Shhh! It’s a Secret

I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by.  It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking.  Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather.  I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River

Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my favorite spots.  For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my ospreycamera.  With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me.  How boring and crowded it would be if we all liked the same things.

I put a map together to share with you, my wonderful blog followers,  a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us.  It’ll be our secret  😃  After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds.  Then it just wouldn’t be the same.

pelican

Listen up!

Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or those popular holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to find these magnificent birds.  But I do!whooping crane

Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites.  My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own.  And they’re really bad about birdschecking in with me – almost as bad as my children!

Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map.  I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to focus on the sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most.  I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.

With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will discover your own favorite spots – spots I might even be unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!

After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest.  Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, Texas Longhornbut with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10.  The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio.  Wanting to change things up a bit and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.

Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds.  Poor Al 😫

Texas Hill Country

Spring in the Texas Hill Country – adorable!

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.

sleeping duckTalk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.

Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely not enough.  Our RV park neighbor mentioned a tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.

I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two.  But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west.  Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.

Eygyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose checking on her eggs

So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas?  On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort.  Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town.  You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.

Bandera Texas RV Park

Pioneer River Resort, Bandera, Texas

Bandera Texas

Bandera Community Park along the Medina River. Pioneer River RV Park can be seen in the far distance on left. Sits on the other side of the highway. Easy walk for me to spend time with these guys.

Bandera RV Park

Skyline Ranch RV Park – photo taken as I was walking back from the river.

Skyline RV Park

At Skyline Ranch RV Park it’s all about the deer. The Axis deer are so cute with their spots.

We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend.  Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.

gazebo

This gazebo reminded me of the ‘Gilmore Girls’

On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special to me ….

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River – community park.  White momma duck sitting on her nest.

axis deer

Axis deer – Bandera, Texas

Egyptian goose

Medina River

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicks

Spring is in the air!

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

heron

great blue heron roosting site

pelican

Now that’s a mouth full!

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

Charlies Pasture

Interesting trails!

cormorants

Life along the coast!

killdeerbird

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise

 

birding center

 

 

 

 

 

Always something interesting to see!

egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

egrethawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging

roseate spoonbills

Until we meet again, my pink beauties!

Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!

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Things to do in Rockport

After a fantastic two month stay along the Texas Gulf Coast, we’ve hitched up and started our journey back to the desert.  I love having the freedom to split our time between two such diverse places; the Texas Gulf Coast and the Arizona desert. I’m grateful I don’t have to pick one or the other because each place offers something special and unique.

St. Charles Bay

Sunrise over St. Charles Bay, Texas

First, let’s talk about the water.  Gosh, what’s not to like about water, beaches, and sunsets, or in my case, sunrises!  All this water is the main attraction and the reason folks year round flock to the Rockport area.

Copano Bay

Rockport is popular with anglers

Rockport BeachYou won’t find much of a beach scene around Rockport/Fulton, but it is an anglers delight.  For miles of sandy beach, you’ll want to visit Mustang Island.  With that said, there is a small stretch of sandy beach to enjoy at the  Rockport Beach.

The Rockport Beach is a one mile long strip of land with sandy beach on one side of the road and a migratory bird area on the other side.  This is a fee use area and you’ll need to leave pooch at home.

There’s a small area roped off so nesting birds won’t be disturbed, making this a worthwhile stop for birders and photographers.  It’s also the perfect place to get in a little kayaking and paddle around an island to view nesting migratory birds.great blue heron

Although summer is considered peak tourist season, you’ll find plenty of snowbirds in the winter hanging around and calling themselves winter Texans…. us included.

friendship

Having friends over to our place.

Because this is such a popular place to escape the harsher weather to the north, you never know who you’ll run into around here.  Our friends, Faye and Dave, were wintering on Mustang Island, an easy one-hour drive away from our camp and we enjoyed a few get togethers with this entertaining couple.  We also managed to squeeze in a few other social engagements.

friendship

And then a get together at their place on Mustang Island.  Faye and Dave on the left.  Al and me on the right

This was our fourth year spending January in this part of Texas and our first time spending February.  Thus, I’ve had time to put a dent in this list –  51 things to do near Rockport.

Fulton, TexasRockport/Fulton are quaint, small town communities where everyone waves.  You won’t find any high-rise condos around here, although it is a very popular spot for folks from the big cities of San Antonio, Austin, and Houston to own second homes.  There’s also no shortage of RV Parks.

roseateThe original draw for us four years ago to visit the Texas Gulf Coast was for Al to meet up with his buddy and do manly things with manly men 😉  Little did I realize during that first visit, how I’d come to embrace and relish our visits to the Texas Gulf Coast.

And now it’s a toss-up as to which one of us looks more forward to these visits.  Thankfully it doesn’t matter considering we’re in full agreement that we’ll continue returning until it no longer fits.

Fishing and hunting is extremely popular round these parts.  We usually roll into town sometime during the last week in December which happens to be duck season.

duck hunting

Duck hunters know how to treat their dogs. Dog gets its own seat, wears a life vest and ear protection.
One hunter says to the other, can I borrow …. truck yes, wife maybe, dog never!

The airboats can be heard going out every morning starting around 5:30 a.m.  Once the Christmas/New Year holiday week is over, the morning noise lightens up during the oyster boatweekday but continues in a steady stream on weekends.  By the end of January, duck season is over and the only airboats going out are anglers and they tend to go out at a much more reasonable hour.

The St. Charles Bay can be rather shallow which is why airboats are so popular.  But during certain tides, the sight of oyster boats are common.  Oyster fishing is huge business around here and the first weekend in March is the Oyster Festival.

A lot of anglers fish from shore or don chest waders and fish while standing in the water.  There are public duck blinds for anyone to use on a first come basis for duck hunting during the season.

duck hunting

These two hunters are wading out to a public blind.  St. Charles Bay, Lamar, Texas.  Oyster boats in the distance.

whooping cranes

There’s a public duck blind in the water above the left crane and arrow sign

Texans love their outdoor recreation.  Allow me to share my winter Texas neighborhood along with the diverse activities taking place within relative close proximity to one another.  AND everyone gets along, respecting recreational choice.

I alternate between walking and riding my bike around the neighborhood.  Envision me having a Julia Roberts moment – a scene from the movie Eat, Pray, Love.  There I am Light at the end of the tunnelriding my three speed bicycle with a cute basket on the front (gotta have the basket, you know), camera slung across my body. As I pedal slowly, I glide down the tree-lined road.

My long flowing hair blows gently in the breeze (in reality the uncontrollable curly frizz is tightly bound and tucked under a cap in a battle against the extreme humidity and gusting winds 😖).  I take in the sights and wave to passerby’s.  As I exit the trees, I’m greeted by the expanse of the bay in the distance.  Further down 8th Street, I see several cars parked along the road.  The endangered whooping cranes can be seen in the field along with my favorite Brahma calf and a slew of other birds can be seen mingling near a pond.Texas Gulf CoastOf course, I too stop and start taking photographs (duh! like I’d pass up a chance to work that shutter).  Folks from around the country and the world visit this part of Texas for the birding.  Seeing a family of endangered whooping cranes is a rare and special treat.

Kayaking anyone? He launches at the end of 12th St. and Lamar Beach Road

Truck guy launches kayak at the end of 12th St. and Lamar Beach Road while whooping crane family looks on.  These birds are used to the flurry of activity, but they still stay far away – 600mm zoom and crop

A little later and you can see the green kayak in the water

A little later, you can see the green kayak in the water

There’s several of us lined up along the fence taking photographs of the whooping cranes.  Locals and visitors a like engage in idle chit-chat.  The loud boom, boom, bang, bang in the distance has a visitor questioning what the noise was. I, considered a winter local, along with another local dweller, exclaim nonchalantly, “Oh, those are the duck hunters in that blind out in the bay”.  With that said, we were back to our photo taking and chit-chatting about the birds.Rockport Texas

After snapping the camera’s shutter one too many times, I continue my bike ride along Lamar Beach Road.  I ride by several fishermen enjoying the day.  A kayaker in the bay was off paddling while the duck hunters were gathering up their decoys.  I roll by pedestrians and other bikers and regardless of who I pass, hellos and waves are exchanged as if we know one another.

Pelican

Pelicans act like begging dogs at the fish cleaning station at Goose Island State Park.

A short time later, I’m pedaling around Goose Island State Park.  Although the shore birding around the park can be hit or miss, I can always count on pelicans to entertain me, especially if there’s someone cleaning fish at the cleaning station.

Pelican eating fish

Who needs a human when I can catch my own! ISO 100 F4.0 1/1000  (600mm)

Boat & RV left side-This is our 82 yr old neighbor who is an avid fisherman. He launches, docks, does everything himself and never gets his feet wet! Winters here and spends summers in Montana

Boat & RV left side-This is our 82 yr old neighbor who is an avid fisherman. He launches, docks, does everything himself and never gets his feet wet! He winters here and spends summers in Montana.

Let’s see, so far I’ve biked around the neighborhood.  I’ve taken hundreds, actually more like thousands, of bird photographs.  I’ve also enjoyed photographing interesting sights and amazing landscapes.

foggy morning

a foggy morning along the coast had me out of the RV by 7:00 a.m.

spider web

a foggy morning provided mystery and interest

marina

marinas offer tons of photographic material – lots of interesting things to see

I can’t forget to mention, a visit to a marina shouldn’t be missed.  There’s so much great blue heroncharacter and intrigue to see.  Or how about doing a little shopping at Rockport’s historic downtown or touring an art gallery or two. This gal always manages to work in a few days of frivolous shopping.

On a rainy day, I get a kick out of visiting gift shops and checking out the crazy souvenirs. Who thinks up these things, and who buys it? 😉  Oops – guilty!

Here’s a write-up I did last year sharing a few more sites like the Fulton Mansion.seashells

Hmm, I might write up one more post about the Texas Gulf Coast and then we need to move on.  Ah yes, I already miss her…. miss the water and the birds and look forward to returning at the end of the year.  But the desert is calling.  The desert in bloom can’t be missed!Texas Gulf Coast

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Comedy of Errors

It was another early morning around the RV.  Once again, Al and his buddy were heading to the marina by 6:15 a.m.  While I sat in bed enjoying my first cup of coffee, I contemplated how energetic I felt.  I determined, not very!Rockport, Fulton, Texas

While sipping my second cup of coffee, I read emails and glanced out the RV window checking for cloud conditions.  Looks like another morning of ho-hum skies, eliminating any urgency to leave the comforts of the RV post-haste for a photo-op.

roseate spoonbillFinally around 8:30, I hopped in the truck and headed on over to one of my favorite areas to walk.  I figured, I might as well get in some exercise since the day won’t be about photography.  But this gal never goes anywhere without her trusty camera slung around her neck.  One never knows when a rare photo-op might present itself!

There’s a relatively new housing development being built not too far away from our RV park near Rockport, Texas.

This former home builder still likes being around new construction and enjoys checking out the latest trends in the housing industry.  I even enjoy the smell of lumber!  I know, weird 😏

new homes

I still like checking out new construction housing developments – walkway lower right.  This photo was taken on a beautiful sunny day …. just one of many.

paver boardwalk

this is the walkway aka boardwalk in the new housing development. Houses are on the right – marsh and Gulf on the left. This photo was taken on that foggy morning in my previous post

Anyway, I love getting in daily strolls in this gated community.  Most of the homeowners are only here occasionally … maybe on weekends or holidays.  The houses are used primarily as second homes.  Thus, I usually have the “boardwalk” (their label, not mine) to myself.Gulf shore birds

I parked the truck in my regular spot and took the path to the walkway.  As I started down the boardwalk, I immediately gasped in awe and glee.  The little ponds in the marshes were loaded with shore birds. Thank goodness, I brought my camera.  It was a gloomy, overcast morning and my camera seemed to have difficulty focusing.  Perhaps, it was camera shake due to my excitement.

Texas birding

this may be reality  …. but

colorful birds

This is what my mind saw – a flurry of color – where to look? where to point the camera? To say I was excited would be an understatement!

I was elated to have stumbled upon so many shore birds.  I did my best not to startle them, but the slightest movement on my part seemed to send them flying off to the roseate spoonbillnext pond. I slowly followed in their direction and my camera continued to work in overdrive.

Well over an hour later, it was time for me to leave.  Oh, how I wanted to stay longer, but my teeth were floating from the coffee ingested earlier.  As I approached the truck, I dug around in my bag for the keys.  I couldn’t seem to find them.  I entered the code on the keyless entry pad on the driver’s side door of the truck and began searching the vehicle floor, ignition, passenger seat and still no keys.  It is so not like me to misplace my keys.egret

I began to wonder if the keys had somehow fallen out of my bag while I was retrieving a new camera battery.  After all, there was a lot of excitement going on and while I dug in the bag for the battery, I kept my eyes on the birds.

So it was back to the boardwalk to retrace my steps.  Still no keys.  Eek!  I’m frazzled and really need to pee but the last time I used the construction porta-potty, I attracted a lot of attention from the workers … something I was hoping to avoid this go around.  Plus, I was in no mood for jovial sparring.

egret

someone’s feathers are ruffled

“Check the truck again, Ingrid”, I said to myself.  I tried punching in the code on the keypad but had a total space out.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember the code!  😱  Just then, one of the landscapers yelled something out to me.  In a daze, I asked, “I’m sorry, what?”  He repeats, “Did you get some nice shots?”  “Oh, yeah”, I responded, still frazzled.  heron

All I could think about was loosing all the keys on my key chain.  The truck key was one thing, but the other keys, holy sh*t, not easily replaced!!!

As I responded to the landscaper, something to the left of him caught my eye.  Ah-hah!  There was a lone porta-potty in the distance and after a quick visit, I was once again able to thick clearly.  I still couldn’t remember the keyless entry code on the truck though.  Talk about a brain fart 🙄

Oh well, I shrugged. I’ll walk back to the RV Park and get Al’s keys which he always leaves behind while boating.  I thought about calling my friend and neighbor in the RV park, but I forgot to take my cell phone with me – grrr.  So that wasn’t an option.  Well, I needed the exercise anyway considering I got sidetracked earlier by all those birds.great blue heron

So it was off to the RV Park by foot.  Along the way, I discovered the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and a delightful pond.   Once again, I was sidetracked and found myself meandering through a grove of twisted oak trees all the while my brain kept saying, ‘focus – tend to business’.

pond

note the tops of the trees – great blue herons nesting

I couldn’t help but get sidetracked, but soon logic took over and I was once again on my way to the RV Park.

But then …. the unique sound of the Black Bellied Whistling Ducks stopped me in my tracks.  These squeaky guys always make me smile and I can’t resist looking up to the skies when I hear them to catch a glimpse of their beautiful coloring.  Little did I know, I was in for a treat.  As I stood still trying to blend in to the truck of an oak tree, I watched them circle.  Hundreds of whistling ducks landed not far from me.  Then to top it off, a deer emerged from the brush.

whistling ducks

black bellied whistling ducks

whistling ducks

Alas, after being sidetracked a couple of times, I finally made it to the RV to retrieve Al’s keys.  I stuck my cell phone in my bag (just in case) and briskly returned to the truck.  Well…. maybe briskly is an over statement since there was a slight detour back through the oak trees and the heron nesting grounds.  But I swear, it was brief 😉

great blue heronBy the time I returned back to the RV with the truck, Al was home.  He and his buddy had a great morning out on the water.  He had worked up an appetite and wanted to know, “What’s for lunch?”  Twenty minutes later, we were sitting at the local dive up the road indulging in an awesome shrimp po-boy sandwich arguing over the code to the truck keypad.  Seems I confused Al, as well as myself.

To wrap up the day …. I had one of the most exciting bird photography mornings ever along with a very cool location discovery.  My close proximity to the shore birds is what lent to the thrill.

I lost my keys and later found my keys on the backseat floor.  Don’t ask 😆  I ended up walking about four miles that day.  I took hundreds of blurry photos.  Therefore, broke my camera.  Oops!  User error?  Maybe!  Fixed my camera.

sunrise

someone woke someone early!

I confused my husband regarding the keyless entry code on the truck, but not to worry.   The code was recalled in the wee morning hours the next day …. I believe someone waking someone exclaiming, “I REMEMBER THE CODE” was involved.

Lost my keys.  Found my keys.  Walked four miles.  Broke my camera.  Fixed my camera.  Communed with hundreds of birds.  Confused my husband.  Husband remains confused (living with me thirty plus years, confusion justified lol).  What an exciting day.  Ah, rarely a dull moment in the life of a full-time RVer!seagull

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Enjoying it All

Is there anything prettier than a desert sunset? Or how about the beautiful fall colors in the Rocky Mountains?  And then there’s the dawning of a new day as the sunrises over the Gulf of Mexico.Gulf Coast

I love fantastic scenery, and all these various places are pretty special in their own unique way. I’m grateful I don’t have to choose a favorite, at least for the time being.  With my little house on wheels, I get to change up the scenery as often or as little as I like.

Great Blue HeronAs I was watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico this morning, I began wondering, “Could I live here”?  Sure, I’m living here for two months, but could I live here longer? You know, own a sticks and bricks house here!

Al and I know that some day, we’d like to find a home base. That doesn’t mean we’d stop RVing or stop traveling …. it just means, we’d have a place to return to and regroup.

Our original plan all along was to move into the RV full-time for a year or two until we found “that place”, that special somewhere.  And here we are, four years later and no closer to finding that place.  In reality, I’m not sure we’ve looked very hard 😉 This mobile lifestyle can be addicting.  It allows us the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of diverse landscapes.  We get to enjoy it all.

Fulton Beach Texas

Hmm, not a bad neighborhood … But no mountain views around here!

I love visiting the Texas Gulf Coast, but I already know come the end of February I will be Texas Shore birdsready to move on.  I’ll want to see some mountains, some red rocks, and of course see my children.

Thus, the Texas Gulf Coast will remain a favorite place to visit, but not a place I’d want to live full-time.

Perhaps if one of my children were to move to Texas … perhaps then, I’d change my mind.

So what do I like about the Texas Gulf Coast? First and foremost is the wildlife, as in the birds.  I love the shore birds and can watch and observe them for hours and quite often do.

seagulls

shore birds

Birds are definitely a challenge to photograph.  When I do manage to snap that special shot, I get super excited.  That excitement is usually short lived once the photo is uploaded onto the computer.  Disappointment is followed by the desire to get back out into the field and see if I can do a better job and capture a clear image.

No two days are the same.  I can never count on the birds being in the same spot.  I know, how rude of them not to leave breadcrumbs for me!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Cormorant

I spend most every morning in search of photographic opportunities.  It’s the perfect excuse for me to get out of the RV and get in some exercise …. walk or ride my bicycle.  I do have to drive to some places though.  There’s no beach near our RV park.

Rockport Beach

Rockport Beach, Texas

When the birds are being illusive near camp, I’ll hop in the truck and go in search.  I have some favorite areas I like to scope out.  When all else fails, I’ll walk the beach looking for seashells.  There’s always an interesting discovery to be made, or at the very least, a photo-op.Rockport Beach

This is my first year strolling the Rockport Beach.  It’s a fee use area if you choose to drive in toward the picnic area and pavilions.  I’ve been parking near the blue crab or marina and walking along the waters edge.  It’s a lovely beach and a great way to get in those exercise steps.Blue Crab

If you’d like a bit more information on the area, you can always check out some of my egretposts from previous years or feel free to contact me.

Here’s a post I did about camping options along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Since this is a snowbirders haven, we always manage to connect with fellow full-time RVer’s. Here’s a post on one such rendezvous.

There’s also a bunch of museums and aquariums in the area worth visiting.  Here’s the post about us visiting an aircraft carrier. (all colored text is linked)

More bird photos forthcoming …. you’ve been warned!

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Texas BBQ: Meat, Smoke & Love

Exquisite and Graceful

This is our fourth winter RVing along the Texas Gulf Coast, and it has not disappointed. The weather has been enjoyable this year with no mention of a polar vortex, thank goodness. With that said, I’m taking full advantage of getting out of the RV everyday to commune with my feathered friends.Shore birds

I don’t consider myself a birder, but merely, someone who admires birds, especially shore birds.  My fascination with these birds was piqued during that very first visit to the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve always enjoyed wildlife photography, but bird photography was a new game.  It challenged me then, and continues to challenge me now.

Family of whooping cranes - mom, dad, juvenile

Family of whooping cranes – mom, dad, juvenile

I always look forward to our return trips to Texas to observe and photograph the exquisite and graceful whooping crane, an endangered species who’s numbers were in the teens back in the 1940’s and are now in the 500+ range.  Habitat and poaching still threaten these magnificent birds, but efforts are being made by various organizations to help these cranes.

Whooping Cranes - endangered

A family of endangered whooping Cranes

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this beautiful pink beauty … the roseate spoonbill. Her deep pink is truly stunning. Actually, it’s the male of the species that sports the deepest of the hue.  This is one dude who knows how to wear pink well!roseata spoonbil

However, I find the egret embodies a certain grace and elegance.  Her snowy white plumage, long black legs, and bright yellow feet have me comparing her to a princess. He or she?  In the case of the egret, both sexes are bright white and thus difficult to decipher.egret

Tri-colored HeronTri-colored Herons feel equally as regal and exude a unique level of gracefulness. Their grayish blue coloring with patches of deep purple is truly stunning.

Ah, then there are the pelicans … oh those pelicans. What can I say about these whimsical creatures?

When in-flight they exhibit a grace comparable to the whooping crane, but when they plunge into the water fishing for dinner, well let’s just say, the sight is anything but graceful and is downright comical.

I’m still trying to capture a video of a pelican diving for fish, but am always in the midst of laughing and fail to point the camera in the right direction.  I’ll keep working on that!

pelican yoga!

pelican yoga!

Overall, I find pelicans to be rather entertaining and full of character and when they aren’t flying, they exhibit absolutely no grace what so ever.pelicans

I’ve got another month hanging along the Texas Gulf Coast with my feathered friends.  I hope to capture more photographs of these amazing shore birds, and in the process, work on getting in my exercise steps 😎

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Flexibility is key

I’ve discovered that there’s a major difference between going on vacation versus living a mobile lifestyle.  A vacation has a definitive beginning and ending with very little to no flexibility.  A mobile lifestyle offers oodles of flexibility.

"Life is a beautiful ride" I enjoyed window shopping at La Canterra

“Life is a beautiful ride” I enjoyed window shopping at La Cantera

As a matter of fact, flexibility is key to enjoying this full-time RVing lifestyle.  After all, we’re pulling/driving our home full-time and arriving to our next destination safely and fully intact is always the goal.  With that said, a key component to a long travel day is the weather.  The ability to change travel plans on a whim based on the weather is wonderful.

Al and I had allowed ourselves fourteen days to travel the 1,165 miles (1,872km) from Rockport, Texas to Phoenix, Arizona.  That gave us the flexibility to roll with the weather, as well as give us options; get to Phoenix a week early, or take our time Rockport egretmeandering along the way, or extend our stay in Rockport, which we seriously thought about – considering I wasn’t quite ready to bid farewell to the scenery OR the birds.

But that weather…. winter weather at that, made the decision for us.  We hit the road while good road conditions prevailed.  Plus, we usually prefer driving through major cities on a Saturday or Sunday.  Sunday morning (January 31st) had us navigating through San Antonio, Texas toward the northwest part of town without issue.  We settled into the Elk’s Lodge for what we thought would be a quick overnight stay.

That evening, we easily made a change of plans while reviewing the weather and road conditions for Interstate 10.  High wind warnings accompanied by brown out conditions (blowing dirt) followed by freezing rain along Interstate 10 in west Texas and New Mexico had us hanging out in San Antonio for an extra night, then two.

Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas

Shops at La Cantera, San Antonio, Texas

Ah, what’s a gal to do parked in a less than scenic parking lot without a vehicle at her disposal?  How about visit the Shops at La Canteraneighboring mall for a little retail therapy and architectural photography?  The Shops at La Cantera did not disappoint.

The weather was gorgeous which allowed me to hike this beautiful outdoor mall a couple of times.  While strolling the mall, I enjoyed the window shopping, the trickling sounds of water features, and the fragrant smell of all the lush vegetation. Shops at La Cantera

Although the mall had all the usual stores, the architecture was anything but boring.  There was a unique feel – a combination of new, yet old.  I think it was the blending of materials and angles that attracted my attention.  One minute I was walking on concrete, then the next I was moseying across cobblestone pavers, then it was on to ceramic tile, or stone, or slate…. and that’s what was happening just under my feet.Shops at La Cantera

Overhead was another visual delight; a combination of canopies, overhangs, or open blue sky adding another layer of ambiance.  Each store front had its own special detail, wall color, and finish.  Some of the stone used throughout the outdoor mall had a resemblance to that of the Alamo.shops at la canteraI must admit, for a split second I felt a little guilty about being in San Antonio and spending all my time at the Shops at La Cantera.  This city offers so many fabulous things to see and do, but since we weren’t unhooking the truck from the 5th wheel, driving anywhere was not an option.  Plus, during shops at la canteraprevious visits to San Antonio, we’d already visited the River Walk, Alamo, and Missions.

The Shops at La Cantera is a rather large mall, which allowed me to get in plenty of exercise, but lead to working up an appetite.  The day before departure, I retrieved hubby, and we were off to visit Penny at the Cheesecake Factory.  Their large size entrees are perfect for taking half the meal home providing lunch on the road the following day.  Yum!

Our flexible schedule allowed us to avert inclement weather, and extend our stay in San Antonio.  The delay was indeed pleasurable and I might have even pulled out of town with a few new items in my already full closet, but I’m not admitting anything  😉Shops at La Cantera

With blue skies and dry roads, we were on the road again.  And for anyone who has ever driven across Texas knows, it goes on for what seems forever.  We try to avoid staying in Van Horn, Texas, but we were on a mission to head west as quickly as san antoniopossible in an attempt to avoid the next wave of weather expected to hit this part of the country.

It was a 6-7 hour travel day between San Antonio and Van Horn, Texas (431 miles or 694 km).  We found a less than memorable campground to overnight in since the Walmart is out of the question.  Yep, no overnighting at the Walmart allowed in this town.  Van Horn? –  you know the saying, “if you can’t say anything nice……..”.

The next morning, we along with the rest of the RV’s were quick to exit Van Horn.  We made it through El Paso and into New Mexico and I was hugging rocks by early afternoon ……

Adios Texas - until we meet again!

Adios Texas – until we meet again!

 

That’s a wrap!

There’s a major up side to returning to familiar territory.  I think we can all relate; we go on vacation to some new and exciting place and have such a wonderful time that we can’t wait to return again and again and again.  And although that may mean we’re not exploring other exciting destinations, that doesn’t mean new discoveries aren’t made.Rockport Texas

To me, it’s kind of like watching a movie for the second or third time.  Character lines are heard that may have missed the first go around, or there’s a better understanding of a plot.  I feel, some movies are actually better the second time around.

I think the same can be said about traveling to a familiar place.  This was our third January spent in the Rockport, Texas, area and our best visit yet.  I’ll be the first to admit, this is a place I probably wouldn’t recommend to most folks unless one’s interests are either birding, photography, or sportsman activities (fishing/hunting).  Considering Al and I enjoy that stuff, it works perfectly for us.Rockport

For those more interested in beaches, quaint shops, and plenty of dining options; Port Aransas on Mustang Island is the place to go.  I even found myself visiting the island three times during the month of January exploring some of my favorite places.

Mustang Island and the Corpus Christi area hold special memories for Al and me individually.  During Al’s Navy days, he was stationed in Corpus Christi and the aircraft carrier he was trained to land a plane on has now been turned into a museum.  My memories center around my parents and their RVing days.  It was not uncommon for the kids and me to visit my parents during their winter sojourn to Mustang Island.  Fond memories, indeed.Rockport Fulton Texas

Back to Rockport – Fulton and my new discoveries … these two quaint Texas coastal communities offer plenty of options to keep me entertained (in addition to my birding, that is).  After a two-year renovation, the Fulton Mansion was once again open to the public and at the top of my list to visit.  This 1870’s French inspired home has been beautifully restored. (click on any photo to enlarge into a slide show)

 

I found the self-guided tour of the mansion interesting as I was transported back in time.  One of the rooms on the second floor was left as original as possible showcasing damaged lath and plaster walls.  Parts of the ceiling and flooring were also left exposed to share some unique materials used in the construction.  I never would’ve thought to use sand and seashells as insulation between floors.  My Real Estate background had me reading each word displayed regarding ownership of the property and the prices each party paid.  Back in the 1960’s the front yard was actually an RV park and all the historical photos were extremely entertaining.

Touring the grounds alone is also worthwhile with its wind swept Oak Trees, manicured garden, and serene ocean view.Rockport Texas

There was more history for me to discover in downtown Rockport.  Since I didn’t have anything to shop for, I strolled the main street looking for things to photograph.  Architectural photography remains a challenge for me, so I’m always looking for opportunities to practice.

Shopping in Rockport, Texas - quaint, unique shops and interesting structures

Shopping in Rockport, Texas – quaint, unique shops and interesting structures

No shortage here of things to photograph as all the buildings are unique and one of a kind.  And just because I didn’t have any knickknacks to shop for doesn’t mean this former shopaholic didn’t step into a shop or two.

Most of the shops cater to the tourist crowd, even the local Ace Hardware store gets in on the action.  Aside from exploring the little shops in the downtown area, I found myself visiting stores throughout the community.  Stores I normally wouldn’t visit if it hadn’t been for my quest to find a pair of rubber boots.  You see, I was in dire need of a pair of rain boots if I was to go out on the boat with Dennis.  His funky little boat required that I board from the water and the temps were way to cold for my Keen’s, thus the need for boots.  But not just any old rubber boot would do.  Come on, they had to be somewhat fashionable after all.

Visiting the local Garden and Feed store had me longing for a home with a yard. That feeling was quickly passed though :-)

Visiting the local Garden – Feed store had me longing for a home with a yard. That thought quickly passed 🙂

Finding rubber boots wasn’t an issue in this coastal community.  It was the fashionably cute part that was difficult.  I wound up running all over town, including the hardware store, feed store, stores an hour away in Corpus Christi, and eventually turned to Amazon.  Every time I found a pair of boots I liked, they didn’t have my size!BBQ

Whew…. all that shopping had me working up an appetite and this year’s new restaurant discovery was just five minutes up the road from our RV Park.  Stevie Lew’s is a locally owned, family run business with everything homemade.  My chicken BBQ sandwich was delicious as were the chicken tacos that I tested on visit number two.

Fresh roasted coffee beans

Fresh roasted coffee beans

They even roast their own coffee beans and it smelled wonderful.  I forgot to buy some coffee on my way out 😦  Next time!  See, there’s always a reason to return.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful markets around here.  Texas is home to a grocery store chain called H.E.B.  I’m always able to find what I need at a reasonable price and the employees are usually very helpful and friendly.  I’ve never had a bad experience at a H.E.B.  And then there are all the local seafood market’s which need to be explored.  We pulled out of Rockport, Texas, with every square inch of our RV freezer filled with fresh shrimp and fish.photography

Our time along the Gulf Coast flew by, and I’ll admit, we weren’t ready to leave.  That said, we’ve talked about spending two months along the coast next winter, but then again, the desert has a strong pull.  Ah, we’ll need to sit down and do a little scheduling and time management.  There are worse things to contemplate!vultures

Last year I did a post on the places we camped in this part of Texas.  Click here if you’d like more information on camping options.

So, I think I’ve about summed up our time along the Texas Gulf Coast – shopping, museums, photography, fishing, hunting, birding, photography, eating, boating, sunsets, sunrises, did I mention photography.  That’s a wrap!  Next up, we’re back in the desert southwest .photography

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Wordless Wednesday

I took a lot of photographs last month and while going through them, I realized it really is true; a picture is worth a thousand words.  Here’s a bunch of reasons why we enjoy visiting the Texas Gulf Coast…..Rockport

sandhill cranes

sandhill cranes

photography

Getting ready to find some babe's - "Hey Joe, do I have bad breath?" "Joe, smell my armpit"

Getting ready to find some babe’s – “Hey Joe, do I have bad breath?” “Joe, smell my armpit”

Morning yoga - proud warrior

Pelicans make me smile. Morning yoga – proud warrior pose

downward dog

downward dog

running into like minded folks!

Running into like minded folks! Although my equipment doesn’t come close, we all share a passion for photography and the birds.

Hearing their wings as they flew over me was exhilarating. I'm ok with the fact that I didn't achieve good focus. They were moving over me relatively fast and I got a little jittery excited. Taken at 300mm and almost no cropping.

Hearing the wings of this whooping crane and sandhill crane as they flew over me was exhilarating. I’m ok with the fact that I didn’t achieve good focus. They were moving over me relatively fast and I got a little jittery and excited. Taken at 300mm w/minimal crop.

Egret

photography

egret

photography

photography

birding

birding

Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

photography

The beginning of a new day!

The beginning of a new day!

 

 

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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Perils of a bad neighbor!

One of the things we rarely worry about these days are neighbors.  Having a mobile lifestyle means everything is temporary including the folks in the RV site next door, which does have its pluses and minuses.   We enjoyed great neighbors at the RV Park in Phoenix this past fall, and we lucked out parking next to equally fun neighbors for the month of January here in Rockport, Texas.Copano Bay

A recent visit to my favorite birding center reminded me that not everyone or everything is as fortunate.  We’ve all heard stories about feuding neighbors, but what about living next door to a Hannibal Lector?  I’d imagine that to be scary AND dangerous.  Just ask Connie the Common Gallinule.  There she was, strolling the neighborhood in search of veggies, fish, or whatever when she saw movement in the water.

Allegator

Common Gallinule

He’s got his eye on the prize!

AlligatorInitially she didn’t seem concerned, and continued about her business of foraging the neighborhood for food.  I stood on the boardwalk watching as Mr. Alligator slowly crawled out of the watering inching his way closer to Connie.  Concerned I was going to watch the circle of life unfold in front of me, my heart started beating as I softly said out loud, “run, little birdie, run”.

Common Gallinule

Fortunately, she caught on to Hannibal Alligator and high tailed it outta there.  A couple of weeks ago, another roosting neighbor wasn’t so lucky.  A favorite with all the local photographers was this precious beauty.

I took this photo last year of everyone's favorite tri-colored heron

I took this photo last year of everyone’s favorite tri-colored heron

This sweet Tri-colored Heron liked to stroll the waters near the boardwalk.  She wasn’t bothered by all the camera clicking and attention from the observers and some even said she almost seemed tame.  She was the perfect model and beloved by all the photographers, several of which witnessed her untimely ending.  Such are the perils of living next door to a bad neighbor.  Is he bad, or merely hungry?  He looks pretty badass to me AND hungry!Alligator

alligator

A sad loss to this diverse neighborhood as Hannibal turned sweet Tri into an appetizer.  I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it.  The thought still bothers me.  The two alligators that live here at the birding center were rather active during my hour-long visit Monday morning.

Resting and watching

Resting and watching

A year ago I visited the Leonabella Turnbull birding center several times in the month of December (2014).  This year I visited mid-January (2016) and I noticed fewer birds.  Was it the time of year or were Boots and Bags to blame? (and yes, that’s what the locals named the alligators)

black-crowned night heron keeping an eye on Boots and Bags

Green Heron keeping an eye on Boots and Bags

Although my visit to the birding center didn’t provide the photographic birding experience I had hoped for, it was an interesting visit none the less ……. and I returned home in one piece with all my body parts AND my boots and bag 🙂

Heron

 

 

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