Quintana and Galveston Island
Quintana has been on my mind for some time. I became aware of this small Texas coastal community a few years ago and the memory of it stuck. So, after visiting Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, the subject of my previous post, the next stop on our day’s itinerary will be… Quintana.
As we near the coast, I’m surprised to discover a scattering of oil refineries. If you’ve read some of my other stories, you’ll recognize this habitual reaction of mine. Really, I don’t know how it keeps happening but I guess I’ll just never get used to the pairing of a beautiful coastline with huge industrial complexes; there’s always the initial disappointment, followed by grudging acceptance, then, with a bit of luck, a fascination with the sheer scale of the processing endeavor.
Once we’ve crossed the bridge over the intracoastal waterway, we follow the road east, sandwiched between the refineries on the left and the beach on the right.
Our goal is to see migrating birds at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary. During the previous few weeks, I’ve been admiring lots of bird images from this place on my Instagram feed and I’m hoping to now capture some of my own.
The sanctuary turns out to be smallish but judging by all the cars parked along the road, it’s very popular.
We’ve no more than entered the sanctuary when we come upon a large group of photographers with their long lenses mounted on tripods, all angling in the same direction. Tim looks over at me, his brows furrowed and gaze rather stiff. I smile and shrug, hoping he’ll just follow along until we’re out of earshot. I slow down once we’ve passed the group and he closes the distance. “What was that about?”
Tim struggles to understand how the little birds hopping around in the trees can garner such interest, but I don’t. Unfortunately, as much as I understand the compulsion, I simply lack the requisite patience to be a birder. Nonetheless, I guess I’d nurtured a small hope that all those beautiful little birds would just flutter down and model for me. No such luck. Tim eyes a bench in the shade and tells me to go enjoy myself for as long as I want. I spend some time wandering, envying all the very focused people staring into the shrubbery, until hunger distracts me.
We return to the car and set off for the beach.
It’s legal in Texas to drive on the beaches, which has always seemed to me a great pity. Knowing that sea turtles lay their eggs all along the coast, I don’t understand why we humans can’t just park our cars and walk to our chosen spot. Convenience shouldn’t always come first.
We lay our blanket down where the sand dunes begin and enjoy our picnic lunch while we watch the seagulls and pelicans pass above. We brought enough food, but nowhere near enough water, which we later come to regret. Always bring lots of water!
With lunch over, we pack up and cross back over the intracoastal waterway until we find a road onto Follets Island.
Why is it that beachside communities tend to be so colorful? The pastel hues, which are often frowned on in a “normal” neighborhood, scream of relaxation and lazy days. It’s uplifting and fun and I roll down the windows to catch some pictures as we zoom by.
At the eastern end of Follets Island we drive across the bridge onto Galveston Island, arriving in slightly more familiar territory.
With my newfound interest in birds, I’ve located an Audubon sanctuary that I’d like to visit. Tim asks me to expand a bit when I tell him where we’re going. I’m well aware that the Quintana sanctuary was not quite his cup of tea, and he’d prefer to avoid any more weirdness, but I ignore the message of his micro expression and soon we’re parked next to Dos Vacas Muertas Bird Sanctuary.
No luck. I see fewer birds here than I did in Quintana. It appears Tim is most definitely in luck as we’re soon back in the car and on our way to Galveston Island State Park. Before I abandon the topic though, let me emphasize that we arrived at the very end of migration season. All the beautiful bird pictures I’ve seen are not a lie and if you just make sure to arrive at a more optimal time than we did, you’ll probably be glad you did.
Galveston Island State Park straddles the highway that crosses the island. On the northern side the marshland looks out on West Bay while along the beach on the southern side visitors can enjoy a view of the Gulf of Mexico. In the past, the only area I was interested in was the beach. Since then, my growing interest in photography compels me to search for more varied landscapes and now I find the birds, insects, and plants of the wetlands are a bigger draw.
As we trudge along water logged trails, I mention to Tim that the last time I was here, I captured the most beautiful sunset images. Mere seconds pass before he finds it helpful to remind me that we left the house really early. I’m pretty sure he also mumbles something about a beer and a cigar. We continue onto the boardwalk across the water and walk gingerly across algae covered puddles until we reach the elevated platform at the end of the trail. It affords some beautiful views of the surroundings and we spend some time admiring it.
During the planning stage of this trip, I had thought we would stop at Lafitte’s Cove Nature Society before returning home. Unfortunately, it’s just too late in the day to fit it in. Even my enthusiasm is waning at this point. I mention it however, because I think it might be well worth a visit, so if you expect to be in the area, you ought to look it up.
If you’re interested in seeing the sunset picture I mentioned, take a look at the story I wrote about that visit here.