The north shore of Kauai is known for its planned resort area, Princeville, as well as Hanalei Bay, world-renowned for its beaches and surfing. However, it also contains two great places to see native island wildlife: the Hanalei Bay and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuges.
The third day of our New Years road trip adventure, we begin in California. Humboldt bay shines on this winter morning, so white it shimmers like a mirage in the deeper areas. After breakfast, we decide to stick around the area and drive to the South Jetty, along the mudflats that comprise the driveable portions of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Do you remember a time, somewhere +/- nine months ago, when I said we were making some changes in our lives?
No, no, not that kind of change. Somewhere around June of last year, we moved to the Pacific Northwest to take on new jobs and a new corner of the country. Since then, we’ve been exploring pretty much non-stop, and I have to say, hiking in our new location is a bit different than at our prior abode: more elevation changes, more climate zones, more amphibians, more people. Up here, if you aren’t out at dawn or dusk, you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into at least a few dozen people and their canine companions on even the shortest walking trails.
One of the first places we checked out was the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1992, it is another fairly recent addition to the US refuge system. The area open to the public is a square section of land (approximately 640 acres) along some drainage dikes and through a quiet wooded area studded with benches.
We headed south until we reached our final destination: Laguna Atascosa. Unfortunately, our GPS kept trying to take us through various cow pastures instead of down the road into the refuge. After tossing it out the window (figuratively, of course), we pulled past the entrance sign.
I have to say, the refuge is gorgeous, even with the severe drought conditions of south Texas, and being able to spend time exploring it with family made it that much more special.
The refuge office itself has attracted a myriad of jewel-toned birds with their birdfeeders and citrus. In the span of 15 minutes, we saw long-billed thrashers, black-crested titmice, green jays, an Altamira oriole, grackles, bronzed cowbirds, 2 species of woodpeckers, orange-crowned warblers, and several different species of sparrows.
Ok, so maybe our goal is to visit all of the US National Parks, but so far we’ve been doing a good job of visiting the US National Wildlife Refuges instead. This time, we were on a mission to see whooping cranes. There are a few good locations to find the tallest North American bird, and one of them is Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (and the nearby Goose Island State Park) in winter.