January 3, 2014, Goose Island, Texas

Smoke over Goose Island State Park
Smoke over Goose Island State Park

I looked up from my computer last night to see what looked like my campground burning down, a weird pink smoke filling the eastern sky. Turns out it was a controlled burn out on Matagorda Island, a barrier island east of Goose Island. And the pink smoke was the result of a rather nice, though not spectacular sunset.

Goose Island sunset
Goose Island sunset

That is my neighbor’s fishing gear on the right, I haven’t seen him land anything yet though.

I spent the last 2 sort of dreary days ( I have to be careful not to complain too much about my local weather knowing what the folks up north are going through right now ) working on establishing a Facebook page and reorganizing all my images, all 972 of them, and all my posts, all 95 of them, categorizing everything and applying tags so that the entire blog is now searchable, by tag or category. To search by category, just hit the drop down menu under CATEGORIES on the right side column of the blog. Click on a tag, also located in the right hand column, to search by TAGS. A very time consuming project, as it should have been done as I created each post, but being a novice, I didn’t know that when I started, but will now be able to categorize everything new that I add when I add it.

 

January 2, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Whooping crane family
Whooping crane family

A strong north wind blew in some pretty cool temps over night and had the motorhome rocking a bit this morning, so maybe this horrid stretch of gray wet weather is about to change. It has been so long since I have had an opportunity to do any nature photography, it caused me to make a bad mistake this morning. I headed out early to return a hard drive I purchased last week and decided to make a quick trip down to the pastures to check on the whooping crane situation. As I drove along the shore I could see a family of 3 at the 4th street feeder, then as I travelled up 8th street, I could see a pair out in the pasture by the pond and another family of 3 not far from them, but just a bit too far out to photograph. I decided to go around to 12th Street since the cranes were working their way toward that side of the pond .

When I came down 12th to where the cranes were, the family of 3 took off straight into the teeth of a 25-30 mph north wind and were headed almost directly over my position, boy, had I ever lucked out! I reached for my camera…. but I had left it at home, where I had brought it in several days ago to recharge batteries. The 3 cranes flew north right over me and it looked like they were going to stall out in midair, the wind was that strong in their face.What a great photo opportunity, it was as if they were flying in slow motion, very large birds, very strong headwind, wonder if I will ever see that happen again. They couldn’t have been moving at more than a slow walking pace flying into that headwind and I watched them for 3 or 4 minutes before they had gotten more than 100 yards from me.

Whooping cranes in flight
Whooping cranes in flight
Whooping crane takeoff
Whooping crane takeoff

 

 

 

 

 

I returned in the afternoon and got a couple of decent shots but nothing like I should have gotten this morning.

Preening whooping crane
Preening whooping crane

I also took a walk out to the fishing pier to see if anyone was catching anything today and came upon an amazing sight. There were 4 fisherman out over the channel that runs under the pier about half way out and they were dropping all kinds of bait and jigs down into the channel trying to entice any of the thousands of sheepshead hovering in the current. No one was having any luck but I have never seen so many sheepshead in one place before and these were good sized fish ranging up to close to 2 feet in length with the school extending a couple hundred feet on both sides of the pier. Wonder what the secret is to get them to bite?

December 28, 2013 Goose Island, Texas

Duck hunters and decoys
The reason there are no birds around Goose Island

Finally, today there was  an actual, honest to goodness sunrise, and a sunset also! It really has been a dreary stretch of weather here on the Texas coast as of late, grey skies and rain showers pretty much nonstop. Still though, much better than shoveling snow and battling ice.

Sunset over Rockport
Sunset over Rockport
Sunrise over Goose Island
Sunrise over Goose Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, with the sun finally out and some blue skies, I took another spin around the “Big Tree” loop in Lamar in hopes of seeing some whooping crane activity, but once again, nothing to photograph except these shots of duck hunters, sitting 15 feet from the road where last March, I had my tripod set photographing whoopers and ducks. It appears that duck season finally ends January 26th, so, although it appears I will have no luck getting any photographs here now, perhaps when I return in March, the birds will have settled back in.

Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture

 

It seems the only birds that the constant airboat racket and shotgun blasts doesn’t seem to scare out of the area are the vultures, who probably associate the sounds with a good chance to scavenge birds the hunters leave behind.

 

 

I actually have nothing against hunting myself, though I have never been a hunter. Hunters do serve a purpose in keeping numbers of birds, and animals, in check, and the money they pay in licenses and fees goes a long way to saving critical wildlife habitat, and that helps all of us wildlife photographers in the end. However, I do have some concerns about the sportsmanship of some of these guys right here on Goose Island. I have witnessed hunters firing from the boat launch right in the middle of the campground, certainly not safe, probably illegal. Today, while watching a lone duck swim warily in the direction of a set of decoys, only about 50 yards offshore from my location and a good hundred yards from the decoys and the duck blind, I watched as the hunters blasted this poor thing with six shotgun blasts while it was sitting on the water ( guess that is where the ” like a sitting duck ” must come from ), probably not illegal, but certainly not very sporting. I wonder what there might be to salvage, as far as eating, after a small duck has been filled with 6 rounds of shotgun pellets. I have also witness more than one group of hunters hunting from the side of the road here, back where I come from, definitely illegal.

Duck hunters
Duck hunters
Blue Heron swallowing fish
Down the hatch

 

December 26, 2013 Goose Island State Park, Texas

Goose Island State Park campsite
Goose Island State Park

Unfortunately, not much happening here lately, so not much to post.

Weather has been grey and dreary, spitting rain most of the time, steady rain once in a while, certainly not weather conducive to wildlife photography. Had a good holiday anyway, baked Christmas cookies, grilled some steaks and watched a  few movies and a couple of games on TV.

Goose Island State Park campsite
Bayside camping

Goose Island State Park has been one of my favorite spots to stay for several years now, mainly because of it’s close proximity to the cattle field where the whooping cranes regularly visit, but also because of the campground itself. However, I have never been here at this time of year before and it seemed strange to me that the campground was mostly empty when I pulled in 3 days ago. It didn’t take long to figure out why it was empty though! Duck hunting season is in full swing here on the coast of Texas. Here in the park that means no one is allowed to sleep in any later than 4:30 AM, EVERY day.

The airboats, that I would usually associate with the Everglades, come to use the boat ramp located in the middle of the campground every morning starting at 4:30 and going continuously until 7 or 7:30, EVERY day. Each boats warms up at the dock for 10 or 15 minutes after unloading and then roars out into the bay, not getting out of hearing for another 15 minutes or so, one after another, for 3 hours straight. If you have never heard an airboat, go to your nearest small airport and put your head next to a single engine airplane as it fires up, then imagine that sound about doubled, and you have the sound of a typical airboat being launched here, only a couple hundred feet from 60 or 70 otherwise wonderful campsites. In addition, this morning, around 6:30, one hunter was hunting, firing away for about half an hour, right from the boat launch, again right in the middle of the campground. Hard to believe that is legal, it certainly can’t be terribly safe for bystanders.

I have nothing against hunting or reasonable, law abiding hunters, but this mixed use of the campground surely doesn’t work too well for the campers who have paid to stay here, and I suppose that is probably why the campground is mostly empty right now, I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone come here during hunting season and I probably won’t ever make this mistake again.

I have also noticed a real scarcity of wading birds and whooping cranes this trip, not to mention  ducks, and I assume that is because of all the noise from the boats and shotguns. There are usually night herons roosting in the trees behind my campsite or on the oyster beds in the water by those trees,this trip, not a single night heron to be seen anywhere. There are also great egrets, blue herons and roseate spoonbills normally feeding in the shallows all along the shore in the park, but nothing right now,again i assume. because of the constant noise around the boat launch .

Well, I plan to return here in early March and hope I find things the way they have been the last two times I have been here in late winter. Here’s hoping anyway.