Laughlin and a Wildlife Refuge

After our little side trip to Oatman, we were back on the road heading toward Laughlin, Nevada. With tummies full and a perpetual smile plastered across our faces, we wondered why wild burros had such a heart warming impact on us. I think most of us will agree, baby animals are absolutely adorable and these little burros were so incredibly cute that I couldn’t help but smile.

wild burros Oatman AZ
There’s something entertaining about wild burros roaming about!
wild burros Oatman, Arizona
This little one was taking a nap, or at least trying to.

Continuing down the road

We arrived at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada, right around 1:00 in the afternoon. The gal behind the counter was super nice and did her best to find us an available room with a king size bed, but none were quite ready for check-in.

Golden Nugget Casino Laughlin Nevada
Golden Nugget Casino Entrance

Golden Nugget Laughlin NV

So with a little time to kill,  Al and I headed to the lower level for dessert at Bubba Gumps. Not only was the dessert delicious, the outdoor dining was sheer perfection.

Bubba Gump dessert
OMG – so good!
Bubba Gump dining in Laughlin, NV
the outdoor dining area was perfect – overlooks the Colorado River

We found the ambiance of the outdoor dining at Bubba Gump so delightful that we returned a few hours later for dinner and discovered their early bird menu. I ordered the fish tacos (yum), and Al ordered soup and salad. Al loves a good New England Clam Chowder and he said this was some of the best he’s ever had. His Caesar salad was also very good. The next day, we returned for lunch and ordered fried shrimp and more clam chowder. Yep, I’d recommend dining here especially if the weather is perfect for sitting outside, which fortunately for us, it was.

Casino in Laughlin Nevada

Laughlin, Nevada, is pretty small, and Al and I soon found ourselves feeling a tad bit bored. We’re not much into casino gambling these days, especially after having lived in Las Vegas in the mid 1990’s. So we strolled up and down the river walk and in and out of the casinos several times a day getting in some exercise and doing some people watching.

It perplexes me the number of people who smoke cigarettes. I’m reminded gambling, smoking and drinking seem to go together. It was obvious, many of these smokers were dealing with failing health. Sad! I guess not everyone knows how to make healthy choices … that or they don’t care ūüė™

Laughlin Nevada
getting in our steps along the riverwalk as the sun was rising

We also took the opportunity to check out all the available RV parking opportunities in the area. Most of the casinos offer dry camping in designated sections of their parking lots. There’s also a RV Park with full hook-ups right on the main drag.

Laughlin, NV
most of the casinos allow boondocking in designated sections of their parking lots

On the east side of the Colorado River is Bullhead City, Arizona. This is where Al and I ran a few errands by stopping in at Sam’s Club, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Just north of Bullhead City is a great campground called Davis Camp. It’s located right along the water and just below the Davis Damn which forms Lake Mohave. Al and I stayed here during our first road trip with the 5th wheel back in 2012. Further up the road is Katherine’s Landing on Lake Mohave. Although the lake looks inviting, the campground here not so much. But from what we’ve heard, this is where the campers in the casino parking lots come to dump their tanks and take on water.

Laughlin NV
Laughlin along the Colorado River

Laughlin Nevada

With our explorations of Laughlin and Bullhead City complete. Al and I were eager to hit the road and return to our RV, but a stop along the way was in order.

pelicans in the desert
Pelicans in the desert?

Stopping at a wildlife refuge

Our route back to Lake Havasu City would take us along the Havasu Wildlife Refuge boundary. I had high hopes to encounter a bunch of birds. Oh, how my camera and I have missed photographing the birds at the Texas Gulf Coast this winter.

Havasu Wildlife Refuge
Havasu Wildlife Refuge

I didn’t prepare to take bird photographs on our little jaunt to Laughlin, Nevada, and therefore left my favorite camera behind. Oh well, this wasn’t a serious photography outing anyway. My point and shoot camera¬†will have to do.

We made a few stops at the Havasu Wildlife Refuge, and although I found a raw beauty in the landscape, the birds were rather elusive.

Havasu Wildlife Refuge
Havasu Wildlife Refuge … in search of birds

During our second stop, I did spot some ducks off in the distance. I walked over to the palm tree on the far right (seen in the photo above) and just then a cormorant flew by.

cormorant in flight
cormorant flies by while a coot bobs in the water

I continued to stand at the water’s edge scouring the landscape. I spot a lone egret in the distance in one direction and some ducks floating in the water in the other direction.

egret Havasu Wildlife Refuge
a lone egret in the distance
Red Heads
Red Head Ducks

Although we didn’t spot an abundance of birds, I did enjoy my quick visit with what few birds we did see. Perhaps if we had a kayak, we could see more of the refuge and possibly more birds.

pelicans Havasu Wildlife Refuge
It’s strange seeing pelicans in the desert. I associate them with the ocean, but I’ve also seen them in Colorado.

All in all, we enjoyed our little vacation. It was a nice three-day get away, but we were glad to get back home to our RV.

Havasu Wildlife Refuge

(affiliate links)
All photos in this post were taken with the
 Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70  and edited in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6

Advertisements

This is why we RV

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

When we¬†pulled out of Corpus Christi, Texas,¬†we spent¬†three days¬†driving before arriving in Benson, Arizona (965 miles – 1553 Km).¬† Our plan was to spend the week at an Escapees Park –¬†SKP Saguaro Co-op¬†– getting caught up on household chores.¬† We did the exact same thing last year and it worked out¬†very well.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owls

We washed, we waxed, we cleaned, we fixed and still managed to get in some fine desert hikes along with a little socializing.

It felt great to be back in the desert and dry out from all the moisture we encountered along the Texas Gulf Coast.¬† And warm up…. darn that Polar Vortex!

Once our chores were complete, we were ready for a little boondocking and I knew just the place; a place I had been looking forward to visiting since leaving Texas.  I first heard about Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal, Arizona, from my friend MonaLiza and then again from fellow blogger Nina.  Nina did a great review on the place.

Pintail Ducks
Pintail Ducks

This 1500 acre wildlife area in southeastern Arizona is known as a major roosting site for¬†20,000 to 30,000 Sandhill Cranes.¬† That is not a typo… we’re talking¬†twenty to thirty THOUSAND Sandhill Cranes.Sandhill Cranes

The arid grasslands, surrounding agriculture, and shallow waters provide the perfect environment for not only cranes but a bunch¬†of other wildlife as well.¬† We¬†saw several kinds of ducks, a huge flock of snow geese, a pair of great horned owls, hawks, other birds, and although we didn’t see any coyotes we sure heard them during the night.

bird photography
My RV is in the distance on the right…….. near the picnic shelter.
RVing lifestyle
That’s us on the left. Our home for 3 nights

But the main attraction at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area remains the cranes.¬† Imagine the sound of thousands upon thousands of Sandhill Cranes taking flight.¬† Imagine the sight of wave after wave of these magnificent birds filling the sky.¬† Imagine laying in bed at night¬†falling asleep to the¬†trumpeting sound of¬†cranes.¬† Very, very¬†cool…. and this is why we RV.¬† The nearest hotel is over thirty miles away in Tombstone, Arizona,¬†but in my RV¬†I get to sleep amongst the cranes.¬† For this craniac, it just doesn’t get much better.Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

After¬†spending three days at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, I began to¬†understand the behavior of these cranes.¬† However¬†on day one, I did not know¬†what to expect. ¬†I awoke slightly before 6:00 a.m.¬†and shortly thereafter¬†I heard the start of the cranes distinctive rolling cries. bird watchingNot wanting to miss¬†any action, I jumped out of bed, bundled up, and proceeded to¬†stroll down to the viewing platform.¬† It was cold – 37 degrees Fahrenheit.¬† It was dark – almost an hour before sunrise.¬†I was the only one out and about in our little neighborhood of about nine RV’s.¬† photographing birdsroosting cranesLook at all those cranes in the water in the above photo.¬†¬†The cranes spend the night standing in the shallow waters to evade predators and each morning they fly out to feed and socialize in the surrounding fields.

I had heard the mass ascension of cranes at sunrise is not to be missed.

As I approached the viewing platform, a huge group of cranes took flight.¬† It was still pretty dark, thus they were silhouetted, but the sound…. oh my gosh, the sound.

wildlife in Arizona
All those black spots in the sky are Cranes

Roosting cranesAs hundreds of cranes lifted off, I could hear the rush of their wings.  It was loud.  In addition, their constant bugling made for anything but a quiet sunrise.

Their distinct trumpeting would continue until the group landed in a field.

Over the next hour, wave after wave of hundreds of cranes would take off, and shortly after sunrise, all the cranes had moved on.  By that point in the morning, I was no longer alone at the viewing platform.

A crowd had gathered to watch this  memorable sight and sound.

Wildlife areas in ArizonaRoosting cranesHaving left¬†the nights safety of the water,¬†they were off¬†to forage for food in farmer John’s fields.¬† I’m not sure how the local farmers feel about this.roosting cranesSometime time between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. it was time for a coffee break and they would again return in waves to the waters edge.¬† I could hear them in the distance and ready my camera.¬† Very considerate of them to let me know they were coming, huh!roosting cranesAnd then¬†there was sunset…. almost more spectacular than sunrise.cranes

In waves, they would return to the¬†shallow waters¬†as far from land as possible.¬† Mates will stand close together calling in a synchronized and complex duet.¬† Females make 2 calls for every one from the male.¬† Do I hear a “yes dear”?Cranes in the wild

Our three day stay was over way too fast (there is a 3 day camp stay limit within a 7 day period).  I do believe Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area will become a regular stopping point for us as our travels take us between Texas and Arizona.  I love RVing!Cranes in the wildCranes

RV
Entrance to Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

boondocking

The Complete Guide to Nature Photography: Professional Techniques for Capturing Digital Images of Nature and Wildlife
Cuddl Duds Women’s Climatesmart Thermal Leggings, Black, Medium

 

Aransas Wildlife Refuge continued

birds of preyAs I stand on the 40 foot high observation platform at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, I’m mesmerized by the vultures.¬† I savor the quiet solitude as I stand against the rail.¬† I watch the vultures gracefully soar through the air while hunting for prey.

There’s a deer in the meadow below.  I see flocks of birds in the distance.  With eyes closed, I tilt my head to the sky breathing in the scent of the sea air while basking in the warmth of the sun.Rockport Texascranes

I’m totally lost in the moment. I’m in my own little word….that is until I’m abruptly snapped out of my trance by the shrieking tantrums of a three year old.  So much for my fifteen minutes of solitude.  Forty feet below me is the minivan whose occupants are clearly not happy.birding in Texaswildlife refuge

The disgruntled family can be heard across the marsh.¬† The deer move on.¬† Birds fly off including my vulture friends.¬† As I hear the wheels of a stroller clickety clacking over the slated decking with a crying occupant¬†making it’s way¬†up the platform ramp, I take that as my que to move on as well.birding

I scurry down the ramp passing the frazzled family.¬† We exchange smiles and ‚Äúgood mornings‚ÄĚ.¬† I‚Äôm sure I was sporting a look of sympathy, although I‚Äôm not sure who I should feel sympathetic for; the kiddies who would prefer to see the likes of a Mickey or Minnie or the folks trying to expose the kiddies to some of natures beauty.¬† Ah, I remember those days fondly.

With the truck started,¬†the intent is¬†to make my way back via the same road‚Ķ..nope, changed my mind and I take the 16 mile Auto Tour Loop inland.¬† This single lane, one way, paved road provides a leisurely ride through the ‚ÄėTexas savannah‚Äô.¬† Along the way one might see deer, hawks, javelina, bobcat, or the occasional snake crossing the road.¬† There are pull-outs every now and then, but since I‚Äôm the only one out here, I feel free to stop occasionally in the middle of the road.¬†I jump out of the vehicle from time to time to photograph the landscape.¬† Yep, just the landscape as this gal did not encounter any other wildlife ‚Äď well except for the wasp wanting to free load a ride.¬† Yeah, not the brightest thing I did that day leaving my car window open in front of this sign.birding

wildlife refuge

Loop completed, I stop once again at the ‚ÄėHeron Flats‚Äô viewing area.¬† Earlier in the day¬†I had this place to myself.¬† Now there are two other cars and a couple of cyclists. ¬†I look off to the right in the first marsh‚Ķ.nothing.¬† I continue to the viewing platform‚Ķ..very few birds.¬† On my return to the truck a woman asks me if¬†I’ve seen the¬†whoopers.¬† I respond, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think so.¬† What do they look like again?‚Ä̂Ķ‚ĶLight bulb!¬† ‚ÄúOh, they were here earlier this morning‚ÄĚ.¬† Now I know.¬† I‚Äôve seen and photographed the endangered whooping crane without effort while folks from around the country are traveling to this area in hopes of their own personal glimpse.whooping crane

While having a pleasant conversation with this woman, her husband who had remained by the marsh near the beginning of the trail yells out to his wife, ‚Äúalligator‚ÄĚ.¬† She and I swiftly join him at his side as he points out the rather large gator in the distance. ¬†¬†There are no fences or barriers.¬†¬†The alligator¬†looks well fed and ready for a nap. I did not notice him earlier and am grateful the gator was pointed out to me.

alligator
Can you see him?

alligators

alligator

Happy with my wildlife sightings¬†this morning, I decide it‚Äôs time to return home.¬† We won‚Äôt mention the growling stomach.¬† Next time I’ll bring snacks.pelicans

Would I recommend a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge?  I guess it depends on ones expectations.  I talked to some local wildlife photographers near my RV Park and they personally have never had much luck with their bird photo captures from land at the refuge.  I hear, via boat is the best way.whooping craneThe refuge is located 35 miles north of Rockport, Texas, out in the boonies.  I made the mistake of not packing a lunch.  I think it’s a great place to learn and experience.  However, I was disappointed several trails and viewing platforms were closed due to damage.  I enjoyed the day and would go back, but I would go early in the morning and prepare to spend the day.

That said,¬†I have had better luck photographing birds off Fulton Beach Road and Lamar Beach Road……near Goose Island State Park, Texas.
Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights of a Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)
Birding Trails Texas Gulf Coast

Endangered Whooping Cranes

When Al and I were invited to join friends in Rockport, Texas, for the month of January, we weren’t sure what to expect.whooper

The arrangement for our month long stay at a RV Park was set up by the friends.  I’ll admit my initial thought upon pulling into this park was less than favorable, but little did I realize I was within a bicycle ride of an endangered bird.

Birder I am not, but I am a huge fan of all kinds of wildlife.  That said, I was surprised that on my morning walks or bike rides I would routinely see a bird that is regarded as a special and rare treat to behold.endangered species

Hailing from Canada, the whooping crane arrives to the Gulf of Mexico around mid-November.¬† The whooping crane is the tallest of the North American birds standing at 4 to 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 7 ¬Ĺ feet.¬†¬† During their migration south, they average 400 miles a day gliding on thermal currents.whoopers

Their plumage is white with patches of red along the top of their heads and streaks of black under their eyes.  Young whoopers have rust colored markings.whoopers

Whooping cranes are one of the best known of all endangered species.¬†¬†It’s believed¬†only 15 or 16 survived the winter of 1941-1942.¬† The present world population is about 475 wild and captive whoopers.¬† Only one self-sustaining population survives in the wild and they spend their winters in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.whooping cranes

Our RV Park is located on the other side of the St. Charles Bay from this refuge.  It appears there are several whoopers who like to visit my side of the bay, just down the road.  I know, how cool is that?whoopers

More birding tales to come and I’m working on my camera settings.¬† Check out this video clip on how some Wisconsin folks are helping the whooping crane population.¬† Very interesting.¬† It’s short and worth watching ūüôā
http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/54042956/#54042956