Cold, rainy, and very windy! That’s how the day unfolded on our recent visit to Padre Island National Seashore, “the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.” You can probably guess what we did! Our family simply layered up, snapped together our raincoats, and went on a lovely morning walk along the park’s Malaquite Beach with Ranger Lee (who, by the way, didn’t even wear a jacket). He was way tougher than we were!
One of the first things we noticed was that picnickers had left their trash behind at the picnic tables. Seriously? We had our family-requisite handy dandy extra bags in our backpacks so we pitched in and helped clean up. You’ll see one of the full bags in Ranger Lee’s hand. FYI: The Visitor Center hands out free bags so folks can pack out anything they bring into the park and/or pitch in with collecting seaborne trash.
The National Park Service explains: “Padre Island’s location in the northwest corner means that the southeasterly winds prevailing in the Gulf blow many objects, both natural and artificial, onto its shore as well as creating longshore currents which can bring much material for good or bad. Probably the most serious damage to the National Seashore’s environment is done by trash, which washes onto the beaches from offshore. The trash comes from a variety of sources including the shrimping industry, offshore natural gas platforms, and washing out of rivers and streams surrounding the Gulf. Much of the trash is either plastic or styrofoam.”
I was a bit concerned about getting blowing sand and salt mist on (and in) my camera, but I did try to capture some of the most interesting seashore treasures the Gulf of Mexico tosses ashore along this wild and unique 70 miles of South Texas coastline.
Here are just a few of the interesting sights and beach treasures we found:
Animal tracks ~
A rainbow colored selection of Coquina Clam (Donax variabilis) seashells ~
Squadrons of Eastern Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentali) gliding over the surf ~
Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) skull bone ~
Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata) hole ~
This next example causes quite a stir, much debate, and even some consternation amongst the seashore’s visitors. Is it a shoelace? Is it pieces of fishing net? Some sort of rope wrapped wire?
No, no, and no. It’s Sea Whip coral!
Here are a couple of bone remnants from Hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis) along with bits of Sea Whip coral and rope ~
The kicker: The other side of the catfish bones look like this. It’s why the Hardhead catfish is also called the Crucifix fish!
So many miles of beach, so little time to explore!
Now for a cup of hot cocoa (with five little marshmallows)! Care to join us?