My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Driving Miss Marilyn

October 25, 2016

Had to write this and edit pic with left hand because right is immobilized from shoulder surgery. Pictures by Pat Cox.)

It's hard to go off on adventures when one arm is immobilized and the other is only halfway working. But Natalie takes me with her, and friends are stepping up to keep me entertained.  Last Tuesday my friend Pat, came to take me on a birding trip on Bolivar Peninsula, a short ferry ride from Galveston Island.

I took my camera, with plans to modify my technique and use the viewing screen, only to find I no longer could take pictures using the screen. Pat is also a good photographer so took pictures with both his and my cameras and gave me the pictures in this blog.

So come along.  Birding always starts at the ferry parking lot.  Various gulls, terns, brown pelicans,and double crested cormorants are always present, while several species of herons can be seen near either shore. Magnificent frigatebirds soar overhead in the summer.  They were all gone, even though summer weather (highs in high 80s) lingers and shorts are the fashion choice. The dolphins are also entertaining and we saw several on the trip over.

View over ferry's wake

Long view to another ferry leaving Galveston
We started birding along Frenchtown road and through Port Bolivar. The tides were too high to find many birds out feeding.  In fact the only unusual birds looked like tamed wild turkeys.

Wild turkeys? In town?

Then we backtracked to visit Fort Travis where we enjoyed at least 25 marbled godwits. We found a few ruddy turnstones waiting out the high tides and saw a few terns, gulls, and brown pelicans.  Couldn't find a Vermillion Flycatcher or even black-bellied plovers.

Marbled godwit in the grass

We skipped over to Rollover Pass, a man-made cut between the Gulf and east bay.  it is named for the fact that ship captains used to unload their barrels of cargo and roll them over to East Bay and load them on waiting ships to avoid Galveston customs. This place ranges from birdy to super birdy, depending on the season and tides. Pat was taking pictures of distant birds and then we blew the pictures up and scanned along them.  We found a loafing group of avocets a few species of terns a lots of the usual suspects, including a reddish egret.

View of East Bay at the end of Rollover Pass

Teenage brown pelican gang

Several different species were loafing on a tiny bar

We turned around and started back. Pat had never been up Yacht Club road which used to be real good for birds, before it began to be developed.  It also has a boat launch right into the Intercoastal Waterway.  Paddlers can cross it and paddle in East Bay except when low tides and north winds combine to suck the water out until you can't float your boat. We found that the parking lot had been upgraded since I was last there.  We picked up two more species.  See pictures.

Tug pushing two barges as seen from the end of Yacht Basin Road

A juvenile yellow crowned night heron. 

One of three adult white ibis

We decided to make a quick stop at North Jetty, which is about two miles east of the Ferry.  There were a few people fishing but no interesting birds.  Either this area or Bolivar Flats are the best of the two adjacent sites depending on time of day, winds and tide height. Birds were in short supply and the light was harsh, so Pat grabbed a picture and we headed back.  But the last time I visited North Jetty, on another trip from Louisiana to Galveston, was magical.

At the beginning of North Jetty

We were soon on the ferry and headed home. It was a very enjoyable day. And we should be gettig lots more species here soon,  as fall migration continues.

The Complaint Committee

The sites we visited, plus others, are all on the Bolivar Loop on the Upper Texas Coastal Trail which is part of the Great Texas Wildlife Trail, a marvelous birding resource. We visited the sites in backwards order and had to skip Bolivar Flats, which often takes a few hours to cover.

On the personal front I'm healing quickly and can do more each day.  Because I drive a standard, it will be at least another week before I can drive.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tour of the Houston Ship Channel

The week before I arrived at Natalie's house, I started getting emails from her, describing things she planned to do and inviting me to come along. The first invitation I accepted was to join her Red Hearts Group, who,mostly are old lady paddlers I  know, to take a tour of Houston's Ship Channel.

So I cooked a quick,breakfast for Natalie and daughter Ellen before we set off on about an hour's drive to board the Sam Houston for the tour.  We had no traffic problems, a rarity in Houston,  and arrived a half hour early.  We had time to enjoy the area before the rest of our group and the other passengers arrived, including a few school groups. 

This build is almost completely covered in tile pictures- didn't try to decode it

I enjoyed these pelicans

The Sam Houston tied at its dock 

I enjoyed the blues and shades of whites- black of this picture of winter plumage
 laughing gulls sitting on a dock

We particularly enjoyed a group of middle school kids that were in the boat near us.   They were very  polite and engaged in the tour. They each had  with a little set of papers with them that gave interesting facts about the ship channel, asked them to find examples along the tour. Their teacher was kind enough to give us a copy.  

Natalie, Janice, and Christy enjoying the tour

The channel bounded on each side by storage units, ship tie-ups, parking for the tugs,
big cranes, piles of recycled stuff,  bulldozers and tractors, and even lots of vehicles

The day, which had turned overcast just before we arrived, but was back to partly cloudy, with dramatic skies, by the time the Sam Houston left the dock. We got to see several of the different kinds of ships that visit the harbor while, getting to imagine taking the ships back to their home countries. This was a very different view of these ships since I have paddled parts of Houston's Ship Channel and turning basin in the distant past - before 911 happened and changed our lives for the worse. At one time, I had a picture of me in my solo fourteen and a half  foot canoe under the bow of a big ship.

Oh course, I  ran around on the outside of the ship,for the entire outward leg and for most of the homeward one.  Wanted to be sure you got to see most everything. 

There is storage for lots of different kinds of products along the channel. 


This is probably for some kind of petrochemical storage

I know this is for grain storage

Then there were the ships and tugs. 

This one has big hatch covers - the white structures - it is loaded with cranes

This ship carries liquid petroleum gas (LPG)

This ship carries containers which are moved with cranes.  Tugboats help it turn
and move through the channel

A tugboat pushing a barge

This is a Ro/Ro (Roll on/Roll Off) ship - That black part in back is the ramp

A ship from  Singapore

Of course, I always notice the birds:

One of the few brown pelicans I noticed

I saw these laughing gulls,  but didn't realize I was catching this interaction

When gulls act like passerines

Laughing gulls and cormorants find plenty of places to rest

Other interesting sightings:

Huge piles of trash? recyclables- waiting to be shipped?

Juxtaposition of sea and land travel

Giant spools of cable

The new lifeboat pods - they have people seat belted in and can drop off the top of the ship

At the end of the tour, we retired to one of Houston's landmark restaurants, Ninfa's Original Restaurant. There we all I had different impressive meals - I had the adobo chicken salad - and excellent service.  The interesting tour, beautiful day, great conversion made for a wonderful day.

If you find yourself in Houston, be sure to register for a tour of Houston's Ship Channel. It's FREE! The Houston Maritime Museum is also planning to move to this site. And don't miss Ninfa's Original Restaurant. (Any other Ninfa's is NOT the same. 

The mandatory group picture - taken by some hapless person who got too close to us 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Once is Not Enough

Schoodic Peninsula was on my bucket list to visit.  Julie agreed to go over but, at first wanted to ride the ferry.  It costs twenty-five dollars per person so we decided to drive over.  It only takes a little over an hour and the drive is beautiful.  We planned to ride our bikes and Julie was dying to paddle in a bay.  But the ranger dissuaded her because she didn't have the right boat or a wet or dry suit.

So, after talking to the ranger about a fun route to ride our bikes, we set off on the auto tour which would eventually connect to a trail that would bring us back across the peninsula to the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center and its grounds are beautiful

Julie near the beginning of our ride - she wanted the house on the island

A view from the road

We enjoyed a visit with a pair of woman painters just before we turned back 

Julie was dying to hike to an island. We found the one below accessible at low tide, so we stopped and I waited while she did a hurried hike.

One of the pictures I took while I was waiting for her return

The pair of us at the end of the ride

We had biked only eight miles and taken time for a little bit of hiking and had eaten lunch, so we didn't get back to the Visitor Center until mid afternoon.  We figured we had plenty of time for a do over, so drove back around to look for pictures in the improving light.  We also had several places we wanted to hike.

One of the places we wanted to visit was a steep dirt road we had passed and where we found there were several trailheads. We stopped and did a short hike, looking for good vistas.  There were a few but the sun was still too harsh for good pictures.

Julie and the trail signs

We wanted to visit the Schoodic Institute, but were a few minutes too late to do so. So we went in search of the trailhead for a suggested trail that would give us beautiful evening views of the ocean. While looking for it, we scared a  bald eagle that was sitting in a tree,  feasting on a squirrel it had just caught.  We finally found the trailhead and set off for three different viewing points of the ocean.

Headquarters for the Schoodic Institute

Even the chimney had that most unusual brick/rock work

This statue was in front of one of the buildings used for training scessions

We found the perfect doughnut - no fat or carbs - it's actually a mushroom. 

We had to sit a few minutes and watch the tide come in - so peaceful

On the way home, just after sundown, we came upon a city dock. Lobstermen were bringing in their catches, while many other boats were tied up either to the dock or in the bay.

These boats looked like they had been set up to be painted

Lobster boats at rest

The lobsters were loaded into bins and taken off - they have to be purged and brought back to the temperature of the ocean before they are ready to sell

This scene is so iconic for Maine

We were both happy we had gone to Schoodic Peninsula.  It was beautiful and had very few people using it.