Fall Foliage Coastal Style

Fall Foliage Coastal Style

Texas is not famous for great displays of fall foliage, although occasionally we get an early cold snap and enjoy a few days of brilliant orange and yellow hues. Our Crepe Myrtles are fairly reliable for fall color as are the Chinese Tallow trees. I had the former at my old house, and two of the Chinese Tallows in my new backyard. They are considered invasive and undesirable, but Wikipedia tells me 23% of the trees in the Houston area are Chinese Tallows, so I am not alone. Besides, my two are ideally spaced for hanging a hammock. 

If you aren't making a trip to Colorado or can't take one of the tours listed on the Foliage Network, you can still find some great fall color along the Texas Coast if you just know where to look. 

The marshy ponds and lagoons where I find wading birds usually have a thriving crop of Salicornia or Glasswort. It is a low growing salt water tolerant succulent that was historically used as a source of soda ash for making glass. It can also be eaten but I have never been that brave. 

Most of the year it is green and yellow. Below is a Whimbrel I saw last May at Surfside; the plant he is stepping through is glasswort.

Whimbrel in the glasswort Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.3  1/1600 sec ISO 400

Whimbrel in the glasswort

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.3  1/1600 sec ISO 400

But come fall, the plant takes on yellow, orange, red or purple coloration. I don't know if it is in response to the season or if it is the age of the plants, but the change is striking. 

Long-billed Curlew in the glasswort Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/7.1 1/1250 sec ISO 800

Long-billed Curlew in the glasswort

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/7.1 1/1250 sec ISO 800

The Long-billed Curlew returns to the Texas coast from its breeding grounds in the out west and in Canada to enjoy our mild winters. Yes, the Whimbrel and Curlews are similar, but curlews are a bit larger and have a much longer bill. Plus, the curlews lack the eye stripe and their legs are totally different colors.

See, bird identification is easy, right? 

Yellow-crowned Night Heron Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.3  1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.3  1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Recently, we watched from inside the truck as an adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron hunted for crabs in the glasswort. He finally got way too close after a while, and never did find anything to eat. 

Reddish Egret Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.3  1/1000 sec ISO 1250

Reddish Egret

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/6.3  1/1000 sec ISO 1250

The Reddish Egret looks particularly nice against the fall colors. This guy kept his distance and did most of his shadowing and stalking faced away from me. And did I mention it was sprinkling rain? 

Reddish Egret surveying his kingdom Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/7.1 1/1000 sec ISO 400

Reddish Egret surveying his kingdom

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/7.1 1/1000 sec ISO 400

The light was rapidly changing as the sun peaked out, and then clouds reappeared. I have finally learned  to change my settings in response to varying conditions. I don't even think much about it now. When I was learning, I used to ask my fave photographer Bill Maroldo "what ISO should I use?" but now, most of the time when we check with each other, we are using the same. I still have a tendency to shoot wide open (f/5.6) but I am getting better about changing the aperture if the subject is really close and I need more depth of field. 

Snowy Egret Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/5.6 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Snowy Egret

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2  f/5.6 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Most of the roadside foliage is still green and you can find blooming native Sunflowers. Instead of a single flower on a stalk, the wild kind branch out and make sprawling bushes. And they seem to bloom until the first frost.  This Snowy Egret with his yellow lores and feet made a great pose against the yellow flowers. 

Salicornia or glasswort at close inspection

Salicornia or glasswort at close inspection

We have had some glorious days recently; highs only in the upper 70Fs and clear sunny days. Helpful for me getting the painting and repairs done to sell my townhouse, but bad for photography. At least I have been able to stay focused and not wish I was out taking photos instead of cleaning and planting flowers in a garden for someone else to enjoy. 

This change has been really fast! A word to those contemplating a move; it is a huge, physical undertaking. Just the work of packing and moving boxes, not to mention everything you pick up has memories that you have to deal with. If you think you might want to downsize or move in the near future, start culling and sorting early. Go ahead and do the repairs and small updates to the house you are in now instead of having a huge list to tackle in a short time. 

I am thrilled with my new one-story house and excited to have literally new horizons. The views from the windows are different, I have new projects to plan and hopefully, lots more adventures to share. 

What is going on with you? Do you have fall color in your neighborhood? Have you ever eaten Salicornia? Would you be willing to give it a go? Let me know in the comments below!

Why I Missed Half of Dancing with the Stars Last Week

Why I Missed Half of Dancing with the Stars Last Week

Little Park but Lots of Birds

Little Park but Lots of Birds