Saturday, November 15, 2014

Owls and beach time

We have been enjoying a bit of down time after our mega trip this summer. Until November, most of our days have been sunny and warm,which is why we live here.

A few weeks ago Fred started on phase two of our new porch project. He made and  installed porch railings, so we are no longer in danger of falling off the edge.   Whew! Next phase will be to paint and install some lattice around the base to give it a more finished look.  All in good time.

A week ago we signed up to attend a Medina River Natural Area evening owl program.  We were intrigued by the write up for the program which said that they would be calling owls.  Okay, let's go see what that means! Only requirement for attending is the ability to be quiet for at least an hour, yes I could do that and bring a folding chair and flashlight.  A Park staff person and two volunteers did a short presentation about owls. Barred owls, which are the most common owl in our area, eat small mammals they find in the woods and by the river, moles, rats, squirrels, frogs and snakes.   We learned that one of the foods the great horned owls eat are skunks, since these owls have a poor sense of smell.  Thank you great horned. While this was happening you could color your own eastern screech owl cut out as a souvenir.  We skipped that part.  Once the talk time was over, the 40 of us trekked off in the dark in search of owls along the river. After about 12/mile walking in the woods, we reached the magic spot and sat down and just waited quietly for something to happen. Our park guide started to "call" the owls using pre-recorded barred owl calls.  Called the owls you say, sure.  Well after about 15-20 mins of call/wait, an owl called back to us.  Turns out there were actually two owls that responded.  One of them came to where we  were.  The volunteer had a high powered flashlight, so we were able to see him sitting on a tree branch for quite a few minutes.  It was quite an incredible evening performance!
barred owls
Medina River Natural Area

Sunday we went down to Rockport on the Texas Riviera, along the gulf of Mexico.  The weather was just wonderful, in the low 80s and plenty of sunshine.  We stayed at the Angel Rose B+B, our second time to stay at this 1880s Victorian home. The house has 3 guests rooms, all very comfortable with beautiful  antique furnishings and knick knacks throughout. The owners, Rusty and Jennifer, are very friendly and share their knowledge about the local history, as well as things to see and do in the area.  Rusty makes delicious gourmet breakfast every morning, which are enough to get us thru the whole day. We really enjoy visiting with them.

Angel Rose B+B

We took a day to explore the barrier island that is just off the mainland.  To get there we took a free, 3 minute ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas.  The ferry holds about 12-14 vehicles and runs back and forth continuously. Port Aransas is a fishing/tourist village at one end of the island with restaurants, hotels, RV parks and condos. Once past all of that, you are on undeveloped barrier island, first Mustang Island State Park and then Padre Island National Seashore. Miles of beach walking, swimming, fishing, wind surfing, bird/hummingbird watching and spring turtle migrations are part of the activities offered at the parks. The island is part of a great migration path for many birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. There is also limited camping for RVers and beach tent camping at both.


Padre Island National Seashore

In talking with staff at Padre Island Seashore learned that this is a nesting area for Loggerhead, Greens and Kemp's  Ridley(the most endangered species) sea turtles.  The turtles migrate here in the early spring to lay their eggs.  The park staff gather the eggs and incubate them.  This is done to keep predators such as coyote and man from taking the eggs.  The Park does announce when the hatchlings will be released, on a phone hot line and the park FB page,so the public can attend.  The release starts at 6am until finished, with as many as 4,000 people attending the event.   No real warning about when it will happen since it all depends on the hatchlings. You wait and wait till suddenly it's announced for the next morning.  
While walking on the beach, we were surprised to run into a "ghost crab" walking around on the sand.  This is normally a nocturnal crab, so why he was out and about in the middle of the day was strange.   He was quite surprised to see us but after a few pictures we all went our own way.

We also saw what we thought were small clumps of yellow string on the beach.  Turns out that this was string coral.  We have never seen anything like this before. I am disappointed I did not get the official name for this coral. I would have like to learn more about it but am not finding anything in my Internet searching.

yellow string coral

washed up on shore: coconut split open

Pelicans taking rest on washed up tree limbs

Ghost crabs

We both really enjoyed our time at the beach and will return to do a few days camping at Mustang State Park.

After another half day being tourist in the area we headed home. By the time we got to San Antonio, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees as the Arctic front had started coming in as promised. Normal temperature for this time of year is normally about 70 degrees, so we forgot that it was mid-November after all.  We are as of tonight running about 30 degrees below normal, which puts us in the low 40s.  Some pretty cold days and nights for the next week it seems.  Ah well, this gets us more in tune with the weather we will have when we are in Seattle at Christmas.

doing a section of River Walk in 40 degree weather with Arctic wind blowing :(

Your friends,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!