Saturday, February 26, 2022

Hopefully the last of the cold here…


Wow, we can’t believe how chilly this winter has been down here on South Padre Island. Yet another cold front has brought winds, low temperatures and fog into this part of the southern tip of Texas.


We will leave the coast and Isla Blanca Park after the weekend and are looking forward to a change. This winter has felt a lot like hanging out on the Oregon coast in early June… cold, wet and windy. I should mention that the temperatures along the coast in the winter are generally cooler for the highs of the day and warmer for the lows of the day when compared to temperatures inland.


The difference could be as much as 10 degrees or more on each end. As a result there were some days we drove over to Brownsville to walk around rather than stay on the coast because it would be in the fifties on the island and the upper sixties inland. We have come to call this stealing a good weather day…


Unfortunately this latest front has brought temperatures which start in the mid forties and barely raise into the fifties. Four straight days of this in the southern tip of Texas in late February has us really anxious for warmer temperatures. Looking ahead to our next stop in Alamo it appears we will finally get them once when move.


Of course we will miss our daily beach walks, the occasional trip to the brewery on the island and the walks along the boardwalks at the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. However we are ready to go and experience new adventures inland in the Rio Grande Valley.

And hopefully much warmer temperatures…


I have included pictures of the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills we have seen during our stay here. A small factoid about these spoonbills is that they get their color from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink. The more carotenoids their food has the pinker they get which explains why the juveniles are mostly white.

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

Monday, February 21, 2022

South Padre Island thoughts…


As our stay is nearing an end here on South Padre Island it is time to start planning for our move on March 1st. Our next stop will be inland in Texas for a month. We  originally booked another month here on the Island for the month of March.


However instead of spending another month at Isla Blanca Park we decided it best to cancel our stay. We did so for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was we would have had to move to a different site and the site we were moving to wasn’t a very good one at that. Since we have to move anyhow we figured we might as well move somewhere nicer.


Another surprising and significant reason we chose to leave was the slow but certain realization that we simply don’t want to be here anymore. Why? Well, for one we have done everything there is to do (that we like to do anyway), not once, but several times. One challenge of staying long term on an island is that once you enjoy everything there is to do on the island it is an hour or more away from every other place to explore..


As much as we will miss our daily walks on the beach it was during one of these walks we came to the realization that we were ready to leave. More significantly we also learned something about ourselves.. We now have decided we no longer want to live right on a beach.. We aren’t saying we wouldn’t live close to a beach, it’s just that being in a beach town 24/7, 365 days a year is surprisingly now not in our future plans.


While we have eliminated South Padre Island as a future home we know there are plenty of other locations to check out. From here we will move over to an RV resort in Alamo Texas a good hour plus away where we will be able to explore life in the Rio Grande Valley sans the beach. We may not have a lot to do there as well but at least it will be different.


Next we’ll move north back toward Canyon Lake Texas to visit our son and his family again before starting a trek east. We will also spend some time in College Station, Texas (our original hometown) where we will finalize our spring and summer plan of exploring potential future places to live along the way to North Carolina to visit with our daughter and her family.


Hopefully as we visit more places looking through this new lens we will discover more about what we want and don’t want in our future home.  We have also come to realize that our home finding quest will be a marathon and not a sprint as it will probably take a lot of time to find just the right place where we can fully enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle.

Todays pictures are from the various places we have enjoyed during our stay on South Padre Island…

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Sharon Shares Some Thoughts And Talks About Her New Hobby…


South Padre Island SPI

As John mentioned before we wanted to return to SPI for another winter thinking it might be a place we could settle.  I have always loved beach life and figured this was an affordable place to land.  What I surprisingly discovered was that beaching is just not enough. 


Our lives have been so enriched by hiking, disc golf, craft beer, birdwatching and diverse scenery. Sadly this place does not check off enough boxes. That being said it is indeed a wonderful place to visit.  The expansive beach, the birdwatching and the spacious RV site we secured both years we visited have indeed been worthwhile. It is very picturesque and will be a wonderful memory once we leave.


While in South Texas I have very much enjoyed the birdwatching with John. It is wonderful that he can identify what we see in our binoculars and though I have no desire to memorize the different species to become an expert birdwatcher I never cease being amazed by the excitement of seeing these marvelous creatures up close.


Imagine my joy when John gifted me his old camera as I could save the images I once only could see fleetingly into a savable image to enjoy again and again. It has taken quite a lot of practice but the reward has been priceless. 


My eyesight is not very good so even with the binoculars and I do not see what I sometimes capture in a photograph. I can see the same bird again and again because in different lighting or poses I can discover new things about the bird I have never noticed before.  The images in this blog are some of my favorites from this newfound hobby.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


Wish us luck in our search of a place to land. We are both researching in our own ways hoping that when we come together with our results we will be able to dedicate future travel toward exploring the places we might call home....

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

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Baby it’s Cold Outside…


Picking a winter destination is always a bit of a challenge especially since we don’t like to spend winter in the same location every year. While we recognize the advantages of spending winters in the same place we just prefer to switch it up. The biggest downsides in choosing this are that we don’t have the winter group of friends we see every year and the fact that reservations are harder to secure than consistently staying in the same place each winter.


Normally we switch from east coast back to the west coast with an occasional stop in south Texas for winter. Where we pick has a lot to do with weather and hoping to spend winters in warmer locales. One thing we always check out is the Farmer’s Almanac which seems to have an uncanny knack of predicting winter forecasts.


Using the Almanac we have spent a lot of pleasant winters in various locations. This year’s Almanac said that south Texas was going to be both drier than normal and warmer than normal so that is where we booked our winter stay. Well after having been here nearly a month and a half we can safely say they got it wrong this year on both accounts.


Yes we have had some nice warm days but overall it has been cooler than normal even though we have never dipped below freezing. It has also been much wetter than normal with frequent rainy days many times one after another. With frequent cold fronts passing through, frequent rains and the typical windy days found along the coast we have been home bound more than we like.


Fortunately we have the beach just a few steps from our door and a really nice nature trial nearby as well. So on those times of the day when it isn’t raining and not too windy and cold we can take a few miles stroll along the beach or go birdwatching at the nature trail.


We had originally booked another month in March,but would have had to move sites. After seeing the very tight site and it’s proximity to an RV with lots of children staying the winter (say, right next door) we decided to cancel March and will move inland for month.


Inland winter temperatures are normally colder at night but also warmer during the day, usually some 10 degrees or so on both extremes. Also with March being early spring around here we are looking forward to some warmer days on the horizon. Sharon is also looking forward  to staying at the resort which has a fitness center, pool and pickleball. We are also glad there will be several state parks and nature areas nearby to enjoy so we think the month will pass by quickly.


Photos today were taken at the Laguna Nature Trial on South Padre Island of some of the many birds we have encountered while walking the boardwalk…

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

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge…


One of the great things about wintering in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is the abundance of wildlife refuges, state parks and nature centers. One park I will be spending a lot of time describing is the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge about a 40 minute drive from our park on South Padre Island along the southern Texas coastline.


Laguna Atascosa is the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The refuge is 98,000 acres in size and is still actively seeking additional tracts to purchase for inclusion into the refuge. First established in 1946 to protect waterfowl and migratory birds it is now also focused on the preservation of an endangered cat, the ocelot.


Ocelots are endangered in the USA only because their habitat is endangered as they thrive in very dense thorny vegetation found in a only a few places in south Texas. Most of their habitat has been turned into farmland leaving the wildlife refuges as their only havens for existence in the USA.


Ocelots are opportunistic hunters and eat a range of animals including rodents, rabbits, young deer, birds, snakes, lizards, and fish. Why am I talking about ocelots so much? Well one of the reasons we are back in the Rio Grand Valley of Texas this year is because I agreed to be a volunteer for an old college classmate of mine who is now a professor at a Texas University studying ocelots.


My responsibilities include occasional trips back and forth to the refuge because I am helping to set live traps on the refuge in hopes of capturing ocelots for study and radio collaring. We have less than 25 traps set out over a large area since ocelots have a home range of several square miles. These traps are baited with live pigeons but fear not as the pigeon are safe in a cage of their own within the trap. They also have food and water provided as they sit in their cages to entice a predator.


We fully expected to catch many other species in the process however ocelots are the main goal. Bobcats are also being studied when/if they are caught and will be radio collared as well. The traps have been out for a couple of weeks off and on  dependent upon weather conditions.


What have we caught? We caught and released lots of raccoons, opossums and skunks as well as a wood rat who somehow encaptured himself. We also caught three bobcats so far and one ocelot. What I enjoy the most about this project besides the ability to see my first ocelot is watching the vets and scientists process the cats collecting as much data as possible before the cats wake up from their anesthesia.


Also fun is watching the cats wake up and leave their traps with their new radio collars. This project will last into March and we hope to catch several more ocelot's. I am also looking forward to following the tracking data these collared cats will provide the scientific community.

I am not at liberty to provide pictures from the actual project so I have instead included some photos of the refuge and from the internet. I will say that I have really enjoyed this opportunity!

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