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Playing in Padre

After several days in Big Bend National Park we sped across Texas going from the deserts of Southwestern Texas to the Gulf Coast for our next National Parks Monopoly board destination of Padre Island National Seashore. Fortunately the big spring break crowds were here a couple of weeks earlier leaving quieter beaches for us to explore. There was a brief debate about which is better, rocks to climb or the ocean beaches. It was a short debate with the ocean winning.

A quick walk in the ocean as the sun set behind us

Padre Island is a narrow, long island running along the southeastern portion of Texas providing miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches to get lost in all day long. Padre Island National Seashore actually has 60 miles of beach that can be driven on if you have the right vehicle. Since we had a regular car we were unable to explore past the first 5 miles of beach which has sand packed hard enough for almost any vehicle to pass over. Beyond this first 5 miles the sand is more loosely packed making it possible to sink in and become stuck which is why 4 wheel drive vehicles are recommended.

Sandy dunes shaped by ocean breezes

In addition to enjoying listening to the waves continually crash against the shore and taking a leisurely stroll through the waves, there is plenty of wildlife to capture your interest for awhile. Some of them required your attention while walking by the water as there could be consequences if you get to close. One of those was the Portuguese Man-o-war’s floating into shore on an occasional wave and landing in the sand until another wave is able to bring it back out to sea. They can sting you even when laying along the beach so watching your step is important. Many of these stranded on the beach were varying shades of blue making a beautiful contrast to the beach.

Portugese Man O War stranded on the beach

Another creature to watch out for near the edge of the water are crabs. Mostly we came across blue legged crabs and if walking close enough, they may pinch you in an attempt to scurry away without being crushed. They were great fun to watch, as long as you saw them before you were too close, while they crawled on the sand scavenging for food. These ranged from almost colorless to an intense blue on their legs giving them their name.

Blue legged crabs near the edge of the water

A very common sighting on the beach are numerous birds scattered everywhere . There are a number of different types from gulls to herons all searching for the next snack in and out of the waves. A great source of entertainment while taking in the rejuvenating rays from the sun on a beautiful Texas afternoon. We were trying to determine what they were eating just inside the wave zone as they appeared to be plentiful. After watching for a short time and exploring the beach we realized what the meals were.

Birds combing the beach in search of their next snack

Small clams of every shade lay just under the sand surface and would quickly emerge as a wave would approach revealing themselves to birds. As we watched and dug more these little sand dwellers were everywhere. When walking along the water’s edge you were walking on thousands of them, usually without ever knowing as they lye just below the surface waiting for the right wave to arrive. It was amazing and a little unnerving to know you were walking on hundreds of them with each step.

Clams rising out of the sand getting ready for the incoming wave

A quick brush of the sand and you would see them burrow to the surface all around you. There were white ones and blue ones, yellow clams and purple clams, some with strips while others were solid in color. Another great source of entertainment while relaxing on the beach. I don’t know what type of wave they were looking for but once the right wave was nearing the beach, thousands of these little clams would appear above the sand as if by magic standing straight up. Once the wave passed they would tip over laying on the beach and after another wave, disappear back into the sand making you wonder if you really saw this spectacle or imagined it.

Thousands of clams lying just under the surface of the sand

All in a days fun along the Padre Island seashore before retreating to find your next meal.

A Blue Heron taking in the sun rising over the ocean