Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Trip to See the Whooping Cranes

From Rio Hondo, north about 150 miles is a place to see the wonderful endangered species, the Whooping Cranes.  It means going past Corpus Christi, so we stopped here for an oil change on the way.  We have visited this park, Goose Island State Park several times in the past 8-10 years and decided to return for the thrill of seeing the Cranes again.

Upon arrival, we took a quick turn around the field where we have seen the birds going by a famous tree known as The Big Tree, a Live Oak reputed to be over 1000 years old. It is the most famous Live Oak in Texas.

We have walked around it many times and we were really looking for the cranes.  It took us a while to see some of the white birds off in a distance, but I felt the satisfaction of a sighting for our first day.  

The next morning we were up early and off we went. This Cardinal was our alarm clock over the top of the van in the early dawn.

We returned to the area of the cranes and found them foraging in two places. We were able to get some pictures of the parents and a juvenile. What a thrill!

One with the orange color on the head (in the middle) is the juvenile.  The parents will stay with this young one for the first winter.

Some Sandhills were with the Whoopers!

In addition to seeing the cranes, I wanted to go on a bird walk to see what other species might be seen in the area. These walks are common in parks where there is a unique population of winter birds and are led by volunteers that are very helpful and usually love to share information. This was one very relaxed and led by a couple, Len and Jane Hall. 

The park has both a wooded area and a seaside pier, and this walk took us along the bay. From here I could see the bridge onto the island looking one way, and the length of the pier going another.

We were able to identify many shore birds like the Semipalmated Plover, the American Oystercatcher, the Black Skimmer and the Common Goldeneye Duck. Others included the Common Loon in winter plumage...


White Pelicans with Cormorants

And the Eared Grebe.

As soon as the walk was over, Latona and I walked the pier again and then went back to our site and had a comfortable afternoon.  We had decided to go out to dinner in Fulton Beach/Rockport.  After a check on the internet we decided on The Boiling Pot and we were not disappointed with our choice.

I started with six oysters with horseradish and LA hot sauce. The sweetest I have ever eaten!

Our dinner included red beans and rice, corn, red potatoes, sausage AND boiled shrimp and crawfish!
One of those meals you won't soon forget! Very special and so well prepared.

Funky atmosphere as well. The artwork has all been done by customers, usually the younger ones, and none of it has ever been removed.

It wasn't a lobster bib, but she still looks good wearing it!

On our way back to the campground, we decided on one more loop around the spot for the cranes.
All in all we had seen eight Whooping Cranes and this evening, we had another view of the family group...

And some Roseate Spoonbills... 
And the roosting Great Egrets.

As you can tell most of the pictures were taken from quite distance with our little camera, so I apologize for the clarity of the pictures.  Just know that you are having an amazing opportunity, seeing a species that is being brought back from the edge of extinction. It is a great privilege for me!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Local Images of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

It has been lovely to be in a state that puts up signs "Welcome Winter Texans." We feel very welcome and know it is a genuine kindness on the part of the citizens of this proud state.  We realize that there is a financial motive that is part of the greeting, but we can say that it has been genuinely extended to us everywhere we have been. We love the diversity of the people, the culture, the language, and the food! Of course, the birds and the plants reflect the diversity as well.

After our arrival at the campground, they asked us if we wanted a new site they were thinking of creating. In a few weeks, our site progressed.
Scrapping off the grass...

Outlining the site and adding gravel...

Finally, the rocks are laid down and the site settles into our home for winter.

We are very comfortable in site F1 in Twin Palms RV Park, Rio Hondo, TX. 

About a half mile from the campground, we have the "Rio Hondo Mall" , a Valero gas station, a regular convenience store and a fast food Taco concession. Across the street, is the Rio Hondo Hardware where we can buy our propane for the van when we need it.

And about 1/2 mile the other direction is the place where we get our drinking water ...the Watermill.  A gallon for a quarter.

A block down from the Watermill is Mikes Grocery store. This was a sign on the door, and colourfully displayed above the fruit and vegetables are the weekly special...Pinatas!

The town is surrounded by wind farms...

And fields that produce crops like sugar cane, cabbage, citrus, and the special onion called the 1015
Sweet Onion. This onion only grows in the Rio Grande Valley.
Sugar Cane


An onion field

This concrete silo is evident on each field and is part of the irrigation system.

Many special plants are also common here, like the Prickly Pear...

Prickly Pear

Round fruit of the cactus called a Tuna

One name for this is Rope Cactus


Sable Palms

Century Plants (tequila is made from this plant)

Yucca plant flower ( also called Spanish Dagger or Bayonet)

Texas Lantana

And some of the special creatures and signs...
Javelinas or Collared Peccaries 

Water snakes entwined

Sign that,protects the very endangered Ocelot population at Laguna Atascosa NWR.

Turtles sunbathing at Estero Llana Grande SP

Of course, we are also a part of the border area of Texas with Mexico. Here is part of the wall that we have seen at various locations.

Happily, we also found this statue with a message that we resonated with and how we feel about imaginary lines that set people apart from each other.  Thank goodness the Native Americans didn't build a wall when the Europeans arrived in the 1600's, or sadly, the Mexicans didn't build a wall after the Battle of Palo Alto in the 1800's when they lost over 1/2 of their country to the USA. We were the illegals!  Oh well, enough of my politics.
 We are truly enjoying learning about Texas, and want to explore all the new opportunities we have been given by spending our winter here. Adios Amigos and Amigas!