Friday, March 31, 2006

Farewell to the Beach

March 30 to March 31

Zaph sadly said farewell to the beach, but looks forward to many lakes and streams to swim in. Ed and I spent most of the last day trying to rid the trailer and truck of accumulated sand and salt — we think we were mostly successful. It really is amazing the amount of sand that gets tracked into everything.

A Great Blue Heron stretching his wings.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Great Day for a Romp on the Beach

Another quiet day, mostly spent planning the route when we leave here in a few days, though Zaph did get to show another golden retriever how to play in the ocean. Sammy (Samantha) likes to swim in a pool but she didn’t know what to make of the ocean water and the waves — now she does.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Let It Rain

Zaph wanted to try the beach on Padre Island and Ed wanted to look for birds so we decided to head to the National Seashore on Padre Island for a second visit. Bird watching was pretty quiet though we did see some flocks of migrating birds — and that’s always impressive. On the Madre Laguana side of the island, there is a beach set aside for wind surfers and a lot of people were out there today enjoying the sun and wind — we enjoyed watching them. Zaphod on the other hand was more interested in watching three dogs chase balls, and was not the happiest dog that he was not allowed to join in.

While driving the nine or so miles north on the beach from the park to the nearest public beach access road we noticed the wind picking up strongly and storm like conditions brewing. Before we reached the trailer the skies had opened and it poured rain heavily. The overall amount of rain was most likely less than 2", but given how dry everything is, it did at least put some water into the dry ponds and marshes.

It was foggy on the Padre Island beach.

Windsurfers --- the ones on the right were getting a lesson.

I know the ball is down here somewhere!

A flock of Ibis

Mom hurry up and throw the ball!

Aren't I handsome ..... a Caspian Tern

Monday, March 27, 2006

Beach Day

March 25 to March 27

Things were pretty quiet for a few days ... cleaning, laundry, and of course many dog directed walks on the beach. Zaph was happy as Splash came to visit on the 27th. The pair of them had a great time chasing balls on the beach, and Splash appeared to really enjoy rolling in and getting covered in sand, much to the objection of her mother.

Are you sure you're suppose to be this close when you're shark watching? Most people do it from a safe distance .......

Everyone's gone surfing ....... surfing USA

A ship passing by the jetty.

Hey Splash, where's the ball?

Friday, March 24, 2006

USS Lexington

March 23 to March 24

Cold north winds blew in from Canada (I’m not sure if that’s true but it sounds good!), so we spent most of the 23rd in the trailer with the furnace on. It was still cool on the 24 th, but it was sunny so we headed down to Corpus Christie and the aircraft carrier USS Lexington aka CV-16, aka “the blue ghost”. The ship was launched September 23, 1942, saw active duty in a number of wars, decommissioned in 1991 and was opened as a museum in October 1992. We had a great day exploring the different areas of the ship and viewing the many exhibits that were displayed, many of which are in the maze of cabins and areas below the hanger deck, perhaps it was more like a snakes and ladder game, as you whet up and down many stairs which looked more like ladders. Then there is the single escalator, that was not running (used to quickly move pilots from their ready rooms to the hanger deck. They have converted an area at the bow of the boat into a large screen theater which featured a couple of Imax films.

USS Lexington

A-4F Skyhawk II

F-14A Tomcat

AH-1S Cobra helicopter

Anti-aircraft guns

One of several caricatures that were painted on the ship --- this one depicts the functions of an aircraft carrier

The flight bridge

One of the passageways in the snakes and ladder game

SNJ-5 Texan

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Now That’s a Really “Big Tree”

March 20 to March 22

The boat tour we were on a couple of weeks ago took us into the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. We decided it was time to check out the land based portion of the refuge which consisted of a 16 mile Auto Tour with several hiking trails and view points along the way. From one of the hiking trails we saw about 25 alligators of varying sizes — Zaph couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t let him get near the pond. Another highlight was the family of wild boar (mom, dad and four babies) we watched crossing an inlet. We also saw deer, a Great Blue Heron having lunch, Glossy Ibis, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Whooping Cranes, Roseate Spoonsbills , some dung beetles working hard, and many more.

On the drive back from the refuge we decided to check out Goose Island State Park and “The Big Tree” and it really was a big tree..

To quote the big tree website:
“The Big Tree of Lamar is one of the most famous in the world. The giant live oak is a charter member of the Live Oak Society of America, and has been the subject of one of Ripley's "Believe It or Not" cartoons. It is measured to be more than 35 feet in circumference, 44 feet in height and has a crown spread of 89 feet. The Texas Forest Service estimates the tree to be over 1,000 years old. The Big Tree is also known as the Lamar Oak, Bishop's Oak and the Goose Island Oak. It is recognized as the State Champion Coastal live oak. It is said to have been a council tree for the Carancahua Indians and for the white men who came after them.”


Now you see the fish.

Now you don't ---- Ok the bulge in my throat is the fish.

A Great Blue Herron chasing a Great Egret.

A Dung Beatle moving some "dung" on the path. This little guy could get under the dung and carry it.

Papa, Mama and four baby boars

A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

A field of Texas Bluebonnets at Goose Island State Park

The Big Tree

A Sora at the Birding Center in Port Aransas

A Tricolored Heron watching us --- we were about 10 feet apart.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for ICE CREAM.

Today we gave Carol and Darryl the grand tour of Port Aransas including the birding centre, Robert’s Point for dolphin and ship watching (mostly we watched the ferries moving the Spring Breakers off the island), the beach for watching kite boarding and finally a 10 mile drive down the beach.

An Ice Cream Social is held every Sunday evening ---- 3 scoops of ice cream for a dollar and you can have seconds for another dollar. This week they also had birthday cake celebrating the March through May birthdays .... hmmmmm good. As you can imagine a lot of people attended this event including Darryl, Carol, Ed and myself.

The remains of the key lime pie.

A Nutria --- a non-native rodent. The alligators think it makes a tasty snack.

The "Bottlebrush" bush.

A Ford F100 (probably from the 70's) --- I think it's time to retire it.

Kite boarding on the beach

Feeding the gulls.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!! ....... and of course Carol

Fifty years ago today my sister received an absolutely marvelous birthday present — a real live doll — ME!!! Yup .... the big 5-0 and the world didn’t stop and I don’t feel any older. It probably helped being in park where 50 is considered young and is a memory for most of the people there.

The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christie was our destination for today. This aquarium has a great view of the Corpus Christie Bay and the USS Lexington (a naval museum). As it was a Saturday day and the end of Spring Break the aquarium was busy when we got there and there was an even longer line when we left 3 hours later. The dolphin show was good and it made me wonder why the dolphins I can see near the ferry don’t do those fancy tricks when I’m watching them.

The sign for the ferry indicated a one hour wait but it was only half an hour which wasn’t bad during spring break.... I’m sure the sign writer was using psychology to keep the ferry passengers happy.

After a walk and play time for Zaph on the beach, Darryl asked me if I was ready for my birthday ride on the motorbike. After my anticipated yes, Darryl got on his bike ...... oooops what was that ripping sound. The damp air had made his pants sick to his legs and one of them ripped right across the back as he lifted his leg. I guess we’ll be going to Wal-Mart tomorrow to get a pair of pants for him to ride home it.

As I don’t cook on my birthday and neither does Carol, so we went out for a lovely dinner. The restaurant had Key Lime Pie on the menu — a favorite of Darryl, Ed and myself. Darryl ordered one and Ed and I ordered one to split. Our mouths dropped when our “pieces” of pie arrived .... or should I say pies... A serving was 5 inches high by 4 inches in diameter — we figured 4 people may have been able to eat it. Naturally there were leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.

One of the colourful fish at the aquarium

A Moon Jelly fish --- I thought all jelly fish were poisonous but their not.

A Crested Caracara. The aquarium has a few raptors that have been injured and cannot be release back into the wild.

The river otter.

The dolphins seemed to know the boy was there are performed for him.

Wow --- a back flip.

A baby alligator --- she keeps it calm by stroking it's head.

born to be wild---easy riders

Friday, March 17, 2006

Top of the Morn to you

March 16 to March 17

Hope you all had a green St. Patrick’s Day — we did. My sister Carol and her husband Darryl drove 400 plus miles from Tyler, Texas to Port Aransas on their motorcycle for a weekend visit — I get a sore behind and stiff legs just thinking about it.

The four of us were sitting in the trailer chatting when a neighbour from across the road came over and asked if we could help her. She saw a dog jumped through the screen window of the trailer beside us and could not catch it. The owners were out and she was afraid that it would run off. The dog was about 50 pounds, definitely had some black lab in him, and looked dashing in his shamrock bandana, but was very skittish. It didn’t take long before there were at least 15 people, many armed with treats trying to coax the dog to come. Someone tried the door of the trailer and luckily it was unlocked. The second dog was brought outside and attached to her rope with the trailer door was left opened. This maneuver worked as the black dog ran into the trailer to get away from all the helpful people. It turned out the owners were just down the road visiting at another trailer and the dog was a foster dog that was still somewhat traumatized.

A couple of hours later we were enjoying dinner when we heard a number of sirens and were quite surprised when first a EMS vehicle raced by our trailer then two police cruisers, a fire rescue truck and a fire truck. Looking down the road we could see smoke coming out of a trailer and a man with a hose spraying the roof down (turned out he had been a volunteer firefighter and knew what to do — handy person to have around). The trailer owners were at the club house working at the St. Patrick’s day dinner and dance but their dog was in the trailer. Luckily, neighbours knew this and someone broke into the trailer and got the dog out. The EMT rescue workers gave the dog oxygen and she was taken to an emergency vet. clinic to be treated for smoke inhalation. Everyone cheered at Sunday’s Ice Cream Social when it was announced that she had come home that day. We heard that the fire had started in the air cleaner — makes you really think about what matters.

The fires out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Surviving Spring Break .... So Far

As Mustang Island is a “beach destination” it is a major destination for Texas Spring Breakers. We had been told a few horror stories about how busy it is here during Spring Break, but so far it hasn’t been too bad — maybe when you expect the absolute worse ....The highway is busier, the ferry wait is longer but not outrageous, and the beach is more entertaining. The beach southwards from our RV park is not too bad just a few extra kids. But the beach northwards.... there’s a lot of driving up and down the beach, honking horns, playing loud music and having a good time. If their not driving, they are parked and encouraging those driving to dig holes in the sand by spinning their tires.

We’ve spent the time taking Zaph to the beach or checking out various birding areas. Are you tired of bird pictures yet?

Weather has been mostly been 20-25C during the day, however the humidity has been all over the map, most days have been very humid (>95% RH), but with an occasional dry day tossed in to keep things sane.

The real meaning behind "sticking ones neck out" .... Least Bittern

"keeping a low profile". The Least Bittern can stretch his neck out quite far when he is looking for food.

A flock of Roseate Spoonbill's

This is one handsome devil --- a Roseate Spoonbill up close and personal.

The beach is busier now that spring break is here.

Is this a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Birds"?

Long-billed Curlew

A Marbled Godwit

This car was left on the beach

These two ships passed in the channel and nearly swapped us out with a wave.

A Great Blue Heron nesting.

Spring is here --- the flowers are starting to bloom!

A sparrow --- we're not sure which one though

The sky is full of pigeons and gulls. We stopped at a "use to be a" pond where a man feeds the birds. He said the family joke is that he is spending his kid's inheritence on bird seed!

Coming in for a Landing! Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Hey! Move over --- this is my dining spot! The Black-bellied Whistling Ducks come by the hundreds for the morning feeding.

Looks like the free food is gone.

Time to head out for the days activities.

Northern Shoveler

Greater Yellowlegs --- don't you just love how they name the birds.

Black Skimmer

Roseate Spoonbill in flight

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Who's the better fisherman? This Heron is waiting to grab any fish the fisherman catches.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

They Pour Your Food on the Table!

Zaph was propositioned today. Ed and Zaph were talking to a fellow RVer and his golden retriever Shilo. The fellow had a good look at Zaph and told Ed that Shilo would be going into heat in a couple of weeks and would Zaph be interested. Too bad, Zaph doesn’t have the necessary equipment.

Colin and Margaret told us about a great restaurant so we drove over and met them for dinner. The Boiling Pot looks like a real dive from the outside — on old metal building with graffiti all over it. At first look the inside wasn’t much better — sheets of paper with writing on them were taped on the walls and the ceiling. It reminded me of the restaurant in the Yukon with all of the hats. Taking a good look around you could see that the restaurant was very clean and each table was covered with sheets of paper. As the name implied, the food you chose was boiled in a pot of water with Cajun spices. The standard boil includes a blue crab, shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes. The waitress brings your food to the table in a stainless bowl and proceeds to dump it on the table. You use your hands and plastic knives and forks to eat. What fun! And it tasted good too!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Even Early for Me

The alarm clock went off at 5:00am — yup A.M. and would you believe Ed was the person who set it? We were booked on a 7:30am “Whooping Crane and Coastal Birding” tour out of Rockport. It is a 25 mile drive to Rockport and we wanted to allow enough time for potential problems with the ferry. Of course no problems arose and we were there 30 minutes ahead of schedule — we did get to watch the sun rise over the boats in the harbour. The tour was on the MV Skimmer; she holds a total of 46 passengers (there were only 11 people including crew on our trip) and has a draft of 2.5 feet which means she can go in very shallow water. Whooping Cranes were the highlight of the trip but we also saw a Roseate Spoonbill, a Crested Caracara, lots of Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Reddish Egrets, White and Brown Pelicans, Cormorants and lots of other birds. The captain was able to pull the boat up to shore so were about 30 feet from the Whooping Cranes. These birds are on the endangered species list, stand about 5 feet tall, weigh about 15 pounds, have a wing span of 7 feet, live up to 24 years, mate for life and stay in family units (we saw a male, female and juvenile). After about 10 minutes, one of the birds started making funny gestures with his neck, changed his stance and took off for the other side of the channel. The remaining adult called out as if to ask how it was on the other side. The bird that had flown responded and after a bit of conversation the adult and juvenile start the same gestures and flew across the channel. It was an amazing sight. The captain also made sure to stop near a small reef where a flock of Pelicans hang out along with a lone American Flamingo. He think it may be the first time a Flamingo has been seen in the Rockport area. The flamingo arrived in November and the captain is hoping that it will stay till May — the end of the birding trips for the season.

Sunrise at the harbour.

The MV Skimmer.

The trip was 53km according to Ed's GPS.

There are lots of dolphins in the harbour.

I think these may be Caspian Terns.

The Wooping Cranes.

The juvenile Whooping Crane.

One of the adults --- the red spot is skin not feathers.

One of the adults.

Ready for take off.

Up, up and away.

Let's go too!

I know there's fish down there. (Crested Caracara)

Crested Caracara --- he has a fish in his tallons and he didn't want us to take it.

A Little Blue Heron

An Osprey

An American Oystercatcher.

An American Greater Flamingo.

A Brown Pelican

A White Pelican -- the horn on the beak indicates that it is a breeding adult. The horn falls off at the end of breeding season.

All dressed up and no place to go .... Zaph and Penny.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ferry Ride

March 5 to March 6

Another beautiful day in paradise — walk on the beach, fly the kite and just plain enjoy the weather. What a nice way to spend a Sunday.

The highway between Port A and Aransas Pass requires a ferry to cross the main channel. Depending on the time of day and traffic, 2 to 5 ferries are in operation. It has to be the shortest ferry ride I have ever taken — about 2 tenths of a mile. I’ll have to remember to ask someone why they haven’t built a bridge.

The kite

Waiting for the ferry

One of the ferries.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Turtle Patrol

“Padre Island National Seashore, encompassing 130,434 acres, is the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world, and offers a wide variety of flora and fauna as well as recreation”. I’m impressed as the National Seashore is approximately 30 minutes south of the RV park. We decided to go on their bird drive (the bird viewing places are too far apart to walk). that went to several different areas in the park — the meadow, the Madre Lagoon beach, and the north and south beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, due to the drought some of the fresh water ponds are dry so the number of birds are down. We did see a Crested Caracara (the bird in the national symbol of Mexico), Laughing Gulls, Great Blue Herons, a Common Loon, Eastern Meadow Larks, Sanderlings and many more. When the birding tour was finished, we were asked if we were staying for the beach walk — why not. The beach walk was great, only Ed and I and a park ranger. The park ranger had been stationed at this park since December but she really seemed to know her stuff. One of the interesting things we learned about Padre Island is that Mother Nature uses it as a natural garbage dump. The Gulf of Mexico has 2 main currents that run through it — one follows the Mexican Coastline west eventually heading north and east when it hits Texas; the second one follows the Louisiana coast west to Texas. The two currents meet at Padre Island and dump all of the debris they are carrying on the shore — the rangers and helpers remove an incredible amount of garbage from the beach each year (today was one of the organized beach cleanups). Another interesting thing that happens on Padre Island is that the Sea Turtles come ashore in April to lay their eggs. The “Turtle Patrol” were receiving their training while we were touring around — busy day at the park. This group of people ride up and down the beach in April looking for Sea Turtle nests. When they find one, the eggs are removed and taken to the “turtle hatchery”. Since sea turtles are either on the threatened or endangered list, every effort is made to maximize the population growth. The removal of the eggs from the nest prevents predators from eating them, and by controlling the temperature during incubation, the majority of the hatchlings are female. Once the turtles have hatched they are released into the ocean. The Sea Turtle population has begun to recover since the naturalists started this program. Would you believe Ed didn't take a camera? --- we'll have to go back another day with the camera.

Life is great --- what more can you want then the beach and a ball?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tourist Town

March 2 to March 3

Port Aransas is a cute “touristy” town on the north end of Mustang Island — our RV park is 4 miles south of town. There’s a number of restaurants, one grocery store (it’s actually quite a nice store), a liquor store, a couple of seafood stores, several huge gift stores and a kite shop. Yup, we are now the proud owners of a stunt kite — it has two strings that allow you to control the kite as it flies. Ed of course mastered basic flying in a matter of minutes and started working on simple maneuvers — I can keep the kite in the air for at least 3 minutes!

Birding, of course is also popular in Port A (the shortened name for Port Aransas). American Coots, a Great Blue Heron, several species of ducks and a Least Bittern were hanging out at the birding center when we stopped by.

Zaph is still loving the beach — especially when Penny is there. Penny is a 4 year old golden that also loves to play on the beach.

Look no residue!!! This is great deodorant. (Black-bellied Whistling Duck)

Green-winged Teal

Zaph and friends hve an afternoon cookie party. The spaniel is Darby, the other golden is Penny and the Flat Coated Retriever(black) is Pal.

Home Invasion! What's Penny doing in Zaph's trailer?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Beach

March 1, 2006

After bidding farewell to Colin and Margaret, as we are heading to different destinations for March, we headed for the Pioneer Beach Resort in Port Aransas. “Beach” being the operative word for Zaph. Port Aransas is north east of Corpus Christi on Mustang Island. This RV park is almost always full which is understandable as it has all the amenities and is one of only a couple of resorts that are on the beach. As on the Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, you can drive on this beach as well. In fact you can even camp overnight with an RV on parts of this beach as well

A farewell to friends before leaving, Buddy and Zaphod say goodbye for now

Zaphod gives Tilly a farewell kiss

Ginny, Zaphod and Splash have a lawn party

This is more like it!!!!!! Finally a BEACH!!!!!!!!

Port Aransas Harbour, the Texas Treasure, a floating casino leaves for the evening cruise

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