Arriving a few days before a big event allows me time to discover an area. Plus I can relax after driving so many miles. When given the opportunity though, a bicycle ride is a wonderful way to start a day! Off I went to the southern tip of South Padre Island to see the Jesus Christ of the Fisherman statue.
While at the statue I spent time looking at dolphins, birds, and talking with a man from Alaska. He lived there for 33 years and is now traveling and specifically interested in SpaceX launches. We sat here looking across the bay to the launch pad where they are testing the Starship. This huge rocket is being designed for future missions to Mars. The man is hoping to see the launch before he heads on.
I bicycled north on the island. It is a very pleasant approximately 12 mile ride with the wind at my back. Then the road ends in the middle of sand dunes. When I headed back to my campsite and the wind was in my face, it made for a not-so-enjoyable ride! But you do what you have to do and keep pedaling!
This night I stayed at CD&J Mini Ranch, a Harvest Host in San Benito, Texas. They have an amazing place with goats, turkeys, chickens, beef cattle, and greenhouse producing various greens. Plus a waterway to view many birds. The people were very informative about the area. I parked my van to watch the lunar eclipse from 3 – 5 in the morning without even getting off my mattress! I did see my first Altamira oriole here!
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
It is not possible to visit all the locations listed on the birding festival registration during the festival. So I decided to visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on my own ahead of the festival. On my way to the visitor center, I saw ocelet road-crossing signs. But then I saw a big brown animal crossing the road! It looked like a weird-shaped cow. I knew from my reading it is a nilgai (pronounced nil gi) antelope, or also called bluebuck. I wish I had my camera out to take a photo, but I did not! This animal was introduced in Texas in the 1930’s originally from India/Pakistan. Now there are over 30,000 of them, hunted for their good meat. I learned the animal has a tick detrimental to other animals here in Texas …another reason for the hunt.
Certain areas of the refuge were closed due to the hunt in progress. Fortunately I still had a couple of trails open to walk. That was plenty since it was at least 85 degrees and humid. A couple of bird blinds allowed me to get some photos. I drove out to Osprey Overlook and saw plenty of birds there, but no osprey! A couple of bird photos from today:
Early to bed at the hotel. I decided it easiest to be sleeping right at the festival’s location. Transportation to the birding spots leaves at 6:00AM. Thus easier for me to roll out of a hotel room and catch my ride. Looking forward to my first bird festival field trip tomorrow!