Sam Houston’s Hands, Washed

From the San Antonio Daily Ledger and Texan, April 15, 1861: “When the oath was proposed to Governor Houston, he peremptorily refused to take it; whereupon the Convention declared the office of Governor vacant; and Lieutenant Governor Clark, under the Constitution, having taken the prescribed oath, succeeded to the office. Governor Clark was not slow…

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Nighthawks, revisited

 A Shadowy Flight   Central Texas is known for its huge bat flights, but at Ft. Sam Houston, those wings in the summer darkness aren’t just bats, they’re  nighthawks — bobbing erratically against a backdrop of marble and moonlight. Nighthawks, like whip-poor-wills, are members of that most cryptic family of birds, the goatsuckers. Unlike chupacabras of course…

The Phoebes of Leon

Ebony and Ivory… The half-lit world of Leon Creek under Old US 90 in San Antonio: dingy, dripping, and draped in vines and poison ivy. Debris is lodged at all levels of the road supports, showing how high the waters can flood after a storm.       But even so, this is reliable nesting…

SECTION 8

A diverse birdlife is still holed up among the tract houses of far western San Antonio      Welcome to Section 8 birding! Yep, we no longer try to shoot birds on Christmas Day as they did in the Dark Ages before 1900. Instead, the Christmas Bird Count  is a survey of ALL the birds, year after year, a…

Cold Medina

Nobody around on Medina River on an autumn day. Summer’s clear waters are obscured by a sludge of fallen leaves and slicks of dusty and pollen. Perch and catfish can be glimpsed floating in the darkness. Things keep falling out of the trees: leaves; branches; owls; a hawk hunting a water snake. Kingfishers kept up…

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The Mouth of the Salado

On the first day of exploring the San Antonio River north of Blue Wing Road I came upon a wide gravel bar that marks its confluence with Salado Creek. The swirling fury of their combined flood waters have left behind a record of piled gravel populated, today, by a trio of sandpipers. Although its upper reaches are well…

Night Riders

A shadowy flight, around the Ft. Sam Houston national cemetery and the adjacent golf course. They’re not bats, they’re nighthawks, and in late summertime they congregate to cruise low over the marble headstones in the gathering dusk. Despite their name, nighthawks are most active not at night, technically, but around dusk — they need a bit of…

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A Mesquite, and What Came After

Hobson, Texas. I tramped forty miles to keep an appointment with a blackbird. Bare dust; not much going on in empty fields where the coastal bermuda had already been baled.  I stopped in a patch of mesquite shade to catch a spot of wind. A little squawk drew my eye back to my shade tree,…

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Ruins of Ancient Civilizations

The San Antonio River from Helton Park.  After the summer’s early floods, the launch from Helton Park is still passable, unlike those further north.   Going upstream you can see all the ruins of ancient civilizations: The Cave. The Eye. The Eye is almost hidden by the vegetation that has overgrown it after so many…

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San Antonio River Descending a Staircase

The San Antonio River at Falls City. The water’s pretty clear.  You can even see the bottom. Churning waters as the river pours over a wide sandstone abutment. The San Antonio River descending a staircase.  Notice the water level at right, compared to the left. Buttonbush and American elm crowd a tiny island. I thought…