David & Marianne Book have been volunteers, supporters & contributors on many levels for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. His children's book, "Lancelot the Ocelot," is a popular item at the Nature Store, and his 75th Anniversary history of the Refuge, "LANWR: A Place Like No Other," is a anecdotal overview of the rich and fascinating place we all love. The Books reside in Vermont most of the year, but admit to being Winter Texans.
David & Marianne Book have been volunteers, supporters & contributors on many levels for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. His children's books are a popular item at the Nature Store, and his history book on the Refuge was a particularly challenging puzzle to pull together. I look forward to his blog for bits and pieces to be brought to life among other topics regarding the habitat and conservation efforts of Laguna Atascosa.

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  • Wed, October 25, 2023 11:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Author:David Book

    I would seldom call the refuge a spooky place. But when you stop and think about it, there does exist a certain creepiness about it, especially when the rattlesnakes and tarantulas are out and about. And, certainly, one should be wary of those alligators. But there is more. What about the "Grey Ghost of Laguna?" At least that is what one newspaper reporter called him.

    It appears that in 1940 an old hermit was wandering around way under the radar on the northern end of what is now called Horse Island. According to the news article, the census taker, Bill King, was bound and determined to find him. He described the encounter after searching for several days "at the beginning of nowhere" having spotted the "local legend" squatting by "a lean-to made of the skins of goat, coyote, and bobcat, surrounded by 20-25 lean, scraggly goats." The elderly man approached the census official with a 10 gauge shotgun cocked under his right arm. He did not threaten King, but was obviously not happy to see him. He did not know his birth date or birthplace, but appeared to be in his 80's. King described him as being "about six feet tall, heavy set with a tangled mass of graying hair, and a snarled growth of hair that forms a beard about eight inches long that looks like steel wool." His one room hovel had no running water or electricity. He spoke in broken Spanish, and King wasted no time in heading back across the extensive salt flats when he had successfully added the hermit to his census list. A somewhat spooky tale, but that is not all.

    At the northern end of the Mesquite Trail, which begins at the Visitors Center, is a cemetery containing five grave markers used by the old Granjeno Ranch in the late 19th century. Only two of the stones have discernible engravings. One of the two was a twelve year-old boy who accidentally shot himself with a rifle in 1913 while hunting rabbits. The cemetery is maintained by the refuge staff during the daylight hours. If you happen to be there at night, especially during the full moon, you may hear a hair-raising screech. Is it someone calling from the grave or the barn owl that nests nearby? You can be the judge.

  • Fri, September 29, 2023 8:28 PM | David Book (Administrator)

    We know it is Fall in Vermont where we live when the leaves start to color and flutter to the ground. It is a spectacle. There are two interesting seasonal signs that effect LANWR and South Texas. Both have an impact on the economy and the culture. Beginning in October a hundred thousand or more, mostly retired, folks from Minnesota, Iowa and other states north of the Rio Grande Valley, descend upon the Valley to escape their harsh winter climate. These "Winter Texans" give the economy a boost, bring a throng of visitors to the abundant nature preserves, and also boost the pool of volunteers that are available to serve at these places. In April most of them head back North to clean the snow out of driveways and get ready for the summer. Some of them eventually become permanent residents of the Valley.

    That is not the case with another animal species that make an annual trek south in the Fall and reverse in the Spring. More than 350 species of birds make the roundtrip in North America alone; 4,000 plus, worldwide. Those migrations vary greatly in distance. Oftentimes by pure numbers they bring some excitement and challenge to those who enjoy seeing their beauty. A Spring "fallout" is an experience to be long remembered by those fortunate enough to observe one. Thousands of songbirds and warblers weary from crossing the Gulf of Mexico seem to rain from the sky as they reach the first land mass, often South Texas, which just happens to be at the juncture of the Mississippi and Central Flyways. These migrations often bring vagrant species that are off-course for reasons usually related to the weather. The citizens of Wisconsin recently were astonished to see a group of five Flamingoes wading in Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee, blown off course by a hurricane. LANWR has had its share of such visitors, even a Flamingo or two usually only seen in Florida. In 1978 a very rare species from the Bahamas, a White-cheeked Pintail, spent a few days at the Refuge. In 1985 a Gray Silky Flycatcher, a resident of the mountain region of Mexico, appeared near the Visitors Center. The first confirmed sighting of this species in the United States, he stayed around for more than a week, being observed by hundreds of birders, including one avid observer who flew down from New Jersey twice before spotting the bird. Another first record for the United States was caught in a mist net on the Refuge in 1996. The Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush is normally a resident of the tropical foothills of Central and South America.

    All of these species were observed in the fall migration season. Be a keen observer of the avian species for the next few months. You never know what rare and exotic species you may discover. And be thankful for those out-of-state license plates bringing some spice to the melting pot. You may even see some plates from Delaware, Hawaii or Vermont.  
  • Sat, July 01, 2023 4:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    watch this site!!!!

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