Birding for Life
Oh, the memories come flooding back when I think about my very first trip to Austin, Texas! It was an exhilarating adventure filled with twists and turns, and it all began with a dash through O’Hare Airport in pursuit of my flight to Florida. You see, I was on my way to spend a delightful couple of weeks with my parents while my husband embarked on the task of finding us a new apartment.
I vividly recall the mixture of excitement and apprehension as I boarded the plane, fully aware of the news circulating at the time that flights to Florida were occasionally being hijacked to Cuba. But rather than succumbing to fear, I chose to remain vigilant and determined to reach my destination. The first leg of my journey took me to Houston on a magnificent jet, a thrilling experience in itself. From there, it was time to board the final leg of my voyage—a charming little propeller plane bound for the wonderful city of Austin.
Now, here’s the remarkable part: this remarkable journey occurred in the year 1968, a time when I was eight months pregnant with my first child. Yes, you read that right! My baby boy, David, was nestled warmly within me as I ventured into the skies and touched down in Austin. Little did I know that just a month later, my precious son would make his grand entrance into the world at the esteemed Bergstrom Air Force Base right there in Austin, adding an extraordinary chapter to our family’s story.
Ah, the memories of that journey are etched in my mind forever, and they serve as a testament to the resilience and spirit of adventure that defined those days. Austin, with its rich history and vibrant atmosphere, will always hold a special place in my heart.
Ah, the joyous moments leading up to and following the birth of my son David in 1968! These precious memories were beautifully captured through photographs taken in the enchanting backdrop of Bastrop State Park.
In those cherished snapshots, you can see me radiating with anticipation, my growing belly a testament to the new life growing within me. The natural beauty of the park provided the perfect setting for capturing the excitement and love that filled the air.
And then, in the blink of an eye, my world was forever changed as I held my newborn son in my arms. The sheer bliss and overwhelming emotions of those early moments are palpable in the photos taken at Bastrop State Park. The serene surroundings of towering trees and lush greenery serve as a symbolic representation of the fresh chapter unfolding in our lives.
Looking back, those photographs evoke a flood of nostalgia, transporting me back to a time filled with hope, wonder, and the infinite possibilities that come with the arrival of a precious child. Bastrop State Park will forever hold a special place in my heart as the backdrop to these treasured memories of the early days of motherhood.
Adventures in Texas: Exploring Nature and Reconnecting with Family
March 2017 marked a journey that felt refreshingly effortless compared to my previous travels. With my trusty Subaru Outback as my companion, I embarked on a road trip to the vibrant city of Austin, Texas. The purpose of this particular expedition was twofold: to reunite with Trissie, the mother of my son Dave’s daughter, Amber, and to indulge in my enduring passion for birding.
Although the circumstances had changed since our time together in China, where Dave and Trissie had once been a couple, life had taken its own course. While Dave had remained in China, Trissie had made her way back to the United States and found new love with Mike, to whom she is now engaged. Despite the shifts in our familial dynamics, our shared memories and love for nature created a sense of familiarity and connection.
One thing that delighted me was Trissie’s understanding of my deep-seated addiction to birding, cultivated during our time together in China. Knowing that my feathered friends held a special place in my heart, I realized that this family visit could seamlessly intertwine with my birding pursuits. What better way to bond and create lasting memories than to explore the rich avian wonders of the Texas landscape together?
As I set off on this unique adventure, anticipation mingled with nostalgia. I knew that Austin and its surrounding areas offered an abundance of birding hotspots, from lush parks to picturesque lakes. Armed with my camera and binoculars, I eagerly embraced the opportunity to capture the ethereal beauty of these winged creatures while strengthening the bonds with my extended family.
Each day brought new discoveries and encounters. The vibrant hues of the Painted Buntings enchanted us, while the elegant Great Blue Herons commanded awe with their majestic presence. The melodic trills of the Northern Mockingbirds accompanied our conversations, as if welcoming us to their captivating realm. From the regal Red-tailed Hawks to the charismatic Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, the avian inhabitants of Texas painted a mesmerizing tableau that delighted both my family and me.
In between birding expeditions, we relished heartfelt conversations, sharing stories of the past and dreams for the future. Trissie’s presence, coupled with the stunning natural landscapes, added an extra layer of joy and warmth to our birding adventures. It was a trip filled with both rekindled connections and newfound appreciation for the beauty that surrounded us.
As the days unfolded, our shared experiences deepened our understanding of one another, reminding us of the bonds that endure beyond geographical distances and changing circumstances. The trip to Austin became more than just a birding escapade; it became a chapter of cherished memories woven into the tapestry of our lives.
So, dear friends, as I reflect upon that remarkable journey in March 2017, my heart is filled with gratitude for the ease of travel, the opportunity to reunite with loved ones, and the enchantment of exploring nature’s wonders. May we all find moments to nurture our passions, strengthen connections, and embrace the beauty that surrounds us, whether it be in the flight of a bird or the embrace of family.
✨ Happy travels and joyful birding to all! ✨
Oh, how my road trip skills have grown and evolved over time! I find myself becoming more adept at navigating the open road, although there is still much to learn, especially when it comes to planning my birding adventures. During my recent journey, I encountered a few challenges but also experienced delightful surprises along the way.
The first day of my expedition was accompanied by relentless downpours, as heavy storms accompanied me for a significant portion of the drive. However, as if by some stroke of luck, the skies cleared up and greeted me with a crystal-clear evening sky upon reaching Nashville. While my original plan to visit a specific park had to be postponed due to time constraints, I stumbled upon a hidden gem just a short distance from my hotel – the marvelous J. Percy Priest Dam.
My ability to find joy in the simplest of things truly shone through during this serendipitous encounter. One of the highlights of my time there was observing the most adorable mixed-breed Mallard I had ever laid eyes upon. Its charming antics brought a smile to my face as I marveled at its unique beauty. I couldn’t help but marvel at the intricate feet of the coots, studying their elegant movements and the way they effortlessly glided through the water.
However, the real spectacle unfolded before my eyes as I witnessed a fascinating scene involving a Common Loon. This majestic bird, driven by its insatiable appetite, grappled with a remarkably large fish, attempting to gulp it down with great determination. The sheer determination and the extraordinary sight of this struggle left me captivated, offering a glimpse into the intricate lives of these remarkable creatures.
In moments like these, I am reminded of the profound beauty that nature offers, even in the most unexpected places. It is these simple yet profound encounters that enrich my journey and ignite a deep sense of wonder within me.
As I continue to refine my road trip skills, I eagerly look forward to further honing my birding knowledge and planning abilities. There is always something new to discover, a lesson to learn, and a bird to marvel at. Each leg of my journey presents an opportunity to uncover hidden gems, witness fascinating behaviors, and immerse myself in the enchanting world of birds.
So, dear friends, let us embrace the joy of the open road, the thrill of unexpected encounters, and the awe-inspiring moments that nature graciously bestows upon us. May we continue to find delight in the simplest of pleasures, be it the charm of a mongrel Mallard or the determination of a Common Loon grappling with its dinner.
✨ Happy road tripping and marvelous birding to all! ✨
On the second day of my adventure, I eagerly drove to the captivating city of Texarkana, where I decided to spend the night on the Arkansas side. Although my initial plan to explore a location near Little Rock didn’t quite pan out, I was determined to make the most of my time and seek out some magnificent Arkansas birds before continuing my journey into Texas.
As the sun rose on the following morning, a sense of magic filled the air. The weather was simply perfect – abundant sunshine, an ideal temperature, and a gentle breeze. It was as if nature itself had conspired to make this day an unforgettable one. My destination for the morning was Alex Smith County Park, which, as it turned out, became one of the highlights of my entire trip.
Driving along a rustic dirt road, I passed by the official park area, a serene lake, and a vibrant wetland, all leading me towards the majestic river that lay ahead. It was a picturesque route that promised a bounty of avian wonders. As I arrived at the lake, I was greeted by a captivating sight – a flock of several dozen Gadwalls gracefully gliding upon the calm waters.
What happened next was truly a spectacle of beauty. The Gadwalls, with their elegant flight and distinct white speculums shimmering in the sunlight, embarked on a synchronized journey from one side of the lake to the other. The gleaming spectacle of their wings against the backdrop of a sun-kissed sky left me breathless. In that moment, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had stumbled upon something truly extraordinary.
The sight of those Gadwalls in flight, their radiant feathers reflecting the sunlight, etched itself into my memory as one of the most captivating moments of the entire trip. It was a reminder of the incredible beauty that resides in nature’s delicate tapestry, a beauty that can be found in the simplest of gestures or the play of light on a bird’s plumage.
As I continued my journey, fueled by the wonder of that morning encounter, I carried with me a renewed appreciation for the magic that lies within every birding expedition. The allure of Alex Smith County Park and its inhabitants will forever hold a special place in my heart, reminding me of the boundless treasures that await those who seek to explore the world of birds.
So, my fellow adventurers, may you find joy in the unexpected moments, cherish the beauty that nature bestows upon us, and embrace the magic that resides within each and every birding excursion. Let the wings of the Gadwalls guide you to awe-inspiring encounters and let the sunlight illuminate the path to unforgettable experiences.
✨ Happy travels and marvelous birding to all! ✨
Oh, what a magnificent sight awaited me at Alex Smith County Park in Arkansas! There, amidst the serene beauty of the park, I was privileged to witness a Hermit Thrush, basking in the gentle rays of the sun.
In that tranquil setting, this graceful avian creature perched elegantly, its feathers shimmering with hints of earthy hues. The golden sunlight illuminated its form, casting a warm glow upon its delicate frame. It was a moment of pure serenity, as if the world had paused to appreciate the captivating beauty of this Hermit Thrush in its natural habitat.
As I gazed upon this mesmerizing scene, I couldn’t help but be humbled by the sheer elegance and tranquility emanating from the bird. The Hermit Thrush seemed to be in perfect harmony with its surroundings, embracing the gentle warmth of the sun’s embrace.
In that fleeting moment, nature granted me the privilege of witnessing its secrets and reminded me of the profound connection we share with the avian world. The Hermit Thrush, in its solitary yet captivating presence, evoked a sense of peace and harmony that resonated deep within me.
It is moments like these, when we witness nature’s wonders in their purest form, that remind us of the boundless beauty that surrounds us. The Hermit Thrush at Alex Smith County Park became a symbol of serenity, a reminder to embrace the simple pleasures and find solace in the harmony of the natural world.
May we all be fortunate enough to witness such awe-inspiring encounters, where birds become ambassadors of tranquility and nature’s marvels come alive before our very eyes.
Happy birding and may the beauty of the Hermit Thrush inspire us all! ✨
Exploring Balcones Canyonlands: A Reunion, Nature’s Beauty, and Hope
Oh, the joy of arriving in Austin and reuniting with Trissie, accompanied by the excitement of meeting her new partner, Mike! The vibrant city welcomed me with open arms, and together, we embarked on a memorable journey to reconnect, create new memories, and delve into the captivating landscapes that Texas had to offer.
Our first full day together, a Saturday filled with endless possibilities, was a testament to the warmth and generosity of my hosts. To my delight, Trissie and Mike graciously indulged my passion for birding by taking me on a special trip to Balcones Canyonlands, a sanctuary where two endangered species, the Golden-checked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo, find refuge and breed.
Although it was a tad early in the season to catch a glimpse of these elusive species, the sheer beauty of the landscape did not disappoint. As we ventured into Balcones Canyonlands, a symphony of nature unfolded before our eyes. Towering canyons, lush vegetation, and breathtaking vistas painted a picture-perfect scene, providing a glimpse into the diversity and splendor of this protected area.
While my heart yearned to witness the vibrant hues of the Golden-checked Warbler and hear the melodious songs of the Black-capped Vireo, the absence of these endangered birds did not dampen our spirits. Instead, we embraced the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the tranquility of the surroundings, basking in the wonders of nature’s untouched beauty.
As Trissie and Mike explored the trails and embarked on their own hiking adventure, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hope. Hope that they would discover their own hidden gems, stumble upon scenic vistas that took their breath away, and create their own cherished memories within this natural haven.
Balcones Canyonlands became more than just a destination for birding. It became a symbol of the profound connection we share with the natural world and a testament to the importance of preserving and protecting our fragile ecosystems. It reminded us that even in moments when the birds elude our sight, the sheer splendor of nature has the power to inspire, uplift, and foster a sense of wonder.
So, dear friends, as I reminisce about our time at Balcones Canyonlands, my heart swells with gratitude for the reunion, the exploration, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead. May we all find solace and joy in the beauty of our surroundings, cherish the connections we forge with one another, and remain hopeful for the future of our natural world.
✨ Happy adventures, marvelous encounters, and a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature to all! ✨
Oh, the captivating male Ladder-backed Woodpecker! It was my great fortune to witness this remarkable species not once, but twice, during my explorations at Commons Ford Park and Pedernales Falls State Park.
In the enchanting setting of Commons Ford Park, nature unveiled its treasures, and there it was – the male Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a true marvel of the avian world. Its vibrant plumage, adorned with intricate patterns, caught my eye as it skillfully maneuvered among the trees, displaying its remarkable agility and striking beauty.
Little did I know that this delightful encounter would be but the beginning of my journey with this captivating woodpecker. Fate granted me another opportunity to witness its splendor at Pedernales Falls State Park. Once again, the male Ladder-backed Woodpecker graced my presence, as if weaving its way into the tapestry of my birding adventures.
In that moment, as I observed this extraordinary creature, I couldn’t help but be in awe of its resilience and adaptability. The Ladder-backed Woodpecker served as a reminder of nature’s intricate diversity and the wonders that unfold when we immerse ourselves in its embrace.
Commons Ford Park and Pedernales Falls State Park became the stages where this magnificent woodpecker showcased its unique qualities. It was a privilege to witness its striking features, observe its foraging techniques, and marvel at its distinct markings. These experiences allowed me to deepen my connection with the natural world and fueled my passion for documenting the beauty that surrounds us.
As I reflect upon these encounters, my heart is filled with gratitude for the countless wonders that nature reveals, and for the cherished moments spent with the male Ladder-backed Woodpecker. May we all continue to be inspired by the marvels of the avian realm, cherishing each encounter as a precious gift and embracing the beauty that lies within every feathered inhabitant of our planet.
Happy birding and may the Ladder-backed Woodpecker continue to grace our lives with its enchanting presence! ✨
Exploring Commons Ford Park: A Joyful Morning of Birding and New Discoveries
Sunday morning dawned with a promise of adventure and the anticipation of discovering new avian wonders. In the company of dear friends, Andrew Dickinson, a true connoisseur of Austin’s birding scene, guided us through the enchanting realm of Commons Ford Park. Joined by Trissie and Mike, who embraced the early morning call with enthusiasm, we embarked on a memorable outing that would introduce us to the captivating world of Travis County birding.
As we ventured deeper into the park’s verdant landscapes, nature unveiled its secrets, revealing a tapestry of Western bird species that filled our hearts with awe. Andrew’s keen eye and deep knowledge led us to an early surprise – the Northern Parula, its vibrant plumage adding a splash of color to the serene surroundings. It was a thrilling moment, as if nature itself had conspired to greet us with this delightful encounter.
For me, the journey into Travis County opened the door to a whole new realm of birding. I was captivated by the unique sights and sounds that adorned this western landscape. Amongst the vibrant chorus of avian melodies, my eyes feasted upon the beauty of the Spotted Towhee, the charismatic presence of the Black-crested Titmouse, and the lively antics of the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.
But the true gems of this expedition were the enchanting woodpeckers that graced our path. The Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, with their distinctive markings and rhythmic drumming, added an extra layer of fascination to our birding experience. It was a privilege to witness these splendid creatures in their natural habitat, their presence evoking a sense of wonder and reminding us of the remarkable diversity that nature offers.
As we roamed the trails, our senses heightened by the chorus of bird songs and the gentle rustle of leaves, I couldn’t help but feel a deep appreciation for the privilege of witnessing such moments of natural harmony. The camaraderie shared among friends, the joy of exploration, and the thrill of discovering new species created an indelible bond, forever etching this day into our memories.
Commons Ford Park served as a gateway to the enchanting world of Travis County birding, unveiling its treasures with grace and charm. It was a testament to the power of nature to unite kindred spirits and ignite a shared passion for the avian wonders that surround us.
As we bid farewell to this remarkable haven, our hearts overflowed with gratitude for the experiences shared, the knowledge gained, and the beauty that unfolded before our very eyes. May the spirit of this adventure inspire us to cherish every moment spent in nature’s embrace, to celebrate the diversity that surrounds us, and to foster a deep love for our feathered companions.
Happy birding and may each journey bring you closer to the wonders that lie beyond! ✨
In the afternoon, we decided to embark on a tour of the magnificent Texas State Capitol, feeling it was an activity befitting any curious traveler. To our pleasant surprise, the experience surpassed our expectations, captivating our hearts and leaving us enthralled by the rich history and allure of this iconic landmark.
As we stepped foot into the grand halls of the capitol, we were immediately enveloped by a sense of awe and admiration. Its imposing architecture and grandeur spoke volumes about the significance of this historical site. What initially seemed like a touristy endeavor soon transformed into a remarkable journey of discovery and appreciation.
With each step we took, the captivating stories unfolded, showcasing the vibrant tapestry of Texas’s past and its enduring spirit. From the intricate details of the artwork adorning the walls to the resounding echoes of footsteps through the corridors, every aspect of the capitol seemed to hold a piece of history, a testament to the legacy it embodied.
As we delved deeper into the tour, we found ourselves captivated by the passionate narratives shared by our knowledgeable guide. From the chambers where decisions shaping Texas’s destiny were made to the ornate furnishings that stood as testaments to its cultural heritage, every corner of the capitol resonated with a profound sense of significance.
Our initial surprise turned into genuine delight as we realized how much we were drawn into the captivating world of the Texas State Capitol. What we expected to be a mere touristy endeavor evolved into a meaningful exploration, immersing us in the heart of Texas’s cultural and political heritage.
It was a testament to the power of embracing the opportunities that travel presents, allowing us to uncover unexpected joys and develop a deeper appreciation for the places we visit. The Texas State Capitol became more than just a sightseeing destination; it became a cherished memory, a testament to the richness of human history and the wonders that await those who remain open to new experiences.
As we concluded our tour, we couldn’t help but reflect on the unexpected delight that the capitol had brought us. It reminded us of the beauty of stepping outside our comfort zones, venturing into the unknown, and discovering the hidden gems that lie within even the most popular tourist attractions.
May we always be open to the unexpected, allowing ourselves to be pleasantly surprised by the treasures that await us on our journeys. And may the allure of the Texas State Capitol continue to captivate the hearts and minds of those who wander its halls.
️✨️ Happy travels and may each adventure bring you unexpected joys and cherished memories! ✨
The Austin capitol grounds were teeming with an abundance of Great-tailed Grackles.
Monday proved to be an absolute delight, ranking high among my cherished moments. While Mike headed off to work, Trissie and I seized the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the natural splendor of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was a day filled with wonder and serendipitous encounters, making it truly unforgettable.
As we entered the center, our eyes were immediately drawn to a dedicated volunteer who warmly greeted us. With excitement in their voice, they directed our attention to a remarkable sight above the entrance to the courtyard – a majestic Great Horned Owl perched atop its nest. Known affectionately as “Athena” among the center’s staff, this awe-inspiring creature had chosen this very spot as its nesting ground for an impressive eight years.
In a moment of pure grace, Athena sat regally, observing the steady flow of visitors who marveled at her presence and eagerly captured her magnificence through their lenses. It was as if she understood the sanctuary that the Wildflower Center provided, granting her a safe haven from potential predators. Her serene demeanor and watchful gaze spoke volumes, radiating a sense of tranquility and assurance.
For us, it was a privilege to witness such a unique bond between nature and the human realm. The beauty of the moment was not lost on us as we joined countless others in admiring Athena’s majestic form and documenting her tranquil existence. Her stoic presence became a symbol of the harmonious coexistence between wildlife and those who appreciate and protect it.
As we ventured further into the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we were embraced by the vibrant blooms and delicate fragrances that filled the air. It was a day of exploration, a celebration of nature’s resilience and the lasting impact of Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy.
In that enchanting space, Trissie and I found solace, inspiration, and a deep sense of connection with the natural world. It was a reminder that within these protected havens, like Athena, life unfolds with grace, inviting us to pause, appreciate, and protect the wonders that surround us.
May the spirit of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center continue to nurture our love for nature and inspire us to preserve the delicate balance between human existence and the flourishing ecosystems that sustain us all.
Happy explorations and may each encounter remind us of the enduring beauty and resilience of the natural world!
Take a closer look beneath the sotol plant to catch a glimpse of Athena’s eyes peering over the edge of the planter.
In the Enchanting Realm of Butterflies: Discovering the White-striped Longtail
Nestled within the captivating butterfly garden, a haven of vibrant blooms and delicate fluttering wings, I embarked on a journey of discovery and wonder. Amongst the kaleidoscope of colors and ethereal dance of butterflies, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a newfound treasure – the White-striped Longtail.
As I ventured deeper into the garden, my eyes were immediately drawn to the delicate movements of this enchanting butterfly. Its wings, adorned with intricate patterns and hints of ethereal white stripes, captivated my attention and ignited a spark of excitement within me. Here, amidst the blooming flora, I found myself in the presence of a newfound beauty, one that had eluded me until this very moment.
With bated breath, I observed as the White-striped Longtail gracefully navigated from flower to flower, its wings carrying it effortlessly through the air. Each delicate flutter was a testament to the elegance and resilience of these winged creatures. It was a sight to behold, a glimpse into the intricate tapestry of nature’s wonders.
In that fleeting encounter, time seemed to stand still as I immersed myself in the splendor of this newfound butterfly. Its presence reminded me of the delicate interconnectedness of all living beings and the boundless beauty that exists within the natural world. I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for being granted this precious opportunity to witness the White-striped Longtail in all its glory.
The butterfly garden became a sanctuary, a sanctuary where dreams took flight and the marvels of nature unfolded before my very eyes. Amidst the gentle whispers of the breeze and the vibrant hues of blossoms, I was reminded of the intricate balance that exists within these serene ecosystems, where butterflies play a vital role as pollinators, bringing life and color to the world around us.
As I bid farewell to the butterfly garden, the memory of the White-striped Longtail lingered within my heart, forever etched as a symbol of nature’s endless wonders. May its delicate presence serve as a reminder of the hidden treasures that await us when we venture into the realms of nature, and may it inspire us to cherish and protect the fragile ecosystems that sustain these magnificent creatures.
Happy explorations and may each encounter bring you closer to the mesmerizing beauty that dwells within the natural world! ✨
Behold, the stunning Texas Spiny Lizard, a true marvel of nature’s design.
A Tribute to Lady Bird Johnson: Embracing Her Enduring Legacy
Immersed in a world of captivating books and a tapestry of knowledge, Trissie and I embarked on a journey of discovery, guided by the pages that unfolded before us. In the enchanting space filled with literary treasures, we found ourselves engrossed in the beautiful books that beckoned us to explore their depths. Among these literary gems, one figure stood out, captivating our attention and inspiring us with her remarkable legacy – Lady Bird Johnson.
As we delved into the pages that chronicled Lady Bird Johnson’s life, a sense of awe washed over us. Her indomitable spirit, unwavering dedication, and profound impact on the environmental landscape left an indelible mark on both of us. Through her tireless efforts, she paved the way for positive change and spearheaded numerous initiatives that enhanced the natural beauty of our world.
The films that gracefully unfolded before our eyes offered a glimpse into Lady Bird Johnson’s remarkable journey. Her unwavering commitment to conservation, her advocacy for the preservation of wildflowers, and her tireless efforts to protect and restore the delicate balance of our ecosystems left us in awe. Her vision, coupled with her unwavering determination, showcased the transformative power of one individual’s dedication to creating a better world.
Trissie and I found solace and inspiration in the remarkable life of Lady Bird Johnson. Her countless accomplishments and profound contributions served as a catalyst for change, instilling within us a renewed sense of appreciation for the environment that surrounds us. We realized that even the smallest actions can create a ripple effect, and that each of us has the power to make a difference.
Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy serves as a reminder that we are custodians of this planet, entrusted with the responsibility to protect and preserve its natural wonders for future generations. Her life’s work resonates deeply within us, inspiring us to embrace our own roles as stewards of the environment and champions of positive change.
As we bid farewell to the beautiful books and the film that brought Lady Bird Johnson’s story to life, we carried with us an increased appreciation for her numerous environmental contributions. Her unwavering dedication to protecting our planet and her vision for a more beautiful world ignited a flame of hope within our hearts.
May we continue to draw inspiration from the remarkable life of Lady Bird Johnson, and may her legacy serve as a guiding light, reminding us of the transformative power we hold within ourselves to create a world that embraces harmony, beauty, and sustainability.
Let us honor her legacy and work together to create a brighter, greener future! ✨
Trissie relishing the beauty of the arboretum within the serene grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Our next adventure took us to the iconic Alamo, a destination that Trissie and I were eager to explore. It’s a place that holds significant historical value, and we felt privileged to have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in its rich heritage. While Trissie and I were captivated by the experience, we understood that for some, a single visit suffices. Mike, therefore, was pleased that Trissie could accompany me, embracing the chance to be a tourist in this renowned landmark.
After delving into the captivating stories and admiring the historical artifacts at the Alamo, we continued our explorations by strolling along the picturesque riverfront. The tranquil ambiance of the river, coupled with the vibrant surroundings, provided the perfect backdrop for reflective moments and leisurely walks. As we savored each step, we reveled in the joy of being tourists, appreciating the opportunity to absorb the essence of this remarkable city.
The combination of history, culture, and natural beauty made our time at the Alamo and along the riverfront a truly unforgettable experience. It reminded us of the importance of embracing our roles as travelers, as we have the privilege of immersing ourselves in diverse landscapes, learning from the past, and forging connections with the places we encounter.
As we concluded our visit, Trissie and I felt a sense of fulfillment and gratitude for the memories we had created. The Alamo had left an indelible mark on our hearts, reminding us of the importance of preserving history while appreciating the present moment. The riverside walk provided solace and serenity, serving as a gentle reminder that even amidst bustling tourist attractions, tranquil spaces await, inviting us to slow down, reflect, and immerse ourselves in the beauty that surrounds us.
♀️✨ As we bid adieu to the Alamo and the enchanting riverfront, we carried with us the essence of this memorable outing, cherishing the blend of history, exploration, and the simple joys of being travelers in a remarkable world.
May each journey awaken a renewed appreciation for the wonders that lie within our reach, and may we continue to embrace the spirit of discovery with open hearts and curious minds.
Happy travels, and may your path be filled with captivating destinations and cherished memories!
On Wednesday, I embarked on a solo adventure to Pace Bend Park, a place that captivated my senses and held the promise of endless exploration. As I set foot into this natural haven, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by its sheer beauty and tranquility. Little did I know that this park had so much to offer, and I quickly realized that a single day wouldn’t be enough to fully immerse myself in its wonders.
Although I hadn’t consulted the eBird reports beforehand, I didn’t let my lack of preparation dampen my spirits. While I may have missed out on some remarkable avian sightings, I still managed to stumble upon a few delightful surprises. One of the highlights of my trip was encountering the elusive Canyon Towhee, a species that proved to be a true gem among the wilderness. Its presence added a touch of excitement to my journey, reminding me of the hidden treasures that await those who venture off the beaten path.
In addition to the Canyon Towhee, I had the pleasure of encountering more Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays, captivating creatures that gracefully inhabited the park’s diverse ecosystem. Their vibrant plumage and melodious calls resonated with the essence of the wilderness, captivating my attention and stirring a sense of awe within me.
As I wandered through the park, my eyes were drawn to the delicate fluttering of butterflies, their colorful wings painting the air with a symphony of hues. Each encounter with these delicate creatures filled my heart with joy and admiration for the intricate beauty that exists in the natural world. They served as a reminder that even in the smallest of creatures, there is an immense capacity to inspire and evoke a sense of wonder.
Reflecting upon my visit to Pace Bend Park, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret for not delving into the eBird reports beforehand. Nonetheless, this journey taught me a valuable lesson in preparedness and the importance of seeking guidance from fellow bird enthusiasts. It served as a reminder that every adventure holds the potential for discovery, and even in the absence of expected sightings, there is still so much to be appreciated and admired.
As I bid farewell to Pace Bend Park, I carried with me a sense of fulfillment and gratitude for the experiences I had. This serene sanctuary had provided me with moments of solitude, reflection, and encounters with nature’s wonders. It reaffirmed my love for the outdoors and left me yearning for future explorations, armed with newfound knowledge and a deeper appreciation for the treasures that await in the natural world.
May we all embrace the spirit of adventure and remain open to the surprises that await us on our journeys. Let us be inspired by the resilience of nature and the beauty that unfolds when we immerse ourselves in its embrace.
Happy trails, and may each step bring you closer to the breathtaking wonders that await in the great outdoors! ✨
Introducing the Enigmatic ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak: A Hidden Gem of Nature’s Palette
During my recent exploration of the great outdoors, I was fortunate enough to encounter a remarkable butterfly species known as the ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak. This elusive beauty, adorned with a kaleidoscope of colors, instantly captivated my attention and ignited a sense of wonder within me.
Perched delicately upon a lush juniper branch, the ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak unveiled its splendor, its wings displaying a mesmerizing blend of hues reminiscent of an artist’s palette. The vibrant olive tones gracefully melded with subtle hints of iridescent blues, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that seemed almost surreal.
As I observed this captivating creature, I couldn’t help but marvel at the intricate patterns that adorned its wings. Delicate lines and intricate designs, resembling fine brushstrokes, seemed to tell a story of harmony and balance within nature’s grand tapestry. The ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak had effortlessly woven itself into the vibrant fabric of its habitat, becoming a living testament to the wonders that abound in the natural world.
Despite its small stature, the ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak exuded an aura of elegance and grace. Its delicate flight pattern and gentle movements harmonized with the gentle breeze, creating a ballet of beauty in the air. It was a moment of pure serenity, a glimpse into the hidden wonders that nature generously bestows upon us.
As I bid farewell to this enchanting creature, I carried with me a profound appreciation for the intricate beauty that exists in the world around us. The ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak served as a gentle reminder to cherish the fleeting moments and seek solace in the delicate intricacies that often go unnoticed.
May we all embrace the spirit of exploration and cultivate a deeper connection with the natural world. Let us open our eyes to the hidden gems that grace our paths, whether they be the fluttering wings of a butterfly or the vibrant petals of a wildflower. Through these encounters, we can embark on a journey of discovery, where beauty unfolds at every turn.
✨ May the ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak inspire us to see the world through a lens of wonder, appreciating the intricate details that make life so extraordinary. Let us celebrate the splendor of nature’s creations and strive to preserve the delicate balance that sustains the incredible diversity found within our ecosystems.
In the realm of butterflies, each species tells a unique story, and the ‘Olive’ Juniper Hairstreak is no exception. Its presence adds a touch of magic to the natural tapestry, reminding us of the extraordinary wonders that await those who dare to look a little closer.
Let us embark on an exploration of the natural world, where every encounter brings us closer to the breathtaking marvels that await us.
As the sun began its gentle descent on the horizon, a serendipitous encounter awaited us at Commons Ford Park. Carlos Ross, a newfound friend forged through the realms of Facebook, joined us in our quest for the elusive Common Poorwill. It was a tranquil evening, and the park embraced us with its peaceful solitude, as if knowing that something extraordinary was about to unfold.
With anticipation in the air, the four of us embarked on a journey intertwined with conversations about the enigmatic world of birds and the mysteries of life itself. As we shared our thoughts and stories, a sense of camaraderie blossomed, strengthened by our shared passion for avian wonders. Nature provided the perfect backdrop for our exchange, its subtle whispers adding depth to our discussions.
As the minutes ticked by, we remained immersed in a state of heightened awareness, attuned to every sound that graced the twilight symphony. And then, like a gentle melody carried by the wind, the soft calls of the Common Poorwill reached our ears. “Poor will, Poor will,” it echoed in the distance, a testament to the magic that dwells within the natural world.
In that fleeting moment, a wave of elation washed over me, for this elusive creature marked my only life bird of the entire trip. It was a testament to the allure of birding, where every encounter holds the potential to ignite our spirits and leave an indelible mark on our hearts. The Common Poorwill had gracefully woven itself into the fabric of my memories, forever reminding me of the power of connection and the joy found in the pursuit of our passions.
As the evening drew to a close, we bid farewell to Commons Ford Park, carrying with us the echoes of laughter, the warmth of newfound friendship, and the joy of a life bird sighting. It was a reminder that the true essence of our journeys lies not only in the destinations we reach, but also in the meaningful connections we forge along the way.
️✨ Let us cherish these encounters with nature, for they have the power to unite us, inspire us, and unveil the hidden treasures that await those who seek them. May the spirit of camaraderie and the joy of discovery continue to guide us on our paths, as we embark on new adventures and embrace the beauty that surrounds us.
Behold the Splendor of the Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker! ️✨
In my exploration of the natural wonders, I was fortunate to cross paths with the captivating Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Adorned in nature’s brushstrokes, she graced the trees with her presence, captivating all who beheld her beauty.
With her distinctive markings and elegant demeanor, the Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker stood as a testament to the harmonious blend of grace and strength found in the avian realm. Her plumage showcased a stunning combination of earthy tones, with rich golden hues adorning her forehead, a crown befitting her regal status.
As I observed her in awe, she traversed the branches with finesse, her rhythmic drumming echoing through the forest. With each strike, she revealed her resourcefulness and determination, a symbol of resilience in the face of nature’s challenges.
The Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker became a muse, inspiring me to embrace the beauty of the natural world and find solace in its intricate wonders. In her presence, I witnessed the delicate balance between strength and gentleness, a reminder that true beauty lies not only in vibrant colors but also in the quiet moments of serenity.
As I bid adieu to this magnificent creature, I carried with me a renewed appreciation for the diverse tapestry of life that surrounds us. The Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker served as a reminder to celebrate the extraordinary within the ordinary, to seek inspiration in the seemingly mundane, and to cherish the moments of connection with nature’s magnificent creations.
️✨ May the spirit of the Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker guide us to explore the wonders of our world, reminding us that true beauty is found not only in grand gestures but also in the subtleties that often go unnoticed. Let us embrace the allure of the natural world, where every encounter unfolds a story waiting to be discovered.
Oh, the Temptation to Stay: A Day of Avian Marvels in Texas! ️✨
As the time to bid farewell to the enchanting realm of Texas birds approached, a sense of longing tugged at my heartstrings, urging me to prolong my stay. Captivated by the vibrant avian tapestry that adorned this land, I found it impossible to tear myself away. Fortunately, the gracious invitation from Trissie and Mike granted me another day to revel in the splendor of feathered wonders.
Inspired by a passionate volunteer we had encountered earlier in our journey at the LBJ Wildflower Center, we set our sights on the mesmerizing Pedernales Falls State Park for our grand finale. Anticipation filled the air as we ventured into the park, our hearts brimming with eagerness for the treasures that awaited us.
As we stepped into the bird blind, a gasp escaped my lips, and my eyes widened in awe. Before me lay a bird oasis, meticulously crafted to entice and embrace these exquisite creatures. A magnificent pool, akin to a sparkling jewel, and tree stumps adorned with suet, stood as beacons of allure, beckoning the birds to grace us with their presence. And they did not disappoint.
In a symphony of colors and melodies, the avian inhabitants emerged, dancing upon the stage of our admiration. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers stole the show, their vibrant plumage a testament to nature’s artistry. A flock of Cedar Waxwings, like ethereal visitors from a dream, frolicked in the shimmering pool, creating a sight that etched itself into our memories forever.
Amidst this avian spectacle, other esteemed guests made their appearances. The Spotted Towhee and the elusive Lincoln’s Sparrow graced us with their presence, their beauty accentuated by the serene surroundings. Each sighting filled our hearts with a deep sense of gratitude, for these were encounters that defied the confines of ordinary days.
Though our list of species numbered modestly at 16, each one held a special place in our hearts. The spirited Bewick’s Wren, a bird elusive elsewhere on this journey, captivated us with its melodious songs and charming demeanor. In these moments, we reveled in the joy of discovery, for it is not the quantity but the quality of these encounters that truly ignites our spirits.
As the sun began its descent, casting its golden hues upon the landscape, we basked in the fulfillment that this final day had bestowed upon us. We carried with us the echoes of laughter, the shared awe, and the cherished memories of our time together. It was a day of avian marvels, a testament to the indescribable magic that unfolds when we immerse ourselves in the natural world.
️✨ Let the echoes of this extraordinary day reverberate within us, reminding us of the profound connections we forge with nature and the boundless wonders that await those who seek them. May we carry this spirit of awe and appreciation into our future journeys, where each step unravels a story waiting to be witnessed.
Bidding Farewell to the Lone Star State: A Serene Goodbye at Pedernales Falls
As the time came to embark on my journey homeward, a bittersweet feeling enveloped my heart. The parting from dear Trissie was a poignant moment, leaving behind cherished memories of shared adventures. Yet, my insatiable thirst for the beauty of Texas birds urged me to seize the opportunity for one last avian rendezvous.
With a glimmer of greed in my eyes, I set my course westward, driving for two hours towards the captivating Pedernales Falls. Awestruck by the astonishing transformation that awaited me, I marveled at the contrasting ambiance that unfolded before my eyes. A gentle hush enveloped the surroundings, as if nature itself held its breath in reverence of this new day.
The tranquility that blanketed the landscape was a stark contrast to the vibrant energy of our previous visit. The chorus of bird songs that once filled the air had momentarily subsided, creating an almost surreal atmosphere. Yet, amidst the peaceful solitude, I found solace in knowing that this was a moment of quiet introspection, a time for reflection and appreciation of the wonders that nature bestows upon us.
Pedernales Falls, in all its serene majesty, served as the perfect setting for my final Texas birding expedition. As I ventured along its picturesque trails, each step became a testament to the remarkable beauty that graced these lands. Though the avian residents may have chosen to remain hidden, their absence did not diminish the profound impact that this place held in my heart.
With every breath, I inhaled the essence of this enchanting sanctuary, imprinting its tranquility within my soul. I paid homage to the grandeur of the falls, their cascading waters an eternal reminder of nature’s enduring power. In this moment of quiet contemplation, I bid my farewell to the Texas skies, grateful for the memories woven throughout my journey.
As I embarked on the road leading east, a sense of fulfillment accompanied me. Pedernales Falls had bestowed upon me a sense of closure, a fitting conclusion to my Texas birding escapades. Though the feathered inhabitants may have eluded my gaze, their presence lingered within me, forever etched in the tapestry of my experiences.
As I left behind the tranquil embrace of Pedernales Falls, I carried with me a newfound appreciation for the fleeting moments of serenity that nature bestows upon us. May these memories serve as a gentle reminder of the harmonious connection we share with the natural world and inspire us to seek solace and wonder in the hidden gems that await our discovery.
Capturing the Beauty of a Pine Warbler at an Arkansas Rest Stop Along I-30
The Joy of Serendipitous Discoveries: A Road Trip Homeward Bound
As I embarked on my journey homeward, the open road stretched before me, carrying with it a sense of tranquility and the promise of new encounters. I had learned the art of pacing myself, understanding the importance of savoring each moment along the way. With this newfound wisdom, I embraced the rest stops that peppered my route, transforming them into brief respites of avian exploration.
Every rest area became a sanctuary of opportunity, a chance to step out of the confines of my car and immerse myself in nature’s embrace. Armed with my trusty binoculars and camera, I wandered through these transient oases, eager to discover the treasures hidden within. While the inhabitants were often familiar faces like robins and chickadees, the allure of the unexpected always lingered in the air.
It was during one such stop in the enchanting state of Arkansas that fortune smiled upon me. As I strolled along the rest area, my gaze met the delightful sight of a vibrant male Pine Warbler gracing the branches of a nearby tree. Its resplendent plumage adorned the landscape, adding a touch of brilliance to the otherwise ordinary setting. In that moment, I was reminded of the magic that lies within even the simplest of encounters.
Though this road trip had reached its conclusion, the fire of wanderlust continued to burn within me. The allure of future adventures beckoned, their destinations intertwined with the promise of reuniting with dear friends like Trissie and Mike. The call of Texas birds and butterflies resonated deep within my soul, promising new chapters in my avian odyssey.
With each passing mile, I carried the memories of this journey as tokens of inspiration. The uneventful drive home had gifted me with priceless lessons in patience and the art of embracing the present moment. As the wheels turned and the scenery changed, I reveled in the knowledge that future road trips lay ahead, each one an opportunity for serendipitous encounters and the unearthing of hidden wonders.
As I bid adieu to the open road, I held onto the spirit of exploration that had accompanied me throughout. The allure of distant horizons and the symphony of nature’s chorus beckoned me once more. Until our paths intertwine again, Texas and its winged inhabitants shall remain a beacon of fascination, eagerly awaiting my return to their captivating embrace.
The road less traveled awaits, and with it, a tapestry of new experiences yet to be woven. Until then, may the allure of nature’s wonders guide our souls and inspire us to embark on journeys that expand our horizons and awaken our sense of wonder.
The Beauty of Texas Indian Paintbrush: A Captivating Wildflower
The Scenic Vista from The Bund on a Day Shrouded in Overcast Skies
A Serendipitous Encounter with Birders on The Bund in Shanghai, China
“Believe it or not,” my son Dave remarked as we strolled along the renowned waterfront promenade known as The Bund in central Shanghai, “there are some birders here.” I couldn’t help but be intrigued by his statement, as birding in China was not a common sight. To my astonishment, there, amidst the bustling crowds, stood two men and a woman, their binoculars and scopes trained upon the gulls that graced the river.
Curiosity piqued, we approached the group, extending warm greetings and introducing ourselves. To my amazement, one familiar face emerged from the camaraderie of birders. It was Craig Brelsford, an American birder residing in Shanghai with his wife, Elaine Du, and their birding companion, Michael Grunwell. Our paths had crossed before, as we were both members of the Birding China Facebook group. The serendipity of our meeting in this vibrant cityscape left us all marveling at the delightful coincidence.
As we conversed, a tapestry of shared experiences unfolded before us. Our discussions effortlessly traversed topics ranging from the wonders of China and its diverse birdlife to our mutual interests in websites and travel. Elaine expressed surprise upon learning of Dave’s ventures to Baoshan, a city nestled in the enchanting western province of Yunnan. Their exchange of insights and stories painted a vivid picture of their respective journeys to this captivating region.
Amidst the vibrant ambiance of The Bund, we discovered an oasis of connection and kinship. The passion for birds and exploration bound us together, transcending borders and cultural differences. As the gulls gracefully glided across the river, we reveled in the shared delight of birding and the beauty of our chance encounter.
In that moment, our encounters bridged the gaps between continents, igniting a sense of unity and fostering a deeper appreciation for the boundless wonders that this world has to offer. As the sun began to set over the skyline of Shanghai, we bid farewell to our newfound friends, enriched by the exchange of experiences and the reminders that the love for birds knows no boundaries.
Reflecting upon this remarkable meeting on The Bund, I am reminded of the power of shared passions and the profound connections that can be forged through the lens of nature. It is encounters like these that remind us of the beauty that awaits around every corner and the joy of discovering kindred spirits on our remarkable journey through life.
Dave, Resplendent in Formal Attire, Prepared for the Memorable Awards Ceremony in Shanghai
Embracing the Vibrant Spirit of China: A Journey to Shanghai
It was March 4 when I set foot in China, embarking on my fourth visit to this captivating country to reunite with my eldest son, who had made Shenzhen his home since early 2008. This time, however, our adventures led us to the bustling city of Shanghai, as Dave had been chosen as an awards presenter for a prestigious organization akin to the renowned Guinness World Records.
In China, these awards hold immense significance, and we found ourselves amidst an esteemed gathering of approximately 200 individuals who had convened to witness this momentous occasion. The venue was abuzz with anticipation as we prepared for the presentation. Excitement and a palpable sense of honor filled the air, as three exceptional accolades were to be bestowed upon deserving recipients.
Among the esteemed awards of the day, one held particular intrigue—a recognition for the world’s largest enamel floor. Such an achievement exemplified the extraordinary dedication and craftsmanship that the Chinese people pour into their creations. The attendees, from all walks of life, eagerly awaited the unveiling of the remarkable accomplishments that had earned these accolades.
As the ceremony commenced, a palpable sense of awe swept through the room. The meticulous attention to detail, the grandeur of the venue, and the unwavering focus on excellence left an indelible impression. Dave, exuding an air of elegance and confidence, stepped onto the stage, ready to fulfill his role as the presenter.
Witnessing this extraordinary event firsthand, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the profound respect and admiration that the Chinese people hold for their achievements. It was a testament to their unwavering pursuit of greatness, pushing boundaries and setting new standards.
Throughout the ceremony, the room was alight with conversations, a symphony of voices celebrating the brilliance and innovation that abounded. The sense of camaraderie was palpable, as like-minded individuals gathered to honor the ingenuity and passion that had shaped these extraordinary feats.
As the evening unfolded, the collective energy of the crowd became electrifying. It was a moment of shared appreciation for the extraordinary human potential, a celebration of the remarkable achievements that unite us as a global community.
Reflecting on our time in Shanghai, I am reminded of the boundless ingenuity that exists within every corner of our world. It is in these moments of recognition and celebration that we come together, transcending cultural boundaries and embracing the universal language of human achievement.
In the weeks to come, as I bid farewell to China and embarked on my journey back home, the memories of this remarkable experience would forever remain etched in my heart. The vibrant spirit of Shanghai, the resolute pursuit of excellence, and the collective celebration of human accomplishments would continue to inspire me, serving as a reminder that the world is a vast tapestry of extraordinary stories waiting to be explored.
As the lights dimmed and the applause filled the room, I marveled at the power of these awards to uplift, inspire, and unite. They serve as a testament to the limitless potential that resides within each of us and the profound impact we can make when we dare to dream big and push the boundaries of what is deemed possible.
With gratitude for the enriching journey I had embarked upon, I bid farewell to Shanghai, knowing that the memories forged during this time would forever ignite a spark of wonder and awe within my soul. And with a renewed sense of appreciation for the collective spirit of human achievement, I embarked on the next chapter of my adventure, eager to embrace the endless possibilities that await.
The exquisite blue and gold enamel floor was adorned with a captivating array of images depicting fish and various marine creatures, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of oceanic wonders.
By early afternoon, Dave had completed his duties, allowing us to embark on an adventurous exploration of The Bund. Craig and Michael, ever the knowledgeable birders, pointed out a small flock of Black-headed Gulls that had eluded my binoculars. We engaged in lively discussions regarding the identification of the majestic white-headed gulls, with Michael confidently asserting that they were Mongolian Gulls.
A likely Mongolian Gull spotted gracefully gliding over the waters of the Huangpu River.
The next morning, filled with anticipation, Dave and I set off for Shanghai’s Century Park, a destination that promised exciting birding opportunities. Craig’s endorsement of our plan further fueled our enthusiasm, especially when he mentioned the likelihood of encountering the elusive Pale Thrush. To my delight, it didn’t take long before I spotted one perched among the foliage – my first life bird of the trip!
As we continued our birding expedition, Dave’s sharp eyes caught sight of a curious creature resting on a nearby branch. Instinctively, I reached for my camera, eager to capture this intriguing avian specimen. However, our enthusiasm was momentarily interrupted by a young Chinese woman who unintentionally disrupted our observation by approaching the exact spot where my lens was aimed, causing the bird to take flight. Nonetheless, I managed to catch a glimpse of its crest resembling that of a tit or bunting, coupled with a vibrant yellow throat. With these distinct features, I identified the bird as a Yellow-throated Bunting, marking another thrilling addition to my life bird list.
The highlight of my visit to Century Park was undoubtedly the captivating presence of a Red-flanked Bluetail. This fascinating bird caught my attention as it engaged in a captivating encounter with a millipede. With great patience and determination, the bluetail diligently worked on its prey, taking its time before finally swallowing it whole. Witnessing this unique behavior left me in awe of nature’s intricate intricacies and the remarkable adaptations of these beautiful creatures.
A stunning Red-flanked Bluetail spotted within the serene landscapes of Shanghai’s Century Park.
After our eventful time in Shanghai, Dave and I decided to squeeze in some more sightseeing before bidding farewell to this vibrant city. We explored its bustling streets, taking in the sights, sounds, and flavors that make Shanghai truly unique. In the evening, we indulged in a delightful dinner, savoring the culinary delights that the city has to offer.
The following morning, we embarked on our journey back to Shenzhen, our hearts filled with cherished memories of Shanghai’s enchanting blend of tradition and modernity. As the plane soared through the sky, we couldn’t help but reflect on the wonderful experiences we had shared and the lasting impressions this trip had left on us. Shanghai, with its dynamic energy and rich cultural heritage, had captured our hearts, and we knew that one day we would return to explore even more of its wonders.
Indulging in the delectable delights of dim sum, Dave, Amber, and I gathered around a table filled with steaming bamboo baskets, eager to embark on a culinary adventure. The aroma of freshly steamed dumplings, savory buns, and delicate pastries filled the air, tantalizing our taste buds and igniting our excitement.
We carefully selected a variety of dim sum dishes, each one a miniature work of art. The translucent shrimp dumplings, glistening with a delicate sheen, promised a burst of succulent flavors with each bite. The fluffy char siu bao, filled with tender barbecued pork, offered a delightful blend of sweet and savory notes. And let’s not forget the steamed custard buns, their golden exteriors hiding a velvety, creamy center that melted in our mouths.
As we savored each morsel, we shared stories and laughter, cherishing this special moment of togetherness. Dim sum, with its vibrant array of flavors and communal dining experience, served as a reminder of the joy that comes from sharing good food and creating lasting memories with loved ones.
With contented smiles and satisfied palates, we bid farewell to the dim sum feast, knowing that this culinary adventure would forever hold a special place in our hearts.
Unlike my previous trips, which revolved around intensive birding, this time I shifted my focus to quality time with my son Dave and my delightful three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Amber. It was a chance for me to immerse myself in the joy of family bonds and create lasting memories. To my delight, I also had the opportunity to meet Dave’s girlfriend, Rachel, and her wonderful family, which added an extra special touch to the trip.
Arriving on a Friday evening, I had the delightful opportunity to join Rachel’s family for their cherished Saturday tradition: dim sum. For those unfamiliar, dim sum is a Chinese culinary tradition originating in Guangzhou, also known as Canton, which is conveniently located just an hour away from Shenzhen. Comparable to a family-style meal featuring an assortment of shared appetizers, dim sum offers a wide variety of delectable dishes to sample. Personally, it ranks among my favorite types of Chinese cuisine, as it allows me to explore and savor a diverse range of flavors. Food holds a significant place in Chinese culture, and every meal is an abundant celebration of culinary delights.
One of the highlights of my visit was the chance to make dumplings with Amber and Rachel’s father. It seemed like a fun and straightforward task, but little did I know that it would be more challenging than anticipated. As we gathered around the kitchen counter, we started the process of folding and shaping the dumplings, each of us trying our best to create the perfect little parcels.
I quickly realized that achieving the right balance of filling and dough was trickier than I had imagined. As I carefully wrapped the dough around the savory filling, my dumplings seemed to barely hold together. I watched in awe as Rachel’s father effortlessly crafted beautiful dumplings, their shapes perfectly symmetrical and tightly sealed.
Despite the less-than-perfect outcome of my own dumplings, the experience was filled with laughter and camaraderie. We shared stories, tips, and a genuine appreciation for the art of dumpling-making. It was a reminder that culinary skills are honed over time, and I still had much to learn in the realm of dumpling craftsmanship.
When the dumplings were finally cooked and ready to be enjoyed, we eagerly gathered around the table. As we bit into the imperfectly shaped dumplings, the flavors burst in our mouths, making the effort worthwhile. The joy of the shared experience and the taste of our homemade creation created a beautiful memory that I will cherish.
Making dumplings with Amber and Rachel’s father was a humbling yet delightful experience. It served as a reminder that sometimes the imperfect moments bring the most joy, and the journey of learning is just as important as the end result. I left the kitchen with a newfound appreciation for the skill and patience required to master the art of dumpling-making, and a determination to improve my own technique in the future.
Shortly after returning to Shenzhen, I had the pleasure of spending a delightful weekend with my granddaughter Amber and her mom, Trissie. Our destination of choice was the Evergreen Resort, a place we had previously visited back in 2014. However, this time we decided to extend our stay and enjoy an overnight getaway.
As we arrived at the resort, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia mixed with anticipation. The resort was as charming as I remembered, offering a plethora of outdoor activities for children. But one particular feature caught Amber’s attention and captivated her from the moment we set foot in the resort—the hanging bridge.
Amber, with her boundless energy and fearlessness, was drawn to the hanging bridge like a magnet. It seemed that nothing could deter her adventurous spirit. Back and forth she went, crossing the bridge with unwavering confidence, completely unaffected by its swaying motion. With each step, her giggles filled the air, and her eyes sparkled with joy.
Trissie and I marveled at Amber’s fearlessness and her sheer determination to conquer the bridge. We watched her as she explored every inch of the bridge, completely immersed in her own little world of excitement and wonder. Time seemed to fade away as the daylight slowly dwindled, and still, Amber showed no signs of tiring.
As the sun began to set, casting a warm golden hue across the resort, we reluctantly coaxed Amber away from her beloved hanging bridge. With her little hand clasped in ours, we walked back to our accommodations, reminiscing about the incredible display of bravery we had just witnessed.
Our overnight stay at the Evergreen Resort was filled with laughter, shared adventures, and unforgettable moments. The bond between generations grew stronger as we embraced the beauty of nature and the joy of being together. It was a weekend that left a lasting imprint on our hearts, reminding us of the importance of cherishing these precious moments with loved ones.
As we bid farewell to the Evergreen Resort and returned to the bustling city of Shenzhen, I couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible spirit of my granddaughter. Amber’s fearlessness and zest for life served as a reminder to embrace every opportunity for adventure, to live in the moment, and to find joy in even the simplest of experiences.
The weekend at Evergreen Resort was a cherished memory, and it reaffirmed the bond between grandparents, parents, and grandchildren—a bond that thrives on shared experiences, laughter, and the everlasting love that unites us.
Amber and Trissie venturing across the suspended bridge at Evergreen Resort.
After the weekend getaway, I found myself back at Dave’s place, and it didn’t take long for us to fall into a familiar routine, much like my previous visit. Each morning, I would take a solitary stroll to the nearby Shenzhen Central Park. In the afternoons, Dave, Amber, and I would embark on shared activities, making the most of our time together. Later in the day, Rachel would join us for dinner, completing our family gatherings. With Dave working from home and taking on the role of primary caregiver for Amber, we had the luxury of flexibility in planning our daily schedule.
Amber has an absolute passion for scaling trees.
The park was often bustling with activity as the locals strolled, chatted, relaxed, danced, and fully embraced the park atmosphere. With the constant flow of people and diligent maintenance, I had some doubts about spotting many birds. However, I was pleasantly surprised to encounter 30 different species in Shenzhen Central Park. Since I’m only familiar with the songs and calls of a few birds, I had to rely on visual cues rather than identifying them by ear, as I do back home.
Engaged in the task of clearing fallen flowers at Shenzhen City Park. This practice of meticulous cleaning can be witnessed across all of Shenzhen’s urban parks.
During my initial journey to China, I was elated to encounter Masked Laughingthrushes. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to observe them once more during my second visit. However, by my third trip, I became aware that these birds were among the most abundant species in Guangdong Province. Nevertheless, they remain one of my personal favorites.
The Masked Laughingthrush is a highly prevalent bird in Southern China.
The Asian Koels represent urban birding in China for me. I was captivated by the confident and striking male perched atop a tree, serenading with its melodious song against the backdrop of apartment buildings on the park’s edge.
The resonating calls of Asian Koels filled the air in almost every park I explored during my visits to Shenzhen.
Dave and Rachel were aware of my fondness for visiting parks, so they organized enjoyable and captivating weekend excursions to places farther away from home. Shenzhen boasts an impressive array of stunning parks and is often considered one of the greenest cities in China. However, despite spending ample time outdoors, it seems that many Chinese individuals maintain a certain detachment from nature. When we stumbled upon this delicate damselfly, Rachel’s initial response was, “Keep it away from me!” Yet, upon witnessing my sheer delight, she quickly joined me, eagerly getting as close as possible to capture a photo with her iPhone.
One of our most thrilling encounters with nature was witnessing these Clearwing Tiger Moths at Fairy Lake Botanical Garden. We dedicated a significant amount of time to marveling at and capturing photographs of these moths engaged in mating. Positioned on a narrow path, it was impossible for others to pass by without noticing the captivating subjects of our fascination. The exquisite beauty of these creatures caught the attention of every individual who crossed our path.
During our trip, one of the most remarkable encounters with nature took place at Fairy Lake Botanical Garden – the sighting of Clearwing Tiger Moths. This experience stood out as a true highlight, captivating our attention and leaving a lasting impression.
As we strolled through the beautiful garden, our eyes were drawn to these enchanting moths. Their translucent wings, adorned with delicate patterns, glistened in the sunlight, creating a mesmerizing sight. The vibrant colors and intricate details of these creatures truly showcased the wonders of nature.
With great excitement, we dedicated ourselves to observing and photographing these moths. Their graceful flight and intricate mating rituals fascinated us, and we were captivated by their elegance. We found ourselves completely immersed in their world, appreciating their beauty and marveling at their presence.
Our encounter didn’t go unnoticed by others who crossed our path. The allure of these Clearwing Tiger Moths was irresistible, attracting the attention and curiosity of fellow visitors. It was a shared moment of admiration and appreciation for the marvels of the natural world.
Reflecting on our time at Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, the encounter with the Clearwing Tiger Moths undoubtedly emerged as the nature highlight of our trip. It served as a reminder of the incredible diversity and beauty that surrounds us, and it left us with a profound sense of wonder and appreciation for the intricate wonders of the animal kingdom.
I set aside a full day for birding during my trip, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join Mike Kilburn, who had guided me on my first visit back in 2009. Although he was no longer working as a guide, he kindly extended an invitation for a day of birding in Hong Kong. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Since I hadn’t spent much time in Hong Kong before, I decided to arrive a day early and explore the city with my son, Dave. We opted to stay in Tsim Sha Tsui, a popular area in central Kowloon that attracts tourists from all over. It proved to be a fantastic choice, as we had the chance to immerse ourselves in the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
We took leisurely walks along the bustling streets, taking in the sights and sounds that make Hong Kong so unique. Kowloon Park provided a tranquil retreat amidst the urban chaos, where we reveled in the lush greenery and peaceful ambiance. The Science Museum was another highlight, offering fascinating exhibits that sparked our curiosity and ignited our sense of wonder.
This pre-birding day allowed us to appreciate the diverse facets of Hong Kong beyond its avian wonders. It provided a glimpse into the vibrant culture, architecture, and energy that define this cosmopolitan city. And as we embarked on our birding adventure the following day with Mike, we were armed with a deeper appreciation for Hong Kong’s multifaceted charm.
The following day, under the guidance of Mike, we embarked on a journey to Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong. Unlike the other islands in the region, Lantau boasts a less crowded and more serene environment, characterized by its rugged mountains and expansive landscapes.
Our first stop was Tai O, a historic fishing village with a rich history spanning three centuries. Tai O is renowned for its intricate network of waterways, charming stilt houses, and picturesque fishing boats that dot the scenery. As we explored the village, we were captivated by the unique cultural heritage and the mesmerizing views that unfolded at every turn.
It was a truly immersive experience, immersing ourselves in the traditional lifestyle and customs of the local fishing community. The sights, sounds, and vibrant atmosphere of Tai O left an indelible impression, reminding us of the profound connection between the people and the natural surroundings that shape their way of life.
Lantau Island proved to be a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders, and Tai O served as the perfect introduction to its captivating allure. Little did we know that there were even more surprises awaiting us as we ventured further into the island’s breathtaking landscapes.
Stilt houses, an iconic sight in Tai O, Hong Kong, left us in awe as we explored this picturesque fishing village on Lantau Island. The village’s distinctive charm lies in its unique architectural style, with houses standing on tall wooden stilts above the waterways.
As we wandered through the narrow lanes, we were greeted by a mesmerizing sight of stilt houses lining the shores, creating a harmonious blend of tradition and natural beauty. These elevated dwellings, designed to withstand the changing tides and potential flooding, are a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of the local inhabitants.
The stilt houses of Tai O offer a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle and close-knit community that has thrived here for centuries. The residents, mostly fishermen and their families, have maintained their connection to the water and the sea, relying on it for their livelihoods and shaping their way of life.
With their colorful facades and intricate architectural details, the stilt houses stood as a symbol of resilience, reflecting the spirit of the village and its people. Each house seemed to have its own story to tell, and we couldn’t help but imagine the daily routines, conversations, and shared memories that have unfolded within these humble abodes.
The sight of the stilt houses against the backdrop of the tranquil waterways created a postcard-worthy scene, inviting us to pause, reflect, and appreciate the simple beauty of this cultural gem. It was a humbling experience to witness the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature, as the stilt houses gracefully blended into the surrounding environment.
Visiting Tai O and witnessing the stilt houses was a truly enriching experience that deepened our understanding of the local heritage and left us with memories that will last a lifetime. It was a reminder of the unique and diverse cultural tapestry that Hong Kong has to offer, and we were grateful to have witnessed this hidden gem tucked away on Lantau Island.
I had the incredible opportunity to spot my third and final life bird of the trip at this location: the Gray-faced Buzzard. It was an exhilarating moment as five of these majestic birds gracefully soared through the sky above us.
As I scanned the horizon, my eyes locked onto the distinct features of the Gray-faced Buzzards as they glided effortlessly through the air. Their impressive wingspan and distinctive markings set them apart from other birds of prey. It was a sight that left me in awe of their aerial prowess and beauty.
Seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat was a true highlight of my birding journey. The Gray-faced Buzzards added a touch of rarity and excitement to the overall experience, reminding me of the wonders that nature has to offer.
I couldn’t help but appreciate the significance of this encounter. Each life bird holds a special place in a birder’s heart, and the Gray-faced Buzzard certainly left a lasting impression on me. It served as a reminder of the diversity and richness of bird species that can be discovered in different corners of the world.
As the five Gray-faced Buzzards gracefully disappeared into the distance, I felt a sense of fulfillment and gratitude. It was a fitting conclusion to my birding adventure, leaving me with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for the avian wonders that exist in our world.
Continuing our birding excursion, Mike led us to the picturesque region of Pui O on Lantau Island. Unlike the bustling urban areas, Pui O boasts a more rural and agricultural landscape, offering a serene and tranquil environment. It is in this captivating setting that a unique resident population thrives – the majestic water buffaloes.
Pui O is renowned as one of the last remaining habitats in Hong Kong where water buffaloes can be found. These gentle giants, with their imposing presence and tranquil demeanor, have become an iconic symbol of the area. Amidst the lush green fields and rolling hills, we had the privilege of observing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
As we ventured through the area, we caught glimpses of the water buffaloes grazing peacefully, gracefully moving among the fields and marshy areas. Their immense size and distinctive horns added to their charm, captivating our attention and evoking a sense of awe at their majestic presence.
It was a truly special experience to witness the coexistence of nature and agriculture in Pui O, where the water buffaloes have found a sanctuary amidst the changing urban landscape of Hong Kong. Their presence serves as a testament to the importance of preserving natural habitats and respecting the wildlife that inhabits them.
Our time in Pui O left a lasting impression, reminding us of the delicate balance between human activities and the preservation of biodiversity. It was a humbling encounter with these gentle giants, offering a glimpse into a world where nature and tradition intertwine, creating a harmonious environment that is worth cherishing.
During our exploration of Pui O on Lantau Island, we were captivated by the harmonious coexistence of two fascinating species: the majestic Water Buffalo and the elegant Cattle Egret.
As we wandered through the idyllic countryside, we encountered a scene that seemed straight out of a postcard. The vast open fields were dotted with the magnificent presence of Water Buffaloes, their imposing figures gracefully moving across the landscape. These gentle giants, with their sturdy build and impressive horns, symbolized the resilience and vitality of rural life.
Amidst the presence of the Water Buffaloes, we couldn’t help but notice the graceful companionship of the Cattle Egrets. These elegant birds, known for their symbiotic relationship with large grazing animals, perched atop the backs of the Water Buffaloes, forming a striking visual contrast against their dark coats. The Cattle Egrets diligently foraged for insects and small creatures in the grass, benefiting from the insects stirred up by the movement of their bovine partners.
The sight of these two species together was a beautiful example of the intricate connections found in nature. It was a delightful reminder of the interdependence that exists among different organisms and how they form a delicate ecosystem that supports and sustains each other.
As we observed this harmonious scene, we couldn’t help but be humbled by the sheer beauty and diversity of the natural world. It served as a poignant reminder of the importance of conservation efforts and the need to protect these habitats that provide a haven for such captivating species.
Our time spent in the company of Water Buffaloes and Cattle Egrets at Pui O was an enchanting experience. It offered a glimpse into the rich tapestry of life that exists beyond the bustling cities, and reminded us of the significance of preserving these natural spaces for generations to come.
During our exploration of the natural wonders at [location], I had the incredible fortune of encountering an avian marvel – the Intermediate Egret. This elegant and distinctive bird lived up to its name, as it showcased its unique characteristics that set it apart from its egret relatives, the Little Egret and the Great Egret.
As I observed the Intermediate Egret in its natural habitat, I couldn’t help but be captivated by its graceful presence. Standing between the smaller Little Egret and the larger Great Egret, the Intermediate Egret showcased a size that perfectly fit its intermediate classification. Its stature was a beautiful balance of elegance and strength, making it a remarkable sight to behold.
With its slender and elongated body, adorned with pure white plumage, the Intermediate Egret exuded a sense of regality. Its long, slender neck and sharp, pointed beak added to its distinctive appearance. As the bird gracefully moved through the wetlands, I marveled at its effortless agility, seemingly gliding on the air with each step.
The encounter provided me with an opportunity to observe the Intermediate Egret up close, revealing intricate details of its plumage and features. Its captivating yellow eyes, contrasted against the stark white feathers, added a touch of brilliance to its overall appearance. Every subtle movement and turn allowed me to appreciate the intricacies of its form.
This encounter with the Intermediate Egret left an indelible impression on me. It was not only a visual treat but also a reminder of the incredible diversity that exists in the avian world. Each species has its unique characteristics and adaptations, contributing to the rich tapestry of life on our planet.
As I continued my journey through nature’s wonders, I carried with me the memory of the Intermediate Egret and its enchanting presence. It served as a reminder of the beauty and diversity that can be found in even the smallest corners of our natural world.
Intermediate Egret spotted at Pui O.
It was a pleasure to reconnect with Mike during my visit to Hong Kong. I was thrilled to learn about his new position as Senior Manager, Environment, at the Airport Authority of Hong Kong. It’s impressive to see that the airport has dedicated efforts towards environmental initiatives, and I have no doubt that Mike is the perfect fit for such a crucial role.
We had a fantastic day together, exploring the beautiful locations and spotting various bird species. Time flew by quickly, and it was bittersweet to bid farewell to Mike and make my way back to Shenzhen. I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time with him and cherish the memories we created.
In the final days of my trip, I cherished precious moments with my family and made frequent visits to the nearby Shenzhen Central Park. One particular highlight that captivated me was the arrival of three White-shouldered Starlings at the park just before my departure. While I had encountered these beautiful birds once before during the Zoothera bird tour on my 2012 trip, this time I had the joy of discovering them on my own. It’s moments like these that make birdwatching truly special to me, allowing me ample time to observe and study these fascinating creatures in detail.
The White-shouldered Starling perched amidst the trees with magnificent, oversized flowers, drawing the attention of numerous bird species.
My month-long journey in China has come to an end, and it feels like time flew by in the blink of an eye. This being my fourth visit, the country has become familiar and comfortable to me. Although I miss my son Dave, my adorable granddaughter Amber, and the captivating birds of China, there is one thing I definitely don’t miss—the seven flights of stairs leading up to Dave’s apartment!
Reflecting on my experiences, I can’t help but think that another trip to China is in the cards for me. But for now, it feels good to be back home, surrounded by the familiar and comforting environment I’ve grown accustomed to. If you’re interested, you can explore more of my adventures and photographs from my time in China in my Flickr albums titled “China 2016 – Birds & Butterflies” and “China 2016 – People & Places.”
As I settle back into my routine, I carry cherished memories of the beautiful landscapes, vibrant birdlife, and the warmth of my family in China. Until my next adventure, I’ll continue to relish these precious moments and look forward to what the future holds.
Amber, the adventurous little explorer.
Summer Birding in Florida
Most birders tend to avoid visiting Florida during the summer months. And I would probably do the same if it weren’t for the fact that my step-daughters and my best friend live there. Having lived in Florida for over 30 years, it still holds a special place in my heart, and I seize every opportunity to visit, even during the summer. The mid-day heat and humidity can be quite intense, but the nights are usually pleasant and warm. The refreshing breeze from the Gulf of Mexico brings back cherished memories of my childhood summers spent at St. Pete and Clearwater beaches. How I wish my mother were here to witness how much I’ve inherited her love for the ocean. As a teenager, I longed for pristine white sandy beaches, while my parents appreciated the vibrant signs of life such as sandpipers, pelicans, fiddler crabs, and even living seashells.
During my summer birding adventures in Florida, I have been fortunate enough to experience numerous rewards. One particular highlight occurred on July 7, 2008, when I had the privilege of observing freshly fledged Snowy Plovers on Caladesi Island. It was a day entirely dedicated to the pursuit of these avian treasures, as they had become one of my top priorities to spot. Despite their ability to seamlessly blend into the sandy landscape under the scorching summer sun, my companion, David, swiftly located a cluster of five of these magnificent birds.
Loggerhead Shrikes are another remarkable species that stands out during the summer months. A particularly memorable encounter took place on June 27, 2009, when I had the sheer delight of observing a Loggerhead Shrike family at St. Pete’s North Shore Park. The experience filled me with excitement and awe as I witnessed these fascinating birds in their natural habitat.
A young Loggerhead Shrike relishes a meal delivered by one of its parents.
On June 22, 2013, we had the pleasure of observing a flock of 14 Black-necked Stilts, with several young ones among them, gathered in a ditch located between the road and the county landfill.
On June 22, 2013, we had the pleasure of observing a flock of 14 Black-necked Stilts, with several young ones among them, gathered in a ditch located between the road and the county landfill.