Until the early 1960's, what today is Padre Island National Seashore, was a cattle ranch. It's hard to imagine that cattle could get enough nutrition out of the scrub we see growing on the sand dunes today, but apparently it was a thriving operation. The dunes were more sparsely vegetated when the ranch came up for sale after all that munching, and our federal tax dollars went into action and a new coastal wetland was added to the roster of federally protected places. As the dunes were reseeded by Mother Nature, they grew in height and quantity. When we drove into the park it appeared to be a barren wasteland, but we were fortunate to join up with a ranger walk. This naturalist expert pointed out much that we would have missed on our own. It's as easy to study foot prints in sand as it is in snow, and we could see that deer and coyotes had crossed the beach before us. The national seashore is also prime turtle nesting space, but this occurs in the summer so all the turtles were out in the sea today.
What really caught our eye was the blue blobs littering the sand. They looked like dyed jelly fish, but the ranger said that they were Portuguese Man O War and poisonous, not to be touched. A shift in the current as a cold front approaches brought these creatures ashore and they will die on the sand unless another current shift picks them up and takes them out again. Birds starting gathering to see if these blobs were yummy. The beach was also littered with dead fish which had sickened during a red tide. They are feasted on by the ghost crabs. These shy creatures dig holes into the sand looking for enough dampness to keep their gills going. Some of the fish carcasses were dragged right up to the entrance of the crab holes, creating a delicious fish buffet for the crabs according to the ranger.
We were surprised to learn that there are freshwater ponds hidden among the sand dunes even during this time of drought. When the area was a ranch the cattle drank at them, but today the pond we saw was teeming with water birds.
We drove about forty miles back to our campground and were surprised to see that the Man O War had also washed up there. Most likely the entire beach between the park and our campground is full of them. It would be easy to check. One of the many things we like about the Texas coast line is how accessible the coastline is. Unlike Florida where we often had a hard time finding a parking place to access the beach and always had to pay, here most of it is undeveloped and natural. Hope it stays that way.