From Choke Canyon and Green Jays to Goose Island and the beach!

OMG! A Green Blue Jay, wait, a Green Jay! or should that be green, blue, black and yellow Jay!

First we had to get through San Antonio…We truly hate big cities, medium cities, the roads are usually a mess, or being redone, the lanes are narrow, people are idiots and don’t know how to merge and no one seems to look beyond the hood of their car! Wake up people or get smushed by a 18,000 lb. trailer and 10,000 lb truck! pedal to the metal or hang back, your choice. Maybe it’s just me, but Mike swears in three different, wait, at least four different languages when even the cats perk up their ears!! There is even extra points given for creative use of swear words and combinations as well, we’ll make a chart one day on the severity of the situation and a list of his creative expressions that fit them!

Yes, it’s an agitating experience going through large cities. San Antonio was no exception, we took a wrong turn that got us on the Interstate 35 South, the phone was saying one thing, the truck GPS the other (I think it needs an update…hate dealers) but in the end we avoided downtown and swung South on the Texas #16 headed out of the city and into God’s country…Who named a town Poteet anyway? So it wasn’t the Interstate 37 we were trying for but it got us there just the same after one experience with what a turnaround is, just that, it turns you around, then you go back and find the next “turnaround” to get you going back in the direction you wanted to go in the first place! ha! We did get turned around!

I feel this billboard needed some punctuation…is it “THINK GOD! or Think God? or maybe you are talking to God saying “Jeesuz, think God, why did you put all these crazy humans here after all?” Just saying;) they have their own website if you want to know more..0_0…and who is Elmer? A plumber, a electrician? Someone who had a good year and wanted to thank San Antonio? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe he’s thankful for McDonald’s someone suggested, maybe he is. I always think the more God billboards you see, the sketchier the population must be…looking for converts! We were happy to get out of town and into the country. The huge live oaks had stated to outnumber the mezquite scrub and wildflowers were blooming across so many fields, this felt like Spring!

From the park website:

Choke Canyon State Park is on the shore of the Choke Canyon Reservoir, which supplies water for Corpus Christi.

The state acquired the park in 1981 in a 50-year agreement between the Bureau of Reclamation, the city of Corpus Christi and the Nueces River Authority.

Eroded, gently rolling brushland crossed by silted stream valleys makes up the terrain here. This land formed during the Cenozoic Era (the period following the extinction of dinosaurs).

Ancient rivers flowing to the southeast dumped their sediments into what was then part of the Gulf of Mexico. This created new land.

Seas intermittently covered the newly-formed land with more river sediment. These sediments were mostly volcanic ash, claystone, siltstone, tuff, shale and shaley limestone.

Over time, erosion of these sediments and subsequent deposits of river silt produced the land you see today.

The Choke Canyon Dam is near where the Gulf shoreline was about 30 million years ago.

From the scant evidence available, we know that Paleo Indians crossed the Frio River Valley more than 10,000 years ago. They were following game such as bison and mammoth.

After large game disappeared more than 8,000 years ago, nomadic hunters and gatherers associated with the Archaic culture camped near the river. There they made tools, built fires, and gathered and processed food. Archeologists have found numerous Archaic sites in the Choke Canyon area.

The sites were really well spaced, on very old dirt, ha! This actually had some of the best spacing we have seen so far, so much room between you and the next site, very private, I put up by back window feeder, they said there was a $500 fine for feeding wildlife…did that include birds? The park lady at the front desk was none too friendly, your tag is outside, pinned to the board, end of conversation…Okeedokee…

We took the cats out for a spin, he bangs on the side of the trailer as he is walking Groot before I get out and says “Is this the green jay you’ve been looking for?” Wowza…not just green but blue, black and yellow too! It exceeded my expectations of just how bright a bird can be! I apologize for all the pictures! Ha!

Like most members of the crow family (Corvidae), Green Jays are omnivorous, eating a great variety of insects, small vertebrates, seeds, and fruit. Among insects, grasshoppers, crickets, bugs, caterpillars, and flies are common prey items. They are non migratory but do differ slightly from ones in South America. Green Jays are agile, active foragers. They forage in family groups, moving in the same direction together as each explores a different tree or shrub, scanning for insects or other food before hopping or flying to a new vantage point. They are noisy, like most jays, but not as noisy as the flock of Great Tailed Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds that descended onto my feeder! I had to put it away!

I sat at the bird blind, a few hundred feet away, the feeders were empty and the orange halves old and picked over, it looked unkempt, and it was empty. I wandered over towards the bathrooms where there was a small patch of yellow flowers, full of butterflies!

Love was in the air in the butterfly patch! The The Bordered Patches were frolicking as were the American Ladies. Pipevine Swallowtails, mostly in fairly ragged shape rounded out the group with a Xylocopa micans, also known as the southern carpenter bee. (Like all Xylocopa bees, X. micans bees excavate nests in woody plant material.) and a Fiery Skipper, they can hold their wings in a “triangle” shape. The forewings are held upright, and the hindwings are folded flat. This position is thought to better absorb the sun’s rays! So much life in that little patch of Cowpen daisies.

The next morning a herd of White Tailed Deer walked right past the trailer. Groot and Rocket were not impressed with the smells, I think the javelina scent set them on edge! Danger Will Robinson! Danger! That herd came by early the next morning! Scary pig dogs Groot said looking out the window at them!

The bird blind was hopping the next morning! Several people were seated at the picnic tables and benches watching the incoming crowd. A nice group, friendly with lot’s of hints for the parks they had been too. Apparently South Llano is a favourite of all of them, this blind here they said was neglected. The fact they stop feeding the birds, so they don’t interrupt migration they said, was BS several said as all the other parks feed all year long, too cheap one lady said. I did notice South LLano had a donation box I added to, perhaps they should do that here as well! It would be hard to keep the Grackles and Red Winged Blackbirds fed. They descended several times in great numbers causing a ruckus among the Green jays and Golden Fronted Woodpecker, that’s quite the name to live up to!

One lady stopped in hoping to see a Green jay, they arrived right after she left…:( The Golden Fronted Woodpeckers I hadn’t seen since we were in Palo Duro canyon State Park South of Amarillo many years ago. They are really striking, another Texas bird! The Woodpeckers eat more than just insects. The Golden-fronted Woodpecker consumes about as much fruit and nuts as it does insects. In summer in Texas, the faces of some woodpeckers become stained with purple from eating fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Carpintero Frentidorado in Spanish, are omnivorous, eating insects and larvae, spiders, fruits, and nuts, much like their relatives the Red-bellied and Gila Woodpeckers. They also eat ants, beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, praying mantises, walking sticks, moths, small lizards, and possibly birds’ eggs. It was a treat to sit and watch them!

After walking the cats I headed out to the beach to see what was there, an alligator maybe? Choke Canyon reservoir has a surface area of 25,670 acres and a maximum depth of 95.5 feet. The water levels fluctuate between 10 to 20 feet depending on rain, they looked quite low as I walked through some muddy areas. This is a fishing destination judging from the hotels and motels nearby, and I thought they were for visitors to the Federal Prison nearby! Ha! The campground also has cottages to rent to the fishing and birding folk. I think the fishing is the biggest draw here.

The water doesn’t look particularly appetizing to swim in, call me picky…Ha! There were several ducks, A Blue Winged Teal, a female Redhead and a Canvasback duck (male). The Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is a species of diving duck, the largest found in North America, a first for me as well…and a Coot…gotta love Coots!

I was looking for the Crested Caracara, I had seen it fly over the bird blind but too far away to get a shot at. We’d also seen them on the side of the road picking at carcasses and one evening, with not enough light, one was scavenging on the beach. You were not supposed to leave your fish entrails behind but I’m sure many do. Many folks were simply fishing from the shore. Such a striking bird!

Crested Caracara from my files!

For some inconceivable reason I decided to take a walk the last afternoon we were at Choke Canyon to follow some of the birding paths…in the 92° heat…what was I thinking;) Ha! All around us sweet acacia, huisache, or needle bush, a species of shrub or small tree in the legume family, Fabaceae were blooming. Its flowers are used in the perfume industry. They smell divine! Yellow good smelling pompoms!

While I meandered over several miles of trails wondering what was I thinking I did get to see some cool plants, a few butterflies, a dragonfly and one bird. A very quick Blue Gray gnatcatcher. So much for the well named trails of Warbler Way and Owls Roost…ha! I was going to sleep well! I should have sat in the shade by the bird blind! 

One thing about photographing the plants and flowers, bugs, birds and blooms and uploading them to iNaturalist is learning what they are, what they mimic, how they can kill! ha! I thought I’d found a Monarch but it turned out to be a Viceroy Butterfly. It was long thought to be a Batesian mimic of the monarch butterfly, but since the viceroy is also distasteful to predators, it is now considered a Müllerian mimic instead…who knew..I need to go look those words up! Ha!
Müllerian mimicry is a natural phenomenon in which two or more well-defended species, often foul-tasting and sharing common predators, have come to mimic each other’s honest warning signals, to their mutual benefit.
Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a predator of them both. It is named after the English naturalist Henry Walter Bates, after his work on butterflies in the rainforests of Brazil.

I have learned two new words today that I probably won’t retain;) I also learned that ingestion of silverleaf nightshade has been implicated as a cause of ivermectin toxicosis in horses given the recommended dosage of the drug. Metabolites from the plant are speculated to disrupt the blood–brain barrier, allowing ivermectin to enter and disrupt neurotransmitter function in the brain and spinal cord….very bad Indie for horses!

And Tillandsia recurvata, commonly known as small ball moss or ball moss, is a flowering plant (not a true moss) in the family Bromeliaceae that grows upon larger host plants. It grows well in areas with low light, little airflow, and high humidity, which is commonly provided by southern shade trees, often the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana). It is not a parasite like mistletoe, but an epiphyte like its relative Spanish moss. It was beautiful backlit against the sun! Mike and Groot were much smarter than their wandering servant Pamela…..

Way to chill on a 92° afternoon…he is Groot and his servant Mike.

We walked out to the beach for one last sunset as it cooled down, sort of and were looking forward to sea breezes, bay breezes, any breeze! Our next park was Goose Island. I was a bit worried about getting in there after reading reviews from campers who wiped out their skylights and vent caps on the overhanging oak branches but figured if we took it slow, we’d be OK!

I had quick walk out to the reservoir for one last look for the Crested Caracara and encountered a lovely Snowy Egret fishing before we left. It was going to be a short hop, just under two hours, but through Corpus Christi (who named that Christ corpse!) before we turned North to the Park.

We passed through Three Rivers, Texas, on our way to the I-37 to the gulf coast…great old theater and of course….pawn and guns….then Donuts and Chinese Food…I have not seen this combination before and although the sign looks like it could be closed, they were open for business….I was not brave enough;) The view at the gulf coast was not promising, refinery after refinery, all the big names in oil, Shell, Mobil, Valero, Pemex…wait…yes, Mexican companies! The USS Lexington, nicknamed “The Blue Ghost” was cool, it’s an Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II for the United States Navy. Currently a museum. We turned North at Corpus Christi and headed for Goose Island. It is on the inside bay actually, not the coast at all. We passed through Rockport before the park. Why here? Whooping Cranes. Mike felt bad I missed Whitewater Draw in Arizona with our jack problems so felt we could stop here, the home to the endangered Whooping Cranes, all five hundred or so of them ar Aransas Wildlife Refuge, but some hung out North of the park!

Goose Island State Park is 321.4 acres on St. Charles and Aransas bays. It is located north of Rockport in Aransas County. The state acquired land for the park in 1931-1935 by deeds from private owners. A legislative act set aside the state-owned Goose Island as a state park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the earliest park facilities in the 1930s.

When we checked in I asked the the park ranger about the branches, just watch them as you drive, take the middle of the road and watch yourself backing in, as long as you are not a newbie she laughed, you’ll be fine! We were OK! Site 113 wasn’t too hard to swing and back into, several of the other sites would have required gymnastics on the part of the trailer to get into! Bonus was first night we had no one in front of, or here, bedside all us and we sat outside and watched the fireflies!!

Groot said he had to chase this “Black Panther” away from HIS trailer! I was shocked at how aggressive he was, big boy in town. Not sure if this was a camper’s cat or a stray, and yes, people do turn their cats out loose we have discovered…You see them sitting under their trailers at times. I think this guy was a feral cat.

Lot’s of wildflowers around the trailer as well. We talked to a French Canadian couple next to us who had toured all over Mexico this year, it was fun to exchange our views of camping in Baja vs the mainland, many funny stories to share, really lovely folks!

The next day we drove up to see the Big Tree-It was named the State Champion Coastal Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) in 1966. The San Bernard Oak on the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge dethroned it in 2003. The Big Tree is still one of the largest live oak trees in Texas and in the nation. It is massive!

  • Trunk circumference:  35 feet 1.75 inches or 10.71 meters
  • Average trunk diameter:  11 feet 2.25 inches or 3.41 meters
  • Crown spread:  89 feet or 27.1 meters
  • Height:  44 feet or 13.4 meters
  • Age, possibly over 1500 years.

I love these fabulous oaks but was reminded of the price I pay being near them, camped under them…constant coughing…I am allergic to these giants and wee ones as well. Sucks! I could get close to the Prickly poppies around the tree, many had visiting friends! Fork-tailed Bush Katydids! Green bugs!;)

We saw some cranes, they were out in a farmers field but too far away to get a good shot so I vowed to drive the five minutes back later in the day to check again. In the meantime we went to town for a few supplies given the limited space in our new magic chef fridge, I was keeping ice in the defunct dometic with a few vegetables as well, had to replace it every day.

Now I love me some new grocery stores;) Ok, I promise not talk that way but all I wanted was some tea-I don’t need tea for serenity, or joy, or harmony or bliss, I just want some damn English Breakfast tea! Where are Twinning’s when you need them?! Hahahahaha! Then the ice…Ok…Ice is food? Come on Texas, this is just ridiculous, unless you consider it diet food? This marketer needs a firing squad;) The chicken paws didn’t surprise me…ah, the world of marketing…😉 We were stopped at a light by the bakery so I said, hey lets go in, get some donuts! Rockport, population 10,000 and some, mostly old people it seemed, retirees, snowbirds, whatever. The donuts were good. I asked if they had any bread? No, we tried, the people here won’t pay more than a dollar a loaf the young girl said behind the counter, they are too cheap…please never let me get old..AND cheap;) You do know what pigs in a blanket are right? The smoke shops/get yer bud light drive throughs, well, we don’t see many smoke shops in Perth anymore, let alone drive through ones! Always something new to either raise your eyebrows or just have a chuckle at, chuckling is easier.

I drove back up to see the cranes later, a few more had arrived, but none flew in while I was there and they were still a long ways away mixed in with Sandhill Cranes and Roseate Spoonbills. It was still cool. The fields of flowering Prickly Poppy were just beautiful.

The endangered whooping crane feeds on berries and blue crabs found in the coastal wetlands around Goose Island State Park. From March through October, roseate spoonbills prefer the bays, marshes and estuaries along the Gulf Coast. Occasionally they will travel inland through the eastern third of Texas. In winter, most roseate spoonbills migrate to Central and South America.

Goose Island State Park is surrounded by suburbia if you look on Google maps. There is a fishing pier from the “bayfront” sites. This bay, Aransas, smelled, badly. No fresh ocean breeze here but dank estuary rotting smell. We could even smell it from the wooded campground further inland. The French Canadians had been out there but said the constant wind and the airboat noise drove them away. Most of the sites were too uneven for us, dropping off at the beginning and end with a huge hump in the middle, only a few were suitable for anything other than very small campers or trailers.

I drove back out to the bayfront sites. We’d read about the airboats, then I got to see one! We could hear these guys inland like they were next door. Airboats, they started launching them at 6:30 am. There is a reason the driver has hearing protection on….These bays are shallow, not sure I want to eat anything out of them after looking at the pelicans… 

Further up the coast past the cranes I came upon a beautiful Great Blue Heron and a Laughing Gull. Laughing Gulls eat almost anything I read, including food they catch or steal, handouts, garbage, and discards from fishing boats. They often congregate in parking lots, sandy beaches, and mud bars. Listen for their nasal, strident calls in flight, while feeding, and at rest, they are loud, not sure laughing is what I’d call it…like a hyena maybe! Ha! They are quite striking looking!

And that was Goose Island. Best thing…not hitting an oak branch and sitting and watching the fireflies after dark, always a magical experience! As we go North it will be like turning back time!

In the morning we took the Texas 35 east North East towards Galveston. I’d tried to get into the state park but it was fully booked, Spring Break was upon us so I settled for a spot at The KOA, mostly to do laundry, I was down to the last t-shirt and clean pair of underwear! I loathe RV parks, well, most of them, soul-less lines of trucks and trailers, lined up in neat rows…I’m always happy when Mike is crookedly parked! Ha!

We had to head a bit inland, through farm land, Texas longhorn cattle, fields of wildflowers and lots and lots of Trump 2024 signs. It looked wartorn in so many places and I couldn’t help but think a few hurricanes and tropical storms had been by these places. The billboard “Tired of that EYESORE” was an eye opener! The God billboards were few and far between here, just the “church” signs before the massive and somewhat monstrous churches which dotted the landscape like Home Depot’s for God’s word. A friend posted that if you were queer in Texas you appreciated the warning, I laughed weakly, he was right. How spoiled we are where we live.

We headed back out to the coast at Freeport, finally the gulf of Mexico, real water, not baywater!

Surfside and Surfin’ Rita Daiquiris to-go was looking more promising..😳…Little know Texas liquor laws:
Fact No. 1:Parents can buy alcohol for minors.
As long as a legal guardian is present – and the bar permits patrons under the age of 21 – a minor can get wasted with his or her parents (although if you drink too much, you can get charged with public intoxication)
Fact No. 2: If you’re under 21, your spouse of legal drinking age can order a beer for you.
Ask your husband or wife nicely, and it’s perfectly legal for your spouse to order you a frosty beverage.
Fact No. 3: Prohibition is still enforced in the Houston Heights. Prohibition was repealed eight decades ago. Nevertheless, 10 Texas counties and several smaller communities remain dry, including the Houston Heights.
Fact No. 4: Drive-through daiquiris are legal.
At least two-dozen daiquiri “to-go” stores exist in the state. Just pull up one of these liquor establishments, ask for a margarita or daiquiri and you’re good to go. To avoid open container violations, the drinks are sealed and obviously should not be consumed in your car.
Fact No. 5: The TABC proposed allowing the sale of alcohol at gun shows last year.
The proposal was withdrawn, after the commission received hundreds of complaints.
I could go on…Ha!

We were caught in traffic at the Bluewater Highway-by the number of people dressed in silly green costumes we deduced it was a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, with daiquiris!

Little Boxes, some not so little, on stilts

The height of your home pillars often denotes age…the higher it is, the newer it is…every single home here is on stilts…$500,000 beach homes, those are the old ones…mile after mile and mile of these homes.

I was singing Pete Seeger’s ♪♫♪
Little boxes on the beachside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the beachside
Little boxes all the same
There’s a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same ♪♫♪

I can’t say I would want to live here…ever….then there are all the people…ha! Mile after mile after mile of stilted houses and some businesses as well. I suppose once you’ve been washed away you learn your lesson, or you call the number for White Trash Site Services…although no one here with a less than substantial income could buy or build. Some houses sit on their stilts with obvious storm damages, but not many. I wonder what insurance costs here, if you can even get it, or if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

The KOA was just South of Galveston Island State Park. We checked in, and I started laundry, you can get a daiquiri here as well! Too early for me start! Ha! Find waldo in the picture, I mean us…Hahahaha! Taken from the top floor by the laundry room of the KOA…on stilts.

Find Waldo..I mean us…hahahaha!

Laundry was a necessity and we had a good feed on fried shrimp at shrimp n’ stuff food truck but overall I had the intense feeling of wanting to run away from this area! Maybe it was the throngs of people in the grocery store, Spring Break is a busy time but overall just nothing here appealed to me. There’s a beach, yup, waves, yup, but it’s not a Carribean beach, or a Mexican beach…it’s maybe all the people. It’s not that I hate people, I just only like some of them;) I will remain a recluse:)

Anytime I see an RV flying multiple large flags I immediately think..TWAT. One RV had a new one. A white flag with a canon, a black star and the words “Come and Take it”. I’ve seen ones with AK 47’s on them but this was new. The flag is from that Gonzales clash that has become a hallmark of Texas pride, with its “Come And Take It” message. It is the first flag used in the Texas Revolution and close to 200 years later it shows no signs of going away. But the expression is actually not Texan and it was 200 years AGO!

According to Wkikpedia: “Come and take it” is a historic slogan, first used in 480 BC in the Battle of Thermopylae as “Molon labe” by Spartan King Leonidas I as a defiant answer and last stand to the surrender demanded by the Persian Army, and later in 1778 at Fort Morris in the Province of Georgia during the American Revolution, and in 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales during the Texas Revolution. The flag stood for defiance against Mexican dictatorship, and today the flag’s meaning remains rooted in Texas pride. Say What? Hahahahahaha! Like I said…TWATS! Get over yourselves! It all used to belong to Mexico until the Americans decided they wanted it. Thieves! I loved some graffiti written on a Mexican building in Baja…Make America Mexico Again:) It’s time to get the hell out of Texas before I open my mouth and someone shoots me! Help me Lordy, Lordy, Lordy!

We said Goodbye to drive-thru daiquiri town and headed out, North on the I-45 then off through the outskirts of Southern Houston on the toll road, I guess I’ll get the bill in the mail one day, onto the I-10 and East. I’m a billboard nut, we had the normal lawyers but there were dozens and dozens of billboards for ER’s…emergency rooms…what gives? Houston is not a pretty city, it is an industrial city with oil refineries and storage and I have to presume, lots and lots of accidents to need all these emergency rooms…now for something completely different…Capitalism at work.

Houston ER billboards…WTF?

This was just a sampling, there were dozens and dozens of them. We passed the bridge over the San Jacinto River and Burnet Bay where the tankers lay waiting to be filled or emptied with oil, or gas or something combustible I’m sure and we were glad to be heading to Louisiana…but that amigos, is another story…Stay tuned! Adios Texas!

Goodbye Houston! Goodbye Texas

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