Friday, December 4, 2009

Whooping Cranes in St Charles Bay

The birds were really far away but they were simply too large to be anything else. They were jumping up and flaring their large white wings, their black primaries showing. A flock of American white pelicans flew by and so we were even able to compare their size. Definitely whoopers!
We wanted to check out Goose Island State Park, before the cold front blasted through and kept us indoors, so we invited Val and George and they agreed to join us! It was a short drive across the Copano Bay turning onto the Lamar peninsula and we were at the park entrance in no time.
We went inside to show our pass and the park ranger told us about the whoopers, visible from the Big Tree road shoreline. He also said that we could hear them, if we were lucky, from the Big Tree itself, and so we loaded into the truck for an afternoon of birding and sightseeing.
Our first drive was through the campground, checking out the campsites and looking for any birds. As we drove through we realized that many of the sites were actually large enough for our fifth wheel to fit into. The only sites that wouldn't work either had a low oak tree branch or were two narrow for our slides.
Not seeing any birds we did find the resident birding experts campsite, site 141, and we noted it for future visits as we learn so much when we go birding with an expert.
Leaving the oak trees we headed to the fishing pier. A cold north wind blew and it was pretty nasty but there were three people out fishing! Walking out to them they informed us that the ,"Trout were biting on plastics!, and we watched as they measured a nice and legal 15.5 inch speckled trout.
We walked out further and saw a willet, a new bird for us, and watched a ruddy turnstone feeding on the oyster reef. The tide was going out and it was really too cold to be there so I pointed out to George some fishing spots we knew and showed him where we had paddled to Black Jack Peninsula, on a better day.
Our next drive was to the Big Tree shoreline looking for the whoopers, but we got a new life bird on the way, a red-shouldered hawk! It was perched nicely atop a nearby tree. It seemed unconcerned with us and stayed there for my attempts at images, hmmm reminder to self buy a better camera!
A belted kingfisher posed on a gate to a fishing pier, as if to say, this spot is mine, keep out! As we neared the bend in the road we watched two fishermen wade out just where I usually wade and fish. Stopping to glass the far bay we quickly found the whoopers. It was only the second time we have seen them and it was really nice, even though they were quite a ways away.
Our last stop of the day was at Big Tree itself and we walked to the back edge hoping to hear the whoopers. The wind was still blowing and we didn't have any luck, as they were too far away. It didn't matter, we had a nice day with friends, had added to our life list, and even got a firsthand fishing report! Clear skies.

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