Blathr Wayne Lorentz

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Showing blathrs with the tag “Baytown Nature Center.”

People never learn

Sunday, February 19th, 2023 Alive 18,926 days

I went somewhere new to look for birds today. Itʼs the Baytown Nature Center. Four bucks gets you a friendly smile and a inkjet-printed map at the gate.

If youʼre someone whose lived in Houston for a long while, you may know it as the neighborhood of Brownwood. Brownwood was a nice little development on the edge of Crystal Bay. Today, itʼs birds and brush and otters and catfish.

What happened to Brownwood is what is likely to happen to a lot of places in the Houston area — man got too greedy, so nature took it back.

A number of places in this area get their drinking and industrial-use water from the ground. This is causing towns all over the region to sink as the water is depleted, and the soft earth above pushes down. Itʼs one of the reasons that foundation repair commercials are so common on Houston television. Yet people continue to demand that their municipalities rely on cheap groundwater, instead of other slightly-more-expensive sources. Gotta save a buck whenever we can, right?

Brownwood sank between ten and 15 feet in some places, and was a sitting duck when Hurricane Alicia came through in 1983. If people hadnʼt been so greedy, Brownwood likely would have been lightly damaged, like much of the rest of the region. Instead, it was flooded so badly that it had to be abandoned.

Nature is trying to take things back, but itʼs happening slowly. Perhaps I just went at a bad time of the year, but there was very little nature to behold. The stars of the show were the roseate spoonbills, all pink and flashy. Also, a couple of alligators, some catfish, assorted herons, and a persistently unlucky pelican.

The streets remain, though in an advanced level of decay. And you can occasionally make out where a house once stood by the sewer manholes, metal railings, boat piers, or incongruous and out-of-control landscaping.

Nature will erase all of this, too, eventually. But I donʼt think the washed out homeowners realize how awful it would have been to live there today. The place is surrounded by petrochemical plants that blare and thrum and whistle and shriek all day long, and all night. Itʼs not a peaceful place, and probably not somewhere that anyone would want to live, if they had a choice.

Birds I encountered today:

  • Blue Jay
  • Carolina Wren
  • Common Gallinule
  • House Wren
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Roseate Spoonbills
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Tricolored Heron
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Yellow-breasted chat
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
Itʼs easy to imagine that at one time a red and blue “ReMax” sign once hung from this birdʼs perch.
Water from Galveston Bay washes through the community.
Where the streets have no name. Well, they still do. But nobody uses them except Apple Maps.
Once this may have been someoneʼs dream home by the sea.
An alligator checking out the spoonbills in pink. Must be a leg man.
Spoonbills and friends at this preserve are easily spooked.
A bask of turtles basking.
The Yasa Pelican, an oil tanker registered in the Marhsall Islands, arrives in Houston from the Bahamas. It docked at the Chevron facility in Galena Park. Presumably to load up, since the Bahamas doesnʼt have any oil to export.
This place has crabs.
Refineries. Concrete. Weeds. Noise. Brown water. Lone Star flag. This scene pretty much sums up Texas.
The Boy Scouts used to get a badge when theyʼd build a walkway. Now they get an advertisement.
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