High Island Birding & Marc and Eliana’s Visit
*Extremely photo heavy post—write-up at the end. Thought about making it two posts but decided against it*
It’s hard to believe it has been nearly a month since Marc and Eliana came to visit on their way to Alaska. Processing the photos took far longer than I had planned and so last weekend I made a point to get them completed. I’d processed a handful for Eliana to use on social media when they were in the area but beyond that I didn’t get far. And I’m only sharing a smidgen of what I took over the three days they were in Houston.
For those unfamiliar with Marc and Eliana, they are two of our friends from Miami. We met them through geocaching years and years ago and Eliana and I hit it off as friends! Eliana, world traveler that she is, convinced us to come to Bolivia with them in 2008—you can see some photos and blog posts over here at the top part of my ancient archives, back when I hand coded everything.
Not long after that they went on their first cross-country road trip and we dog sat Baloo for the better part of a year or so and when they returned from their trip in 2009 is when I hatched the idea to hike the AT. So, we left Florida in February of 2010 and while I saw both of them in 2014 at one of my baby showers, Chris hadn’t seen them in 8 years! Honestly, it seemed hard to fathom that it had been that long since they had seen each other but with the aid of texting and social media I think those feelings of being so distant are made a bit weaker. That still didn’t matter because as you see in those photos above that Marc took, it felt like it had been for-ev-er since we’d seen each other and it was a delightful reunion!
Eliana had been texting me here and there over the last few years asking about High Island and birding. High Island is the highest part of Bolivar Peninsula and sits on top of a salt dome. Because it is higher in elevation than the surrounding area it also has more trees on it than the rest of the peninsula, which is marsh and beach for the most part. This treed area means it is a spectacular area for birding in winter and spring during the migration and especially when fallout events occur.
Marc and Eliana’s departure from Miami was delayed by about a week due to a variety of issues so we were unsure of when they were actually going to be getting to the Houston area. They were already on a tight schedule to get to a certain location in Alaska by May to catch a ferry so they zipped through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in about a week to arrive in Houston. Chris’ schedule was also weird because of field work schedule but we lucked into their arrival being timed for the weekend. We had planned to take a couple of days off if they were to arrive during the week but that didn’t end up happening and even though they stayed over into the work week, Chris still ended up out of town for Monday and I ended up having to go into work for most of the day because the rest of the staff was out for meetings or field work. Someone had to hold down the fort!
Chris, Forest, and I met them in High Island on a chilly and overcast Saturday morning and as I said, it was exciting to see Valentina (the bus) pull up at the gas station. Funnily enough, Forest really took to Valentina and as you see in the end photos, gave her a hug! We hit up the Audubon sanctuary on High Island where Marc and Eliana ate lunch and we enjoyed the underside of a snake that had managed to crawl up into the rafters of the covered picnic area!
It was a little easier to wrangle Forest around the birders this time than it was last May when Chris and I went there with him, though we still had to work on learning to “shhh” so the birders could do their birder things. Eliana allowed him to look through her camera at the birds and Chris used their binoculars to help Forest look at the birds, too. Forest really enjoyed this because he was all about using his own binoculars when we got home and would talk about going birding the rest of the week!
There was some evening beach time in there with an incident of Valentina getting stuck in the sand but someone came to their rescue and all was well. The following morning Chris got up early with Marc and Eliana to hit up Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and to begin what they hoped would be a Century Day—100 species of birds in a day. Chris was optimistic and so they set off before dawn and Forest and I slept in. This worked out perfectly and I met them down at Rollover Pass mid-to-late morning after Forest got some more beach time in.
We tinkered around Bolivar and High Highland for most of the day until after mid-afternoon when we all headed for the house. It’s about a two hour drive from our house to High Island so we wanted to get home to get dinner going and sort of get ready for the work week. By this time they were in the mid to high 90s on their bird count and Chris swore they would be able to get to 100 by the end of the day. However, it was starting to cloud up a bit by the time Marc and Eliana arrived and our usually hopping bird activity in the yard was rather quiet. We should have driven around the neighborhood or something but I believe we ended the day at 98 or 99 birds! So close! I asked Eliana if they’d had that happen before and she said they had—to bird all day but not get 100!
Marc and Eliana spent most of Monday doing chores on Valentina and when I came home early at 3pm they were still working. I’d hoped we would have been able to go for a hike or do something interesting but alas, chores beckoned! Chris’ field work went from a potentially multi-day ordeal to a really long single day so he was home by 8pm. The rest of us went out to dinner and a trip to REI for the evening.
They were leaving the following morning, heading for Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to look for whooping cranes and Chris and I delayed our morning for getting into work for a bit, though I headed into work before him. We had breakfast, Marc and Eliana packed up, and I tried to send them on their way with goodies from the house. It was bittersweet to say goodbye once again because I didn’t know when we would see each other again.
They are now somewhere in California!
Patrice La Vigne
First of all, congrats on getting the photos processed!!! I know that was on your to do list last weekend & seems like a daunting task. They are beautiful shots, especially the ones of Forest!
Second of all, don’t you love those friend reunions?! And such special friends that you just pick up right where you left off? It stinks it was such a short visit, but it seems you made the most of the time.
What a cool blog post to stumble upon! Haha, love the photos and write-up, thanks Misti! We just recently discontinued our decade-old website marcandeliana.com. I was removing the weblink bookmark from my Safari “favorites” toolbar, but accidentally clicked on it…. which somehow led me here. Hope you guys are doing great… when’s the next meetup? -Marc