Life at the Running Y

Life at the Running Y
Life at the Running Y

Friday, January 24, 2014

1-21-2014 Judy finds the spoonbills

Current Location: Belle Chase LA, NAS: Temperature: 33 degrees F spitting wet stuff

Anahuac NWR_102I do believe that anyone who has an RV blog probably knows about Judy, the Bird Lady of Blogland.  She has hundreds of followers, uncounted readers, and if you are lucky enough to be anywhere in the vicinity, she is likely to have offered to share her refuges with you.  I think nearly every blogger that I follow has at one time or another declined to identify a bird in favor of Judy’s final say-so on the matter, me included.

When we realized that we were traveling within a few miles of Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Judy’s current volunteer location, I contacted her privately and asked where we might camp if we wanted to see the refuge.  With her usual generous spirit, she piped up, “Right here on my concrete pad if you don’t mind roughing it with 30 amp.  I have the day off and would love to show you the refuge if you have time”.Judy and Emma

Well, then!  Lucky us!

Judy offered us a place to stay and a tour of the refugeWe arrived on a sunny but windy afternoon and within a few moments were getting set up at the maintenance area of the refuge where Judy is currently parked.  I let my guard down for a moment…bad bad bad…and Jeremy immediately jumped out of the rig to investigate.  Usually not a problem, but I’ll let Judy tell the story here. She tells the story better than I would and you get another chance to see her sense of humor shine.

With an attempt to thank Judy for her hospitality, I offered to cook grilled chicken with rice and salad.  We visited on the patio, but the chilly winds drove us inside our rig for dinner.  We enjoyed having someone to share a meal at our new dinette.

Anahuac NWR_009I kinda knew that Judy had a dry sense of humor, but as our evening wore on and we shared our supper, all that good stuff started showing up.  We had a nice time getting to know each other and talking about travels, birds, volunteering, refuges, and yes…a bit of talk about other bloggers.  I guess it is only natural and of course it was all good stuff.

Judy knew I wanted to see spoonbills, but as we began our morning explorations, I let her know that seeing the snow geese do their thing was also high on my list.  With a few hours to spend at the refuge, we saw so much more than we could have on our own.  There is nothing quite like having a pro around to really show you the ropes.

snow geese at AnahuacJudy took us to several locations where we saw huge flocks of snow geese, and during the entire time she was sharing bits and pieces of her extensive knowledge of the history of the refuge, the devastation of hurricane Ike, and attempts to restore the wetlands to good condition.  Shoveler’s Pond, for instance, a fresh water environment, was completely inundated by the storm surge and the salt water killed all the natural vegetation.  Restoration included removing the salt contaminated soil completely and starting over.Anahuac NWR_034

Even with the high winds, we saw more than I ever expected.  Judy thought that the winds might have actually been in our favor because the birds were hunkering down.  Watching snow geese fly and hearing their sound is thrilling, something I seek out in the Klamath Basin where they move through in March. 

blue winged tealJudy took us right to several huge flocks, that obligingly put on a great show.  I took many photos, and also did a video recording of the sounds.  There is just nothing like it, except for maybe the sound of a huge flock of tundra swans.

Anahuac NWR_089As we drove around Shoveler’s Pond, Judy kept saying she couldn’t guarantee a sighting of the ‘big pink birds”, the roseate spoonbills.  I actually saw them first, and hollered, “Look, there they are!”  Sure enough we found them on one of the distant dikes across the pond, but Judy knew where the grasses would part enough for a closer view.  I finally saw the spoonbills, and even managed a photo or two.Anahuac NWR_157

After a bit of time watching the birds on the dike, they decided that I needed to see them fly, and took off just for us, knowing that of course we needed a fabulous photo op.

Anahuac NWR_191Judy says that if we return in March and are nearby, we can see the spoonbill rookeries on High Island, where birders come from all over the world to see the birds congregating after their exhausting travels over the Gulf of Mexico on their return north. 

What a treat it was to spend time with Judy and to see Anahuac  (did you know it is pronounced ana whack??) NWR as we would have never seen it without her. 

At noon, we packed up, hooked up, and ambled off toward Louisiana

Up Next:  Sam Houston Jones State Park, Lake Charles, Louisiana