I’ve discovered traveling by RV adds a whole new dimension to my overall travel experience, and it has exposed me to experiences well beyond my wildest dreams….
…. dreams I never imagined. I never thought that traveling to the Texas Gulf Coast would stir a passion within me … a joy I couldn’t have fathomed … the joy of photographing birds. Bird photography!
The first time I glimpsed the stunning pink hue of the Roseate Spoonbill had me yelling at Al to stop the truck. We were driving along Fulton Beach Road along the Gulf Coast in Texas when a shimmer of pink in shallow pond water caught my attention. I had never seen such a beautiful, yet weird, bird in my entire life. That was just the beginning of my journey into photographing birds …. the beginning of my interest in birds as a photographic subject.
It was during that visit when I became fascinated with all large birds, including the beautiful Turkey Vulture, and yes, I said beautiful. Okay, I’ll admit beautiful wasn’t the first word that came to mind when I began photographing vultures. No, that took time, and over time, an admiration for this unique creature grew, and the more I observed them, the more my admiration grew.
Did you know turkey vultures are very social and don’t kill? Fascinating! I also felt a kindred spirit with the turkey vulture. If you’d like to know more about our similar tune carrying talents, click here.
And then there were the cranes I discovered. I think we can all agree, they are magnificent and beautiful birds. I became obsessed with cranes, so much so, that Al and I made a special trip to the International Crane Foundation located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. I was officially a Craniac!
Black Crowned Crane
One of my more memorable RV excursions was camping amongst 20,000 roosting sandhill cranes. That was an unbelievable experience and just one of many reasons why I love RVing. It’s the only way to travel in my book. I’ve enjoyed adventures that can only be experienced by RVing. You can read my post about sleeping with sandhill cranes here.
Yeah, I never thought I’d develop such a passion for photographing birds, but I find that they make such an interesting subject to photograph that it’s almost impossible for me to pass up the opportunity to make at least a few images …. or maybe a thousand or two when I encounter these entertaining characters.
Wandering Wednesday theme – birds
For this weeks photo inspiration I’ve chosen the prompt birds. Do you enjoy taking photographs of birds? We’d love to see your images. Leave a comment below with a link back to your blog or link back to this post in your blog. Share and connect!
Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations
Each Wednesday I post a different photo theme as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like minded bloggers. Perhaps this prompt will serve as a little inspiration to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy 🤗 share your photos!
I wrote a post awhile back about the lessons I’ve learned regarding bird photography. If you’d like to see my failures and successes, click here to read that post.
Upcoming prompts – Black & White, Reflections, Sunrise …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!
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.
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 camera. 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.
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!
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 checking 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, but 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 😫
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.
Talk 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.
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.
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.
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 ….
Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!
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.
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.
You 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.
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.
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.
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.
Rockport/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.
The 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.
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 weekday 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.
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 riding 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 (inreality 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.Of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I can’t forget to mention, a visit to a marina shouldn’t be missed. There’s so much character 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!
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!
Valentine’s Day … a day for love. Love is in the air here along the Texas Gulf Coast and it hasn’t eluded me. I have a new love in my life whom I find totally irresistible and adorable. Oh, not to worry, I haven’t replaced Al …. yet 😆
First, I’ve been thoroughly entertained by observing the Great Blue Herons in the neighborhood. They have been hard at work building their nests.
And while it seems the Great Blue Herons have already partnered up, some of the other shore birds are still in the courting stage.
AND now for the latest love in my life ……
I am in love with this little brahma calf. Isn’t he the cutest? So adorable and irresistible. Think Al will notice the elephant brahma in the room.
This is one time, Al is grateful we don’t own acreage. Unfortunately, I’ll be saying goodbye to Bammi the Brahma soon. I have high hopes for this little stud muffin – a world where he never hears the word hamburger.
Wishing you all a very Happy Valentines Day … a day filled with love and joy. My romantic husband has already surprised me with my favorite chocolates, a single red rose, and will be taking me out to lunch – a lovely seafood lunch. I’ll pass on the hamburger, thank you!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Tri-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!
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.
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 😎
I took alot 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…..
When traveling by RV, weather always plays an import role, and flexibility is the name of the game. After all, the number one priority is arriving at our next destination safely.
We pulled out of Rockport, Texas, early Sunday morning and arrived at the Elks Lodge in San Antonio, Texas, three hours later. The original plan was to spend only one night here, and continue our trek toward Phoenix, Arizona, but with high wind predictions in west Texas along Interstate 10, we’ve decided to sit tight for another night or two.
We’ve been to San Antonio several times and really enjoy the city, but we probably won’t be venturing out and about too much which has given me the perfect opportunity to go through my hundreds (more like thousands) of photographs I took over the past month.
I don’t think I’ll ever get bored running into the vibrant pink of the roseate spoonbill. I don’t know what it is about these birds that is so intriguing. Could it be those gorgeous pink feathers? Or maybe it’s their entertaining personality.
I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed some rather close encounters with these pink beauties and I swear they like being photographed. Or at least, they don’t mind my presence.
Hope you enjoy these photographs of this vibrant and vivacious bird as much as I do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😆
The 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Initially 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”.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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 🙂