Fermata began working in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of South Texas in the early 1990s. Our first project involved developing the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail for Texas Parks and Wildlife in that area. We followed that work with the feasibility study for the World Birding Center, the strategic plan for the World Birding Center, nature tourism strategies for several of the communities there such as Mission, Weslaco, and South Padre, a feasibility study for the new centers at Weslaco and South Padre Island, and interpretive enhancements at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen.
Last week our little family group traveled to South Padre Island to celebrate my wife’s birthday, and to expose my grandson to southmost Texas. On the 25th we joined Scarlet Colley (Fin to Feathers Tours) for a morning boat ride around the Laguna Madre. We met in Port Isabel, the seaside community where I stayed with my father in the early 1960s to hunt and fish. We always lodged at Harvey Courts, a thread-bare conglomeration of cabins that nestled up to one of the boat canals. Back then to reach Padre Island you drove across the original causeway and were met by three or four weather-beaten buildings and endless undeveloped barrier island. Thanks to Ralph Yarborough and other Texas leaders, the Padre Island National Seashore preserves much of this wild region. Between the south end of Padre and the National Seashore, though, what I remember as a child has been transformed into Miami Beach.
In this alleged advanced age we presume that all has been discovered, all is known. Why bother looking around your backyard or neighborhood or state when surely scientists and naturalists have covered all of the angles? What could possibly be new to find?
If you live on or around the Gulf of Mexico, particularly that segment in Texas, the answer is everything. Consider the black tern. Black terns are a marsh-nesting bird, breeding in the Northern American interior away from the coasts. This tern is a migrant along our Gulf coast, thus we only see them as they come or go. Fall flocks can number in the tens of thousands, and such aggregations have been noted at tidal flats such as San Luis Pass for over a century.