February 12, Austin & Padre Island

Starting January 10, my sister Nancy and I spent a few days in Austin visiting our brothers and their families. She and I had a good time visiting on the trip there and back as well as a very good time while we were in Austin. We stayed with our brother Lloyd and wife Ferrell, who moved into a new house last year. It's a spacious and comfortable home and we each had our own bedroom. Richard and Beverly came over whenever we called so we got to visit with them quite a bit too. Lloyd's daughter Leslie and her husband Jonathan adopted two young boys from Ethiopia last year--Abraham (Abi, 4 then) and Charlie (2). Leslie brought the two boys over to a park near Lloyd's and we got to meet them in a relaxed and fun environment; then we visited again the next day in Leslie's home. The boys seem to be adjusting well to their new life, and as expected, were very shy around we strangers. Both are small for their ages but are growing like crazy and eating everything within reach. Abi, who recently had his 5th birthday, is already speaking English fluently, and both have beautiful smiles. Ben is taking having two new brothers in stride, while Zazie is having a hard time adjusting to having two extra boys in the house. I think she may feel outnumbered. Leslie and Jonathan are simply amazing.

Ben at the park

Lloyd, Abi and Leslie

Bev, Leslie, Richard & Ferrell


Shortly after Nancy and I got back to Highlands, Riley and I took off for the Padre Island National Seashore south of Corpus Christi. The beach sand was soft and the tide was in, so we opted to stay in the campground--no utilities but concrete under our tires and still right at the beach so we could hear the surf. Richard and Beverly drove down from Austin and spent several days with us, so we did lots of birding! We went on the boat trip out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the main purpose of which is to see Whooping Cranes but along the way you get to see many other birds too. We got a good look at the cranes and counted almost 50 species for the trip. We also went to Kingsville and did the birding tour of the King Ranch again, counting 86 species. The highlight for this trip was two owls--the Burrowing Owl and the Barn Owl. Also, we were happy to see the Solitary Sandpiper which we had seen only once before (last year) and was a life bird for Richard and Bev. We didn't see a Green Kingfisher on the King Ranch but the guide told us about a spot on a creek on the east edge of Kingsville where we could look for it. We went there and sure enough it showed up, along with a Belted Kingfisher, right where he said it would be. This was the best look I've ever had of the Green Kingfisher, though I have seen it briefly several times before. This time it was close and posed very nicely in an open area on the opposite side of the creek--very exciting! Too bad we are not photographers.

Richard, Bev & Margie looking for Whooping Cranes

Next day Richard and Bev headed back to Austin and we went back to Padre Island for another week. The weather was beautiful and we took walks once or twice a day on the beach. One day we were walking when we were surprised to see a bird we didn't immediately recognize. It was a Masked Booby and it just sat there while Riley walked up close to take pictures of it with his iPhone. I guess it was exhausted from its trip across the Gulf from the Dry Tortugas. It didn't hang around though, as we didn't see it anytime during the following days.

Masked Booby

Padre Island beach

On our way back to Highlands we stopped for three nights in Galveston and two on High Island. Our second day in Galveston the fog rolled in and it started raining off and on. It kept this up until we were actually back in Highlands a couple of days. So no bird watching for us in either place. We tried to go over to the rookery in High Island during a time when the rain had stopped. As soon as we got there the motorhome windows were bombarded by dozens of mosquitoes and I told Riley to just go back to the RV park as I wasn't about to get out. It's really too early to bird there anyway; best during Spring migration.

Richard kept talking about the movie "The Big Year," which we had not seen. It came out on DVD recently and we got it and enjoyed it. Not many movies about birding and birders. It was fun and I think even those not particularly interested in birding would enjoy it, though maybe not. It's not easy to understand other people's obsessions. We particularly enjoyed seeing them go to places like High Island and Patagonia Lake where we have also been. Although from the special features it looked like they did a lot of their filming in Canada. They did go to the Everglades to film a Greater Flamingo--we didn't see one when we were there. One place we haven't been is Attu (westernmost island in the Aleutians) in May--pretty sure we'll never do that one.

We were proud to learn that our grandson, Justin, won first prize at the Science Fair at his new middle school in Escondido. His project was on acid rain and its effects on building materials.

Justin and his blue ribbon project

I've been making a crib size quilt for Jonny; since his crib converted to a junior bed he won't need a single bed size yet. I'm making the Tumbling Blocks pattern as I did for Cleric, and it is almost finished--just needs the binding. Now that we are back in Highlands we are getting to see lots of Jonny and Rebecca. Sarah came over and spent the afternoon with me yesterday and that was fun too. On Thursday of this week, Riley and I will celebrate 20 years of wedded bliss. Guess we need to think of something special to do that day--hope the weather is nice.

Jonny at Houston Zoo

Tumbling Block quilt for Jonny

We plan to stay here through March 3rd or so, and then head for Albuquerque to visit Shannon and Dresden a while. We will stop in Austin and San Saba on the way to New Mexico.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

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