Falcon Point Ranch
I might be a big city girl by birth, but the longer that I’m in Texas, the more I find myself drawn to the country lifestyle. My husband and I have a few acres of family land in Goliad that I affectionately refer to as “The Ranch” (afterall, doesn’t everyone in Texas own a ranch?) and I’ve discovered that I enjoy the quiet serenity that the rural countryside offers. But for all the years I’ve lived in Texas, I’ve never explored a real Texas ranch, that is until I was offered the opportunity of a birding adventure at the Falcon Point Ranch in Seadrift. So, I grabbed my camera and my partner in crime, my daughter Rachel, and we hit the road!
For our adventure, we decided to make our visit an overnight stay at the Lodge and take advantage of guiding services provided by retired wildlife bilogist, Brent Ortego and his wife Dora Ann. Rachel and I arrived a little after 5pm and after getting settled in our room, met up with Brent and Dora Ann for a late afternoon ATV ride around the property. As we toured the ranch, Brent give us a little history of the area along with a fascinating overview of the diversity of wildlife that can be found there. I’m not a hunter or a fisherman, however, one of the things I found most interesting and exciting was the way the Ranch makes a focused effort at land and wildlife management; creating an environment where the wildlife, flora, and fauna not only survive, but prosper. I love how they are actively striving to be thoughtful and responsible stewards of our environment!
Our first stop on our evening tour was what we dubbed as “Little Africa.” This was probably the most unexpected discovery of our adventure! In addition to South Texas regulars like Texas Longhorns, white tailed deer and feral hogs, much to my delight, the ranch also hosts exotic species such as Scimitar-horned Oryx, African Eland Bull, Blackbuck Antelope, Axis, Fallow Deer, Hawaiian Elk, Russian Boar, wildebeest, and zebra. During our “Little Africa” sojourn, Rachel and I were thrilled to see a small herd of Zebra and Scimitar-horned Oryx (which, I must admit, had never heard of until this trip!). They seemed somewhat amused by the silly tourists taking nonstop photos of them, but were kind enough to pose pretty for us!
As the sun set, we headed back to the lodge for a little rest and relaxation. I have to say, the Lodge at Falcon Point is ah-mazing and not at all what I expected at a nature retreat! Dark woods, massive fireplace, overstuffed chairs… we felt like we were living large at an exotic African Retreat! And an evening cocktail on the patio of our room with the beautiful view of the bay was the perfect way to end the day.
“I stay out too late… I got nothing in my brain… that’s what people say… mmmm hmmm…” Taylor Swift started yelling at me at 4am the next morning! 4am… why are we getting up this early?? It seemed like a good idea last night. I’ve never seen a Common Pauraque before and Brent said that we’d have to get out while it was still dark to see them… but still… 4am??? As Rachel and I stumbled over to the Lodge for freshly made taquitos and caffeine, Brent and Dora Ann, already at breakfast, asked me what my target birds were for the day. “I don’t really have any, to be honest. I’m just hoping that whatever I shoot will be in focus.” Brent grinned at me and started down the list of birds he expected us to see: Painted Buntings (YAY!), Seaside Sparrows, Wilson’s Phalaropes, Plovers, Herons, Terns… with the diversity found on the ranch’s 6,000 acres and its proximity on the San Antonio Bay and Aransas Wildlife Refuge on top of Spring Migration, the reality was that we could really see just about anything! And see some birds we did! 63 different species to be exact! Not too shabby for the tail end of Spring Migration! I was thrilled to mingle up close and personal with a Painted Bunting, capture some great photos of a few lifers (nerdy bird speak for a first-time sighting) including the Common Pauraque (worth getting up at 4am for, I might add!), Western Kingbird, and Seaside Sparrow. Brent’s knowledge of wildlife was staggering (what would you expect from a retired wildlife biologist with more degrees than I have fingers?), and it was a treat to learn and spend time with these “real birders.”
After a full day of birding and as our Falcon Point Ranch adventure came to an end, I reflected on just how fortunate we are to live where we do: just a short, 45 minute drive from town, I was able to experience our rich, ranching history and wildlife diversity, seeing things first hand that many people only read about in books. Truly a great adventure!