Planning your trip
What to wear?
What to wear? Because it is impossible to predict for certain the weather in the Coastal Bend on any given day, it is best to layer your clothing. Temperatures vary from early morning to afternoon by as much as 30 degrees. In the spring, summer, and fall, shorts or cropped pants can be worn if you expect to bird in open areas, while long pants offer the off-the-path birder protection from thorns and pests. For most areas, it is nice to have a sturdy pair of hiking shores or boots. A raincoat or an umbrella is also good to have on hand.
Never stay out in South Texas without adequate protection from the sun. Wear a long- sleeved shirt or use plenty of sunscreen. Invest in a broad-brimmed hat, preferably with a strap or tie. Remember, it can be windy here.
In addition to binoculars, field guides be sure to bring plenty of water, insect repellant, and additional sunscreen.
Climate – it gets hot in the Coastal Bend. Plant to carry plenty of water with you. Stay in the shade when possible, and wear sunscreen. It is possible, even likely, to sunburn on cloudy days.
Traffic – because South Texas is so flat, you will find few driving hazards except in spring and fall, when fog can pose a problem. If you find yourself in foggy conditions, slow down or get off the roadway until the fog clears.
Poison Ivy – remember this: “Leaves of three, let it be” – poison ivy climbs up fences and trees, has attractive shiny trifoliate leaves with white berries, and is poisonous to the touch. In the fall the leaves may turn to a rich reddish or brownish color. Avoid this plant in all instances. However, if you do tangle with poison ivy, wash your hands immediately. Your clothes will also need laundering to avoid spreading plant residue.
Mosquitoes – many of birding sites feature standing water, and South Texas is noted for its hordes of gnats and mosquitoes. West Nile virus is a concern throughout the state, and a few human cases have been reported. Insect repellant is strongly recommended.
Ticks and Chiggers – insect repellant helps here too. Spray your feet, ankles, and lower clothing. Tuck your pants into the tops of your boots to thwart tick and chigger access. Over-the-counter medication is available to stop the itch caused by chigger bites. Tick bites can be more serious and may warrant a doctor’s visit. Lyme disease, although rare in Texas, should be a concern for anyone bitten by a tick.
Fire Ants – in drought conditions fire ants become more active, when these insects seek moisture, there is more interaction between humans and fire ants. The best defense against fire ants is to simply watch where you are planting your feet. They do make mounds, but these are often hidden under thick grass. If you find yourself under attack, call for friends to help you brush them off. Their bite will leave a pimple-like spot that can be painful for a day or so.
Bees – your best defense against bees, killer or otherwise, is to be alert. If you see bees flying around your vicinity or if you hear buzzing sounds, leave the area. Do not turn over logs or rocks where bees may nest. Killer bees will pursue you three times farther than regular honeybees.
If you or someone else is stung, remove the stinger quickly in a sideways motion with a fingernail, credit card, or similar material. Seek medical attention if there are signs of a systemic allergy or if swelling extends beyond two joints. Ice may reduce the swelling and a sting-kill ointment may reduce the pain.
The Corpus Christi area is also home to wasps and yellow jackets. Follow similar steps if you run into either of these insects.
Thorns – It seems as if just about every other plant or tree here has thorns, and not just cactus. At most sites you will be on trails where thorns should not pose any threat, but always be watchful.
Snakes – Texas is home to around 115 species and subspecies of snakes. Venomous snakes make up less than 15 percent of the total number of Texas snakes. They can be separated into four categories: coral snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths or water moccasins, and rattlesnakes.
Coral snakes have a small mouth and are usually nonaggressive. Their bite is dangerous, but they are extremely rare. These snakes are fairly easy to recognize. Their colors always go in the order of red, yellow, and black. Other snakes have similar colors, but never in that order. The easiest way to keep them straight is to remember the following rhyme: “Red and yellow kill a fellow/red and black, friend to Jack.”
Copperhead Snakes are gray and/or brown and blend in well with forest floors. They are the least dangerous poisonous snakes, and they typically bite humans only when someone accidentally steps on, sits on, or picks them up.
Cottonmouths rarely stray far from the water. They will be found in marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, ditches, and canals along the Gulf Coast. They can be defensive and aggressive. In the spring, they regularly sun themselves in grasses near the water. Just keep your eyes open
Nine kinds of Rattlesnakes are found in Texas. They usually rattle before striking but not always. Pay attention to where you are placing your hands and feet.
Alligators – there could be alligators at a few of the sites listed in the Festival. Stay on paths or trails and leave the alligators alone.
Lightning – in the Coastal Bend, lightning often accompanies or precedes rain. Get in your car and avoid touching the body of the car.
Rough Seas – when walking out onto a pier or jetty, be aware of the movement of the water. Rocks in these areas are slippery, and big waves appear without warning.
Crime – the most common crime encountered by birders is vehicular theft. Do not leave items interest to thieves in view of your car.