The pull to visit the beach is always present in my life. If money were no object, I would probably have a small cottage on a beach where I could while away my retirement years in total contentment walking the beach, watching the birds, listening to the surf, and enjoying the breeze. But since money is an object, I must content myself with regular visits to Galveston, Corpus, Port A, Matagorda and any other beach on our planet to satisfy my need of ocean solace.
This past weekend, BFF Kathleen and I traveled to Bolivar to stay at the Saltwater Inn so we could explore Bolivar beaches. It just so happens that our visit this Spring coincided with Galveston’s Featherfest Birding Festival which I have attended in the past with BFF Linda. The benefit of attending birding festivals is you have a guide who takes you to hot spots and helps you cue in on unusual bird visitors that might otherwise be missed. But having grown up visiting Galveston my entire life, I have more knowledge than a casual visitor of those hot spots. So, in addition to actual beach combing time, we visited The Rookery on High Island and also many of my favorite birding haunts on Galveston Island….East Jetty, Lafitte’s Cove, Sportsman’s Road to name a few.
Here are a few photos of some of our bird encounters this past weekend.
Springtime in Texas is synonymous with great birding, so get out there and do some bird searching!!!
Erosion. A “bigly” negative word, a word of destruction. As defined by Webster…”the process of eroding or being worn down by wind, water, or other natural agents; the gradual destruction or diminution of something”.
Erosion throughout the millennium is a formidable force. It may take eons but eventually erosion wins. Time doesn’t matter to erosion. It continues to work using wind and water as a battering ram, slowly but surely eroding the foundation of rock, soil, and mountains turn into dust. A hurricane is a prime example of an eroding force that leaves death and destruction in its wake. For many years my BFF Linda had access to a beachfront home in Pirate’s Beach and we have wonderful memories of fun times spent there. Then one hot end-of-summer day, one of those pesky hurricanes ripped through that home. The ocean charged in to undermine the foundation piers and reclaimed that piece of sand as its own.
Back in the 70’s, the erosion of soil treated with pesticides led to a serious reduction in the number of pelicans in our world. DDT was an effective pesticide for ridding crops of unwanted insects. Unfortunately when the rains came and the residue from this chemical washed into our streams, then into rivers, and ultimately into our oceans, and pelicans ate the fish that had ingested some of those pesticides, then and only then did the end result become known. Each Spring the pelicans laid their eggs but DDT caused a defect in the shell-making ability of the pelican. They laid their eggs but when the incubation period began, the weight of the parent bird caused the egg-shell to break. With the banning of DDT in the United States back in 1972, pelicans rebounded and can once again be seen patrolling the beach shoreline.
We have a very descriptive word for the erosion of buildings or infrastructure. It is called entropy. Defined as “a lack of order or predictability; a gradual decline into disorder or the degree of disorder or randomness in the system”. In other words…the tendency of something to return to its natural state if nothing is done to prevent it from crumbling. Examples of this would be interstate highways left without maintenance will eventually develop potholes and breaks in the concrete integrity, roofs left unrepaired allow water to seep in causing even more damage to a home’s interior and even an abandoned home starts to sag and has a clear unmistakable facade of despair. Weeds sprout up, paint begins to peel, a capricious wind rips a gutter or roof tile away.
The telling of lies and yelling “fake news” has led to an erosion of trust within our nation. The rapidity of these falsehoods is staggering and tracking down their veracity is exhausting and may result in resigned acceptance through sheer lack of energy to ferret out the truth.
If you aren’t alarmed at what is swirling in the political atmosphere encompassing America right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. Now is the time to throw away the labels of Republican, Democrat or Independent and stand up as Americans to defend, protect and ensure that our democracy and the Rule of Law will remain intact for future generations. Americans first, country before party.
It was a late Spring Day with summer gently nudging its way into the South Texas coastline. Another BFF of mine, Kathleen and I are out doing our “Thelma and Louise” thing on the twenty three miles of beachfront located in Matagorda Texas. A favorite fishing spot for many people, for us it is one of our favorite beach combing areas and of course a great bird watching venue.
This day was a little different from our usual beach jaunts though. We drove perhaps 10 miles or so down the beach and selected a spot to stop and begin our beach combing work. Because of some recent health issues, I was too fatigued to do the miles of walking required to thoroughly scour the beach for sand dollars, whelks, starfish, cockle shells, sundials or any of the many other treasures we hoped to find. So for today, Kathleen had the beach entirely to herself.
I pulled my beach chair from the car, set it in place and planted myself to enjoy the ocean breezes, the blue sky with its scudding white fluffy clouds, and the many different birds that might present themselves to me for observation. The screeching laughing gulls and the terns were scanning the breaking waves at the shoreline in search of a meal, the sanderlings and the “always there” Willets raced back and forth along the shoreline and the Brown Pelicans flew in perfect formation patrolling the beach. So I settled in to rest, enjoy and just be present in that moment. I leaned back in my beach chair and gazed up at the cloud formations and it happened.
I spotted a very large bird soaring high in the sky, higher than most of the regular beach loving birds. I could hardly believe my good fortune. She was huge and effortlessly gliding with the thermal waves around, up and down and through that beautiful blue sky. She was the queen of the air, a magnificent specimen for sure. So impressive that this bird has the name of Magnificent Frigatebird. A name like that tells us right up front that this must be a special bird. And so she is. Her giant forked tail was my first clue to her identity coupled with her large size and great white breast. The male and female are distinctively different from one another, more so than any other bird species. She has a massive white breast and he sports a brilliant red throat. This bird has a nickname of Man O’War because of its speed, sleek body lines and the ability to steal fish from other birds. They spend most of their lives soaring high above the ocean and rarely descend to land on the ocean. They build shaky platforms in mangroves on which to lay their eggs. A group of frigatebirds is known as a “flotilla” or “fleet” of frigatebirds. Seriously…a fleet or flotilla! With a wingspan of 6-8 feet these are extremely large birds!
Unfortunately for this one moment in time, I had forgotten my camera back at our hotel room so I was forced to record this beautiful bird only in my memory. Later I wrote about her in my Bird Journal and painted a poor image of what I had seen. I have no regrets of not having the photos (Well, maybe a few). I was forced to record it with the best camera in the world, my eyes, and store it on the best computer hard drive ever made, the brain. That moment, the memory of her beauty will remain with me always. It was a special communion with nature at its finest.