Party time at the Gulf – Port Aransas, TX

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We had hoped that being in southern Texas, and parking close to the Gulf of Mexico would allow us to enjoy some reasonably warm weather this winter. wpid33184-2014-12-30-TX-1710195.jpg  From the day we arrived here at Port Aransas (Dec. 15), we’ve been able to count on one hand the number of days that we haven’t had to bundle up in jackets to go outside.  And the winds from the north have been relentless!  I don’t want to whine because I know other parts of the country have it worse, but we are amazed by how far south the winter chill has pushed this year. Even the priest at the local church was apologetic to us winter Texans about the cold spell that has hovered over the Port Aransas/Corpus Cristi area.

But instead of moping around, we’ve tried to endure and make the best of it by taking in the sights and having a good time with friends new and old.

Our first few days were spent socializing and meeting new folks.  Just a day after our arrival the partying began when Dave and Faye of the Wandering Camels invited us over to taste Dave’s smoked pork and chicken.  And wow, does this guy know how to smoke some good meat!  The gathering ended up being sort of a “blogger’s summit”, as Al and Ingrid of Live Laugh RV also joined in for the feast and laughter.

Bloggers just want to have fun

Ingrid, Al, Dave, Faye and Steve

Our first two weeks (including the holidays) were spent meeting new friends, partying and eating lots of good food.  At the RV park’s Christmas get-together (Steve’s review of the park is here), we met Beverly and Dennis from Nebraska, and we learned they are followers of our blog.  Now isn’t that something!


Faye, Beverly and Steve


Steve,Ingrid, Faye, Jackie, Kathy and Al – this was one of the few warm days!

On Christmas day, Ingrid showed us how a gourmet meal can be prepared in a very tiny kitchen…

wpid33181-2014-12-25-TX-00706.jpg…and for desert she further demonstrated her culinary skills by lighting up her bananas foster – and yes it was very yummy!


It was not just the humans partying and socializing here.  A group of birds hung out at the pond in front of our RV, rain or shine, feasting on the little fish in the well-stocked waters. We watched and were entertained as they jockeyed for their favorite fishing spots, and we discovered which were the bullies and which seemed to be insatiable as they hunted and ate for hours.  The meeting of the “Birdy Breakfast Club” began at sunrise each day.

Gulf Waters RV Resort

A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret are the first to show up on this morning

All of the attendants are present and accounted for, as they mill around in front of our site…

wpid33189-2014-12-23-TX-1700509.jpg…then the jostling for good spots begins.  The Great Egret shoos the tiny Snowy Egret away…


..and the poor little guy scampers off.  Steve thought the sight of an Egret running was hilarious!


But then the big bully arrives…


…and everybody flies away!


Yes, size matters!

Sometimes the “landlubber” birds watched helplessly as the Cormorants showed them how easy it was to dive and catch a fish.  The Egrets followed them around the perimeter of the pond, hoping to grab any fish that might escape from the divers.


This gang of birds were patient and tireless, working virtually all day to keep themselves fat and happy.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Little Blue Heron

The Little Blue Heron finally gets his prize


The proud Cormorant shows off its catch!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron displays his catch

And once their tummies were full, the Cormorants would stand along the shore to dry their wings in the incessant wind.  When the “blow dry” was complete they dove right back in for more.  Then the egrets would quickly fly or run to the new fishing spot, and the whole process started again.  Fascinating and fun to watch!


And so the party continues…

How do you catch a snake? A GBH knows!

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Great Blue Heron

Jacks up, slides in and we were out of there, happy to be heading north from the Alabama coastline into new territory.  Like other folks we’ve been following, we’re glad we came through that vicious storm relatively unscathed.  As longtime Californians, we just aren’t used to this kind of crazy weather!  But we’re reminded that we need to continue keeping weather monitoring at the top of our list as we begin heading into parts of the midwest that are also known for unpredictability.  Among other things, we must:

  • Have the necessary tools to be aware of and track storms.  We use the Weatherbug and MyRadar Pro apps that send alerts, and we have a handy solar/hand-crank NOAA Weather Radio (thanks, Ben!) that will function even while we’re boondocking.  Our cell phones are also programmed to send us severe weather alerts.
  • Eton microlink FR 160Stay tuned to the Weather Channel and monitor the prediction and progress of storms, whenever possible.
  • Always know which county we are camping in, since warnings are usually issued by county, not city.
  • Have some emergency clothing and other items ready by the door, in case we need to get out in a hurry.
  • Learn where any shelters or sturdy structures are around the campground.

Although we realize we can’t outrun a tornado, we hope this short list will help keep us on the go with a minimal chance of major weather problems.   Any other tips you more experienced travelers can add to our list?

Well, that little rant was totally off-topic, but I had to digress and share our recent learning experience.  With that out of the way, here is the real story behind the title – it’s about a snake and a big bird, a Great Blue Heron (GBH for short).  This is a leftover story from our stay at Gulf State Park, where the Great Blue Heron was a familiar sight.  They usually stood at attention around the campground, by the lake, in the woods, on the beach or even on top of a tree, posing for me.  Always focused and waiting for unwary prey, they are really fun to watch!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron primping its breeding plumage

The tall, long-legged Great Blue Heron is easily spotted, and many of you have probably seen them since they’re very large birds with one of the widest wingspans in North America.  But I doubt that most of you have taken as many pictures of them as I have!  We spent a lot of quality “heron-watching”  time while at Gulf Shores, even witnessing one of them stalking and catching a snake.  I thought it might be worth sharing some of those moments.

Great Blue Heron

Lets have fun with a few heron facts – Great Blue Herons are identified by their red-brown thighs and a pair of red-brown and white stripes running up their flanks.  The neck of these herons is rusty-gray in color, with black and white streaks running down the front.  They have a mostly white face, with the rest of the head being more pale.

Great Blue Heron

This is who I am – tall, pretty and proud of it!

Great Blue Herons look huge in flight, with a wingspan of up to six feet.

Great Blue Heron

Just another day at the beach…

In flight, a Great Blue Heron’s neck is folded back into an “S” shape, and the legs are stretched out behind its body.

Great Blue Heron in flight

A Great Blue Heron is capable of swallowing a fish many times wider than its narrow neck, which has been known to choke and kill them on occasion.

Great Blue Heron

No, no, no!  Don’t put fish parts in the dumpster – that’s my lunch we’re talking about here!

Although they typically nest in colonies, herons hunt alone and that’s why I’ve never seen a group of herons hunting.  Besides fish, they eat a wide variety of prey such as frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents and small birds.  Just look at that menacing beak!

Great Blue Heron

Hey, don’t get too close or I’ll put your eye out!

They have special vertebrae in their necks that allow them to curl it into an “S” shape. This allows them to make a long and lightning-fast strike at their prey.

Great Blue Heron

On one of those days before the storm hit, Steve and I were reading and relaxing outside when we caught a glimpse of a GBH stalking around.  Of course, I ran for my trusty camera while Steve grabbed the binoculars to enjoy the show.  We watched as it stood completely motionless for a long time, then walked very slowly – almost like a cat – getting into striking range of its prey.  Then, with a quick thrust of its sharp bill, it snapped up a snake and tore it in half.  That poor snake must have wondered what the heck had just happened, as it continued to wiggle around in the heron’s mouth.

Stalking a Great Blue Heron

The following short clip shows that the snake almost got away, but the heron was quicker. And to think I was right in that area a little earlier taking some pictures!  I called that heron our “guard bird” for getting the snake before it could come into our site.

Do I detect a smile on this guy’s face as he enjoys his lunch?

Great Blue Heron

Wildlife scenes such as this may not be spectacular, but to us they’re fascinating and make our lifestyle even more rewarding.  More so when it happens right outside our door, like when the Sandhill Cranes visited us in Sebring, Florida, or when the little Black Bear emptied out our bird feeder in Lake Monroe, Florida.  Good times!