Nice weather!

Jan. 26:  Off to S. Padre Island early this morning.  A perfect day: clear skies, low winds, temps to 25.  The boardwalks at 2 sites provided close looks at waterfowl.  Bill had a great time.

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My personal favourites were the Black Skimmers.  Here are shots depicting: flying, bathing and something of which I have no idea.  We speculated they were cooling off?  Maybe de-bugging?  Resting? First we thought one had died, but I put the scope on it and could see its eye opening and closing.  They we saw another one do it – then another!  In researching on the web, the only site which gave a reason was an Audubon site, saying they’re just sleeping.  Cornell had nothing of this activity.  Others had observed it but didn’t know why they did it.  Black Skimmers were a LIFER for me on my 50th birthday in Peru (15 years ago).  I won’t forget that day when we got up at about 4 AM to go down the Amazon River (don’t know how the drivers missed all the logs in the pitch black), to climb a huge kapok tree (with stairs and a platform) to watch the sunrise and observe early bird activity.  When we returned to camp we saw the skimmers.  I had only seen them previously on TV, but had been captivated.  I remember the day with some embarassment, since it was the 1st time I’d gone without makeup in “public” – ever – HA!

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A Laughing Gull flew by.

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Flocks of Dunlin moved in waves from place to place.  Here’s a Black-bellied Plover – another shorebird, all on its own.

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This Caspian Tern glowed in the sun.

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Other animals inhabit the fresh water wetlands.  This aligator is a momma, however, we didn’t see her babies.  She’s about 10′ long.  Probably thinks we can’d see her due to the twig camoflage.

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Talapia are the most common fish.  Apparently they make communal holes in the sand by sucking up mud in their mouths and spewing it out elsewhere – then lay eggs in the shallow dips.  These guys are about a foot long but there are various sizes throughout the canals.

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Closer than we’ve ever gotten to a Green Heron.  Very pretty (though not really very green!).

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My best view ever of the elusive Sora.  It gadded about in the reeds, letting us see it from every angle.  Some great feet eh?  All the birds seem to have gotten used to people walking along the boardwalks.

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Common Moorehens were very vocal with their hoarse cries.

image  Several Pied-billed Gremes were evident, though they lose their black bill mark in non-breeding plumage.

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Surprisingly, Great Blue Herons even ignored us.  The upper shot was a sleeper – I don’t know what this 2nd activity is, but it’s nothing I’ve seen before!

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A flock of about 14 White Ibis flew in – here are 3 in symmetry.

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Best view of a Tri-colored Heron.

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This Reddish Egret was busy – as were the Tri-colored, catching minnows which swarmed in large schools.

We also visited the Sheepshead Street which has 2 sites where warblers and other interesting species are sometimes seen.  Apparently in April, during migration, they basically fall at peoples’ feet with exhaustion after crossing the Gulf of Mexico.  It must be quite a site, as told to us by a woman from Wisconsin who’d seen it.

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Today there were no perching birds in the grounds of the Convention Center, just butterflies.  But what a wonderful day!

Jan. 27:  A windy day but sunny – high 27.  We were so pooped from yesterday, we didn’t want to anything too much.  So walked at the butterfly center down the road.  Didn’t see anthing new, but the light was nice for photos.

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The Altamira Oriole matches its dinner.

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Even a Clay-colored Thrush looks pretty good closeup, showing his streaky chin.

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The lady who feeds said a Cooper’s Hawk pretty well decimated their Chachalaca flock last year, but there are still some around.  You can see this one’s red chin which puffs up when displaying.  Both sexes have this red pouch, but only the males use it to attract females (figures).

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A Lincoln Sparrow taking a shower.  One of the best things all the parks provide is water.  From elaborate waterfalls, to dripping taps to misters – they’re all essential for drinking and bathing – wonderful photo ops as well!

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We were vcery happy to also get a shot of an Olive Sparrow in much better light than before.  A nice walk then groceries and shopping.

Jan. 28/29 – inclement weather.  Jan. 30:  Over to ELG to try for the elusive (for me) Gray-crowned Yellowthroat.  I SAW IT!!  LIFER FOR LOIS TOO!!  YAY!  Now Bill doesn’t have to feel so bad.

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We didn’t stay for long after that, but I thought I’d include this White-tailed Kite hunting.  Tail splayed, feet hanging down, hovering, peering down.

Feb. 1:  Superbowl day.  Went over to Bentsen for a walk in the morning.  Luckily John, the hawk man, was there and we found out the Hook-billed Kites appear around 8 AM flying east, then between 3 and 6 PM flying west.  We will try to get out there to see them.

We also heard the Ingdigo Buntings have been seen at the Kiskadee Blind, so off we headed.  There were lots of birds and John had a novice birding group with him who joined us for awhile.  Lots of stuff around with the water feature plus seed and grapefruit stations.

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Managed to get a couple of bathing beauties for your enjoyment.  Here are the N. Cardinal group.  Their down is a very blue-gray.

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The water feature attracted a large flock of Common Ground Doves.  They are only 6″ long – only half the size of a Mourning Dove, and have a lovely scaled head and neck.

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We rarely see the yellow crest of a Great Kiskadee, but we happened to catch it partway up.

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Speaking of invisible crests, this Orange-crowned Warbler was taking a bath and we could really see his orange crest.  He was pretty pooped by the end and laid down his little head.

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At last we got a couple of decent shots of a male Indigo Bunting.  Just starting to get blue feathers on his breast, but lots of blue on his wings and tail.  He’ll eventually turn all blue (and boy will the girls like him then!).

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As we passed the canal at the visitor center, we at last had a chance to photograph our favourite little flycatcher – Black Phoebe (Jackie this is for you).  Then he took off.

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As usual, there is lots of border guard activity – trucks everywhere.  Today a noisy helicopter flew right overhead. (Scared away the phoebe.)

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At 3 PM we headed over to the canal again, to see if we could spot the elusive Hook-billed Kite.  At 3:30 – THERE IT WAS!  At last, after 2 months.  Well.  What a day!  Now home to the Superbowl!  GO SEAHAWKS!!

 

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