Saturday, March 12, 2011

Texas Gulf coast trip

The biggest live oak tree in Texas is located in the Columbia bottomlands, an ecoregion southeast of Houston comprised mostly of bottomland hardwood forests lining three rivers, the Brazos, San Bernard and Colorado. I went here reporting two stories for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.
Me in the Columbia bottomlands!
My friend Cheryl the human pincushion - she got some thorns on her sweater!
This is a devil's walking stick or toothache tree. Weird and cool aye?
This is a young buckeye tree, flowering.
We went kayaking on Austin Bayou, a slow-moving tidal slough that runs into the Gulf.
I took this on a little Casio camera, so the color is a bit off.
We saw these waterbirds near the coast - a white ibis (on the far right), a bunch of roseate spoonbills and a few yellow-crowned night herons.
Another shot of the ibis and spoonbills.
A close-up view.
A palmetto thicket in the Columbia bottomlands.When I was growing up, I lived in the Oregon and it was a long drive on narrow, winding roads that went by this one area with a massive tree. My dad and I jokingly called it the tiny tree. So here's a Texas tiny tree!Dwarf palmettos are common in the area.Shelf fungus on a tree in the woods.These coastal forests have many vines, palmettos, and a high diversity of tree species.A boardwalk over the trail because the coastal bottomland forests are sometimes waterlogged.
A shot of the live oaks. Live oaks keep their leaves year round, unlike most oaks.The door of the Quiet Oaks Bed & Breakfast where we stayed.The yummy breakfast we had at the B&B - vegetable frittata, yogurt and fruit.We stopped by Sea Center Texas, an aquarium with native Texas sealife plus a hatchery for redfish and Southern flounder.There are many alligators on the Texas Gulf Coast. Here are two little ones on display.Cheryl and I at Surfside, on the beach! I love the beach! The place we stayed is just miles from the coast. After spending a few days in the Columbia bottomlands we went up the Texas coast and drove the Blue Ocean Highway, which has been completely renovated since Hurricane Ike. I was in shock! The Texas coast looked beautiful.A view of the coast at Surfside.
I was so excited to see that someone - not sure who - has established sand fences along the coast to re-establish dunes. I wrote an article about this a couple years ago. I noticed these on the side of the road and pulled off to take photos. Only after taking a bunch of pictures did I realize that they also had planted some beach plants (in a line along the right side of pic) and also old Christmas trees!A shot of the sand fences.
Seashells at Surfside
We went up the coast to visit a big wetland restoration project, and saw this gator slurking through the mud. There are gators in the sloughs and waters and coastal marshes of the Columbia bottomlands too.

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