In honor of James Aubudon‘s birthday, I wanted to tell readers about exciting birdingevents that have been going on around town the past month.  April is the month that sees the most birding traffic here in South Texas.  This is when migratory birds are at their peak.  To showcase this, several events go on at various places in the Gulf Coast region. We were lucky enough to have time to check out two of them.

The first was FeatherFest, a weekend of birding activities centered around Galveston.  We only checked out the festivities on the last afternoon, but there are a multitude of activities from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon of this festival, which is hosted out of a headquarters in the Strand District.  The event is free to the public, but almost all the activities have a fee associated with them – at least the activities that require leaving the headquarters location and going out to actually go find birds.  You can find more information here at

We wanted specifically to check out the Birds of Prey demonstration, since we are kind of like Birds of Prey groupies.  Each demonstration we have been to this year has been put on by a different group, which is good because we have gotten to see a greater variety of birds.  The Sky Kings were the hosts today, and they put on a nice show right outside the headquarters.  We also checked out the exhibits inside the building.  We left the event soon after because the little ones wanted to go to the beach, and we also wanted a chance to go geocaching and off road exploring in the San Luis Pass area, but next year we want to spend some more time, and possibly money, checking out what this festival has to offer.

The following weekend found us at San Bernard Wildlife Refuge for the Migration Celebration.  We had first heard about this event at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, and were most excited about the idea about exploring the refuge on the marsh buggy rides. However, all the spaces on the marsh buggies were taken by the time we got through the line on the Sunday afternoon that we went.  Instead, we took an auto van tour of Moccasin Pond, each of us equipped with binoculars, while a bird guide pointed out different species and passed back an Ipad with information looked up when we had questions.

Before the auto fan tour, J went on a nature photography workshop they offered, and my sons and I participated in the “Junior Naturalist Passport” program they had, where you got stamps in a booklet by doing different educational activities for children.  The kids sifted through a pond, petted snakes, learned about alligators, touched crabs and starfish, and netted insects then looked at them under a microscope.    We looked at the winners of the photo contest they have each year.  I can’t believe the amount of committed volunteers they had, and the wealth of information that was given out entirely free.  The commitment to outdoor education was strong here.

There was also a Birds of Prey demonstration here, put on by Earthquest.  I liked this one probably the best of all the ones we have seen this past year, because of the wealth of inspirational environmental information presented.  They are not there just to demonstrate their falconry, but rather as ambassadors and educators of an ethic they would like to impress upon all those they encounter.  J got some great photos of the very interesting birds they had with them for displays of flight and majesty, like the Eurasian Eagle Owl, the Andean Condor, and the Peregrine Falcon, whose speed in flight is unsurpassed.

Both of these events were only about an hour or two outside of Houston.  Other events were also being offered around the South Texas region, like in Corpus Christi the same weekend as the Migration Celebration.

It’s springtime in Texas, and birds are all around us, gathering up fuel for the winter journey, nesting and rearing their young, singing and eating and flashing wings through the forest.  Go find them!  And I hope next year you have a chance to check out these two events I mentioned.  We’ll be there!


I’ve often contemplated the function of beauty.  In my past musings, I have dreamed beauty away as inconsequential, a passing fancy, a temporary state that exists simply as a basis of initial attraction. I didn’t want to believe in the meaning of beauty, because to say that it has purpose, and then to admit that it has gone, is to say that the motivation fades as well.  I want my love to be like Shakespeare envisioned, one whose strength does not diminish, though “rosy lips and cheeks within [Time’s] bending sickle’s compass come”.  If love, and our motivation to both give and receive it, is based mostly on aesthetics, then it can’t stand the test of time.

I had this friend who was an artist to some degree.  He talked about the perfect girl as being someone who might not be exactly perfect, but who would be so beautiful that any of her imperfections could be forgiven.  I am not sure if that is too tall of an order to fill.  Our debate on this led to no agreed upon conclusions, and when our friendship took a walk, I wanted to continue to stand on my side of the fence about it.

That was some years ago, and I was still convinced of my stance, up until the other night.  I was running at night in my new neighborhood, something I have been doing regularly now, although not nearly enough to stop the midlife growth of girth.  I looked up from the sidewalk and a sight caught my breath in my throat, and caused a feeling inside me.  A want, a desire, an exultant joy, an imagined bliss.  It was no mere mortal that turned my eye, but the sight of the water falling across the water from the fountain in the middle of a lake across the street, the little bridge that crossed into a neighborhood with landscape lights shining on well designed front yard gardens and smartly painted front doors.

I have been getting to know that area in nighttime explorations, and I know that inside those streets, there is a little misty hill that has a strange path leading up to a sundial with uniquely carved stones in it.  I love to go to this place, but I only allow myself the pleasure as a reward for working really hard on my tedious little two mile route around the house.  Mostly because when I go out there, I lose track of time, and spend longer than I have on a weeknight wandering past the huge houses in the dark, houses with art delicately balanced on high vaulted walls that can be seen from tall windows from the street.

And I know now, I know when I see this view of the lake and the bridge from this vantage point on my weekday route, I know the true function of beauty.  And I see and hear examples to fit my new theory all over the place.

It is to inspire.

And perhaps my friend was right, we can’t remove beauty from the equation. And sometimes she is the reason why we fight.  Ask Helen of Troy, whose alleged beauty was the catalyst for wars and “launched a thousand ships”.  But the other day I was watching, for not the first time, Ken Burn’s “The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea”, and it made me think of how compelling natural beauty is, and how much it drives our desire to protect it as well.

When we see a beautiful landscape stretched out in front of us, we are often overwhelmed with awe.  The thought of some of these places disappearing under the wave of human and industrial expansion is frightening.  There are many heroes I would like to highlight later who let this beauty, and the diversity inherent in it, be enough to drive them to continue to fight for them their whole lives.

Beauty in our surroundings is much like beauty in a human form.  It compels us to protect it, move to keep it around, and forgive its harshness and imperfections.