Friday, 11 March 2016

Convention Center

This morning, Skip and I went to the Birding Center in hopes of finding a low tide. We try to interpret the published tide charts but don't seem to be able to figure it out correctly. The tide was as high as it was two days ago.

Right at the pond at the entrance were a couple of black-bellied whistling ducks.
We took a quick cruise around the boardwalk. This great blue heron had just swallowed a rather large fish. You can see the bulge in its neck and the top of its chest.

Male red-wing blackbird
 The feather display of the great egret really shows why they were hunted almost to extinction back in the days women wore feathered hats.
The spotted sandpiper flew in to its usual spot. I took a video but haven't figured out how to download it properly. A photo will have to suffice.
We heard, then saw the belted kingfisher. Although the colour of the lower 'belt' is not really visible, it does indicate that this is a female - the first female I've seen this year.
Here is a view to the south west towards the Queen Isabella Causeway which connects South Padre Island to the mainland at Port Isabel, TX. It is free to cross the 4km span. It will be very busy this weekend - the beginning of Texas Week and the biggest Spring Break week.
Looking to the WNW, the shoreline across the Laguna Madre was visible today. The air was so clear.
I heard a rustling in the dried reeds. Would it be a baby gator? A bittern? A clapper rail? Then out popped this female grackle.
Along one segment of the boardwalk, these round hollows are visible in the water below. They are created by blue tilapia that scoop up mouthfuls of silt and spit it out in a circular manner - perhaps to attract a mate.
At the final bird blind, the gator was sunning itself.
Its teeth looked quite clean and white. Possibly scraped clean by the crunchy bones of its prey.
We then headed over to the Convention Centre to birdwatch for the first time this year.

The butterfly garden/water feature is very lush. The light was perfect to take a photo of this hibiscus.
The turk's cap is a favourite of many butterfly species.
Out in the garden the bottle-brush trees are just coming into bloom. They are also popular with many butterflies and bees.
I'm happy to see the monarchs. Their resting spot in Mexico experienced a snowfall yesterday and we're still waiting to see what toll it has taken on the monarch population. Up to that point, this was a much improved year.
I reported my sightings  on the migration website that I follow. I raise several from eggs I collect from milkweed leaves in the summer and also report the ones I release.

I got a good shot of several of these butterflies. They are about 2/3 the size of the monarchs and I've been unable to determine what the species is. They're not quite the same as the monarch.
There were song sparrows in the garden.
Unfortunately, we also saw a scruffy-looking cat walking around the butterfly garden. I hope it doesn't catch many birds.

I took a few more shots of monarchs.
Then we headed over to the observation point at the west side of the convention center. There's a good view of the sandy flats on the laguna.
The white morph reddish egret had its back to the wind which ruffled its feathers.
Below and to the left there were about 10 marbled godwits feeding.
They are easily identified by the black-tipped, slightly upturned, long bill and spotty feathers.
They spend the summer on the SW shore of James Bay and the south of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Amid these other shorebirds (dowitchers? willets?) I spotted a couple of ruddy turnstones.
This little lizard (anole?) was on the boardwalk. It was about 4" long from nose to tail tip.
The osprey was scanning the water for food. Its call reminds me of the chirping sound which serves as an aid for blind people at crosswalks back home.
Other species spotted but not pictured were a pyrrhuloxia, a grey catbird, and a long-billed thrasher.

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