Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rita, Red Tide, and Cloudbusters

Rita, red tide, and cloud-busters – that’s a mouthful! First things first, Hurricane Rita ignored most of Texas and barreled up near Sabine Pass and pretty much hammered the area up through Lake Charles and Vinton, as you know; last it was up near Shreveport where brother Matt lives. Of course, the cell and landline phones are always down when you want all the gory details, and I hope everything is OK.

The red tide has been nothing short of incredible, the worst that the locals can every recall. Previously, I was hoping that the huge waves would send it elsewhere but I guess all the action stirred up the nutrients, oxygenated the water, and viola: instant gas-mask potential! I tried to drink a beer down at our favorite Tiki bar and after coughing, sneezing, eyes watering, and doing the “Gumby” dance, couldn’t handle it any more. Hopefully it will clear out because the post-Rita waves ought to clean up pretty good.

Cloud-busters? Well, those are waves to big you can’t see the clouds, like over 30 feet. Less than that size are mere “horizon-busters.” Apparently we had pro surfers from all over the world, like Spain, South Africa, and so on, but it was too rough except for the more suicidal ones with a crash boat. Tonight ought to be fun, and maybe Sunday will be better for the more sane types like me. By Monday the waves will probably be flat as a mill pond.

What do I want? Well, less red tide and maybe some more offshores. That’s when the wind is out of the north and west – mainly to drive the red tide fumes away. As luck would have it, the wind will be onshore out of the southeast on Sunday. But the heat! There’s not a breath of air and it is almost 100 degrees here. Tonight is our Rita Party but it looks like the porch is out of the question, with all the heat, no wind, and mosquitoes. Man, these mosquitoes have six-guns and spurs they’re so big! Make all that go away and bring on the nice surfing waves … and protect brother Matt in Shreveport … and I will be a very happy person.

By the way, the birds are back! Hundreds of them. Dozens of hummers, yellow-belly sapsuckers, Peregrine falcons, ruby-breasted thrashers, finicky finches, greedy grebes, and don’t forget the noble titmouse. I guess they have the Weather Channel too, and figured out the coast was clear.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita Taquachita

This girl Rita is a frightening hurricane already, with the third lowest barometer pressure of any tropical storm near the US. As of 7:00 p.m. the central pressure was 898 millibars and winds were Category 5. Lots of folks have been asking if we’d stay or leave but the action looks worse for the middle and upper Texas Coast, so we’re still in the wait mode.

A Taquachita is a small possum, or should we say opossum. Its name is usually used in conjunction with Rio Grande Valley conjunto music, which is slower than the kind you hear up in San Antonio. The slower rhythm has been compared to the taquachita because it is slower and more fluid than its counterparts elsewhere. So that’s my little prayer for all the folks along the Texas Coastline: Rita taquachita. Slow down.

I'm still trying to fix the digital camera, which decided to go bonkers at exactly the wrong time. But we'll be safe and if we do boogie, we'll be up west of Austin. The Rita party is still on for Saturday, with prickly-pear margaritas and all. The plywood still sets in the garage, hoping it doesn't need to go up again after Hurricane Emily in July. At least it it is numbered and pre-cut and I have all the logistics figured out.

I did notice that the birds, hummers, and butterflies stopped migrating through here the last several days. What's up with that? Sure, we've got dragonflies out the ying-yang, and little tiny bees all over the flowers, but whither the other winged ones? Even the ospreys and Perigrine Falcons seem to have left. Hot, calm winds, and haze - something's brewing out there, dark and sinister.

Rita taquachita.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dies Y Seis

It was frustrating. I woke up and went to get the paper and there was a seven-inch lizard on my porch. So I ran in to the house and got the new digital camera and … no black lizard with a gold racing stripe down its sides. This was probably a rare find, I thought to myself. Pure black, snake-like, very timid, and it looked almost toxic if you touched it. I found its hidey-hole and talked to it. No dice.

Then in the afternoon, some real large fish hawks showed up, shrieking to each other. I’m thinking they were ospreys because they ate some fish out in the bay, dive bombing, although they did have some brown feathers. So every time I heard them I went outside with my trusty camera, only to see them as a speck on the horizon. I think they were like at least 40 MPH.

So there’s no signature picture today, even after consulting with the hummers. Those hummingbirds know when I’m packing a camera … when I’m not they come up and lecture me about getting too close to the feeder! The sheer unmitigated gall.

And then the red tide started its thing. Who asked all those diatoms to get frisky right now? It’s not all that bad yet except for a small fish kill but sheesh, one more for the Gipper. But the wife’s folks are in town and it is Mexico Independence Day and except for a few recalcitrant critters, all is good.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Gray Day

Hey look at that, some of the wet stuff! We’re about 7-8 inches behind on rain so this was good. It rather fits my dark mood today, with not much happening except for growling thunder and periodic rain squalls. Work is slow. The toads got flooded out of their burrows and are hopping around everywhere – I’m sure much more productive than me today. But a ton of work is coming and sometimes a personal sanity day is a good thing. So here I sit, hearing distant rumbles, wondering if another storm is headed my way. When the thunder wanes, you can hear the surf and the birds again.

That bush in the foreground has a real name I can’t remember it so it is the Brazilian Shit-wood Bush, as it is an invasive species related to poison ivy. It is starting to make buds and soon will be covered in tiny white flowers, which would become little orange berries. The hummingbirds roost there, along with the toads, maybe a possum, and hopefully our lost iguana. Butterflies love it but for some reason, very few seen today. For a while we had some yellow-bellied flickers in there but I think they migrated on to better pastures. My gardener friend tells me the birds get drunk on the rotting Brazilian shit-wood berries and it is quite a riot to watch later in the season. It might be a junky plant but is sure hosts a heck of a cast & crew!

Yes, the birds are busy now, fattening up for the fall. Purple martins dash around at invisible bugs at break-neck speed. Grackles feed in the flooded grass like pigs in tuxedos and the seagulls police the street for stuff the garbage man missed. More hummingbirds arrived. Two mockingbirds work the backyard, a little darker and less aggressive than the ones I remember from Austin; at least they don’t dive-bomb the cat.

The sun comes out for a brief moment, causing the cicadas to make their obnoxious noise, like a teenager’s cell phone. Another thunderstorm cell announces itself loudly and all the birds fly away. A giant heron yelps and flies over the water like a B-52 bomber, with mullet and baitfish jumping in its temporary shadow. It is quite a show.

Monday, September 05, 2005

All out at sea

There’s my boy, Eric, posing with a nice haul from the snapper banks on a recent Labor Day weekend outing. Now before you jump to conclusions, that little aquarium fish in his left hand was NOT mine, as he would have you think! It is a perfectly legal & real tasty Lane Snapper. How relaxing … perfect conditions except for a rogue thunderstorm. The boat also caught three King Mackerels in the 25-50 pound range. They fought good but yuck, those Kings are lobsta bait as far as eating. We ate the trigger fish and spadefish last night, baked/broiled with lime & butter.

Behind Eric is the newly installed hummingbird feeder, which unfortunately was not occupied at the time. We’ve got several pairs of them swarming there, running each other off, but they never pose long enough for ole Foggy Eyes here to snap a picture. Well, I’m going to get one or two more and see what the devil happens at the feeders. I bet that old bull hummer will be busy now.

It’s the last hurrah for the Island before things start closing down. There is quite a debate about whether the gas prices have affected tourism here but it looked like it was rocking on Saturday and Sunday. The exodus is starting as I write this post on Monday morning. Happy Labor Day, all.