Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 2)

I ended my last post heading out to dinner.  We decided to eat dinner at Virginia’s again.  Their food is delicious and the scenery is great.  We ate a little earlier the second night so we had plenty of daylight to enjoy the sights.

We had a perfect view of the lighthouse in the distance.

dsc_4230

While enjoying the views of the marina, an osprey flew by looking for a landing spot.  He thought he could land on a large stick stuck in the jetty.  But after a couple of attempts, he realized it was too small for him.

dsc_4286

Osprey

I had a grackle trying to beg for food while we ate.  I didn’t give him anything, so he gave me the evil eye.  🙂

dsc_4318

Great-tailed grackle

Dinner was soooo good.  Fried shrimp cooked perfectly.

20161016_181540

My dad enjoying dinner!

After dinner mom and I took some photos in the soft evening light.

dsc_5399

Gorgeous sunset at the marina

dsc_5401

Mom looking beautiful as always

dsc_5402

I got a lot of sun on this trip!

The moon was full and bright!

dsc_3012

Harvest Moon

While talking to Tim on the phone that evening, a was entertained by a hunting toad.

dsc_3020

Gulf Coast Toad

I got up early again the next morning to visit the refuge one last time.  I was going to miss this place!

dsc_3021

 

I was the first one there that morning.  Which I think was to my benefit as the wildlife hadn’t been disturbed in any way.  I walked very slowly and quietly.  Determined to blend in LOL!

I was greeted by lots lots of lizards.

dsc_4613

Brown Anole

The first bird I saw was a juvenile Green Heron snoozing right next to the boardwalk.  He cracked an eye open at me, but otherwise didn’t move a muscle.

dsc_4600

Juvenile Green Heron

dsc_4608

Back to sleep 🙂

Further down the boardwalk, I was thrilled to see another lifer for me – a Least Bittern.  He didn’t seem to mind that I was there.  He groomed, stretched his wings, grabbed a snack and then moved on.  I wish the lighting had been better for photographs as I couldn’t have asked for a better subject not 5 feet from me.

dsc_4412

Least Bittern

dsc_4454

Looking up at me

dsc_4483

Stretching his wings

dsc_4497

Time to move on into the cattails

At the end of the boardwalk I saw several Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroat feeding.  They didn’t want to cooperate for photos.  I managed to get one semi-decent photo of the Common Yellowthroat.

dsc_4535

Common Yellowthroat

There was a Great Egret feeding in the open area of the marsh.

dsc_4048

Great Egret

A few other birds made an appearance at the boardwalk.

dsc_4134

Green Heron

dsc_3049

Tri-Colored Heron

dsc_3055

Great-Tailed Grackle

dsc_3111

Pied-Billed Grebe

In the shallows at the parking lot, there were a few shorebirds feeding in the morning light.

dsc_3568

Lesser Yellowlegs

dsc_3511

Stilt Sandpiper – another lifer!

dsc_3354

Long-Billed Curlew

I hated to leave, but it was time to go get my parents and head to the beach.  It was another beautiful day at the beach.  We had a wonderful time.

20161016_135332

Beautiful day at the beach!

I fed the birds at the beach.  It wouldn’t be a proper trip without doing so!  It was harder than I realized it would be getting a picture of a seagull in flight waiting for me to toss more food.

dsc_3948

Laughing Gull – another lifer!

dsc_3906

Great-Tailed Grackle

dsc_3667

Laughing Gull

dsc_3661

Lots of colorful clams

dsc_2990

Horseshoe crab – not much has changed in the last 450 million years!

I hope you enjoyed my visit to the Gulf Coast.  If you have never been there, I highly recommend it!

dsc_5405

Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 1)

While visiting my parents in San Antonio, we decided to take a short trip to the gulf coast.  I hadn’t been to the beach in several years.  The weather was perfect for a beach trip.  We stayed in Port Aransas, which is at the northern end of Padre Island and at the opening of the shipping channel that leads to Corpus Christi.

We took the back way in to Port Aransas, so we got to ride the ferry across the channel.  It’s a short ride on the ferry, just barely enough time to get out of your car and look for dolphins.  We managed to see a couple in the distance before we had to return to our car.

dsc_2652

Dolphin in shipping channel at Port Aransas, Texas

There are lots of Brown Pelicans in Port Aransas.  They are so beautiful even in non-breeding plumage.  They love to hang out at the piers.

dsc_2611

Brown Pelican

dsc_4638

Brown Pelican

dsc_4669

Brown Pelican

We had to wait a few hours before we could check into our hotel, so we headed straight for the beach.  To our astonishment, the place was packed!!!   We learned later their was a Harvest Moon Regatta that had been held that day.

dsc_3893

Crowded beach in Port Aransas, Texas

We managed to find a spot to park the car that wasn’t too close to other people on the beach.  After sitting and having a snack and people watching, I decided to take a walk down the beach with Scarlett.  This was her first ever visit to the beach.  I figured since she loved water so much, she would love the ocean.  She HATED it! LOL!  To her it was hot, salty and the water chased her!   She did enjoy the walk down the beach though.  Lots of other dogs to see and everyone wanted to pet her.  She was constantly told that she was beautiful.  Of course, I had to agree.

I tried to get bird photos while walking Scarlett, but the beach was just too busy.  I did manage to get this heron relaxing on a sign post in the dunes.

dsc_2921

Great Blue Heron

We were finally able to check into the hotel and get ready for dinner.  We had wanted to go to a place called Doc’s which is about 15 miles from our hotel.  It is located on the intra-coastal channel further south on Padre Island.  But when we got there, we saw the place was packed.  The wait looked like it would easily be a couple hours and it was already well after 7 o’clock.  So we turned around and headed back to Port Aransas.  As we turned around, I told dad to stop the car.  To my delight I got my first lifer bird of the beach trip – Black Skimmers!!!

The sun was almost set so I didn’t have much light.  And they were almost between me and the setting sun, so it was a challenge to get a photograph.  But I was thrilled to see them.  Such an unusual bird!

dsc_2997

Black Skimmers

We ate at Virginia’s, which is a great restaurant right at the marina in Port Aransas.  Their food is delicious and the scenery can’t be beat.  By the time we got a table, it was dark outside.  We saw lots of boats coming in the for the night.  The one boat I had hoped to see was the Red Dragon Pirate Ship.  It came sailing in to the marina while we were eating dinner.  I had to reduce my shutter speed to very slow and had to take the photon while hand holding the camera – bad combination.  Plus, I only had a few moments in which to get a photo before it disappeared behind other docked boats.  I was surprised at how well my photo came out!

dsc_3018

Red Dragon Pirate Ship

The next morning I woke up very early so I could go bird at a local wildlife refuge.  What a wonderful location.  They had built lots of boardwalks in the marsh area so you could get out in the cattails to look for birds and other delights.

20161016_074724

Aransas Wildlife Refuge boardwalk

As soon as I stepped out onto the boardwalk, a heron jumped up on the railing squawking at me.  I couldn’t be more excited.  A lifer bird not 5 feet away!!!  It was a Tri-Colored Heron who was more than happy to pose for some photos in the gorgeous early morning light.

dsc_4570

Tri-Colored Heron

dsc_4571

Tri-Colored Heron

As I progressed along the boardwalk, I saw an opening in the cattails ahead.  I saw a high deck for viewing the extent of the marsh.  Whoever designed this place did a fabulous job.

20161016_162834

When I got to the clearing, I saw a Common Gallinule grooming itself.  Gallinules have developed extra long toes so they can walk across the cattails with ease.  You can see those long toes well in this photo.

dsc_4168

Common Gallinule

There were several grebes enjoying the morning as well as cormorants.

dsc_4149

Neotropic Cormorant

dsc_4027

Double-Crested Cormorant – love the feet! 🙂

dsc_3251

Pied-Billed Grebe

At the end of the boardwalk I looked down into the cattails and was surprised to see an alligator!  He was snoozing in the shallow water.  It is difficult to grasp the size of this alligator in photos.  But he’s easily 12 feet long!  The locals call him Stinky.

dsc_3115

Alligator

20161016_080231

There were lots of pelicans and avocets off in the distance.  I had to push the extent of my lens to get any photos of them.

dsc_3190

White Pelican with American Avocets in the background

Too soon it was time to head back so I could get some breakfast and go to the beach with my folks.  The beach was almost deserted compared to the day before.  It was great! The weather was perfect, a light breeze off the water to cool things off some.

I tried to get Scarlett to play in the water, but she just wasn’t happy…as you can see by her expression and body language here.  I guess she’s a mountain girl through and through.

20161018_055018

Scarlett was telling me she hated the beach

Mom tried to get her to play as well, but no luck.

20161016_105355

Unhappy Scarlett with my mom

After playing in the water awhile, I decided to walk down the beach again.  I figured I would have a lot better luck this day getting birds.  And I was right.  Lots of birds out enjoying the relatively quiet beach.  I got several lifers!

dsc_3881

Sanderling

dsc_3855

Royal Tern in foreground – a lifer for me!

dsc_3805

Forster’s Tern

dsc_3795

There was one cranky Royal Tern – you can see him in the middle of the photo

dsc_3784

Piping Plover – another lifer!

dsc_3704

Ruddy Turnstone – yet another lifer!!!

dsc_3689

Western Sandpiper

dsc_2745

Willet – another lifer!!!

Dad flew his kites and there were other great kites flying along the beach as well.

dsc_3586

Dad’s shark kite

dsc_3584

Dad’s other kite

 

dsc_5396

I loved this squid kite – it was easily 30 feet long

dsc_5394

Beautiful kites!

After a full day at the beach, we returned to the hotel for a swim in their pool.  Dad decided to take a nap and mom and I swam.  Mom found a lizard that had fallen in the pool.  I was able to rescue it before it drowned.  🙂

20161015_171420

Brown Anole – originally native of Cuba

After our swim, mom went to the room to clean up for dinner.  I took advantage of this and ran back over to the refuge.  It was such a great place!

When I arrived at the parking area, I saw about a dozen White Ibis feeding in the shallows.  Just beautiful!

dsc_4011

White Ibis

I saw some hummingbirds feeding on the Mexican Paradise bushes.  I had a hard time getting a pic but managed one decent one.  Yet another new bird for me – Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

dsc_4195

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

It was pretty quiet on the marsh that afternoon.  But I ran into some people that said just down the road, there are more boardwalks and some whistling ducks there.  I immediately jumped in the car and drove over there.  As soon as I walked to the end of the boardwalk, I saw and heard a whole bunch of them.  They actually whistle!

dsc_4209

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks – another lifer!

I looked around to see what else might be about.  I saw one other duck sleeping in the shade.  Otherwise, it was pretty quiet.

dsc_4217

Cinnamon Teal – female

Time to go to get cleaned up for dinner.  I was hungry!

This post has become way longer than I expected.  So I will break it up into two parts.  Lots more great photos to come!

dsc_3742

You never know what tiny treasures you might find on the beach…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding from Roswell to San Angelo

In October I went to San Antonio to visit family.  I took a different route than usual on the way there so I could stop overnight in San Angelo.  I’ve been following Bob Zeller’s blog Texas Tweeties for some time and have wanted to bird there after seeing all his wonderful photos.

On the way to San Angelo I stopped in at Bitter Lake in Roswell, NM.  It was pretty quiet there.  The fall migration has been slow this year due to unusually warm weather.  Here’s some of the birds I saw.

dsc_4984

Lesser Yellowlegs

dsc_1390

American Coot

dsc_1814

Snowy Egret

dsc_1550

Least Sandpiper

dsc_1368

Long-Billed Dowitcher

dsc_1820

Savannah Sparrow

I noticed this one duck was reluctant to swim away.  Upon a closer look, I realized it had been injured.  Looks like it had a close call with a coyote or some other predator.

dsc_1829

Injured female Mallard

As I was leaving the refuge, I noticed a turtle crossing the road.  I got out and took a few photos before picking him up and moving him fully across the road.  I would hate for him to get run over.

dsc_1845

Western Painted Turtle

I stopped to get an iced tea at Starbucks in Roswell and couldn’t resist photographing the grackles hanging out there.

dsc_1876

Great-Tailed Grackle female

Between Roswell and San Angelo, I came across this hawk enjoying the afternoon sun.

dsc_1881

Ferruginous Hawk

I arrived in San Angelo with about 2 hours of daylight left.  So I headed straight for San Angelo State Park.  It was quite active with birds and butterflies.  My first bird sighting there was a much hoped for one.  I saw several Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers busy catching bugs.   They weren’t very shy, so I was able to get some nice photos.

dsc_2487

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

dsc_1956

My favorite bird photo in San Angelo.  Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

I saw a few other birds that afternoon.

dsc_1927

Loggerhead Shrike

dsc_1968

Canyon Towhee

I visited the bird blind there, but no birds were about.  But about 5 javalena came through to get a drink.

dsc_2000

Javalena

What I mostly saw were butterflies.  Lots of butterflies.  Most of them were one variety – Bordered Patch.  This was a new butterfly for me 🙂

dsc_2050

Bordered Patch

dsc_2349

Gulf Fritillary

dsc_2056

Painted Lady

dsc_4708

Queen

dsc_4692

Monarch

 

dsc_2240

Pipevine Sawllowtail

As I was leaving that evening, I saw a vulture settling in for the night on a handicap sign in a parking lot.  It was pretty much dark, but he was tame and let me drive right next to him and use a flash.  🙂

dsc_2099

Turkey Vulture – juvenile

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the sunset as I left.

DSC_5383.jpg

Typical Texas sunset

I got up early the next morning for another quick birding outing before heading on to San Antonio.  I first stopped in at Spring Park to see if I could see a Great Kiskadee that has been see there.  But no luck.  All I saw were deer….lots of deer….

dsc_2545

White-Tailed Deer – they flip their tail up when they run

dsc_2531

The young one still has some spots

dsc_2132

Female White-Tailed Deer

dsc_2141

Beautiful buck

I then headed back over to San Angelo State Park to see if the birding was better in the early morning.  It definitely was!  As I approached the entrance to the park, I saw a roadrunner busy hunting for breakfast.

dsc_2230

Greater Roadrunner

dsc_2205

Greater Roadrunner eating a Painted Lady

I hiked several trails through the park and saw quite a variety of birds.

 

dsc_2501

Eastern Phoebe

dsc_2367

Northern Mockingbird

dsc_2330

Cactus Wren

dsc_2320

Lincoln’s Sparrow

dsc_2299

Carolina Wren

dsc_2275

Curve-Billed Thrasher

After hiking awhile, I visited the bird blind one more time before I had to leave.  It was much more busy with birds in the morning.

dsc_2398

American Goldfinch female

dsc_2387

Lincoln’s Sparrow

dsc_2448

Pyrrhuloxia

dsc_2373

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

White I was sitting quietly in the bird blind, a Gray Fox made a very brief appearance.  I managed to get a couple pics before it was gone.  Very exciting!  I’ve never seen one in person before and so close!

dsc_2412

Gray Fox

Sadly it was time to put the camera away and hit the road.  I really enjoyed my short visit to San Angelo.  Hopefully I will get another chance in the future to visit again.

 

 

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 8 Arizona

Our last day of vacation.  It has been an amazing trip.  It had been a long time since we had been on a trip together for this many days.  The road trip was a great way to spend quality time together.  When you spend hours in a car, you have a lot of undivided attention.  I highly recommend road trips over flying.  You have everything at your disposal, and you get to see so much of our beautiful country.  There’s so much out there to explore and experience.

The drive home was mostly uneventful.  We could have taken the interstate home pretty much the whole way.  But instead we decided to drive the highways that skirted along the northern border of Arizona.  By doing this we drove along the southern edge of Monument Valley.  You could see many of the formations off in the distance.  The geology along the highway had a lot of its own unique formations.

dsc_9493

Unique formations along the edge of Monument Valley

dsc_9488

Beautiful scenery

After driving several hours, we started heading south to I40.  Looking at the map, I realized we were going to go right by Canyon de Chelly National Monument (pronounced day shay).  This canyon has been occupied by Native Americans and Anasazi uninterrupted for the last 5000 years.

We didn’t have time to explore down in the canyon.  But we had enough time to drive to several overlooks.  I have wanted to see Canyon de Chelly for a long time.  I’ve known several people that have visited there, and they always said how beautiful it was.

And it was beautiful!  The day was overcast, which is actually perfect for photographing a landscape that has deep canyons, shadows and lots of sandstone.  Each overlook provided a different view of the long canyon.

 

20160907_132534

Last selfie of the trip 🙂

dsc_3510

Just beautiful!

dsc_3494

The Navajos live and farm in the bottom of the canyon.

dsc_3504

I would have loved to take a horseback ride along the bottom of the canyon.

At the upper end of the canyon there were ruins left behind by the Anasazi.  They were way down in the bottom of the canyon.

dsc_9502

Anasazi Ruins

I zoomed in with my birding lens to get a closer view of the ruins.

dsc_9497

If you look closely, there are petroglyphs on the flat face of the cliff between the upper and lower houses.   I can only imagine how they hung there to do carve those thousands of years ago!

I loved the effects of the staining on the canyon cliffs.

dsc_9572

Unique stains and another cliff house near the bottom

We walked along the edges of the overlooks.  It’s a long way down to the bottom!  Tim enjoyed the views.  Anyone that knows my husband knows he doesn’t smile big very often.  I was thrilled to get this photo of him smiling!  🙂

dsc_9561

Big happy smile!  I love my handsome husband!

On the way out we saw several of the local horses free grazing along the top of the canyon.  I loved the markings on this gray Appaloosa.

dsc_9520

I liked the white eyelashes on this horse.  Gave it a unique appearance.

dsc_9549-3

I’ve never seen a horse with white eyelashes, blue eyes and black eyeliner!  Unique!

But my favorite was this young Palomino.  It posed nicely for me! A great end to our trip!

dsc_9538

I loved this photo! I love capturing the beauty of life!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my fabulous 20th Anniversary Trip.  Thank you so much for coming along!

dsc_9554