Our first stop in our new roaming lifestyle was Brownsville, Texas.
Anna spent the first month there by herself, as I finished up my
work for Lyondell Chemical. I joined Anna the day before our 12th
wedding anniversary. The apartment furnished for us was in the Las
Palmas apartment complex. These were nicely furnished apartments
for business professionals. Our only complaints was the apartment
had a tiny kitchen and was poorly lit, but part of this was that
the windows all faced north (away from the sun).
Here is the view from our balcony.
Anna had already explored part of Brownsville, and I spend the
first few of days doing the same thing. The one thing that really
surprised me about Brownsville was the number of small ox-bow lakes,
or resacas, that are scattered throughout the city. They really
make nice little scenic nature spots all over the city.
After the first spending little time together, Anna and I quickly
set out to explore more of South Texas. We had been from Laredo
to Brownsville once before, but that was a quick trip and had been
several years ago.
We explored many local nature and wildlife areas, of which there
are many in South Texas. Here are some of ones we visited: Laguna
Atascosa NWR, Sabal
Palms Audubon Sanctuary ,
Padre Island Nature Center, Santa
Anna NWR, Valley
Nature Center, Frontera
Audubon Thicket, and Los
Boca Chica Beach area, Isla
Blanca County Park, and Adolph
Thomas County Park were also great places to go.
Later, we also traveled to Kingsville to attend the South Texas
Wildlife and Birding Festival. While there we saw an excellent raptors
show, including free flights outdoors, along with several interesting
seminars. Then we went on a personal wildlife
and birding tour of the King
Ranch, with just Anna and myself (plus the guide). This was
a wonderful tour and we only wished it was longer. But the driver
had to get back to pickup his next group. Anna saw her first wild
turkeys, in the wild that is, during this tour and luckily the males
were all strutting their stuff.
When the weather wasn't cooperating, we spent more time exploring
around Brownsville or other nearby cities. The Glades
Porter Zoo in Brownsville is very nice ,
and we would highly recommend a visit to anyone going to Brownsville.
Anna particularly liked to open air animal exhibits, where the animals
were free to roam on islands and isolated plateaus without bars.
The first time that we went, I spent more time taking pictures of
some of the South Texas specially birds that make the zoo home than
I did of the zoo animals (I got some strange looks from the locals
while doing this). There were also some nice quaint historical museums
not far from the zoo and downtown areas.
Another specialty of Brownsville that we spent some time chasing
were the flocks of wild parrots .
These can be seen near the zoo at the Dean Porter Park, but we found
them a lot more frequently at the Oliveira Park off of Los Ebanos
Road. It took us over a month to finally find these birds. During
my sister, Cay's, visit we searched a number of times all over town
with no luck. Then Anna and I found out what our problem had been.
We were not staying late enough in the day, as the parrots are easiest
to find just before dark when they come in to roost. While my sister
was visiting we probably left both parks just minutes before the
parrots showed up. In one case it could not have been more than
10 - 15 minutes. The birds are actually very easy to find just before
sundown, about 5:30pm when we were there, as the flocks of these
birds make a noise that can be heard for blocks! Several people
told us to listen for them, but they didn't express just how loud
and boisterous these birds are! Once you hear them they are hard
to mistake. My biggest complaint about seeing them at dusk was that
it was very hard to get any pictures that late in the day, with
the low light and wind that Brownsville seems to get during the
winter. When we did frequently get to see them we found that there
were three different species in the flocks. There are red-crowned
parrots (the only native variety, having migrated up from north-eastern
Mexico), white-fronted parrots, and red-lored parrots. The last
two probably having escaped from captivity and joined the wild birds.
These birds would come in to the park(s) in flocks of 100+ birds
Quite a sight here in the United States.
Of course, we took several trips to South
Padre and Port
Isabel. We spend our time there walking the beaches looking
for shells, taking the dog for a walk ,
and just enjoying the surf. We also enjoyed the boardwalk at the
Nature Center ,
checking out the local restaurants, and of course I had to try out
the fishing around Laguna Madre (nothing great to report, but I
did see the results of a couple of red tides). One thing that is
really worth noting is the water clarity in the Laguna Madre and
the Gulf this far south. Coming from the Houston/Galveston area
the clarity of the water was a very pleasant surprise. It was "gin
clear" to about 2 - 3 feet, and the surf was mostly blue. You
don't see this in the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. One other very nice
difference here was the lack of trash on the beaches. This, I think,
is mainly due to the difference in ocean currents that bring all
the trash from the boats and oil platforms to the Upper Coast. There
were even sea urchins on the rocks around the fishing piers. Nothing
great in a lot of places, I know, but something that I have never
seen along the Texas coast before. Everything said here also goes
for the Boca Chica beach area that we visited even more often, and
preferred, because it is undeveloped and less crowded .
The other part of South Texas that was new to us and somewhat of
a surprise was the huge agricultural industry. Particularly the
citrus groves .
We knew that southern Texas produced oranges and grapefruits, but
had no idea how many orchards and trees there were. They are everywhere.
Big ones, little ones, even individual trees planted as wind breaks
between the other planted fields. Tangerine, lemon, and lime trees
were also everywhere you looked. All were just common lawn trees
around many houses.
We stopped at the Golden
Raintree Citrus Gardens in Weslaco
one day, before another trip into Mexico at Nuevo Progreso ,
to send boxes of fruit to several of our family members.
There were also large fields of cabbages, aloe vera, parsley, cilantro,
tomatoes, and peppers. All of these were easy to find even in winter.
We became a little spoiled by the easy access and prices at the
many small product vendors and stands. Buying 2 to 3 pounds of tomatoes,
bananas, limes, peppers, and onions for a dollar! Large bags of
oranges or grapefruits for $2. Huge bunches of cilantro for .25
cents. Needless to say, we kept making a fresh salsa almost constantly!
We also make a number of trips west to Edinburgh to visit the Hawk
family, who are friends of Anna's parents, and are now our's too.
We kept trying to go out on a deep sea fishing trip with them, but
it just didn't work out. Maybe next time we are in South Texas?
To get back to our trips to the wildlife and nature sites I would
like to list some of the animals that we encountered. A lot of big
white-tailed deer, javelina, feral hog (razorbacks), bobcat, gray
fox, coyote, green jay, great kiskadee, altamira oriole, vermilion
flycatcher, couch's kingbird, long-billed thrasher, white winged
dove, white tipped doves, common ground dove, green kingfisher,
ringed kingfisher, belted kingfisher, grove-billed anis, plain charchalaca,
buff-bellied hummingbird, harris hawk, white-tailed hawk, cooper's
hawk, osprey (everywhere), white-tailed kite, peregrine falcon,
aplomado falcon, chihuahuan raven, great horned owl, least grebe,
and many more other more common birds. Plus the three different
species of parrots .
Oh, and let's not forget a very large rattlesnake in Laguna
Atascosa Refuge that tried to bite the car as we drove by.
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