Sunday, February 7, 2010

Birder Heaven

Leaving Lake Charles, LA, we joined the trucks and RVs on I-10 heading toward Beaumont, Texas. We had decided not to tackle the Houston traffic, given our trailer’s propensity to blow turn signal fuses, and went north on a series of state roads, seeing some of the not-so-touristy side of the Gulf Coast.

Hardscrabble farms and tired towns, with some bright spots. We stopped to pick up some barbecue at a newly-opened restaurant in Conroe, ate it in the trailer at a vacant store parking lot (while the Vizsla napped in the truck), and motored on to Navasota where we camped at a small municipal site near the airport. A rainy, gusty night, a grubby washateria where Mary did laundry, and an impending flu bug made it a less-than-wonderful experience.

The drive to Goose Island State Park, in Rockport, Texas was easy with lots of straight Texas roads with 70 mph limits. We started to see lots of birds as we approached Aransas Wildlife Refuge and soon were searching for a site at the park - where we had made reservations. (Texas has an interesting process in their state parks -- you can reserve a slot for a date or period but not a site -- so you have to decide once you are there which available site you want.)

We found a nice isolated site surrounded by oaks and thickets and right next to a little bird sanctuary and the showers. We set up on the level site and I promptly got sick for two days -- pretty severe stomach bug. Lots of rest, fluids, and good care from Mary and I made a nice recovery yesterday.

I felt up to participating in Saturday's bird walk -- having missed the two earlier ones -- and was astounded at the variety as well as the knowledge of the volunteer guides. We saw about 45 species including willets, gulls, pelicans, ravens, vultures, ducks, and a white ibis. I don't know birds around the sea very well so it was very informative and just spectacular birding.

We really like this place -- it's a wonderful area. We decided to extend for another week rather than keep traveling. Seems nice to settle for a bit and enjoy the weather and the birding. Yesterday afternoon, we drove over to a field where two whooping cranes are living. There were a half-dozen other birders there -- some armed with monstrous lenses for their cameras. The birds were just regal, standing on one leg, preening themselves, ignoring their watchers. It's hard to believe that they fly down from upper Canada and that there are still only a little over 300 of them alive.

This is a nostalgic area for us. Last night out walking the dog, I was watching the sky full of stars and remembering night flying here, decades ago. I happened to remember a night cross-country where I was returning in a F-9 trainer with an instructor high over Houston and we just went inverted and watched the lights of the streets, parking lots, ball field for a while. I did my advanced flight training here, got my Navy wings here, and our daughter was born in this area. Our son got his USMC wings here as well.

So, we've got more whooping cranes to see at the wildlife center, a visit up to Beeville to find our old house and the hospital and the air station, and hope to meet up with my brother Barry and his wife Mica before they head further west. But the schedule is a vacation schedule -- and all plans are flexible. It's nice. Now I need to find those black-bottomed ducks.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Wow. It is nice to hear that you are well and enjoying the birds. There is an impending storm headed our way. Enjoy the above freezing temps and stay well!