My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Another Birding and Paddling Trip at Choke Canyon

Dateline: February 14 -17

As I do most years when I'm in Texas, I spent a long weekend at Choke Canyon with a group of about 20 friends. (Different friends spent different parts of the time there so I never actually counted them all up.) Natalie was one of the group that had to wait to leave until Friday so I drove over and camped with my new friend, Bill.  Before Natalie could get there the following day, I sublet her campsite to a guy needing a campsite so she  and her dog,. Zootie,camped with us.  I got to visit with lots of my Corpus Christi friends and even some old friends that live way across Texas in Del Rio.

Our Campsite

On Friday, we hiked, birded, and did a short paddle in the lake but were driven off by rising winds. I got in a short loafing session in my hammock before Natalie showed up.  I had brought her tent and Bill helped me set it up for her. We helped her haul in her stuff and get it all organized. Then it was time for supper, followed by a campfire gathering across the street.  Our hosts, Harris and Denise had selected a large campsite so we could all fit on it for the campfire. Harris worked each day to find and prepare the wood and build the fire.

Fireman Harris
On Saturdays, we always do a longer paddle.  Our favorite put-in was closed because the water was too low to allow motor boats in  so we had to put in under the Highway 99 bridge.

Putting in

We paddled upstream for about a mile, ,then explored a little slough that still had lots of standing dead trees in it. The drought had caused lots of birds to leave, but the low water had brought in a lot of roseate spoonbills, the first I ever remember seeing there. The same place also had a bunch of black-crowned night herons, including lots of juveniles.

Paddling into a side channel
Some of the roseate spoonbills
Juvenile black-crowned night heron

Black-crowned night heron
At this point, about half the group decided to portage a few yards and get back into the Frio River,  while the other half paddled back around. I ended up having to go find them and get the group back together. After only another mile or so, we started having people complain of being hungry so we found a place we could get out for lunch. This was at the intersection of the Frio River and a side stream. 

Some of the lunch bunch
After lunch, most of the group wanted to turn around but several of us were not nearly ready to stop.  We decided to check out the side stream .  It went up another couple of miles and we found some interesting birds up there as well as an alligator skeleton, sans its head.  We also came past a killdeer pair that seemed to be building a scape in the gravel.
Alligator skeleton - about 6 feet long

Bill and a fishing couple on the side creek
The creek became too shallow to paddle at about the time we had set for turning around.  We enjoyed the trip back to the put-in,admiring  the stately tree skeletons in the beautiful light.

Back at the put-in
We had time to take showers and then I made my broccoli salad. Bill brought two kinds of delicious cookies. We took our food, chairs, and eating utensils and joined the supper party that was getting organized. Soon we were eating way too much delicious food and enjoying visiting around Harris' fire. Harris and Charles brought their didgeridoos and played for us at the supper party.

Some of the delicious food

Doing serious eating

Neither Natalie nor I wanted to paddle on Sunday so we decided to start on our next adventure - we were to meet up with another group of friends to hike in Big Bend Ranch State Park. We could break a very long drive down into two days this way and not be exhausted when we arrived. So we enjoyed a leisurely morning of birdwatching and packing up and left after lunch.

I'm writing this after a long day of touring a pictograph site at Seminole Canyon, then driving over three hundred miles. Finally we had to unload the car. Tomorrow, we'll have to go retrieve my car and canoe from Bill and visit my chiropractor.

I'll be sharing some of my experiences in Big Bend Ranch State Park and my tour at Seminole Canyon as I have time to get the pictures processed. But I have Natalie convinced that she needs to retire and she may get to do it real soon.