View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR
View of Centennial Mountains at Red Rock Lake NWR

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Birders' 'Happy Hour at Lafitte Cove, Galveston, TX

Natalie and I decided to go spend happy hour at Lafitte's Cove, a housing development with a natural park in the middle of it, and a Texas birding hotspot. We probably spent about two hours here relaxing and living in the moment.


First View


Bathing Sora

Scarlet Tanager

Painted Bunting


Indigo Bunting

Baltimore Oriole

Female painted bunting (L) and female Baltimore oriole

Black and White Warbler

First year male summer tanager getting his adult plumage

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Little green heron

End of a Forty-seven species happy hour - actually 2 hours


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Paddling with Julie on South Prong of Black Creek

My new friend Julie and I had such a great time on our campout trip on the Altamaha River that she invited me to come visit her family on my way back to Texas. She lives only a few miles south of I-10 in Florida, so the only problem I had was pushing up my packing schedule.  So instead of packing up after I finished working, I packed up each day after work and cleared an extra day and two nights.

I enjoyed visiting with her lovely family.  Her husband grilled venison for supper while Julie made the vegetables. Then I got in a good night's sleep. She had forgotten that she had a mandatory work meeting so I planned to entertain myself in the morning. I worked on editing pictures since I was several albums behind, then decided to take her chocolate lab for a walk.  I found a trail that went through the woods around her neighborhood.  By the time I found the other end of the trail, I had walked two miles and found myself over three miles away from her house.  We kept walking faster and faster because it we after 11:00 A.M. and I was in charge of getting our lunch ready. I  was still getting things ready when Julie came home but we soon had everything loaded.

Julie wanted to take me to a popular stream that comes from a big spring. But we didn't think we could get a shuttle after we got there, so decided to paddle a little stream, called South Prong of Black Creek.
(This creek empties into the St. John River.)  She found a friend willing to pick up up at the bridge after the one where we put in.

This was a lovely little stream with steep banks and a few obstructions. The water was tannic - its color reminded me of hibiscus tea - and the bottom and sides were sandy. The water was too cool to swim in, but not so cold that wading was a problem when we had to pull our kayaks over obstructions.


View at the start

The first several miles looked like this

Trees along the river fight to keep their soil - and sometimes lose that fight

Oh, the peace of being on this wild, but quiet river

One of the spots where we had a pull-over

Julie's picture of me going under a natural arch

A magnificent old cypress

The beautiful sandy bottom, reddish tannic water, and reflections

One of the few times I got to photograph Julie from the front

We took a break on this sandy bank. There was an old hunting camp at the top of it. 


Another river view

One of the springs that puts water into this creek


Trees hanging on with a big root system

After several miles, we started seeing houses along the river.  At first they were more like cabins.  But as we neared the bridge where we took out, the houses got bigger and bigger, as did the docks and boats in front of them.


Think this is a red-neck dock - turned upside down by recent high water


I found smoke tree growing along the river

One of several big houses near the end of the trip

Julie thought this was a seven mile trip.  But I was averaging over two miles per hour so think it was more like 13 - 15 miles.  Only the last three or four had development along the river.

Thanks, Julie for such a wonderful goodbye present.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Last Look at Okefenokee NWR

Spring was racing across the swamp and  the upland longleaf pine ecosystem, spurring new growth, sending off some birds and bringing in others. I had to hit the brakes a lot to document the first of the year arrival of wildflowers, and birds and the more active snakes, turtles and frogs.  Even the alligators look prettier in the colorful reflections. I was excited about all the new arrivals and changes, but sad to know I would be gone before all changes of spring happened. I did miss many of the migrants, but enjoyed seeing some of them arrive. I also got to enjoy a few of the earliest spring wildflowers. And I made lots of visitors happy by telling them where to find blooming plants, including several species of carnivorous plants,  and the best places to look for migrating and nesting birds.

This is a bull alligator that was probably visiting the female that lives in this pond


One of three non-migrating sandhill cranes that  are often seen or heard from the Cane Pole Trail


A Carolina wren singing his heart out

Love those bulgy green eyes of the pig frog - reddish leg color due to color of tannic water


Displaying anole


Friendly rat snake at the tower - it could climb the open fence


The prothonotary warblers started coming in two days before I left


One of many great crested flycatchers that arrived at the refuge just before I left


Got to see blooming hooded pitcher plants


Along with parrot pitcher plants



And blue-eyed grass
On one of my earlier roving days I found a little family admiring a softshell turtle that was sitting in the road - probably a female looking for a good place to lay her eggs. The mother gave me permission to use the picture in the blog. This is the main reason for roving - sharing special plants and animals with visitors while helping them understand the purposes and management practices of the refuges.


Florida softshell turtle admirers

On the personal front, I made it to Galveston after stops for a last playdate with my  new friend, Julie, who took me on a lovely paddle, and  a short visit with one of my oldest friends, Hulin.  I got to Galveston just in time to do an exploratory paddle on the upper reaches of Cypress Creek, a lovely creek that winds through a heavily populated part of Houston, with several friends. Then I attended Tracy's marvelous welcome home party where I got to see many more of my friends.

This past weekend I went with friend Natalie, my hostess, to a tracking dog trial and then to a tour at Peckerwood Gardens, a fabulous place dedicated to finding plants from all over the world that will grow well in Houston. Now I'm getting doctor visits done and hoping to do some birding and visit with other friends.


My car in moving mode

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My South Carolina Visit to a New Friend, Part IV, A Walk on the Beach

For the morning of the last day of my visit, Laurel wanted to share her favorite area on Edisto Island Beach.  To get there we had to cross an inlet that cannot be crossed easily except near low tide. We had to get across it, then enjoy a few miles of walking in mostly solitude with feeding birds while enjoying the clouds and water.  Then we would have to rush back to make the crossing again before the tide got too high.

My camera wasn't working and I thought it might have died. Laurel offered to share her little camera with me - she wasn't taking her expensive one where it could possibly get wet; but I told her, just to let me have her pictures.  (The camera just needed a charged battery and is working fine now.)

So, once more we got up early and had coffee and a wonderful smoothie.  Laurel put things like yogurt, kale and pineapple in it and it was both delicious and filling. Then we drove to the beach, only a few blocks from her condo. and started our walk.  We were there, under cloudy skies, just before sunrise time, and only a man walking his dog was sharing the lovely view with us. In a few minutes of walking we got to the inlet.  Laurel waded in and checked the water level, but it was still quite high.  But in a few minutes she waded across and then told me to come over on the same path.  Did I mention that Laurel, like most people are, is taller than me?  The water reached her just above her knees but hit me closer to my mid thighs.

Coming across the inlet

But I made it across and we continued down the beach, this time behind expensive homes that had the only land access.  We saw few people the entire trip  but one couple had clearly come from the one of houses. They were in long, dry pants.  The sun was working hard to drive off the clouds as we crossed the inlet. It made the mudflats shiney and backlit the birds.   We looked for treasures -  shells, coral, beach glass and birds. More and more birds arrived and  began feeding. My favorites were the oyster catchers but we saw gulls. terns, plovers and sandpipers.


Walking under a watery sun

Willet

Oystercatcher

Terns and gulls 
Heading back

Ruddy turnstone

Wilson's Plover

All too soon, it was time to head back.  After Laurel told me the time when we would have to turn around, she wanted to add another 10 minutes to the outgoing trip.  I negotiated for just five more minutes. Even with that small amount of extra time,  the water was higher and I ended up getting wet to my waist. But I had on paddling clothes and they were dry by the time we go to the car.  The accessible beach had come alive with people looking for treasure, walking dogs, hauling their gear for a day of fishing, taking a brisk walk, or just strolling. A few brave kids were wading in the cold water.

This was STILL not the end of our adventures. We managed to get in another paddle in the evening - this time up Bay Creek into Scott Creek.  We paddled by the State Park and were finally stopped by the highway which prevents the water from going further inland.  We didn't take any pictures on this trip since we didn't expect many birds.  We went up just before high tide and then raced home in front of threatening clouds.

The clouds waited until we go home to drop their load.  It rained off and on through the night and most of the way back to Okefenokee the next day.  This made these adventures all the more miraculous - we were under an 80% chance of rain every day but had some sun and no rain directly on us, although we drove through a few showers while birding.

Thus ended day three of my visit.  Thanks again, Laurel, for giving me such a wonderful time and letting me use your beautiful pictures.