Friday, October 30, 2015

Road Trip

We’re on vacation.  What do you call it when you’re retired and you go on a trip?  Vacation doesn’t seem quite right.  Every day is a vacation when you’re retired!  Road trip sounds a little better.  I guess it doesn’t matter.  We’re not home, we’re not volunteering, and we’re not driving between volunteer locations.  So, road trip!

One of my favorite places in Texas is Rockport.  I love being around water.  

BR (before retirement) every year we would spend a week or so at Goose Island State Park in Rockport.  Usually we would come down here during the week of Thanksgiving.  Seems like back then we spent all our time bird watching.  We’d go out on Capt. Tommy’s boat, the Skimmer, to see the Whooping Cranes, and hit all the birding hot spots.  These days we don’t spend as much time birding and have enjoyed finding other tourist attractions. 
White Pelicans
There is a very small, but nice, aquarium in town that is only open 1-4pm, 5 days a week.  Entrance is free and there are enthusiastic volunteers waiting to answer questions and give helpful information.

A replica of the state-record blue marlin was donated to the aquarium last year.  It weighs in at 972.2 pounds and is approximately 11 feet long. 
State-record Blue Marlin

This cutie “Marley” is a Leopard Moray Eel.  Marley was donated to the aquarium after the local restaurant he lived in closed in 2011.  He’s about 5 feet long and is hand-fed shrimp and fish.  Every 3 days he gets his favorite meal, mahi-mahi.  Donated by the local HEB.
This Orange Filefish (Aluterus schoepfii) can be found at depths of 3,000 feet.  It often drifts in sea grass with its head pointed down to camouflage itself.
Orange Filefish
The Lookdown fish (Selene vomer) is capable of making loud grunts with its swim bladder! 

The Gulf Toadfish (Opsanus beta) looks a lot like a rock.  The sign says they are not venomous, just ugly.  It is one of just a few fish that can make sounds loud enough for people to hear.
Gulf Toadfish
Always a favorite of mine, the Seahorse tank.  There are 54 species in the genus Hippocampus (hippos meaning “horse” and kampos meaning “sea monster”). 

Next time - a few more interesting fish and something you might not know about the Texas state shell!


Monday, October 12, 2015

Home Sweet Hot...

After about 4 weeks of exploring our way back to Texas, we've arrived  at our little spot in Medina. It seems that we didn't drag our feet quite long enough, as we are forecast to have a near-record high of 95 degrees today. Sheesh!

Teri and I decided to visit Lost Maples State Natural Area as they have been seeing a Rufous-capped Warbler, which is a very rare bird for the United States. We got there about 8:30 in the morning and hung around the bird blind where it had been seen for a bit. We didn't spot the warbler but we did see a Tarantula crawling around on a rock before it retreated underneath.
We were also entertained by Rock Squirrels. We saw two distinct color variations. Some were completely black while others were bi-colored, with black head and shoulders but reddish brown bodies. Teri found a reference that said the Big Bend variety are all black while the Hill Country variety are bi-colored. Who knew?
Rock Squirrel - Black
Rock Squirrel - Bi-colored
After striking out at the bird blind we decided to walk some trails. The beautiful Sabinal River flows through the park, along with some smaller creeks that drain into the river. We spotted this 2 inch long green leech in one of the creeks. It moved along the bottom by extending its body forward, grasping the bottom, and then pulling the rest of its body along. Interesting to watch, if a little creepy!
October is one of the best butterfly months in Texas, and we weren't disappointed. This California Sister put on a nice show for us. 
California Sister
We returned to the bird blind for a while, but the warbler was not to be found. There were plenty of different sparrows along with Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, Northern Cardinals, and many of the other common birds of the Texas Hill Country. As we were leaving this Common Raven croaked "good-bye" to us. 
Common Raven
Once the weather cools off a bit we may return and do more hiking at Lost Maples. It's a great place to explore and enjoy nature.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

More Than Cars On The Highway

We’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks.  From Idaho we drove to Montana, then Wyoming, then Colorado, then Utah and now we’re back in Colorado.  Mark has enjoyed playing several disc golf courses and we’ve been playing tourist and seeing some interesting things.

We certainly didn't expect to see this herd of a few hundred sheep walking down the highway!
Herding sheep

In Craig, Colorado we went on a self-guided carving tour of the Whittle The Wood competition.
 The competition started in 1999 to preserve the historic cottonwood trees in Craig City Park.  Large cottonwood logs are brought to the park for the competition.  

A select group of wood carvers are invited to the four-day festival that takes place every June.  After the festival the carvings are distributed throughout the city.
The brochure shows the placement of 94 carving locations.  We didn’t see all of them but the ones we did see were pretty incredible.

Back side of the gnome
The End!