White Rock Lake Pelicans

White Rock Lake, in Dallas, is a bird watcher’s oasis in the heart of the city. North Texas Ramblings Pelicans at Sunset Bay in DallasAmerican white pelicans are the lake’s wintering divas. Traveling from places as far north as Canada’s Northwest Territories, the pelicans begin arriving in November. The Sunset Bay pelicans roam the lake in groups of five or six. They feed together, herding fish to their compatriots. Big-billed wonders, the pelicans are a delight to watch and often come close enough for amateurs to photograph.

Other migratory water birds include cormorants and even the occasional roseate spoonbill. Great blue heron and egrets are year round residents, along with a few hundred American coot and a dozen “wild” domestic geese. Beware the coots and geese. Both goose and coot will mob the unsuspecting birder in hopes of a handout.  Rock pigeon and grackles round out Sunset Bay’s winged inhabitants, filling trees shoreline with noisy flocks.

Sunset Bay is located at 810 E Lawther Drive, Dallas. Shoreline parking is available and there is a small boardwalk for a closer look at the water birds.

 

George W. Bush Presidential Center

The George W. Bush Presidential Center offers the public highlights from two presidential terms. North Texas Ramblings George W Bush CenterThe Presidential Library and Museum covers signal events such as 911, Hurricane Katrina, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Literacy campaigns, volunteerism, and compassionate foreign policy receive equal attention.

Presidential Library and Museum

Located on the edge of Southern Methodist University, the museum highlights the George W. Bush presidency with artifacts, films, and computer-guided demonstrations. Most poignantly, a towering piece of steel from the World Trade Center anchors the 911 exhibit. A war room styled, computer table allows visitors to explore what lead up to both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the wars’ aftermath.

The Center’s Decision Points Theater provides visitors a hands-on experience decisioning a major crisis. Each person has their own computer consul and access to video from key players. When we visited, we responded to the disaster in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. It gives you a new appreciation of the high stakes, time-sensitive decisions presidents make.

First Lady Laura Bush figures prominently throughout the Center’s exhibits. She and the Bush daughters are pictured around the world in venues supporting peace, literacy, and human rights.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the museum includes very little about Vice President Cheney, though you can purchase his and Lynne Cheney’s books in the museum store.

The museum also boosts a full-sized replica of the oval office. And, across the hall from the permanent exhibits, you’ll find a temporary gallery highlighting various aspects of life in the White House. We enjoyed a look at Christmas 2002 that featured a retrospective of First Family pets.

Bush Institute

The George W. Bush Presidential Center encompasses the entire complex and includes the ongoing work of the Bush Institute. The Bush Institute’s tenants are

  • “Freedom is a universal human desire.
  • Free enterprise is the engine of economic prosperity.
  • Education is the foundation of successful life.
  • Every human life is precious.”

These principles weave their way through much of the museum exhibits culminating with a call to action encouraging volunteerism.

When you visit

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sundays, from noon until 5 p.m. There is a courtyard café for drinks and sandwiches (outdoor seating only). A formal restaurant appropriately titled Café 43 offers table service. The center is located at 2943 SMU Boulevard, Dallas. Parking is available for a fee across from the center. Tickets to the Presidential Library and Museum range from $10 – 16. Active duty military and children under 4 are free.

Insider’s Tip

Visit the George W. Bush Presidential Center in springtime. A 15-acre urban park planted with native prairie grasses and wildflowers forms a semi-circle around the back of the Presidential Center. Not only will you find bluebonnets, but also dusty pink carpets of evening primrose, brilliant reds and yellows of firewheel, and magenta wine cup. Benches scattered around the garden make for an ideal spot to stop and enjoy the magnificent spring display. The park is open sunrise to sunset. There is a fee for touring the Presidential Center, but entry to the attached park is free.

Dinosaurs Live at Heard Natural Science Museum

Dinosaurs Live! A thunderous roar shatters the forest stillness. Beware; beasts not seen for millions of years stalk the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in North Texas Ramblings - Dinosaurs Live Heard Natural Science MuseumMcKinney. Young paleontologists recently discovered Dilophosaurus, Apatosaurus, and the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex roaming the trails at the wildlife sanctuary. Sighted along a half-mile trail through forest and meadow, nine different dinosaurs roam. These life-sized dinosaur replicas roar and move delighting young dinosaur enthusiasts. View the creatures first hand now until February 15, 2015, as the Heard hosts Dinosaurs Live.

Billings Production in McKinney makes the animatronic creatures. The Heard dinosaurs are part of over 200 Billings’ dinosaurs found at zoos and museums throughout North American. The robotic dinosaurs are uniquely adapted to operating outdoors. A hinged steel structure within the fabricated body allows dinosaur heads and limbs to move. A computer program further enhances dinosaur movements making these monstrous creatures look and act almost real — Jurassic Park Texas style.

While the dinosaurs draw the crowds, there is much more to the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary. Once you’ve explored the dinosaur trek, take a stroll through The World Conservation exhibit to see modern day animals. Some animals are native to North America and others like the lemur are from exotic locales. Many exhibit animals imprinted with humans and cannot be released into the wild. Seized from an illegal animal breeder, some animals found new homes at the wildlife sanctuary. There are mongoose and capybara, the world’s largest rodents. An albino raccoon calls the Heard home,too.

Be sure to visit the Heard Natural Science museum basement. You’ll find small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The Heard museum exhibits change periodically. Its permanent collection includes Texas snakes, geology and habitat dioramas. The museum is ideal for families with small children.

The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 until 5 p.m. Pets are not allowed in the sanctuary and there is an admission fee. The trails around Dinosaurs Live are accessible with a stroller, however all trails within the sanctuary are on natural, unpaved surfaces — challenging for wheel chairs and strollers. Picnic areas are available. The Heard Natural History Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is at 1 Nature Place in McKinney. Contact them at 972-562-5566 or through their website at heardmuseum.org.