Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation – Focus on the Wild

I just came across an advertisement for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundations April 2016 Focus on the Wild photo contest.  The April subject is “Texas wildflowers in bloom.”  I immediately knew exactly which photographs I wanted to enter.  Sometimes it’s discouraging to enter photo contests and not win, but what I like most about contests like these is getting my photographs in front of a much wider audience than normal.  Here are my three entries.

Each spring, “the old cemetery” in Rockport is taken over by wildflowers.  Though tickseed is the most common (it’s the golden yellow one seen here), there are also bluebonnets and winecups (among other flowers).  There are many old statues and tombstones throughout the cemetery that make for picturesque photographs.

Virgin Mary & Tickseed at Old Rockport Cemetery

I was on the way home from a dear friend’s wedding when I passed this scene — the perfect fence & bluebonnet shot.  This photo was high up on my “photo bucket list,” so I turned around to take a few shots.  I debated long and hard on whether or not to include the Indian paintbrush in my photograph.  In the end I decided to leave it — it adds some visual interest without cluttering-up the photograph.  Aside from that, I think we all feel a little out of place, just like this Indian paintbrush, from time-to-time.

Rustic Fence, Bluebonnets, & Lone Indian Paintbrush

I was driving from Austin to Borger when I passed this scene.  I was kicking myself for not stopping (mostly because I don’t think it gets much better than cows grazing in a field of bluebonnets) and several miles later made the decision to turn around and go back to get a few shots.  There was a nice, big caliche driveway leading up to an entrance for this field, so I went ahead and pulled in to the side of it.  I was able to get quite a few shots (I’m always willing to stay some place a bit longer when I don’t feel like I’m in danger), but this one is my favorite.  I like the sense of movement from the longhorns’ tails, the hillcountry in the background, and the bluebonnets in the foreground.

Longhorns, Texas Hillcountry, & Bluebonnets

Flower Friday – Scabiosa

I just uploaded these photographs to Flickr last night and decided that they would make an excellent Flower Friday post.  Scabiosa (aka pincushion flower) is one of my favorite plants — it’s a perennial (my plants made it through winter without completely dying this year), it’s drought tolerant, and pollinators love it.

IMGP8077Scabiosa & Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly

Scabiosa & Reakirt's Blue ButterflyScabiosa & Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly

Ready for a FightScabiosa & Angry Bug

Le Mont-Saint-Michel

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Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a 247 acre island community (population: 44) in the Normandy region of France.  The island has been inhabited since ancient times, and has been home to a monastery since the 8th century A.D. From Wikipedia (because I cannot say it better myself):  “The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.”  The island is accessible by foot during low tide but is completely surrounded by water at high tide.  There is a 46ft difference between high and low tide.  Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by 3 million people each year.

One convenient thing about the main highways in France is that there are many signs for common attractions, so we always knew whether or not we were going the right direction.

Road Sign for Le Mont-Saint-Michel

As fans of Band of Brothers, we were excited to see a sign for Saint-Lô, a town mentioned in one of the episodes.

33 Miles to Saint-Lô

Wagon & Flower Pots

Pretty, Yellow Flowers

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Bayeux

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We stayed at the Churchill Hotel in Bayeux while we were in Normandy.  It was the hotel that Winston Churchill stayed in when he was in Bayeux.  Bayeux was the first city to be liberated on D-Day (by Great Britain), so today it looks much like it would have looked during WWII.  The population of Bayeux is ~13,000, so it’s a decent sized town.  Bayeux was founded during 1 B.C. as a Gallo-Roman settlement named Augustodurom, in honor of Emperor Augustus.  I wasn’t a fan of the food in Paris; however, I did enjoy the food in Bayuex.  I ate a traditional Norman chicken dish, Poulet Vallée d’Auge, at two different restaurants in Bayeux.

There is one iconic building missing from this blog post — the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Bayeux.  Photographs of Bayeux’ beautiful cathedral can be seen in this blog post.

The Churchill Hotel is on the left of this photograph.  The grocery store, Carrefour, where we purchased our picnic groceries is adjacent to the hotel.


Rue Saint-Jean

Rue des Teinturiers


I apologize for including so many pictures of the waterwheel.  I had seen pictures of it online prior to our trip to France, so I was hoping to come across it while we were in Bayeux.  It ended up being on the way from our hotel to the municipal parking lot where we parked our car, so we didn’t even have to search for it.  Each of these photos is a little different, so I wasn’t able to narrow it down any further.

L’Aure & Waterwheel via Place aux Pommes

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Omaha Beach – San-Laurent-sur-Mer

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We had initially planned on only spending one day visiting D-Day-related sites during our time in the Normandy region.  We quickly discovered, however, that one day was going to be enough time to see everything that we had hoped to see.  We changed up our itinerary and, rather than driving to Mont St Michel in the morning, we visited Omaha Beach in San-Laurent-sur-Mer first and then headed on to Mont St Michel.  There was quite a bit to see in San Laurent, so the detour was definitely worth it.

We didn’t stop at the D-Day museum, but we did make a quick stop to get a good look at the Sherman Tank and the Czech hedgehog.  It was neat to see them in person after having seen them in movies.


Sherman Tank & Czech Hedgehog

We were surprised to see that the name “Omaha Beach” had stuck — it was the Allies’ code name for the beach.  I’d assume that the beaches had other names prior to the D-Day invasion.

Entrance to Omaha Beach at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer

I was surprised to see so many remembrance crosses — I think they were at every D-Day sight that we visited during our trip.  It was very touching to see how appreciative they are — to this day — of the men and women who fought for their freedom.

Remembrance Crosses

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Flower Friday – Texas A&M Gardens and Greenways Project

I’ve never shared a cell-phone photograph on my blog, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.  I took this photo on Instagram and then shared it on my Flickr site.  The next morning I woke up, and it had over 15,000 views (it currently has 17,337 views) — so crazy!  To this day I’m not sure what makes some photos do so well on Flickr, but something right must have happened with this one.

This photograph was taken on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas (whoop!!!!).  I wish that the Gardens and Greenways Project had been complete (or at least in the works) back when I was in college because the concept of having a 45-acre dream backyard on campus sounds really amazing.  This wildflower field is part of that project.

Texas A&M Wildflower FieldBluebonnets, Alamo Fire Bluebonnets, Drummond’s Phlox, and Indian Paintbrush

Wildlife Wednesday – Paso Fino Horses at Playa Negra

Springtime and warm weather always remind me of summer days spent at the beaches in Corpus Christi (my hometown).  Some of my best memories from growing up are of days spent at the beach.  Living in the Texas Panhandle really makes me miss being near the coast.  Since moving to the Panhandle I’ve been able to take two amazing, summertime, beach vacations to Vieques, a small island off the East coast of Puerto Rico.  Vieques is an amazing place to visit — it’s on my list of trips to blog about, so I won’t discuss it much here.  What I will say is that the people are friendly, the food and weather are great, and the beaches are beautiful and devoid of people.

During our first trip to Vieques, Bryan and I made the hike from one of the main highways down to Playa Negra.  Playa Negra gets it’s name from the black particles that get washed down onto the beach during rainstorms, making it appear like a black sand beach.  As we exited the jungle and made our way on to the sandy shore, I told Bryan, “The only thing that could make this beach more picture perfect would be if there were some horses on it.”  After saying that, I turned around and saw this mare and her colt — what a wonderful surprise!  Remembering that conversation always makes me laugh, and it makes this one of my favorite pictures from our first trip to Vieques.  I’m definitely ready to go back for a third time!

Paso fino horses roam free all over the island.  It’s not unusual to have to stop and wait for them to cross the road or to be forced to drive around them when they refuse to get off the road.  Sometimes you’ll see locals (known as Viequenses) riding them bareback or on small, thin saddle pads.  The horses are descendants of horses originally brought to the island by European colonizers.

Wild Horses at Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach) - Vieques, PR