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Written by Kirsti Harms

Earlier this winter, my friend Chris and I decided to broaden our cultural horizons with a post-holiday trip to the Dallas Arts District. Our original plan was to visit the Nasher Sculpture Center, but the cold, drizzly weather didn’t really lend itself to walking outdoors, so our itinerary shifted to the Dallas Museum of Art.

I’m a fan of primitive and folk art, so I was happy to check out one of the traveling exhibits, African Masks: The Art of Disguise (until Feb. 13). It included lots of great sculptural costumes from around Africa. Then, knowing we couldn’t possibly see it all in a day, we attempted to choose which galleries to view. We ended up meandering through the second floor visiting modern design, early 20th-century decorative arts, into Pacific Island art and past some wonderfully detailed Japanese sculptures. We even came upon a re-created villa—fully furnished with artwork on the walls.

I like the spacious, but warm, feel of the DMA building. It offers lots of opportunities to wander through different worlds of art, and—my favorite—to watch people interact with art. Not a bad place to spend a rainy day!

On a break, we took a walk around the vicinity and were pleasantly surprised at the proximity of the Nasher and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. I see another trip or two to this area in my future.[gallery columns="4"]

Side trip: Our excursion included a quick jaunt through downtown Waxahachie to check out the Ellis County Courthouse. I’ve always wanted to see this building in real life, particularly all those face sculptures on the outside. I’m not sure if these are likenesses of the legendary Mabel or not, but they sure are expressive! If you’re curious, read about the gargoyles on the Waxahachie courthouse.

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Winter in Texas is a very good time to chase birds. And, if expanding your bird life list is your goal or you just like seeing unusual birds, this winter is shaping up to be an interesting season, particularly in south Texas. So far there have been great opportunities to see birds like the Bare-throated Tiger Heron has been lurking in Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park, a Northern Jacana has been making itself at home in Choke Canyon State Park, a Northern Wheatear is lingering at a private property near Beeville, and now an Amazon Kingfisher has been discovered in the Laredo area. Besides the great-sounding names, these birds have wandered way out of their normal range into our neck of the woods. Birders are flocking to these locations to get a look--sometimes just a glimpse--at these rare visitors to the lower 48 states. To keep up with rare bird sightings across Texas, check out the Texas Rare Bird Alert link or try subscribing to the Texbirds listserv.

Sunday I decided to bird around La Grange. The Travis Audubon Society is offering a series of monthly field trips called the Outer Limits Bird Survey. It's a chance to explore some of the less-well-traveled counties around Austin.

A few years ago, I joined a group that conducts surveys on the lower Colorado River. I joined partly to acquire volunteer hours for my Master Naturalist certification, but mostly because it combines birding and being near (and in) water—two of my favorite pasttimes.

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