by Steve Alexander
Although Dec. 21 was the official start of winter, we didn’t need a calendar to tell us winter had arrived. Days had become colder and shorter, beaches were mostly deserted, and over-wintering birds like sandhill cranes and white pelicans had arrived.
While many people have retreated indoors as we start a new year, may I suggest a resolution that isn’t challenging but is nevertheless good for your health: Spend more time outdoors.
It’s well documented that time outdoors improves our physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. To these benefits, add one more: Being outdoors provides lifelong memories and unforgettable moments when nature offers up a rare sight, something we’ve never seen before and likely will never see again, moments even more special when seen alone. I like to think of these as magic moments.
I have ventured outdoors for many years and have experienced a number of magic moments. Some date back 50 years to my graduate school days, like one early morning when I was out on the water in the salt marsh-lined shores of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, kneeling down in the front of a boat, peering into the swirling water below, watching a frenzy of hungry speckled trout chasing and devouring their prey.
Other memories are more recent, like coming upon a female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle throwing sand over eggs she had just deposited in a Galveston beachfront dune (see photo). Or watching cownose rays swimming along the beachfront in shallow water, foraging for sand-dwelling bean clams and mole crabs, venturing ever closer and closer to shore, before seeing one that became stranded, left high and dry by the receding waves (see photo).
The official start of spring is only a few months away. Days will warm and become longer, sandhill cranes and white pelicans will return north, and beaches will fill again. But before then, resolve now to spend more time outdoors.
Galveston Island has plenty of options:
- Swim in the Gulf
- Walk on the beach
- Stroll along the seawall
- Fish from a beachfront pier or rock groin
- Visit the Pier 19-21 harbor area
- Ride the ferry over to Bolivar Peninsula
- Hike a trail in Galveston Island State Park, Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve or East End Lagoon Nature Preserve
These are just some examples, but whichever activity you choose, make it a priority this year to spend more time outdoors so you too can experience magic moments that only nature has to offer.
Steve Alexander teaches wetlands management at Texas A&M University at Galveston and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council. He is the author of Exploring Galveston: A Naturalist's Guide to the Island.