Heading to Texas

Thursday, March 31

We left home at 7:30am a day later than we’d planned due to some nasty weather. We stayed steady on the road and arrived just north of Atlanta, GA in time for lunch at Farmhaus Burger. The food was really good with lots of vegan options.

We stopped in Montgomery, AL and had dinner at Wentzel’s Oyster House in downtown Montgomery after settling into our hotel. I ordered the fried oysters but they didn’t have any, so I got the shrimp and grits. Alan got the broiled seafood platter. On the way to our truck a young man asked if we had any food we could give him, so I gave him our snacks from inside the truck.
Stayed at Holiday Inn Airport just outside of Montgomery, AL good comfy quiet 4.0

Friday, April 1

We got on the road at 6:30 and headed to Winnie, TX, just northeast of Houston. Once we’d registered at the hotel, we drove to Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary, which is maintained by the Houston Audubon Society. We walked out onto the boardwalk and saw plenty of spoonbills, egrets and some herons. It was late and the sun had already faded, so we headed back to the hotel. On the way back we hit a grocery store for granola bars and Pop tarts for breakfast, sandwich fixings for lunches, and some pre-made salads and a bunch of black grapes for dinner for tomorrow.

Saturday, April 2

We were on our way back to Smith Oaks at 7:00. We walked out onto the boardwalk again and took a bunch of pictures of great regrets, spoonbills, and snowies. In the parking area we purchased two badges to get us in to a number of Audubon spots in the area. We checked out Boy Scout Camp trails and walked about a mile there. Then drove all the way up to Savine, paid their fee, and walked around for some more birding. Since our hotel was on the way to Galveston, we stopped there and had some PBJs for lunch. We drove to the south end of High Island and saw some curlews and two other unknown shore birds at an historic park while I also scoped out a lighthouse shoot I wanted to do Sunday night. We took the ferry over to Galviston and stopped at a good birding spot and saw 5 yellow crowned night herons together on a tree overarching a canal. We drove to several of Galviston’s birding hot spots but didn’t see much. On the way to Artists Preserve we got some great shots of a scissor-tailed flycatcher. Our last spot was the best – Laffite’s Cove Nature Society. We saw a bunch of fulvous whistling ducks, solitary sandpipers, green-winged teals, and more. It was a lovely walk too. By now it was 6:30 and too hungry to wait the 1.5 hour drive back to our hotel, we stopped at Jimmy Changas for dinner.

Sunday, April 3

We made a lazy morning of it and had breakfast at the hotel before heading out to Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. The point Alan had put into the truck’s GPS was over an hour away so I “attended” church virtually along the way until I lost the signal. When we arrived at our destination there was no signage, and the road had gone from nice gravel road to a sketchy-single-lane banjos-playing-in-the-background dirt and mud road, and there was no “entrance” that we could find. Alan had to back the truck up a long way before being able to turn around. We stopped once we were back on the nice gravel road and I looked up the refuge’s “visitor center” which, was another 30 minutes away. When we got to that location we found the gate closed. ~sigh~ Nevertheless, I got a picture of Aardi and we are counting it as visited. Next up, Big Thicket National Preserve, an hour in another direction from where we were. We checked in at the visitor center at Big Thicket and talked to the ranger there about hiking and birding. He told us about three trails we could try in the sprawling expanse that is the preserve. We picked Kirby Nature trail to try first. We heard plenty of parulas and other birds but never caught sight of one. It was a nice 1.5 mile hike though. About halfway through the hike I got a call from my oldest and dearest friend telling me her son was in the hospital on life support. I’ve known this 43 year-old since he was three. He was not expected to survive. He is an alcoholic and his liver, kidneys and other organs were destroyed. I cried with her, hugged her over the phone and told her I loved her. By the time we finished it was late, so we headed back to the hotel where we downloaded our pictures from the last few days and reviewed them. We ate yesterday’s leftovers for dinner. Around 6:30 we headed out to the south end of High Isle so I could try and shoot pictures of the crescent moon as it set over the top of a lighthouse. The wind and the clouds were troublesome, but I am holding out hope that one or two pictures turned out.
Comfort Inn, Winnie, TX 4.5 clean, quite, comfortable

Monday, April 4

After breakfast at the hotel we drove down to South Padre Island, gassing up at a Buc-ees along the way. We stopped in a little town called Sinton and had a delicious lunch at Taqueria la Tapatia. While we were there Alan looked up the Padre Island National Seashore and saw that the visitor center was only a little bit out of way. We changed our direction and headed there. South Padre National Seashore road is the world’s longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island. We went inside the visitor center, picked up a brochure, and I stamped our National Parks book. We took our cameras out to the beach and got a few nice shots of some shore birds that we will ID later. On the way out of the park we saw a group of white pelicans and a few more shore birds. Afterward we gassed up at Sam’s Club then continued on to South Padre, checked in at our hotel, and had pre-made salads for dinner. Alan also had his leftover quesadilla from lunch. My friend called to tell me her son had passed last night. We reminisced about him for awhile. While we talked I dug up some pictures of him as a child on my laptop and emailed them to her for the Celebration of Life gathering that his friends were planning.

Tuesday, April 5

After a simple breakfast and showers we drove to the South Padre Birding and Nature Center. There, we paid the entry fee and walked the boardwalks a few times, taking lots of pictures. I tried like crazy to get a decent photo of the swallows in flight. On our way out we saw three great kiskadees. Since we hadn’t heard from Hector yet, we stopped at Walmart for meals to take to the ranch, just in case. We had PBJs in the truck then went and washed the salty sea spray off at a carwash. Then I got the email from Hector – the ranch will feed us. From there we headed to Laguna Atascosa NWR for some hiking and birding. The temps hit 95° so we were glad to get back inside the truck with the A/C blasting. Next stop, Santa Clara Ranch! It was an hour-and-a-half drive to the ranch gate where I got out and opened so Alan could drive through. We are set up in one of the 4 bungalows. Tonight we met Alisha and Gavin, two of the guests that came in at the same time we did.
Holiday Inn South Padre, 4.6 comfy, clean, quiet.