Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sunny Saturday on South Padre Island

The wind continues to blow at 20 to 30 mph, and it is 39 degrees, but the sun is shining, without cloud cover, for the first time all week, and we look forward to a final full day of birding on South Padre Island. The Birding Center advertised two bird hikes led by a volunteer birder, so we bundle up to join the hike led by Tim, a Texas Master Naturalist who spends most weekends at the center it seems. Only one other couple is brave enough to start with, and only Dick and I actually stick it out. Are we real birders or what!

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Small fish at the center died in the freeze last night, and the Caspian Terns and Pelicans chow down. Did you know that a Pelican in the water will spread its wings to lunge and catch a fish? Then as it swallows, it clacks its huge beak with satisfaction. Yum! A juvenile Harrier swoops low over the mangrove and reeds trying to flush small birds. I hope he caught something when he didn't come back out of the bushes. A Merlin perches quietly in the top of a mangrove bush, while one of the the resident Peregrine Falcons watches everything from the top of the city water tower. Tim helped us identify the Western Sandpipers probing the mudflats with Dunlin, while Lesser Yellow Legs and Willet explored the grasses. We saw a Least Sandpiper although I did not get a photo of it. It was so easy to identify the birds when he described them, but I may not have some of the names right here, so let me know if I've gotten confused. We learned to recognize Mottled Ducks by their bright orange legs and Mexican Mallards, which have darker green heads and no white band on their necks) paddling in the freshwater pond. A few Skimmers huddled with some Laughing Gulls in the shallow water. Try as we might, we did not find an Oyster Catcher.
We don't often think of the color of a bird's eye, but some of them are outstanding. Look at the blue eye on this Ibis and the red eye of the Spoonbill.
We looked for Rails and Sora which usually come out of the grass in late afternoon, but no luck today. We did, however, find the White Faced Goose which has been at the center for about a week now. Tim called the Texas Bird List to report its presence.
The center has lots of Reddish Egrets and one of the white morphs. We got to see both of them standing together and it made the comparison very easy.
As the sun sets (for the first time this week) over Port Isabel, we plan for a short expedition tomorrow morning before bidding goodbye to South Texas to fly North again.
Final additions to life birds:White Fronted Goose, Mottled Duck, Mexican Mallard Duck, Least Sandpiper, White Tailed Hawk, Western Sandpiper. Grand Total - 28 Lifers this week!

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