The fourth day of our coastal Christmas found us at the beach, walking barefoot in the surf as we collected seashells. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of warm, wet sand between your toes. At one point, Cliff cleaned his shoes on some Sargassum (seaweed) that had washed ashore. The name seaweed is actually a misnomer. Sargassum is a brown algae that, when floating in the water, is actually its own ecosystem. Once it washes ashore it becomes a food source for many coastal birds.
Speaking of birds, during our al fresco brunch we observed a bird that neither of us could ever recall having seen: a European Starling. These stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills were initially brought to North America in the 19th century and are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. Back in the 1890s, a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts released 100 European Starlings in New York’s Central Park because they wanted America to have all the birds the Bard ever mentioned. After several attempts, the population took off, and today more than 200 million European Starlings range from Alaska to Mexico.
The European Starling has glossy black feathers with a purplish-greenish metallic sheen, which are speckled with white during winter, making for a dazzling display. Soon our little friend was joined by dozens of others foraging for food and hoping that a morsel or two might fall from our table.
Late in the day we welcomed our Heart of Texas Camping Unit (HOTC) friends, the Mattneys and the Bairds, for a Christmas Eve cocktail hour at the campfire. It was so energizing to reconnect with them, share some stories, enjoy a few laughs, and commiserate on the current state of affairs.
Afterward, Cliff fired up the BGE and roasted a duck and root vegetables, which we accompanied with a Sterling Vineyards Cabernet, before ending the evening with a viewing of “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”
A few lessons we learned are worth sharing:
- Galveston’s beaches are a crab graveyard, littered with crab shells, carcasses and legs (yuck!).
- The wind can carry a ship’s engine noise for miles.
- YouTube has some awesome fireplace videos, complete with glowing embers and crackling logs.