Gangs all Here! @ Nannie & Bubba's in Louisiana - Jan 25-29, 2013

Jimmy and I pulled in their driveway in Watson, LA (outside Baton Rouge) on Friday afternoon.  Weather here is a whole lot warmer than at our home in Nevada City... which is why we're snow birds!  Fran, who lives across the street from us in Nevada City, sent us a picture of our place Sunday... with a blanket of snow all over.  Hoy, glad we're not there!  We always have a good time here at my sister and BiL's.  (Laissez les bons temps rouler as they say in Louisiana.) 

 Grackles greeting the sunrise in Mustang Island TX the morning we left.

 Jimmy, Nannie & Bubba.  Sunday was a perfect day for a bike ride around University Lakes in Baton Rouge.

 Lots call 'em tulip trees, but these beautiful trees are really Japanese magnolias -- already in bloom.

Seen on the bike ride -- pink flamingos:  Mardi gras time!

 Nannie and me!

 When I told this Muscovy duck it was UGLY, the durn thing gave me the fish eye.

 A flock of White Pelicans gathered near the shore.  These two stood out.  White Pelicans have the second largest average wingspan of any North American bird, second to the California Condor.

 Louisiana State Capitol bldg.  My sister used to work there. Used to is good!

Nannie playing with the geese... or geese messing around with Nannie!

 Sunday nite dinner @ Carrabba's.  Gang's all here - Judy, Jim, Shirley, me, Michelle, Nannie, Joe, Bubba, and Jimmy (taking care of business).  Fun time!

 Followed by a sky Full of Moon.  Good nite!


Down by the Seashore -- Jan 22 and Jan 23, 2013

What could be better for two retired people on a mostly sunny, warm afternoon than a walk along the beach?  I can think of a lot worse -- like shoveling snow!  As soon as we set up camp in Mustang Island St Pk (near Corpus Christi), we set off to explore the beach.  This island is just north of Padre Island -- we didn't know it existed till Jimmy saw it in the Texas State Parks booklet two days ago.  This park gives campers the option of either dry camping near the water or sites with W/E.  Nice to have the option; we chose the W/E.  Mustang Island St Pk is 3,954 acres with about 5 miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. It was acquired from private owners in 1972 and opened to the public in 1979.

Curious about the island name, we Googled it:  The earliest known inhabitants of Mustang Island were Karankawa Indians, known for their fierceness and cannibalism (eeek!). The Karankawas were a hunter-gatherer people who depended heavily on shellfish and mussels for food. Encountered first by Spanish explorers, the Karankawas survived in the region until the 19th century. The island was first named Wild Horse Island, then Mustang Island, because of the wild horses, called "Mestenos," brought to the island by the Spaniards in the 1800s.  There you have it.

The beach is ours these two days.  Thursday we'll continue our eastward journey:  Beaumont TX.

Huge slabs of pretty pink granite make up the fishing jetty.  No swimming today with water temp in the 50's.

 We walked a long way to the jetty.  Happy to sit and dream, enjoying the sun and water.

 Wind felt cool, so Jimmy wore his jacket.

I can't help myself:  One good tern deserves another!

Happened to peek out the door, and caught Tuesday's fiery sunset.

Aren't we a pair?

Wednesday morn we drove the few miles up the island to Port Aransas.  Although we can only scratch the surface of an area in a morning, Jimmy and I can pack a whole lot in.  We managed to hike four miles or so, much of it on boardwalks in nature preserves and birding centers.  Ate more shrimps for lunch, fighting off the gulls and grackles, who wanted us to share!

Green-winged Teal - so small, so cute.  I wanted to take it home.

Northern shoveler stirring up the water.  Let this guy do the shoveling!

Miles of boardwalks at Charlie's Pasture Nature Preserve.  Flat as a pancake.  We remarked to each other how sweet it was to be Out and About today.  Didn't matter what we saw.  We just did. 

Love this guy!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones did do.  So throw off the sail, away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.   
Mark Twain


Yo: A winter's day on South Padre Island, TX - 1/21/13

Time for us to get out of town, and go walk at (and on) the beach!  First, with our bird scope in hand, we found the Birding and Nature Center at the north end of So Padre Island.  This marvelous place had a mile or so of boardwalks, accessible to all, with lots of young and not-so-young folk ooh-aahing over the abundant displays of wildlife.

 Handsome, but looking serious - Reddish Egret.

 Terns, gulls and ducks everywhere!

 A Black-Skimmer:  He flew, he skimmed, he preened - he entertained everyone!

 Three Red-eared sliders (not a two-headed as it appears).

 Another good-lookin' fisherman - Great Blue Heron....

 This guy was just plain floating near a dock, and probably wouldn't mind if you threw it a fish.

 Queen butterfly and a UFO White on a most beautiful flowering bush that was taller than I am!

We were starving by the time we finished up at the Center, and asked a local, "where would YOU go if you wanted a good shrimp po'boy?"  She didn't hesitate: "Best shrimp on the Island are at Dirty Al's, near the bridge."  She was right; the place was packed.  We enjoyed a fine shrimp basket lunch, and I can honestly report that these were some of the best shrimp we've ever tasted - tho I can't say much for the name!

Just one of Dirty Al's clever sayings...!

After stuffing ourselves, we parked at a beach access, donned our windbreakers, and walked along the water's edge for a mile or so.  Not many people on the beach - a few surf fishermen, several runners, and some walkers like us.  We did spot ten or twelve of the blue Portuguese Man-o-War jellyfish-like marine critters washed up on the sand, whose long venomous tentacles can deliver a powerful sting.  The other picture is a Pufferfish, maybe six inches long.  We watched a fisherman catch this little thing, get it off the hook, and throw it on the sand.  I caught one once off the coast of St Marks, FL, and was horrified to hook something that looked so cute.  Jimmy informed me that this cute thing had barbs.  Well, we didn't like to see it gasping on the sand, so Jimmy gingerly picked it up and hefted it into the water.  Sink or swim, li'l buddy, it's up to you.  The Pufferfish's parting shot was a nick on Jimmy's finger.

We had a lovely, lovely day... and were pooped by the time we got back to Harlingen - we parked our butts, propped up our feet and hit the coffee pot!


Birdbrains! Jan 18 and 19 in Lower Rio Grande Valley

The Lower Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in Texas, at the Mexican border, is a designated World Birding Site.  We like birds, like looking at and looking for birds, so this area is a win-win for us.  On Friday we visited Santa Ana NWR and Estero Llano Grande St Pk - hot spots for tropical exotics.  On Saturday morning, we got lost.  And then we found Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley St Pk and spent many hours gawking and listening.  At Bentsen, we eased our way into a tram tour for other volunteers that was hosted by a knowledgeable guide... there was room and he seemed glad we were aboard.  He knew where to find the Eastern Screech Owl's niche in a large, low limb where it slept peacefully, while we strained our eyes to see it thru the bird scope - the owl matched the bark perfectly.  We walked and walked both days, with complimentary blue skies and warm temps.  We spied many new-to-us birds, interesting and/or colorful, and generally loved being outdoors on such fine days.  The following pictures are in no particular order from all three parks. 

This was the first thing we saw when we arrived at Santa Ana NWR -- branches full of raucous Blackbirds and Great Kiskadees!  Nice welcoming committee!

No bird epitomizes the exotic tropical wildlife of the Lower RGV more than the beautiful Green Jay!

We'd never heard of Common Pauraques (nightjar family), much less ever saw any.  On our "way home from Santa Ana NWR," we stopped at Estero Llano Grande, and spent a delightful couple of hours there.  We were tipped off by the staff about seeing these cute li'l fellers, so we took off on foot to find them.  Can you see two in the photo at left?  IF the staff hadn't posted the above sign, we NEVER would have spotted either one.  The close-up is of the Common Pauraque found on the left in the first picture. Near-perfect camouflage.  Neither moved while we took photos; they were asleep as they're nocturnal hunters.  In the US, they're found only in the Lower RGV.  They appeared cuddly... uh-huh....

Enlarge any picture for a better view.

Left:  Stalking the elusive fish... Right:  GOT IT!  Nice big fish.. almost too big to swallow!

Observation towers on either end of this suspension bridge at Santa Ana, good for watching hawks a-soarin'. 

Black-crowned night heron.  Skinny legs, huh?

Birds weren't all we saw.  This big toothy guy had to be 12-15' long and FAT, and smiling!  The Neotropic Cormorant didn't seem to mind the alligator.

Plain Chachalacas gathered at a feeder base.  Jimmy said they look like chickens.  They are noisy: "No one sleeps late in the Valley when the Chachalacas are around.  The dawn chorus of these 'Mexican pheasants' is almost deafening."  The two-foot long Chachalacas are at home on the ground or in the trees... or hanging upside down on a feeder!

Ring-necked Ducks floating near an observation deck.  We saw lots of other duck flavors, too.

I could have posted many more pictures, say, of the Altamira oriole (but the pics were fuzzy 'cause the oriole was far away), Golden-fronted woodpecker, and so on and so on, but this post is a small representation of what we saw.  WE didn't see a bobcat in Santa Ana NWR, but two others saw a bobcat on the same trail we were on around the same time we were traipsing merrily along.  They got pictures, too.  

Spied one of the biggest wasp-paper nests we've ever seen, with honeycomb showing.  This thing had to be two-three feet long - way up high in a large tree - but this one had bees, not wasps.  ??


After eating our sandwiches in Bentsen, we watched this young Cooper's Hawk fly in its stealth mode toward a feeder (1).  All the birds scattered, except for the House sparrows in the fluffy green bush.  They got to hollerin'.  The hawk sat patiently, hoping the other birds would forget it was there.  We watched for at least a half hour.  Suddenly an Olive Sparrow flew in for a bite and darted away, the hawk swept in, missed, and dropped to the ground (2), and then returned to the branch after missing its chance (3).  A few minutes later, it took off neatly over our heads in hot pursuit of ... whatever it was, got away.  We lost sight of the hawk, and then figured we may as well follow suit, and headed for the car. 

So be it for now.  Goodnight all.  A big fat red squirrely "Ending."