April 26, 2008
On Friday, my husband and I decided to spend a day just looking and enjoying. We both love to go to the beach, especially during the winter months and even more so in the early morning when we are the only ones there. We didn’t wake up quite as early as we had hoped, but we stopped at the Dunkin Donuts at the end of our street, picked up coffee and two donuts each and headed for the beach.
The wind was from the south and there was very little beach showing. The sanderlings were running this way and that hunting up tasty morsels for breakfast. I watched a pair execute some sort of mating ritual, with one bird huddling into the sand as the waves crashed around it—perhaps indicating it was ready to nest. Both of us wandered about taking photos with the sun peeping out behind some rather thick clouds and gleaming across the waves and sand.
Our next stop was the bird sanctuary on the way back from McFadden Beach to Sabine Pass. I had noted the gate on our way down and it seemed like a good time to check it out. Glen preceded me down the path while I stopped to take photos of a very large rabbit and some lantana. It wasn’t long before I could see him running back towards me, waving his arms furiously. He was being swarmed by deer flies. I decided he was rather wimpy and headed down another path—and soon was swarmed too. I ran back waving my arms as well. I’m sure the birds thought we were quite strange. We both hustled back to the truck, and sprayed each other generously with repellant and wandered back through the area in a small haze but at least no bites. The only bird we saw was a crane but several other birders were there with large cameras and binoculars.
Shangri-La, a garden that has recently opened in Orange was our next destination. We arrived a little after ten, just in time for the boat ride. Lutcher Stark, a timber magnate and conservation pioneer owned nearly 300 acres of swamp and timberland in the middle of the city of Orange Texas. During his lifetime, he planted hundreds of azaleas and camellias, built paths, and invited the public to see his gardens. People would dress in their Sunday best –around Easter time—to tour the gardens. One year over 20,000 visited in just three Sundays.
In 1958 there was a killing freeze, and most of his azaleas died. The land then naturalized to a large extent and was no longer open. There was a huge estate and heir fight over what would happen to that land; the heirs wishing it to remain natural; the foundation wishing it to be revamped into Stark’s original vision. The last direct heir died several years ago, and work was begun. Hurricane Rita destroyed much of the refurbishing and took out many trees. The garden was opened just this past month. Some of it is formal gardens with sculptures and large rocks with quotes on them; large parts of it is natural vegetation.
There is a large rookery with a blind built for photography. It is a wonderful place and will be beautiful after all the initial plantings have established themselves.
Our final stop was Esther’s. It is prime crawfish time here. Glen had the boiled crawfish—five pounds!—and I had the crawfish platter.
It was a good day.
Photos of McFadden Beach are here:
Photos of Shangri-La in Orange Texas are here: