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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Whooping Crane Adventure

I seldom go to Rockport, without signing up for a tour on the waterways around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Skimmer.

Five of us got up at 5:30 and ate a quick breakfast sans coffee and got to the Simmer's site before 7:00 A.M., our check-in time.  We were almost the first in line and soon were wandering around, looking for coffee.  We crossed to an inn and found they had breakfast set out.  The receptionist let us have a cup each, which held us until after the Skimmer left the dock.

All our days had beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and I was in place to capture the morning's beauty. I was mesmerized by the rapidly changing sky. Soon we all boarded and Captain Tommy gave us the safety speech. Then I escaped to the top, along with a couple of other people who were willing to live with the cold morning and the wind chill from the speeding boat.


View from the pier 

Warm inside and much more fun outside (photo by Natalie Wiest)

Captain Tommy managed to find all the birds in the bay, even while traveling at high speeds and would slow down so the rest of us could observe them. We saw lots of birds loafing on oyster reefs.  Many birds were in the air or perched in trees along the channel, after we got into the ship channel.  


Think all these terns are Caspians with laughing and ring-billed gulls and ??? - that little guy scratching 


Resting  oystercatchers


Juvenile  pelican

When we reached the marsh lands we started seeing lots of herons and egrets.  then we a group of juvenile whooping cranes far back in the marsh.  We saw a few other pairs of cranes at great distances before drifting close to the bank to observe two coyotes hunting.  One was trying to eat a turtle.


Part of a group of nine "teanager" cranes - these are two years old


Coyote with turtle


They blend well with the grasses


The only blue little blue heron we saw - the other one was a first year white one

We saw lots of great blues - we have ours and the northern ones 

Finally we got to the pair of cranes that live close to the waterway and drifted almost to the shore to watch them feed.

This brown looked really small against the background of the white ones


Crane pair

This peregrine falcon was on this structure - his normal resting place

We also got to watch the boats, running the oyster dredges.  The men sorted the oysters so fast, that it looked as though their hands were trembling.


Oyster boat leaving just before us

The dredge is pulled up and opened on top of the sorting table


The workers throw back all oysters under three inches

We completed this trip with a visit to Charlotte Plumber's Restaurant, next door to the Skimmer's building.  We all had to have raw oysters for appetizers, thinking we would be eating ones from the bay.  But our hostess said the oysters are mostly too small and they are getting their oysters from further down the coast. We had a lovely lunch, all finding our entrees to be very tasty.

After than, it was back to camp to pack up and then complete the four hour trip back to Galveston.  It was a very good weekend with good friends, good food, great weather, and good birding and paddling.

On the personal front,  as this post comes out, I'll be driving to visit one of my favorite friends,  Hulin, who is one of my adventuring mentors. At  91, he still is riding his bike and doing a little paddling. He needs a hip replacement to get back to his hiking.  He still cooks divinely and has introduced me to one of his best friends, Maria who is the age of my daughters.  I'm looking forward to spending time with her as well as with other mutual friends.


Stay warm, and have fun wherever you are.  Tell me what you are doing in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.