January 23, 2014 Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Royal terns
Royal terns

Some really nasty weather predicted for this afternoon through Friday, ice, sleet, freezing rain, maybe even snow with 30 mph north winds, pretty nasty for this part of Texas, and supposed to be even worse a little farther north. Guess I am glad I decided to plunk down here on the Bolivar Peninsula and not go any further north until this thing blows past.

Went to turn on my rooftop Winegard Trav’ler sat. dish last night and it would only go up a little, make a 360 degree turn and then pack itself away again, giving a “no LNB voltage” message on the interface box. Went up on the roof and checked out all the coax connections and everything seemed tight, same inside the RV. Called the Winegard help line and after 3 attempts finally had a tech return my call, but she did not seem to understand my situation. Next tried to do an online support ticket and got a response several hours after I entered it, so I only answered the tech’s question this AM. Will be kind of curious how that version of support goes. Supposedly, Winegard has a good reputation for support, but so far, I am not impressed. I had this automatic dish installed 8 months ago and have been pleased with its performance, it dials right in on a signal quickly and never loses the signal in windy conditions like the little manual rooftop dish that came installed on the motorhome would.

After having lunch, with the foul weather still not arrived, I decided to venture out and head up to Rollover Pass, High Island, and then on to Anahuac NWR.

Willet feeding
Willet feeding
Snowy egret breeding colors
Snowy egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seemed strange to pull into Rollover Pass and see it completely deserted, not a single fisherman, I guess a winter storm warning must scare reasonable folks off. There were a few wading birds in the flats there, but not very many.

The remains of Highway 87
The remains of Highway 87
A pair of terns
A pair of terns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proceeded up Route 87 to where the highway turns inland to High Island and drove out the dirt road north along the hurricane ravaged abandoned old Route 87, scouting for seabirds and found several gulls and terns on the edge of the surf. The image to the right above shows the centerline of the abandoned 40 mile stretch of Highway 87 heading north to Sea Rim.The highway was closed in 1989 when hurricanes Chantal and Jerry washed out the roadway. More evidence of the power of Mother Nature.

Least tern in flight
Least tern in flight
Forster's tern in flight
Forster’s tern in flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skies were getting dark and the wind was starting to pick up, but I decided to check out Anahuac NWR anyway, since I know I won’t be getting out the next couple of days.

I was running low on gas when I drove past the last gas station in High Island and I had forgotten how far it was to Anahuac so I was getting a little nervous about running out of gas as I finally drove into the refuge. Don’t know if the threatening weather was the cause or not, but there was very little in the way of birds at Anahuac, no snow geese at all, very, very few ducks, and little of anything else, I will have to come back out after the cold front passes through.

The Prius has a function on one of its monitor settings that shows you how many miles you have left to go before running out of fuel. I watched this pretty closely as I left Anahuac, which, if you haven’t been there, is in the middle of nowhere, and anxiously headed back towards High Island. The monitor said I had 20 miles of fuel left and that was about how far away from High Island I guessed I was. When High Island was finally in sight as I crossed the bridge over the coastal waterway, my monitor said 2 miles of fuel left and that would calculate out to less than 1/25th of a gallon. With great relief, I coasted in to the gas station with 1 mile of fuel showing on the monitor. I assume that the remaining fuel estimate probably is going to be on the conservative side, but just out of curiosity, I wish I were brave enough to have kept on going to find out for sure, since I don’t think I will ever intentionally put myself in this position again anytime in the near future.

Tri colored heron
Tri colored heron
Tri colored heron
Tri colored heron
Snowy egret breeding colors
Snowy egret
Oystercatcher liftoff
Oystercatcher liftoff

 

 

 

 

 

Oystercatcher
Oystercatcher

 

 

 

 

January 17, 2014 Galveston Island, Texas

Resting willets
Resting willets

Once again, beautiful, cool weather. Drove out 8 Mile Road to the bay fill end of the road where I found some willets, killdeer, and a single black bellied plover.

Killdeer
Killdeer
Killdeer
Killdeer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, click on any image for a large, sharper version.

Black bellied plover
Black bellied plover

Continued down to the storm barrier at East Beach and just missed the male northern harrier as he was just ending his run of the area and disappeared along the ship channel as I approached. Killed some time patrolling the beach with no luck and then drove a couple of runs up and down the barrier hoping for the harrier’s return, but it just wasn’t to be today.

Returned home and worked on insurance quotes for my change of residence to the state of Florida. Auto insurance rates are quite a shock when you come from a state like New Hampshire. Florida’s rates for both the motorhome and the Prius are more than double what I have been paying in NH. I am forced to change my state of residency because of NH’s 10% tax on interest and dividends and their required annual vehicle inspections, plus I really don’t expect to spend any time there in the future.

The real kicker is the local fees ( read TAX ) you have to pay the town you live in every year when you register your vehicles. This “fee” is based on the value of your vehicle, and is in addition to the fees you pay the state based on the weight of the vehicle. What really seems unfair about this fee is that the town bases the value of your vehicle on the original sticker price, not what you actually paid for the vehicle. So, in the case of the motorhome, where the sticker price is really just a number pulled out of a hat by the motorhome manufacturer and has nothing to do with what you actually pay for the MH from the dealer, the town is overcharging you by 20% or more right out of the gate.

They then allow for annual depreciation in the value of your vehicle, so your tax goes down each year for the first six years you register your vehicle, but then, magically, for their taxing purposes, your vehicle stops depreciating after year six, and you pay the same annual tax every year thereafter, again, as in the beginning, regardless of the actual value of the vehicle.

So, even after more than doubling what I pay for insurance, the change of residency to Florida actually saves me some money each year, and I manage to avoid the need to return to my home state for annual vehicle inspections.

 

January 16, 2014 Galveston Island, Texas

Meadowlark singing
Meadowlark singing

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Another perfect day, weatherwise! Drove back out to 8 Mile Road in search of meadowlarks and managed to find one cooperative individual. Nothing else out there though which is kind of strange considering the luck I have had in this area before.

Willet at work
Willet at work

Headed back down to the east end of the island and drove up and down the storm barrier a few times but never saw a single raptor, much less my targeted male harrier, so drove along the ship channel beach a bit and found a willet working his way along the waterline.

Black skimmers
Black skimmers

Also found a large flock of black skimmers out on a sandbar offshore but couldn’t get anything decent because of the distance. These are the guys I come down here looking for, trying to get action shots of them flying with their strange beaks skimming the water’s surface in search of small fish.

Drove out to the Toyota dealership and made an appointment for my 20,000 mile checkup on the Prius for Monday morning. Hit WalMart for groceries and the Office Depot for paper and TurboTax on the way back home.

Willet call at sunset
Willet call at sunset

Took an afternoon trip retracing my steps from this morning getting another ( the same? ) willet at the ship canal.

White tailed kite with dinner
White tailed kite with dinner

Back at the campground, I had a familiar looking visitor in front of the motorhome.

Willet at work
Willet
Meadowlark singing
Meadowlark singing
Meadowlark on a wire, Galveston, Texas
Meadowlark