Edwin Way Teale: A Man for All Seasons With Thoughts for Friends on The Gulf Coast

For the birdsBy Brian Kluepfel

In 2018, while researching a book about Connecticut, I stumbled upon the life of author Edwin Way Teale, who lived in the state’s “Quiet Corner.” Teale’s four-part book series on the seasons, written between 1951 and 1965, netted him a Pulitzer Prize. I found a summation of these tomes at the local library: The American Seasons condenses Teale’s observations into a pithy 400+ pages. 

Teale’s prose is from another time; another century, you might say. He traveled thousands of miles across the entire United States, and observed America’s wild landscapes with wit and wonder (let it be said immediately that he couldn’t have done it without his wife, Nellie, who was with him every step, and highway mile, of the way). 

Of course, anyone named Teale is going to write about birds, eh? So I found a chapter dedicated to his visit with legendary Texas birder Connie Hagar, in Rockport–then and now, a birders’ dream destination. Edwin and Nellie visited Rockport more than once on their crisscrossing of America. There is now a corner of Rockport where she lived most of her life named in her honor: Connie Hagar Wildlife Sanctuary, in Aransas, San Antonio Bay, Texas. 

Completely self-taught, Connie Hagar knew the few square miles she patrolled religiously better than the back of her hand. Abandoning a high-society life in Corsicana, Texas, the blossoming pianist instead became fascinated with birdsong, discovered its plenitude on the gulf shores, and never left. 

She circumnavigated a four-by-seven-mile patch for decades; by the time she met the Teales, she had driven the same route 20,000 times, and more than 100,000 miles (for fifteen of those years, her faithful bird dog, Patch, was a quiet and helpful companion). 

Credit to Teale for bringing Hagar’s landscape to life: “each day we saw the same vermillion flycatcher perched on a duck blind before a large live oak, standing out against its dark background like a glowing coal on a green hearth.” Or this: “with the white pelicans wheeling like stately battleships and the white egrets darting about like small destroyers, they reaped an abundant harvest.” 

Teale’s chapter concludes with a quote from Connie Hagar, in reply to his statement that Rockport certainly had enough birds. 

“Are there ever enough birds?” she replied. 

Brian Kluepfel is an author of 20+ Lonely Planet travel books covering the Americas, and a contributing author to Birdwatching Magazine. This article originally appeared in his brianbirdwatching blog. As tropical storm season wreaks havoc on the Gulf Coast so beloved by Teale and Connie Hagar, we send our thoughts and prayers to the residents of that region.  

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