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Travelogue of Our Roamings

Fall and Winter of 2005


Wichita | San Antonio | Rock Hill | Tucson | Tulsa - Gordonville | Houston

Brownsville, Texas

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 , South Padre Island Nature Center, Santa Anna NWR, Valley Nature Center, Frontera Audubon Thicket, and Los Ebanos Preserve.

The 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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