After the Storm

Tropical Storm Bill was hyped-up as a flood of Biblical proportions, and some did get a lot of rain. We were spared wide-spread street flooding here in Houston which would have been really disruptive after our "Memorial Day Flood". The storm made an unexpected jog west which resulted in Houston missing most of the intense rain. It then moved on to drench Austin and Dallas-Ft.Worth. Last I heard it was wrecking havoc in Oklahoma and points north.

It made landfall on June 16, 2015 and my worst rain was on Wednesday the 17th. Bill and I were out checking the after effects on Thursday, June 18 and again on Saturday. We had some good birding, too. 

We first looked at the area around Surfside where we saw so many Clapper Rails this year. The beach was closed off to traffic but the areas under the Hwy 36 bridge looked no worse for wear. The houses there are built on stilts for a reason, y'all.  

Going over to Quintana we could see the jetty got a lot of action. 

Quintana jetty and fishing pier with Bill in the distance Sony A77II with Sony 16-50 f/8.0 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Quintana jetty and fishing pier with Bill in the distance

Sony A77II with Sony 16-50 f/8.0 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Those are some BIG logs and the amount of plastic and trash is enough to turn you into a loony-liberal tree-hugger. How can there be so much trash floating around in the Gulf? I googled around looking for information on debris and destruction from storms and found this article on Storm Surge from the Weather Underground. 

The storm surge moves with the forward speed of the hurricane--typically 10 - 15 mph. This wind-driven water moving at 10 - 15 mph has tremendous power. A cubic yard of sea water weighs 1,728 pounds--almost a ton. A one-foot deep storm surge can sweep your car off the road, and it is difficult to stand in a six-inch surge. Compounding the destructive power of the rushing water is the large amount of floating debris that typically accompanies the surge. Trees, pieces of buildings, and other debris float on top of the storm surge and act as battering rams that can cave in any buildings unfortunate enough to stand in the way.

This recent storm was only a heavy rain event but wind speeds topped out at 60mph so there was ample power in the waves. 

Quintana Jetty new addition - Post-processing with NIK Silver Effex Pro Sony A77II with Sony 16-50 f/8.0 ISO 800 HDR

Quintana Jetty new addition - Post-processing with NIK Silver Effex Pro

Sony A77II with Sony 16-50 f/8.0 ISO 800 HDR

After climbing over all that trash we found this GIGANTIC tree out on the jetty. I should have put something in front for scale, but I was all enthralled by the textures and shapes. I have no idea how or if they will remove this one.

More and more and more...stuff Sony A77II with Sony 16-50 f/10.0 1/800 sec ISO 800

More and more and more...stuff

Sony A77II with Sony 16-50 f/10.0 1/800 sec ISO 800

This is looking back inland. Where in the world did the laundry basket come from? We saw treasure hunters and gawkers. Later on, down the beach we found folks picking up shells and driftwood. And a weird old man with a group of young men pushing a white truck for miles. Twice.

We checked on the status of a little road we use to get to Bryans Beach (it wasn't washed out) and headed down the beach toward the mouth of the old Brazos River. 

On the way we noticed demolished port-a-potties, more giant logs and piles of trash. And a quiet little lagoon behind the dunes.

American Avocets on parade Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/6.3  1/2000 sec ISO 500

American Avocets on parade

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/6.3  1/2000 sec ISO 500

There were a couple of dozen American Avocets with nice breeding colors. Some of them moved over to where we were set up. Bill was in the truck, shooting out of the window. I was on my milk crate, hugging the bit of shade made by the truck.

It was hot, ya'll. I bought some Target-brand spray sunscreen last year on sale. It works really well and I like the spray feature. But, it rubs off YELLOW on all your clothes. Thankfully, it washes out easily enough, but you look stupid with all that yellow on your clothes. 

American Avocet taking off Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/8.0  1/2000 sec ISO 500

American Avocet taking off

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/8.0  1/2000 sec ISO 500

I was rather excited about this one in flight. These guys and the long-legged Black-neck Stilts trail those legs behind when flying. They will change directions with their body and the legs have to shift to catch up. 

It was way brighter than I like, but that does allow some fast shutter speeds. White Balance was set for Cloudy Weather and I think that is why these have a warm cast. But, the water was muddy from all the stirred-up sand. 

Reddish Egret shadowing to find fish - post processed with Fractalius and Photoshop Oil Paint Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6  1/2000 sec ISO 800

Reddish Egret shadowing to find fish - post processed with Fractalius and Photoshop Oil Paint

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6  1/2000 sec ISO 800

This pool had a Reddish Egret working the shallow waters. He was quite a successful fisherman, but due to the strong light, only my photos of him working from the left to right look good. That harsh sunlight is a real challenge. 

Reddish Egret intently fishing - post processed with Fractalius and Photoshop Oil Paint Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6  1/2000 sec ISO 800

Reddish Egret intently fishing - post processed with Fractalius and Photoshop Oil Paint

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6  1/2000 sec ISO 800

He was really working the area; there was a Snowy Egret on the far side of the lagoon. She seemed to mimic his behavior; a lot of frantic runs and turns and wing shadowing. The sun was so bright photographing light birds was difficult. 

Least Tern in breeding colors; full black cap  Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/6.3  1/1600 sec ISO 640

Least Tern in breeding colors; full black cap 

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/6.3  1/1600 sec ISO 640

We watched some Least Terns at the edge of the water. The male brought fish to the female several times, but she was playing hard to get or didn't fancy him. We did have some breeding action along the coast from early-April to mid-July. These floods and rain events have been hard on ground nesting birds. I heard the Black Skimmers at Rockport Beach have been flooded out three times. 

The fish transfer captures were not very good, but I did get this nice wings-up-almost-in flight shot. Most of the action took place just below the line of sight in a small dip of the shore. 

Red kayak make its final journey Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6  1/2000 sec ISO 400

Red kayak make its final journey

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6  1/2000 sec ISO 400

Moving on down the beach we found more wood and debris. We scavenged for driftwood and nice additions to our backyard bird setups. Bill found a lot of bamboo poles he is going to use to stake his tomato plants. 

At the end of the beach, the Brazos River meets the Gulf of Mexico. The rain collected by the Brazos River Watershed collides with what arrived on our shores from the storm. The county will use a front-end loader to move all this debris away from the shore and up against the dunes. 

How did Tropical Storm Bill affect you? Did you get a lot of rain? As much as the weather forecasters predicted? And how do birds weighing less than a couple of pounds survive a force so large as to move these logs and trees to our coast?  Let me know in the comments below.