Cranes, Rain and the Texas Gulf Coast

After two, long driving days, past mountains, canyons and hundreds of miles of flat scrub, we made it to the other side of Texas. Two and a half months since we left the Pacific, we are back at the sea, looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite at Goose Island State Park, outside of Corpus Christi and next to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, sits right on the water, so close that from inside it looks like we’re floating out to sea. After all our travels through the dry, bright desert, it feels good to be in a place where grey clouds cover the sky and the air is a salty mist.

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Goose Island is a refuge to hundreds of different types of birds, including the endangered Whooping Crane, which winters here before flying north to its breeding ground in Canada. The largest bird in North America, the Whooping Crane is nearly 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 7 1/2 feet. From the Woodebago’s back window we’ve spotted at least two standing in the shallows, making the egrets and herons look small.

In the marshy shallows and at the shoreline, oyster shells are scattered everywhere, picked clean by an impressive variety of shore birds. We spend an afternoon with the campground’s “bird hosts,” who teach us more than we could ever hope to remember about the local birds. The awkwardly cute American Coot. The long-beaked grey-brown Willet. The industrious Turnstone, so-named since it turns over stones to find food. Two types of Pelicans, brown and white. The white Ibis and a pinkish-colored Spoonbill. All are here and we take plenty of walks to see as much as we can. Most of our pictures are just spots, specks and blurs instead of birds, but we try.

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When we can go outside, that is. The storm of the century seems to have joined us here on Goose Island, bringing days and nights of torrential rain and gale force winds. The first day is fun, snuggled inside doing lessons, reading and watching movies. By Day three, however, we are growing restless and annoyed at the weather forecast that shows no relief until the weekend. We manage, finding things to do (birding in the wind, squeezing grapefruit juice out of our 30 lb bag of Ruby Reds, playing in the puddles that have formed all around us). But we are thrilled when the clouds clear, even for a short time, allowing us to venture out.

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20160309_135722We visit the Big Tree, a thousand-year old oak that feels like it is straight out of a fairy tale. We marvel at its width and the reach of its branches (its wingspan?), and G picks flowers all around it.

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We drive to Rockport, the closest town, where we spend the afternoon at the local library and enjoy some fantastic Po’Boys and fries.

And here we are. We’ll be here through the weekend, enough time to get at least a couple sunny beach days. Although we’re all the way on the eastern side of the state, our Texas tour is far from over (we are doing a strange circular trip of the state, mostly so we can see it all and still meet up with family and friends who will be visiting us for Spring Break in San Antonio and Austin). So we head north next week to Fort Worth, where we will stay in a state park and…wait for it…attend the 2016 Texas Homeschool Convention.

P.S. At last, the sun shines and we ferry over to beautiful Port Aransas beach to play in the sand and surf. Then an evening of fishing with the birds.

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About Elena Silva

Out here on the road, trying to make the most of a year in close quarters with my three favorite people...
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