitoes – more than I had ever seen in my life! We had javelinas visit our BBQ patio area when we rented a house in Tucson. One mama javalina brought her two babies – the absolute cutest!

    • Last December when we stayed at Mustang Island SP, I didn’t even want to grill because of the mosquitoes. Merely walking to the beach from the RV had us returning with welts 😦
      How fun to see a mama javalina and her babies. We’ll be in Phoenix for two months, so I’ll remain on the search 🙂

  4. What a wonderful early morning on the water — it was certainly worth it, even though it was early and freezing cold! Whooping Cranes, Sandhill Cranes, and Roseate Spoonbills — lucky you! Well, not just luck — I know it’s persistence, too. All of your photos are wonderful, but I especially love the roseate and the egret together.

    • I am persistent that’s for sure, and I wasn’t going to let a little cold keep me from my search. It was so worth it and the water was amazingly calm. The beautiful morning was worth the boat ride, then add in the birds and it was sheer perfection.

  5. I love your pictures and stories. I can hardly wait until I am out there. I will have to get a schedule from you on where to go when. You have definitely been and seen a lot. I hope you keep traveling some new places this summer? Any ideas yet. The kids are all down there and you two usually head north. Keep in touch and keep taking those great pictures!!
    Merry Sue

    • I was thinking of you Merry Sue as I was out on the water. You’d love kayaking here and talk about a beautiful morning. I’m not sure what are plans are for this summer. I think I’m still in shock that the daughter actually moved out of Colorado… never thought she would. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

    • The desert offers unique beauty. Very different from the coast and I love being able to enjoy the diversity of these various locations. Those desert wildflowers should be in full swing by the end of February!

  6. Of all places to see a Javelina, you saw one in Texas! (that does not count …ha ha ha )
    Anyhow, once again I am I dare say jealous again? I don’t have a favorite all your bird photography has taken another notch. And I say the best way to enjoy the refuge is always on boat for the birds are out there hiding from everyone else.
    So glad Dennis offered once again and you took it this time and Im green with envy!

    • Hey, I was told it didn’t count seeing javelina’s at the Sonoran Desert Museum (captivity thing). This guy was in the wild, and thus counts LOL.
      We had a fantastic Texas visit and am already looking forward to next year. Al has promised we’ll rent some kayaks at least once 🙂 If you need a bird fix, you know where to go!

      • While it’s true we saw them at the museum for the second time, we saw them at Lake Havasu even before we knew what they were 🙂 I ‘m having a “mini” bird fix here but not like yours. The pink ladies and guys are not here 😦

        • At least you’re getting in some birding and hopefully capturing some nice photos. I’m looking forward to some desert hiking and desert wildflowers 🙂

  7. Ingrid – after my attempt at an eagle post I have a whole new appreciation for your photos. I love the black and white photos, it looks like you should be hung in a wall. Thanks again for sharing.

  8. Ingrid…. I agree… very very very nice stuff… especially the very first shot of the birds taking off… but… if I had to pick one and place on a wall… I’d take the black and white shot… great perspective…. and of course the morion of the seagulls is never to be repeated!

    • Thank you Gene. At least you know your words/posts are being read and put into practice. Grasshopper is learning and hopefully improving 🙂

  9. Oh, Ingrid, your opening photo is spectacular!! Capturing the three Sandhill cranes taking off is wonderful. Of course, I am partial to the Roseate Spoonbills. I just can’t get enough of those pink feathers and that unique beak. The trio shot couldn’t be better:) What a great morning on the water:) Glad you had a successful month this year:) Welcome back to Arizona!

    • I think we picked a good year to head to TX instead of staying in AZ. Seems like the January weather was a little crazy.
      Yes, I too love those pink beauties. They seem like such characters. Even though the birding was a little more difficult this year, it was special none the less.

  10. Ingrid – you never disappoint! Your photography is breath-taking and so full of your joy. Thanks for another wonderful recap of your travels. Stay safe! I hope to be in and around Pt. Aransa late March, early April. I will email you separately for camping ideas. Thanks again!

    • Thank you Pat. In my next post I’ll have a link to a post I did last year on a few places to stay. I think you’ll find it helpful. Careful of spring breakers in March in Port A. Although after Mardi Gras in NOLA, you might be up for more wild partying on the beach 😆

  11. All day thinking about you balancing on the front end of the boat…you truly struck gold! And your storytelling is growing ten-fold….fun read! Glad you took the detour and freezer full of some fresh eats from Al! Enjoy your ride back West!!

    • Awe, thank you C. There’s something about the coast that has a way of pulling at one’s heart strings, as you well know. I’ve gotten comfy in my little world here and already looking forward to a return visit to do more boat balancing 😆

  12. What a great photojournalist you are – you tell the story so well and your photographs are amazing! This was such a delight to read and even though I enjoyed all your shots, seeing all those species of birds together in one photo was very special.

    • I was delighted to see this pond filled with so many birds and the variety was surprising. I’m thrilled you enjoyed my tale. I had a fantastic time exploring and discovering and couldn’t wait to share 🙂

  13. What a great trip you had. I’m so glad it turned out better than last year. Those are great photos, especially the ones from the boat. That must have been great.

    • First, I love being out on the water. Thus, the boat ride was awesome of itself. Add in all the birds and it took the morning over the top. Now I’m looking forward to those AZ sunsets!

  14. Wonderful! Many people totally underestimate getting out with the camera pre dawn but not us!
    Safe journey back to phoenix, Ingrid, you might be a tad early for desert bloom so I think I would have stayed on the coast.
    I have come back from South Africa with 10000 shots!

    • Dennis was surprised I shot 1,000 that morning. Thus, no surprise to me you returned with 10,000. With a trip like that, you most likely were never at a loss of photo-ops. I’m sure you’ll having blogging material for the next few years, and I for one look forward to you sharing 🙂

  15. A fantastic collection of photos, Ingrid. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you enjoyed the coast [Port A is our favourite destination]. I’m sorry that the wildlife refuge was such a wash-out. But then, you did get splendid photo opportunities elsewhere.
    We spent the last weekend in Port A to celebrate my wife’s birthday. We really had a fun time with yummy food. 🙂 I could get in a bicycle ride along HWY 361 – nice exercise, but fairly boring [straight out and back]. And I did get a few nice pictures. One is here:
    I wish you a safe trip home,

    • Port A is always a fun place to visit and perfect to celebrate any occasion. Have you ever taken the bike around Charlie’s Pasture? I think I might give that a try next winter.

  16. I have to be honest with you Ingrid quite a few of those bird photos you took look like something out of National Geographic. They are outstanding! You should consider entering them in photography contests &/or supplementing your income with your shoots. Kudos!

    • We talked about extending our stay but have some appointments back in Phoenix that we don’t want to reschedule. There’s always next year plus new discoveries await 🙂

  17. Love all the photos but the closeup of the spoonbill is my favorite! Going out for your early morning boat ride was a wonderful treat and seeing the dolphin feeding was a special bonus! Wishing you safe travels to Phoenix.

    • Your “Yuma RV park” reason has really resonated with us. Talks with the neighbors might have us stay two months next year… and then of course, there’s the birds 🙂

  18. So glad you had a wonderful month in TX and the weather was nicer, sure hope it’s that way next year. So glad to hear you’ll be back there next winter as we’ll be down on the coast too. Saw a Javelina on the camp road a few weeks ago, he was dodging traffic. The wildflowers have just started blooming here, looks like there will be a great showing. Safe travels west, see you soon.

    • I have yet to see a javelina in AZ – so lucky you. It was a very good month along the coast this year and we’re looking forward to returning next year. Can’t wait to hit some of those trails with you soon 🙂

  19. You, my dear, had a smorgasbord of fabulous fun on that outing with Dennis! Wow, wow, wow! First off that sunrise! Then the cranes in flight, and then the dolphin! Hot digitty dog! You must have been smiling that beautiful smile of yours from ear to ear!
    What beautiful photography you have shared with us on this trip. I can see your tug of war situation. I think you could hang a bit more next year as the desert blooms don’t really start until late February and then definitely in March.
    On one of your pictures… The woman holding a baby and the alligator watching her! There is someone bent down trying to get the alligators attention… Not a smart individual.
    I have enjoyed your return to blogging… I sure hope your wifi connection in Phoenix is good because we all enjoy your photography and your outstanding posts!

    • I’m afraid once we get back to the RV Park in AZ, my internet connection will be slow and difficult to post. I might end up needing to go to my sons house since I still have so many more photos to share. Hope you have your hiking boots ready because I’ll be dragging you out on the trail soon 🙂

  20. We’ve just arrived in southern Texas. I must see a Roseate Spoonbill now. If I don’t witness one before, we will definitely seek out Mustang Island as we head north. ThankU

    • Enjoy and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Mustang Island has so many nooks and crannies to explore. The third photo in this post of the spoonbills and ibis’ was taken near the side of the road just south of Mustang Island State Park. I pulled off to the side of the road and started snapping away. As the passenger, just keep your eyes wandering along the drive 🙂

  21. Thank you so much for the tour. So glad you didn’t cancel the trip, 🙂 Love your bird captures, as always. I still haven’t made to Rockport… maybe next month. 🙂

    • Thank you Amy. This year, I had much better luck birding on Mustang Island with the exception of the boat ride. Port A is always a fun place to visit.

  22. So happy for you that this year was better than last!
    Love the Roseate Spoonbills.
    This season certainly has us considering not spending an entire winter anywhere next year and moving about a bit more. Specially if we are going to spend all of the summer in one place. Have been sitting a little too much this year.

    • This year the weather was much better, but last year the birding was better… go figure! We enjoy monthly stays the most – a month here, a month there. We will even switch it up in Phoenix. After about thirty days, I get ready to move on in search of new discoveries. Moving weekly is way too much unless we’re in transition, but moving every 30 days seems about right for now. This lifestyle has a way of evolving 🙂

  23. Absolutely stunning photos, Ingrid. I am in love with the pink spoonbill – wow! Glad you enjoyed the coast. Safe travels en route to Phoenix.

    • Thank you Meghan. It’s hard not to fall in love with those pink beauties. It’s been a fantastic visit and now I look forward to those desert sunsets.

  24. You’re a wonderful photographer! your photo of the 3 birds, each sitting on top of an old weathered pier in the middle of a large body of water reminds me of an observation. I live near upper Lake Livingston here in Texas, and the shallow body of water has alot of those weathered old piers or high stumps, which is a favorite resting spot for the the very graceful and large Great Blue Heron and other water birds, too. I discovered they have a “bird etiquette”. When another bird flies and glides straight toward them, spot-on the same pier or stump, the bird that’s presently sitting on it will gracefully relinquish the pier to allow the in-coming bird to land. Have you noticed that in your travels?

    • No, I did not know about the bird etiquette. It is fascinating to watch and learn the habits and patterns of the birds. I could tell the sandhills were getting ready to take off by the way they were stretching their necks but I’ve had a fair amount of time observing them. Last year we spent 3 months in TX and Lake Livingston was on our radar, but we ended up staying in Galveston a month then headed over to Goliad and then Mustang Island. There are so many places to see in TX it’s hard to narrow it down. I do love all the old piers along the coast!

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