The Road to Rockport

The Road to Rockport

Rockport, Texas is a world-renowned birding center that I have been wanting to visit for a long time. Remember how I have told you the birds migrate up from the South in the Spring and fly their little hearts out across the Gulf of Mexico? Any place along our coast with oaks and hardwoods is a welcome stopping place for the tired, migrating birds. Rockport is one of those places just like the High Island sites. There is a  Hummingbird Festival in September and nearby Aransas Pass has a Whooping Crane Festival in the Spring. In between times, there are still lots of birds to see.

So, my photographer friend and I left on a Wednesday morning in the trusty 4-wheel drive truck with 3 cameras, assorted lenses, 6 charged batteries, extra memory cards, a laptop and iPad, ice chest, rubber boots, hats, sunscreen and assorted cords, cables, chargers and accessories... to find some birds. My wish list for this trip included baby birds of any variety and Reddish Egrets.

From my house to Rockport, Texas is roughly 180 miles, and there was a planned stop  at  Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It rained part of the way but mostly the sky was overcast. And you know I think that is best for photos.

map_Rockport.JPG

Outside of Tivoli on the way to the Wildlife Refuge there is this fantastic graveyard for old machinery and other strange objects. 

Truck garden in Tivoli

Truck garden in Tivoli

It is next door to a place called "My Wife's Cafe and Antique Store" but I am not sure they are connected. The truck above is from the Army Corp of Engineers. How it got there, I have no idea.

Ship moored in the weeds

Ship moored in the weeds

This boat is just parked off to one side of the yard. It must have been there a long time. There were other boats, but none so big as this one.

Steering the sky

Steering the sky

There were a LOT of tractors, a fire truck, more machinery, bicycles, scooters and whatever else can be made of metal and subject to rust. There was even an alligator trap. Or maybe it was a wild boar trap. I have a lot of material for Instagram's Rusty Thursday hash tags.

Moving on down to the Refuge we finally encountered some wildlife.   

Mosquitoes. There was a moment of panic when we had to search for the insect repellant, but it was found and the crisis was adverted.

White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer

The deer were grazing near the roads and not the least bit skittish. The ones at Brazos Bend usually run when they spot you, but these were rather blase.  And they were a lot smaller that the ones I normally see.

Bird not close up 

Bird not close up 

The Aransas Wildlife Refuge has viewing platforms for the Whooping Cranes (who have left by now) and serves as a wonderful conservancy for the marshland habitat. But with the constant mosquitoes and inaccessibility of the few birds to be seen, it just wasn't a great photographic opportunity.  

Except for the wild boar that ran in front of the truck. I was so startled I didn't get a picture. Trust me, just like the coyote, I really did see one!

This part of Texas is flat and agricultural. At first I thought this was corn, but soon realized it was ...

Sorghum

Sorghum

Sorghum is raised mostly for cattle fodder, but some varieties can be used for making syrup. It has a new use as flour for gluten-free foods for all our health conscious folks. And we sure have planted a lot of it in South Texas. Once I noticed the fields, I saw more planted on each side of 59 coming home near Rosenberg. Kind of like the word "ubiquitous". Once you learn the meaning, it is ... well, ubiquitous.

Nest building Caracara

Nest building Caracara

Off the side of the road in a clearing was a Caracara that appeared to be nest building. This brush pile didn't look ideal to me, but hey, what do I know about nesting sites? The bird was at the limits of my camera and I was shocked when I downloaded the photos and saw what appears to be a ... tumor on the bird's breast. I was going to delete the photos; it just seemed odd to show pictures of a damaged bird but I decided to Google "Caracara with a tumor"  to see what turned up.

So I did find this scientific paper of a tumor in a yellow-headed caracara in Brazil. But then a photo of a caracara with this growth in the Falklands. And then a third photo on Flicker.  And then I found some indications that it might just be a bulging crop. That is bird lingo for the part of the alimentary canal that can be used to temporarily store food. Hawks, eagles and vultures have crops. I think chickens do, too.

So, maybe it is normal, but it sure fooled me. 

Grain storage facility

Grain storage facility

All along the way were these metal grain storage facilities. The one above is made by Grain Systems Inc. according to the logo I can see when I zoom in. Have to have some place to store all that sorghum.

Fiddler Crab eating a tasty bite of muck

Fiddler Crab eating a tasty bite of muck

A quick stop at Goose Island State Park found too many sunbathers and too few birds.  But there were all these Fiddler Crabs running around near a boardwalk. I saw a few Dragonflies, but none of them came out well enough to show you.

Great Blue Heron 

Great Blue Heron 

And then Rockport. It is a wonderful small town on the coast, population is a bit over 8K. There are a lot of cute cottages, funky stores and restaurants and quiet places to sit and watch the waves. The kind of place you visit and think... I could live here... before reality sinks in and your remember hurricanes, tourists and high real estate prices for beach front property. But it is fun to dream.

I never expected to see so many Great Blue Herons. This one was near the Rockport Beach, right downtown. When he finally flew away, it was because another Great Blue wanted this pier.

Have you ever been to Rockport? Do you get seduced by the charm of vacation destinations? Did this have enough birds for you?  Next week, I am going to show you the Rockport Beach Rookery and a bunch of baby birds. Don't miss it :-)

And the comments are supposed to be fixed; still a bit wonky on the iPad, but they are working in IE now. Fire away, I want to hear from ya'll! 

Rockport Beach and Rookery

Rockport Beach and Rookery

Dragonflies and Other Critters at Brazos Bend

Dragonflies and Other Critters at Brazos Bend