My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend at Choke Canyon State Park

I had to drive about five hours for a checkup on my rehabilitation progress after my surgery, so decided I might as well drive another four hours and spend a long weekend with friends at Choke Canyon State Park. I invited my friend, Julie, from Florida to come join me and arranged to get her paddling equipment so she could go have fun.

I finally made it to Corpus, after having started off at 6:45AM  from Galveston, so I would have time to stop at a Texas Birding Hotspot or two and bird on the way down.  I was only five miles from my first planned stop, and an hour from Galveston, when I discovered I had lost my phone.  I was sure it had fallen out in Natalie's bathroom so drove back to get it.  So I missed birding at Quintana, which usually has a few wintering warblers. After a few more minor adventures, I made it to the Corpus Christi airport to pick up Julie.  I hadn't had time to go grocery shopping, so that was our first task.  Then we had barbeque before heading to the state park. I had gotten Winnie to pay the money I still owed so we could have a prime campsite. We found out site just after dark, then set up camp before going back to build a campfire and visit with Winnie and Wayne, the only other campers on site.

Galveston sunrise as I left

We spent Friday looking for cheap firewood, and after an offer to follow a guy home for free wood, came back with my Honda about a quarter full of firewood as well as with beets, shallots, and two huge cabbages. Julie planned to take hers cabbage back home on the plane. We spent the rest of the day hiking, and Julie also did a short paddle in Winnie's kayak.  I cooked supper in my crock pot to share with Winnie and Wayne. People started coming in that afternoon and early evening.

Then we got a scary call from my friend, Bob.  He was in the emergency room with his friend, Karen and they didn't know if they would even make it.  Since he was bring a kayak for Julie, this was devastating news.  We were very worried about Karen, who had recently spent eighteen days in the hospital with spleen and pancreas problems and were afraid she was starting a repeat. However, an hour later,  we got another text that they were on the way.

Julie loves to be in trees and this one was just too inviting

Saturday, Wayne and I followed the kayakers down to their put-in on the Frio River.  Wayne has just retired as a drone pilot for the Border Patrol and has several drones he flies for a hobby.  He wanted to take still pictures of the group leaving. And I wanted pictures as well .

Loading up the kayaks

Winnie ready to leave

Julie boarding 

Bob drawing over for the pre departure group picture

The group picture as seen from the  drone

Wayne's drone with camera

The last view the drone got of the paddlers

Then I mostly hung out in my hammock as the temperature climbed to ninety-three degrees. This was the hottest day I'd have to suffer through in two years. The paddlers all had a great time and Julie came back with pictures that she shared with me so I could be duly envious.

I hiked back to the group site to see if the Mother-of-thousands was still growing there.  Many years ago, I took a piece home and easily got it growing in a pot.  Then I found it was invasive so destroyed it.  However a tiny plantlet grew in a crack in my steps all summer without water. It's a very tough plant and makes lovely blooms in the late winter.

Mother-of-thousands bloom

This duckweed covered red ear slider was searching for diggable dirt - in very short supply there

Tree tobacco was also in bloom 

On Sunday, everybody wanted to go home and not do another paddle, so Winnie loaned Julie her kayak and I took her to the put-in in camp.  Then I went to the previous day's put-in to retrieve her.  In between, as well as before, I birded and hiked. Sunday evening Julie and I packed up everything but our tents.

The rising moon on Sunday night

We got up early on Monday to go visit the Padre Island National Seashore and set Julie off on another short paddle from Bird Island Basin.  She got back in time for us to drop off the kayak at Winnie's house and  to go eat Galveston Bay oysters before putting her back on a plane.

Julie paddling behind a sandbird of loafing birds

Picture by Julie of the some of the sand dunes she paddled by

Then I drove the four hours back to Galveston, and managed to see Natalie a few minutes before going to bed so I could get up early and head back to Louisiana.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On the Hunt for Choke Canyon State Park Birds

Birds are in VERY short supply in all the places I've visited in both Louisiana and Texas. Choke Canyon State Park,  near Three Rivers, Texas, was no different, and the kinds and numbers of birds were both way down. Instead of seeing nearly seventy species of birds, I saw way less. And most of the birds were either coming to my oranges in my camp site or were on Seventy-Five Acre lake. Choke Canyon Reservoir had hardly any birds except for coots and a few great blue herons, and the ever present turkey vultures.

The reservoir was also some twenty feet low and, in places where I had taken pictures of birds on the water in other years, I could not see the lake edge. But I still had a great time hunting for them, sometimes with my birding pal Winnie, and sometimes by myself.

The only Vermillion flycatcher I saw - sometimes there are imatures, and females

A very tame blue wing teal pair - got within 20 feet without disturbing them

Very unexpected cinnamon teal

Coot and northern shovelre

A few of about 30 rudy ducks

Least grebes

White face ibis and blue wing teal

The great blue flew as soon as I saw him

These bufflehead were a surprise

Coots and shoveler pair - the only two around

Northern pintail

Harris hawk

Couch's kingbird


Green wing teal

Common gallinule

Back at my campsite, I got several other neat species including the following birds and green jays. I also think I got one visit from the olive sparrow, one of the birds endemic to this area.

Bullock's oriole

Audubon's oriole


My friend, Winnie, came up with a few other species, including yellow headed blackbirds, which I don't remember seeing there before.  We also had several green jays coming to the oranges and sunflower seed, but I never got good pictures of them.  We only saw two wild turkeys - we usually see twenty or more. There were probably twenty five species that we didn't find, including ducks, sandhill cranes, flycatchers, thrashers, and herons.

But I did enjoy several hours of hunting and photographing birds.

I'm linking to Wild Bird Wednesday.  Click on the picture below to see many other great bird blogs from around the world.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Plan B was Very Good

February 5, 2017

I drove a little over an hour down to New Orleans to visit the Botanical Garden there. To get the most bang for my gas buck, I left early, planning to visit City Park which houses an art museum and the Botanical Gardens.

I arrived around 7:30 A.M. to find the park closed but parking allowed along Park Drive. I soon found out that the Rock and Roll Marathon was going on.  I missed the start but was around for a lot of the half marathon finishers and the first few of the marathon finishers. But there was plenty of time while the runners were out on the course to enjoy the park and a few of the bands that were all along the course. The runners got to enjoy lots of different kinds of New Orleans Music while viewing many of the historical buildings. Over 20,000 runners participated in the two events - marathon and half marathon.

What the start looked like - they actually ran in groups that started at different times with the elite athletes leaving first. (picture from the Rock and Roll Marathon Facebook Page) 

I started by taking pictures of the huge live oaks which I've already blogged about. Wondering about under their shade gave me a calm, happy feeling. And I found some varieties of flowers that were especially photogenic.

There are some pretty views within the 1,300 acre park

Loved these flirty azeleas

Think this was a persimmon but I'm sure one of my gardening friends will set me straight

Double variegated  azaleas are extremely photogenic

Even the most common variety of azalea looked beautiful in the early light 

I followed my ears to find some of the sources of the music. One group was playing at the finish line in the park. There were others all along the two courses.

Runners and watchers near the finish line

Half marathoners making a turn by one of the stages.  Check out the muslim looking guy getting into the music at the corner of the stage. He was grooving and taking his own pictures

The stage for the after race party was in the little 'village" of  stuff to sale to runners.
Two of these walkers were working the crowd. 

I took a long walk around the park while waiting for the Botanical Garden to open and enjoyed both the park and the incoming runners. I was looking for the wood ducks which I remembered as breeding on an island in the park, but didn't locate them. Coots, domestic mallards, and muscovies were the birds of the day. 

Flying muscovy

Coot framed by Spanish moss

Then I went back to the Botanical Garden, which I'd located earlier.  The doors were STILL locked at a little after 10:00 A.M. Then I saw the note saying that they were closed for the marathon.  I decided to make another pass around the Sculpture Garden behind the art museum and found it was open.  I spent at least another hour there.

A very open variety of saucer magnolia

I loved how the sculpture garden maintained the native plants

Loved this LOVE sculpture but wished I could have taken in in the late afternoon

I love mobiles and enjoyed this simple one

This was my favorite sculpture - a mass of abstract violins

A close up view of the violins

This huge pin was a neat counterpoint to the more traditional sculptures

I think this statue would look best when lying on the ground looking up at it. 

I enjoyed these warriors from outside the park, then from inside. They were
 even more interesting when I found they were done by a woman, Elisabeth Frink,
an important  20th century British Sculptor

I loved the detail on the "skin"

A View down one of the park roads - all closed to all but park workers

A typical view throughout south Louisiana

This quilt must have be sculptured in fiberglass

You can rent kayaks to play in the bayou that runs through the park

These ladies had just finished the half marathon - I actually asked them to pose for me and traded taking their pictures on their phones for this one. 

I saw many runners togged out like this

The Geico gecko was giving high fives to the half marathon finishers

So I got to have an adventure without having to lose anything from my bucket list. And in a few more weeks, the garden should be in full spring bloom. I'll make sure to get back there soon.