Thursday, January 07, 2010

Birding at the Landfill

We are always enthusiastic about birding at water treatment plants. We find great birds there, no matter how sparse birds may be at fancier places. The Texas Coastal Birding Trail guide took us to the Brownsville Landfill today, and it was really an experience, let me tell you! Just be glad that I don't have a Smell-o-Camera! The aroma was truly something we wanted to escape quickly. The guide suggested that we watch for unusual gulls, and the gulls were there in the hundreds of thousands, but I couldn't pick out any that looked unfamiliar. It almost looked like the snow falling in Louisville.
The Vultures and Gulls soared around, squawking and fighting over choice bits of garbage. The Caracara was too dignified to squawk. The scene looked like something from Hitchcock's movie, "The Birds." I kept a sharp eye out for speeding garbage trucks as we pulled to the side of the road on the trash hill - the highest spot in the county, probably.
The star bird was the White Tailed Hawk - the sole lifer for today. We spotted a dark bird with white breast that we couldn't identify. Notice the band on his leg - someone caught him sometime. At the landfill, we saw two more birds with white bellies, dark heads and wings and when they flew the brilliant white tail became visible. Clearly, we had found juvenile and adult White Tailed Hawks. Aren't they beautiful!
When we left South Padre Island around 9:00, the temperature was 64 degrees, but the Weather Channel had dire warnings for the Arctic blast due to arrive in South Texas today. A few Ruddy Turnstones ate a late breakfast in the rocks, while a pair of Harris Hawks perched on the yucca.
It started to rain at the landfill, so we got back in the car for the next stop, but the Audubon Society's Sabal Palm refuge was locked up when we arrived. By now, the rain was steadier, and the wind fiercer as we drove down to Boca Chica Beach where the road ends at the Gulf. We were due south of South Padre Island, reachable from the island only by boat. The wind driven sand blew across the road and I wisely did not try to open my door (if I could have in any event). The few brave (or foolhardy) birds in the air appeared to fly backwards. A few little Sanderlings and Piping Plovers actually slid backwards or sideways as they tried to feed in the mudflats. I felt so sorry for them.
We decided to end the day early and just head back to the room. By 2:30 the temperature was 47, and the wind speed is now about 30 mph. The wind pours in around our door, in fact we had trouble getting to close at all with the wind blowing so hard, but we have no plans to go out again in this weather. Everyone we meet here just smiles and says, "At least it isn't as bad as home!"

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