Birding

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The next morning we head south toward two of Louisiana’s noted birding spots. But first, a stop for breakfast at Leonard’s Food Quarters. Now James is dying. We are the only White folks in the place, but I soon befriend Sue who gives us a complete rundown on boudin and boudin balls as well as fresh cracklings. We order all of them for breakfast and loved it. Everyone was very hospitable and eager to share their stories about the local cuisine. Sue, our waitress, made sure we understood that all of these goodies could be shipped anywhere. I may take her up on that as my client Charmaine, who is from this area, often speaks of Boudin and Cracklings. Now to birding. Birds are remarkable creatures. Like James, some have adopted the moto ” Lets Go Places” and migrate thousands of miles annually. Not all of them are large birds. Some like Humming Birds also travel great distances. In April they arrive at the coast of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. If they encounter a cold front with headwinds they become exhausted and literally fall out on the ground in these coastal areas. Birders worldwide come to view them and support habitats that will increase the chances that tired migrators will be able to rehab and keep going. I never knew so many types of birds migrated and for such long distances. I expected the normal shore birds, but warblers, woodpeckers, and sparrows all are traveling great distances crossing the Gulf of Mexico while risking collisions with windmills and thousands of oil rigs miles out in the Gulf. The lucky ones arrive exhausted on the coasts of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Texas has made a large part of its coast line wild life refuges. Birders as well come by the thousands. It reminded me of “storm chasers” as they travel down back roads and cram parks with high powered scopes and camera with lenses up to 2 feet long. I couldn’t resist joining them with my Walmart $60 binoculars and my bird app on my iphone. You can imagine the looks I got from the ole pros. All this was happening during the month long Texas Great Birding Classic where teams of birders fan out in the world’s biggest longest wildest birdwatching event across the state. Many of the teams are sponsored by none other than Swarovski Optics. We encountered several of these teams which were all dead serious birders.South of Lake Charles is two wildlife management areas, Cameron Prairie and Sabine that cater predominately to water fowl. James and I stop for a look and although the mass exodus of ducks has already taken place, there are plenty left for us to see including 2 matching sunning gators. We travel along Hwy 27 toward Texas. Not many live here since two hurricanes( one with storm surge of 22 feet) wiped out almost everything. Those people who have rebuilt have strapped their mobile homes to steel pilings and girders which are over 20 feet high. They look almost comical. With the exception of one gas station, there is not much here. Off shore you can see many oil derricks in the distance. Arriving at the Texas border everything changes. Oil is big business in Texas. We are surrounded by oil rigs, oil tankers, oil trucks and oil refineries. It is really booming in Texas. We head to Beaumont and then on to Nacogdoches for the evening. Nacogdoches is one of the oldest cities in Texas. It is a nice small town and home of the Stephen F. Austin University. It also boasts the largest Azalea Garden in Texas and it is in bloom. We dine at the Clear Springs Restaurant with other Texans in boots and big hair just like the GEICO ad. We enjoy the shrimp brochette which is wrapped in hickory smoked bacon stuffed with a JalapeƱo slice and grilled. We travel some of the Texas Forest Trail. The two lane roads are hilly and well paved. The speed limit is 70mph. Even at 70 we are not keeping up with the locals.