Friday, January 28, 2022

Birding the Laguna Madre Nature Trail TX


One thing we always enjoy is visiting the Laguna Madre Nature Trail at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Once in the parking lot, visitors are  greeted by a wall painting of whales and dolphins. Just around the corner of this building is the start of the Laguna Madre Nature Trail.


Unlike the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center located next door, this adventure is FREE! It includes a 1500 ft. boardwalk spanning over both salt and freshwater wetlands. The boardwalk is adjacent to a Central Power and Light Company station.The company built the boardwalk as part of a mitigation project due to wetland destruction caused by the construction of underground power lines.


This boardwalk allows visitors to view four acres of marshland. Many coastal and migratory birds as well as some small alligators can be seen.. Sharon and I will walk this boardwalk multiple times a week in search of different species of birds. While views of the marsh are nice, another portion of the boardwalks slices through a Mangrove Swamp then ends at the Laguna Madre Bay.

Sandhill Skipper on Mexican Flame VineIMG_2979

Where the boardwalk ends is a great spot for seeing multitudes of birds especially during low tide. Found here are many birds associated with the salt water shorelines and flats as well as freshwater species since the freshwater ponds are discharging into the sea water here as well.


While the boardwalk isn’t very long we will often spend an hour or more just checking out the sights while taking photographs of our favorites. I’ll probably ask Sharon to pen a blog about this trail as well so she can share some of her favorite photos taken here.

NOTE: We are currently in South Padre Island TX until March 1st…

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Is Covid still screwing up your plans…?


We are back in the Rio Grande Valley for the winter. To celebrate we broke out the crystal and toasted to a hopefully good winter stay. We stayed at Isla Blanca RV Park last winter while were hiding out from Covid. We were also able to have our first two Covid vaccines here. Last year everything was shut down pretty tightly and thus it was a great location for us to ride out the unknowns of the Covid pandemic.


Fast forward a year later and nothing much has changed on the Covid front. We wanted to stay at Isla Blanca again hoping to be able to see what it was like to be here without a pandemic but alas, not much has changed, at least not for us. While many here in Texas have grown tired of the pandemic Sharon and I still respect the might of Covid and are staying pretty close to home.


That said we do have a few outdoor places we have enjoyed, as we did last year. We often hike at the Convention Center’s Laguna Madre Nature Trail and we often visit the deck at South Padre Island Brewing Company. Before the omicron variant of Covid hit the USA we were just beginning to feel pretty comfortable visiting some indoor places and being around a lot of people.

However, when the omicron variant reared its ugly head and proved to be much more contagious we began to retreat from both indoor places and people once again. Therefore here we are in South Padre Island one year later doing basically the same things we did last year when things were much more unknown.


While some will say we are crazy not to just live our lives and not worry about getting another version of the “flu” we have different feelings. While we both realize the disease is not extremely deadly it is the fear of having the symptoms for a lengthy period of time as the many who now have Long Covid. In addition, Sharon’s having survived breast cancer along with several previous bouts of pneumonia over the years have her really wanting to avoid covid.z3

I actually can't imagine what it would be like to not be able to smell or taste. So much of our lives revolve around food, drinks and the culinary delights in the many towns we visit. We both can’t even imagine not being able to enjoy two of our precious senses. That alone is enough for me not to take any unnecessary risks!z2

In the meantime we are enjoying our daily routine of walking the beach together  (weather permitting). so the photos today will be of some of the delights we see with our eyes and enjoy with our ears. Two other senses we value greatly…

NOTE: We are currently in South Padre Island TX until March 1st…

Monday, January 17, 2022

Estero Llano Grande State Park and Exit Plan Update…


There are several state parks down in the southern tip of Texas and we like to visit these as much as possible. We always purchase the annual Texas State Parks Pass because it allows us to in free and also has some free camping perks. All of the State Parks in Texas are unique in that they are home to species of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the entire USA.


One park with nice trails is the Estero Llano Grande State Park which is part of the World Birding Center. We like this park because we  can enjoy a hike while also birding.


Upon arriving at the park visitors walk right up to the visitor center adjacent to a small wetland pond. Every time we have ever visited this park this pond is covered in ducks, mostly Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and this visit was no exception.


We stopped to check out all the waterfowl even spying a couple of Shoveler ducks, one of Sharon’s favorites. Also, while watching the ducks we noticed that they were becoming a bit nervous so I scoured the sky and discovered the reason why… A Peregrine Falcon was soaring high above which alarmed the waterfowl below.


We spent the afternoon hiking and birding at the park and reflected on how we have always enjoyed exploring different parts of our beautiful country. It is opportunities such as this that we know we will greatly miss once we are no longer on the road. Hopefully we will find a place conducive to our love of the outdoors which will fend off the boredom we fear in our next non mobile lifestyle.


And to provide an update on our progress of figuring out what the next chapter of our lives holds for us… alas, not much new has happened on that front. We still don’t know what we will do or where we will end up but we have eliminated a few more states and now only have 17 on our list. We are now focusing on towns in each of the seventeen states so I would assume things will not happen much faster.


We do our research independent of one another so it will be interesting to see what each of us found once we compare notes. Thankfully we have plenty of time for this decision as there is nothing “forcing” us to decide immediately such as health or finances. As long as that remains the case we will simply plug along and continue researching then perhaps begin visiting towns on our lists to see if any place feels like home. For now home is still wherever we are parked which currently is in South Texas….

NOTE: We are currently in South Padre Island TX until March 1st…

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and the Bat Falcon!


While staying in La Feria for three nights we took advantage of visiting one of my favorite Rio Grande Valley (RGV)  places, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. There is no better place in the RGV to experience what this area has to offer.


There are several miles of trails in the park taking visitors through the sub-tropical RGV vegetation all the way down to the Rio Grande River, the bordering river between Mexico and the USA. We love this park as it not only offers excellent hiking but is also one of the best birding hotspots in the RGV complete with cat walks and hawk towers to spot raptors.


One day we hiked a bit over two miles while birding within the park. We saw a lot of interesting species of birds. Some of our finds are below (click on photo to enlarge)


Above is a Black-necked Stilt. We love their long pink legs and their long thin bill along with their formal black and white striking plumage. Enlarge the photo to sneak a peak at their cool eyes!.


Above is a pair of Glossy Ibis. They use their long downwardly curved bill to feed below the surface of the water by prodding the mud . Another bird looking similar to them is the White-faced Ibis but it has brightly colored legs ranging from pink to red instead of the dull grayish legs found on the Glossy Ibis


Since it doesn’t hardly ever freeze down in this part of the RGV there are still plenty of flowering plants and thus butterflies such as this Queen Butterfly.


We saw several hawks while we were in the park. I happened to spot this Cooper’s Hawk perched high atop a tree scanning the horizon for food, I assumed. Cooper’s Hawks are very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks but can be distinguished by their blocky head and the fact that their tail is rounded at the tip and not squared like the Sharp-shinned Hawk.


While looking at the various species of ducks we spotted a Red Striped Ribbon Snake in the water.


While we were at the refuge there was lots of chatter about a rare bird sighting. We were told where the bird is usually found so we headed over to try our luck at seeing it. As we were walking there I spotted a Common Skipper feeding on an Anacahuita.tree above picture.


Well the word had obviously gotten out about this rare bird as there was about 50-60 people lined up with binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras on tripods with super long lenses. Suddenly just as we were informed this rare bird showed up and perched atop the telephone pole. It was almost as if it knew all the people were there to see him as he seemingly posed for pictures. Below is my picture of the Bat Falcon! This bird had never been recorded in the USA until this particular bird wandered in from Mexico. We have to admit it sure was fun seeing this adventurous fellow…


NOTE: We are currently in South Padre Island TX until March 1st or later if we change our minds…

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Making our way to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and another hiccup!


I finally finished helping our son build his outdoor kitchen so we headed back to the RV at Canyon Lake for a few days of rest and relaxation before moving on down the road. One thing we always love to do when visiting Canyon Lake is take the drive down the old River Road to New Braunfels Texas.


As always this drive was very cathartic and very scenic. We checked out the New Braunfels area then headed over to Greune TX for a mid afternoon stroll. There was some live music going on at Greune Hall so we stayed and listened for  awhile.


Afterward we drove up to San Marcos to have a cold beer at Aquabrew one of our favorite Texas breweries. They moved to a new location, not nearly as nice as the old one, but at least their beer was still good!


We left Canyon Lake and moved a short distance eastward to Lockhart State Park in Lockhart, TX. Lockhart has one of the coolest court houses (see above) and is the BBQ capital of Texas. This is an annual stop to get our Barbeque fix. While we were only there two nights we had some great hikes within the park and were able to enjoy BBQ at both Smitty’s in Lockhart and City Market in Luling Tx.


All things weren’t rosy however because when we first arrived I noticed a “Check Trans” light, come on as we backed into our site. Since we didn’t experience any transmission issues driving over to the park I kind of figured it might be electrical.However we still had to have the code read to know for sure. Finding a mobile mechanic just before New Year’s eve was a bit tricky.


We finally got a mobile mechanic over the morning we were to leave and his opinion was that it was just an electrical issue. He checked everything and just didn’t see anything wrong with our transmission. We can highly recommend Rush Truck Center’s near Austin Texas if you need mobile service in this area.


Whew, dodged a bullet there so we packed up to move on to our next location. It would be an overnight stop at Southbound RV Park and Cabins in Victoria Texas. Before leaving Victoria we made a run over to the last Aldi’s grocery store we will see for a while to stock up on some of our favorites. Then it was back on the road.


The next stop would be in V I P - La Feria RV Park in  La Feria TX. This would be a longer drive than we prefer but I wanted to stop in Kingsville TX to meet up with an old friend who had a proposition for me while we are in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. I will save the news about the proposal for the next blog after I receive more details…

NOTE: We are currently in South Padre Island TX until March 1st or later if we change our minds…