In August of 2006, a party was held at a house in Webster. It was this day that the two of us could look back on and say definitively that we were at the same place for the first time, although it is possible not at the same time. There could have been times in our youth that our paths criss-crossed, like maybe when he was a courier and sometimes drove out near Tomball, but our social groups, split by geographic distance, never would have mixed.
That day, that party eight years ago, I had left for an hour or two, during the part where most disperse from geocaching events to go find some local caches. I had ended up in Sylvan Rodriquez Park, pushing the stroller and fussing with my six year old who did not want to have any part of geocaching. Such was my lot back then. I remember doing a couple and then just being frustrated, and since then, that park has been staring at me from the map, reminding me of my inability to get caches crossed off the list.
So, eight years later, we find ourselves together at this park unexpectedly, after a snafu at another geocaching event nearby, and had a chance to rectify some of those caching misadventures. By this time, we were married and together for nearly four years. Here is a picture of the megaliths at the park (a special theme there) that also includes our special travel bug that we created to celebrate our union:
We still had some fussing with the older child who wanted no part of the geocaching, but now he was old enough to be left sunning himself on a park bench, listening to music from his smartphone. We grabbed those caches that had alluded me back then, and more. We also identified some new birds for our list: the Neotropic Cormorant and Lesser Yellowlegs. The first species was actually in and around the lake, diving for food, and the second was skirting the marshy areas nearby. We also watched and listened to a hawk and several other small birds as we walked (mostly yellow rumped warblers), and then on the way out, I was surprised by a large vireo who flew down into a tree near us. He really looked like Gray Vireo, but those aren’t supposed to be local to here, so I am going to have to call him a Blue-headed Vireo.
The day before, there were also some unexpected adventures, mostly regarded birds (of course, since this blog has accidentally become like a one trick pony). The kids and I were joining friends at the zoo, and walked over to the lake over there at Hermann Park while we waited. There was a large flock of ducks in the water that included American Coots, which we have been seeing a lot of, but also Ring Necked Ducks, a species we haven’t encountered before. My youngest laughed with delight and surprise when a huge flock of pigeons fluttered their wings around us, attracted by the seed that a couple of little girls brought. Their feathers tickled our faces and their coos made our hearts race as they rose up around us any time they were slightly spooked.
As we were walking through the zoo, I noticed that I was observing the birds within and around the exhibits more than I used to. We had to wait at the Duck Pond by the refreshment stand for a while for my friend, and there I pointed out the Brown Pelicans and then the rare pair of Hooded Mergansers that were in the pond, in addition to some of the usual suspects. The mergansers are highly sought out by the birding types on a forum I get emails from, which is understandably because they are quite flashy.
There was another brightly colored duck in one of the exhibits that I was trying to get a picture of, and never got one decent enough to put on here. However, I was trying to identify the duck species later. I thought it was a Woodduck, but its markings were different. I finally figured out the reason why I was having a hard time identifying it is because it was not a local species, but an imported one – the Mandarin Duck, which actually is related to the Woodduck (so I was on the right path). I am not going to count this one in our species count because it is not a native species, so that brings our species count to 50.
Edit: No, wait, 51. I forgot about another unexpected event. It was a cold evening last Tuesday (37 degrees) but I had to find a cache to fill in my dates calendar. So there I was, by a duck pond, signing a log, and I called out to my feathered friends, “hey ducks!” I almost shrieked with surprise when like fifty ducks started making a fast beeline towards me. I was not expecting them to be so hungry, and I had nothing on me to feed them, so I had to make a quick getaway. Not before noticing, though, that most of them were Mallards, a species I didn’t already have checked off this year.
We had a nice hike yesterday on the Lone Star Trail, and although I heard lots of birds, the only ones I really saw were the Red-Bellied Woodpecker and the Northern Cardinal. There have been some interesting peeps and tweets outside drawing me to nature, so I am sure I will be finding some new birds soon.