The Eyes Have It

Good news, our latest base camp location finally has some decent connectivity. Unfortunately, we also happen to be in the path of a pretty nasty storm that is barreling down on us rather fast. Tornado warnings from Galveston Island (where we are currently camped) to Houston with expected steady high winds, rain and now Linda tells me there is an opportunity for hail. Quite the quandary, hunker down, raise anchor and head for less exposed land or…make a quick walk out to the beach and take in nature’s power. Okay, so there really wasn’t that much of a quandary.

Approaching Storm from Galveston Island, January 2023

Still an hour or so away from the bad stuff, but the sea gods are starting to get restless. Assuming the storm doesn’t grow out of hand, hoping to go back out when the eye passes over and see what the bird situation looks like or if there are any quality shells the Gulf puked up. Fingers crossed for some fallout activity or high seas blow-ins like a Frigate or Jaeger. Until then, need to take advantage of the connectivity and talk about another “eye” of sorts.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about today’s featured feathered friend.

For those of you not familiar with this particular species of duck, it is called a Common Goldeneye. I’ve often raged against some of the horrible names given to many a bird and when I see general names like “common” I usually get ready to bring out the battle flag. A quick look at the range maps settled my ruffled feathers – they indeed, have a majority of the US in the non-breeding months and even cover most of Canada and Alaska when they turn frisky.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

Their few gaps are in southern Arizona, inner Florida (an up into Georgia/Carolinas and, ironically, the southern belly of Texas. At least for those last two, assuming they figure they are that close to the coasts, why not slap the obligatory “Salt Life” sticker on their rump and head for the coast. Ron and I managed to find this particular specimen off the Goose Island State Park fishing pier roughly this same time last year.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

There were eBird reports of the Goldeneye leading up to our visit. Neither of us had that duck checked off for the Average Year yet (link here). That excitement started to wane the further down the coastline we walked. Plenty of Brown Pelicans auditioning for the latest Cirque Du Gulf, a Tern or two doing their thing and a Yellowlegs up to its knees in the salty sea – but no ducks to be found.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

Linda and I have been a long-time visitor to Goose Island State Park thanks to the “Big Tree” area that can be found a mile or two outside the main body of the park. Those of you that are familiar with that landmark probably already know the birding “opportunity” that grazes nearby. For those that are not aware…well, I’ll forego the debate that always arises and simply recommend finding a chatty local. In all those years, I didn’t remember there being such a nice fishing pier at the back of the state park. A quick search confirmed that this replacement pier was rebuilt after the entire area was devastated by Hurricane Harvey back in 2017. They received $2 million in 2019 to recover from the impact. What has risen out of the ashes, so to speak, is a magnificent 1,620ft pier perfect for fishing and birding alike.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

A long walk to nearly the end resulted in the checks we were hunting for – and an unexpected bonus for two Oystercatchers hanging out on a sandbar halfway down. Outside of a Common Loon (there’s that word again), there really wasn’t anything else that far out in St. Charles/Aransas Bay. Even managed to tin the drake (the more colorful one) and the female! Quick update, no Goldeneyes when we visited there a few days ago sigh… but did get the Oystercatchers ticked off for this year…yeah.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

How about we get to some interesting tidbits as takeaways for your invested time. Might want to keep a short distance from the fainting coaches when you read this…These ducks were named after the color of their eyes. “Quick, bring a wet cloth and some smelling salts!”. Next thing they will be trying to tell me is Oystercatchers like Oysters – oh the humanity. Now that you are back on your feet, might be intrigued that the Goldeneye is similar to the Wood Duck (link here) in that they prefer to nest in tree cavities. This makes for one hell of a second day for the chicks who leave that day to plummet down to their mothers taking up position on the ground. And millennials still think they have it rough.

Common Goldeneye found at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, TX, January 2022

According to Cornell, from that point on it gets a bit chaotic. The chicks are able to nourish themselves and simply need parental guidance to help keep them safe. Interesting thing is, that guidance might not come for their actual parent(s). They have a tendency to get mixed up with other broods, traded for pretty beads, abandoned by crackhead moms or simply given up for territory rent to slumlords. They even have a name for the resulting mixed broods – “crackhens”. Wait, wait, wait, my apologies, just occurred to me I read that word too fast .. not crackhens, rather creches. My apologies to all Goldeneye moms out there.

Well, the front of the storm is about to hit here, better dig out my raincoat, get the camera close by and crank ACDC’s Hells Bells.

I’m a rolling thunder, pouring rain
I’m coming on like a hurricane
My lightning’s flashing across the sky
You’re only young, but you’re gonna bird

25 thoughts on “The Eyes Have It”

  1. Lovely in-flight photos. Best grab something heavy and above the projected storm surge. I thought Goldeneye referred to a 007 movie partly filmed at Arecibo. Stay safe!

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    1. That was quite the storm. We ended up having to cancel our planned visit with Linda’s Aunt… I think Aunt..maybe it is her cousin hmmm. Anyway, good thing we did as the path she would have taken to get to the restaurant where we were going to meet had a tornado go through it. You are right on the Bond movie, the 17th to be exact. Just finished watching the last one while pounding out the final treadmill miles before we left for Texas.

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    1. Thank you Kelly. I must say, that ended up being more of a storm than we expected. Our class B motor home was swaying pretty good. On the bright side, it really kicked up the waves and there were shells all over the place (and grounded Jellyfish) when I hit the beach right after it passed through. Was hoping the winds would bring in some deep sea birds, but came up empty there, oh well. Take care and appreciate you dropping in.

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  2. That gray sky, wind and waves are ominous. I hope it’s a mild storm. We had gale force winds all day yesterday. It’s been calm today. You are quite ducky in the photo department with beautiful photos of the ducks.

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    1. Gusts went to 60mph here, but everything stayed in place – felt like a rollercoaster ride for a bit as the motor home was rocking pretty good. Every once in a while, we all get ducky ha! Hope the winds didn’t take any shingles/tiles off.

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  3. I really like the video. The beach is deserted but still welcoming, in the distance at the end of video I saw a lighthouse. The Goldeneyes are amazing! They are my favorite birds.

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    1. Most of the smart people were hunkered down in their RVs waiting for the storm to hit where we were at – pretty much had the whole beach to myself. I think that lighthouse might have been a large water tower at Jamaica Beach – I’ll check that again … was actually trying to keep that out, but I forgot about it and kept the video going too long. I can definitely see why the Goldeneyes are your favorite – they are quite stunning.. both the female and the drake. Take care and appreciate you dropping by.

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  4. There can be great photo opportunities during weather fronts. Safety is a major concern of course. More so as I get older for some weird reason.

    Nice work finding the Common Goleneye! I’m in that “inner Florida” area where one has never bothered to visit us.

    Good luck with the weather and finding more birds!

    (What’s an ACDC? Thought maybe it was some sort of battery. Gotta go now and listen to The Carpenters.)

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    1. Ha, something tells me when we are younger the stupid meter runs a bit higher. I’ve had plenty of “mishaps” and should probably be more careful than I am (case in point, just about had a Copperhead test the cut-proof marketing on my hiking pants earlier in the trip). Not sure what is going on where you live, but these Goldeneyes want NO part of it hehehe. It took me everything I had, but managed to convert my 100% country wife to classic rock and roll … the newer heavier stuff ended up being a bridge too far, but at least we have a genre we both agree to on the long trips!. Appreciate you dropping in Wally – enjoyed your recent collections of shots.

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    1. …and that is EXACTLY what I did. Found some of the nicest shells to date (large and intact – did check first to make sure I wasn’t foreclosing on any creature’s home. A bit surprised hardly anyone else was out there prior to the storm – I was really hoping the wind would bring in some of the high seas birds, but that didn’t materialize. As soon as the storm calmed, I was back out there checking out what cool things came out of the giant waves. You can be assured, The Beast was protected at all times hehehe. Take care CJ.

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      1. Cool! We like to head to the beach here after the storms as we can find cool drift wood and sea glass. The downside is there is always tons of plastic that washes ashore.
        Stay safe and enjoy your travels.

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    1. Hope everything came out okay there – I know one hit between us (Galveston Island) and Houston, but not sure of the degree of damage. We do like the Galveston Island area, however, it is a bit chillier than our base camp on South Padre Island. Last year we stayed here in a sandstorm – this year a rainstorm…maybe it is just us ha! Appreciate you dropping in Vic.

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      1. We didn’t see any twisters, thank goodness but, the local news weather guessers always include a huge viewing area, just in case. We are nowhere close to being like Oklahoma or Kansas, even with our flat, coastal terrain.

        Good that we were both missed…

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        1. Good to hear! Don’t get me started on weather forecasts. They can play the fear card and say the world is going to end in 12 years, but can’t accurately predict the weather less than a week away – retired now, just give me a radar map and wind direction and I’ll make my own guesses.

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  5. Loved the photos of the goldeneyes! I clicked to see the wood duck post. I saw them in a preserve near Venice, FL a couple of years ago and didn’t know what they were. Maybe they were just passing through. I never saw them again, though I often walked there.

    Today I saw a robin eating worms in our yard… on its way North, I guess. I have only seen them here once before. Birds seem to like to snack in our yard…no chemicals! The moles and the armadillos like it too. All are welcome! 🙂

    I hope you and Linda weathered the storm OK, Brian! ❤

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    1. Thank you Cheryl! The Wood Ducks are near the tops in my favorite ducks list – not only are they colorful, they are so dainty it just makes them that much cuter. Sounds like your yard is a delicacy for birds! We do not have Armadillos back home and I have a yearly war with the Moles, but beyond that, pretty much a sanctuary for all god’s creatures..I do have to keep the Snakes from Linda’s view or that will get messy hehehe. We did make it through the storm, thanks for the well wishes. We have definitely been through worse, but those are usually in more solid of structure – out little Class B RV was doing a fare bit of swaying during the 60mph gusts – although nothing even close to what you have experienced in your neck of the woods. Take care!

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  6. Great pre-storm finds! Wasn’t aware of the new pier, I’ll have to look that up next time I’m in the area. The strength of the wind decreases markedly as the storm front moves inland, so we only had 30mph winds here. Glad you went out, looks like the light was really nice. Was interested to see that the Goldeneye and the Wood Duck both have that behavior of hatching their chicks in trees, and then, on Day 2 of their young lives, expecting them to skydive to the ground to follow mom to feeding grounds. Looking forward to more tales of your travels!

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  7. The video showed a restless sea. I don’t think I would have been brave (one could call it something else 😊) enough to weather the predicted storm!
    And you are definitely in trouble with all the goldeneye moms who care for all those babies, even if they are not their own!

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