San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden

While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden.  It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique.  This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840.  Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.

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Entrance to the gardens

In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry.  At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.

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Old kiln door

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Kiln stack and buildings

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Such unique craftsmanship

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Living quarters for the laborers

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More openings for the kiln

By 1917 the cement plant had shut down.  The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden.  Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.

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Restored pagoda, gardens and pond

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What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.

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Quiet beauty

In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden.  Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children.  Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.

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Arched path built by prison labor

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Such beautiful landscaping

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Beautiful!

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Bridge to the kiln stack.

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The Japanese Tea House up above.

For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism.  In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.

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The roof was rebuilt in 2005. 

In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.

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So beautiful!

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View from the pagoda

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Path to the waterfall.

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I loved the waterfall!

All work was completed by 2011.  The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening.  In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Wonderful paths

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Hidden paths

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So peaceful

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Walkway from the gardens to the zoo nearby

I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory.  It was a wonderful place to visit.  So peaceful and beautiful.

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I loved walking these paths

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If I lived here, I would visit often!

Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well.  She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.

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Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂

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I love the colorful koi fish

I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens.  I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.

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This flower was as big as my head!

San Antonio Summer Birding

At the end of May I drove my mom back to San Antonio so we could get her house cleaned up to sell.  I stayed for about 2 weeks.  Summertime in Texas is HOT and HUMID. Ugh! Because of this, there weren’t very many birds about during the dog days of summer.  All of the migrants were gone leaving only the local birds.

In order not to die while birding, I got up at 6 am every morning to head out before it got to 100 degrees.  Yikes!  I drove to several locations during my stay.  I found the best opportunities for birds was if I visited the small lakes all around San Antonio.

On of my favorite birding spots I discovered was Live Oak Lake in Live Oak, Texas.  It was only about 7 miles from mom’s house.  It had a nice path all the way around the lake.  Believe me, you don’t want to wander off path into the grasses there.  That lake was loaded with snakes!

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They even had signs saying so!

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I thought it was a joke until I saw this!

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Needless to say, I tread carefully wherever I went.  Yikes!

The resident Northern Mockingbird greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot.  I have never found a shy Mockingbird.

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Northern Mockingbird

Live Oak Lake is home to lots of herons and egrets. They are used to people walking around the lake, so they just seemed to ignore me and go about their business…as evidenced by this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.  He caught a monster crawdad!

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!

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It’s like the size of a lobster!

There was a juvenile looking on with envy…

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Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

There lots of Green Herons about.  In Albuquerque I’m lucky to come across one here and there.  But at this lake, there were so many they constantly chased each other trying to keep a preferred fishing spot to themselves.

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Checking me out 🙂

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Needed a better look LOL!

The resident Great Egret was fishing along the edge of the lake.  I saw him intent on something in front of him.

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Great Egret

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Great Egret

Then all of a sudden he lunged!  Fortunately I managed to get a great pic of him diving for his prey.  Sadly, he missed on that attempt and decided to move to a different part of the lake for better luck fishing.

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Great Egret fishing

There was a pair of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks watching all the goings on around the lake.  I think they are beautiful waterfowl.

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Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

The Muscovy Ducks had some babies while I was gone for several weeks.  I saw this one mother with a huge brood!

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Muscovy Ducks

All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.

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Miss Scarlett

And Squirrels!!!  She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!

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Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.

The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.

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Staring contest between the squirrel and Scarlett

There were some other small birds about.  But overall it was pretty quiet for them.  So I ventured over to Converse Lake.  It’s a more wild lake.  You pretty much can only walk along one edge of the lake.  The rest of it is overgrown.  Because of this, the smaller birds tend to hang out here more.  I got 2 lifers at this lake!!!  A Rusty Blackbird and a Couch’s Kingbird.

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Rusty Blackbird

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Couch’s Kingbird

The Mute Swan I saw last time I visited was joined by his lady and their two new babies.  Adorable!  I’d never seen baby swans before.

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Mute Swan male

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Mute Swan female and babies

Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.

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Kildeer

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Scissortail Flycatcher

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Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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House Sparrow

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Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male

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Painted Bunting

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Eastern Phoebe

While photographing the little birds, I heard a commotion behind me.  I looked across the open field and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk had caught a White-Winged Dove.  Surprisingly a Northern Mockingbird harassed the hawk until it took its breakfast elsewhere.

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Red-Tailed Hawk being attacked by a Northern Mockingbird

One delight while visiting Converse Lake was that the water lilies were in full bloom.  Just beautiful!

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One of my favorite photos of the visit

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One thing I noticed about San Antonio is that there is a huge population of Black Vultures.  These birds are huge and were everywhere I went in great numbers.

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Ewwwww……

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Black Vulture

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mmmmmm…armadillo

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Must be tasty as a squabble broke out over it

There are always lots of White-Tailed Deer around the San Antonio parks.   I really liked this photo I took of a doe enjoying the wildflower field.

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White-Tailed Deer

There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.

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Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms

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This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.

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ahhhhhh…..

While driving around,  I came across this sign.  I had to turn around to take a picture.  Don’t you wonder how this creek was named???

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Really?????

One morning I arrived well before sunrise.  I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing.  I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.

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Little Blue Heron

It was nice getting out early every morning and seeing some fun bird sightings.  I actually got a 3rd lifer, but sadly my photo is just too poor to post.  I saw a Brown Boobie.  I never dreamed I would see this bird in San Antonio.  It was a rare sighting indeed.  Sadly, it was on the far side of a lake with no way to get closer.  My lens just couldn’t get a clear pic, though the markings are clear enough to identify it for me.  Someday I might see one to get a better photo!  🙂

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This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat