Sunday, February 14, 2010

‘Gators & Wild Pigs

South Texas has a little bit of everything. We’ve been taking short trips from our Goose Island base -- the other day we went up to Port Aransas to pick up our forwarded mail. It was a rainy blustery day as we lined up to ride the free ferry across the channel. There was a slight delay in leaving and then a long string of barges crossed in front of us. It’s hard to get used to the scale of things here: freight trains are often miles long and barges likewise are long and slow.

Yesterday we visited Aransas National Wildlife Area which is about a 35 mile drive. I don’t think we changed elevation more than ten feet the whole way - that to cross streams - and most of it was straight as an arrow. It was a little like driving from Burlington, VT to Rutland with nothing but flat land all the way. Massive black dirt field lie in wait of spring planting -- and way across them, you could see cars and trucks moving like mirages. I remember these roads from flying here -- it was easy to pick a straight road and line up for a maneuver over it, be it a loop or a simulated landing pattern.

Aransas NWA is internationally-known for wintering Whooping Cranes and all sorts of wildlife. We took one of the drives and part way through it, two deer were beside the road. An Iowa SUV filled with people, stopped dead in the road and just sat there -- seemingly for ever -- taking pictures. Mary & I were fuming. “This isn’t an African safari, folks, we said in the car -- heck, we’ve got deer in the back yard at home.” After a long time, the deer moved, the SUV started crawling along, and I was able to pass. It wasn’t a great start -- but things did get better.

At the observation tower, we saw some pretty spoonbills and white egrets. Mary noted some black things moving in the scrub brush. I at first thought they were bears -- they were the same color and size of black bears -- but when I saw their ears, I knew they were javelinas. First we’ve ever seen -- and it was great to be 100’ above them with Penny asleep in the car.

Returning to the center, we saw some interesting birds: common moorhen, common yellowthroat, coot, etc. Then Mary said, “There are two alligators right there.” And sure enough, as advertised, a couple of pretty good-size gators were just lying there in the swamp -- not moving -- nearly invisible.

Last night, on a long walk with Penny, I watched grey pelicans line up for fish scraps from a guy cleaning fish at the boat ramp. They sat there until he finished a fish and they leaned foreward with a “pick me” attitude as he tossed the goodies to them. A couple of heron gulls hung around looking for extra parts.
The weather is better today -- it’s been a little chilly by South Texas standards. We’ve leaving in the morning for Falcon State park down by the border. Supposed to have some real interesting birds found nowhere else in U.S. It’s forecast in the high seventies down there late next week. We’ll see.


Lynn said...

Mary and Dick, I can't tell you how much I am enjoying my travels with Mary and Dick. I look forward to your postings. Just hearing the teperature makes me feel better. Keep on truckin. Love, Lynn & Rich

Lisa said...

I think Penny would have enjoyed the company of those pigs!