Sunday, February 12, 2012

Singing the Blues over a Tropical Memory

For as long as I can remember, the Blue Jay has been my favorite bird. I can't say for sure what initially did it for me. Its nagging personality, dominant behavoir, striking coloration - I'm not sure. But, whatever it was, I have loved this bird for a long time.

Almost everyday I put out a hand full of peanuts for no other reason than to make sure my Blue Jays are happy. If I rush off to work and forget to put out the peanuts, I worry all day about what my Blue Jays must be thinking about me. Nothing could ever replace my Blue Jays.

And then it happenned. My first dose of true temptation on December 30, 2010 at Laguna Atascosa near South Padre Island, TX. My wife and I were at the feeders for about two minutes when it showed up. My heart dropped, my blood pressure went up, and I became instantly still. I became infatuated with "another bird". The guilt was terrible but, I could not stop looking. The green feathers, the blue feathers, the tinge of yellow - oh, the excitement! I knew the bird would be cool but I had no idea it would be THAT COOL!!!

I was infatuated to a point of tunnel vision, no other bird mattered. It was all about the Green Jay for the remainer of the trip.

The day I said goodbye to South Texas on January 2, 2011 was hard. On the way to the airport, on the plane, and as I was driving home, all I could think about was that entrancing green that I saw in Texas. But, on January 3 I realized that I was only infatuation as I looked out my living room window and instantly realized, my Blue Jays could not be replaced and that they needn't worry.


It happenned again. This time on January 2, 2012, my first day of a weeklong birding adventure in South Texas with my friends Rob and Eric Ripma. Just like before, the Green Jays arrived and instantly, nothing else mattered - at least not as much as the Green Jays. There were Hooded Orioles, Altamira Orioles, and Great Kiskadees everywhere. The Salineno feeders were a hub of colorful activity. But it didn't matter, all I wanted was the Green Jays.

We stopped at a number of cool destinations and saw some very cool birds throughout the trip but my heart had turned green and no matter where we went I was always hoping a Green Jay would make its appearance - and, it almost always did.

The trip home was much like before, I was sad to be leaving such and extroidinary bird but I knew once I saw a Blue Jay again, I would remember the species that owned my heart. But this time, it has been different. My Blue Jays are making me smile as they always have but I feel like something is missing.

Something gaudy and green with a lot of Texas hospitality.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Texas, Part 2. Estero Llano Grande and South Padre Island

Least Grebe and Northern Shoveler... Estero Llano Grande

I've decided that it is next to impossible to write about Texas in a blog. One single birding trip to this state could easily transform into a novel. This will be part 2 of at least 4 blogs posts on our trip this past January. Of course, I am going to have to speed up the posting so that I can also write about something else before the end of theyear! This post is going to highlight Estero Llano Grande State Park and South Padre Island (specifically, the World Birding Center).

Both places are my favorite. Just like Salineno and Falcon Lake - my favorites. Yes, I am one of those people that just can't make up my mind. Just like my ongoing dilemma between a Blue Jay and a Green Jay - I can't decide which is my number one favorite bird. I mean, it has always been the Blue Jay so how can I put this gorgeous bird on the back burner? I can't! So, I now have two favorite birds; The Blue Jay and the Green Jay! In fact, as I type this I am smiling at the sound of a Blue Jay outside the window making his normal obnoxious racket before his approach to snatch his favorite food - a peanut.

Let me get back on track! Estero Llano Grande State Park is a World Birding Center in Weslaco, TX. A very birder/nature lover friendly park, Estero has great trails that will guide you around ponds, creeks, and Texas woodlands allowing you to capture a number of birds in a variety of habitats. From Buff-bellied Hummingbirds to Green Kingfishers and Least Grebes to Northern Shovelers, your eyes will never slow down from the excitement! Estero is also a great place to see the Common Pauraque. Like so many parks in the Rio Grande Valley, Estero is also a location for rarities which tend to pop up all year long. During our visit we were blessed with some great looks at a Rose-throated Becard - thank goodness for the great bird finding ability of Eric Ripma! Now, off to South Padre...

Least Sandpipers... Estero Llano Grande

Northern Pintail and Wigeon... South Padre WBC

Snowy Egret... South Padre WBC

The World Birding Center at South Padre Island is a birders/photographers dream. Just like Merritt Island or Ding Darling in Florida, the birds seem to enjoy being subjects of photography. If the sun is just right, great pictures can be taken with almost any type of camera. So, at this place don't be intimidated by the big lenses, I promise your $100 camera will take just as many good pictures as your neighbor's $10k camera.

Ok, back on point. This destination will give you a chance to utilize a boardwalk system that will get you up close and personal to a wide variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, and marsh birds. For us this included: Northern Pintail, Wigeon, Tri-colored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Red Head Duck, Reddish Egret, American Oystercatcher, Gull-billed Tern, Marsh Wren, Sedge Wren, and Marbled Godwit. The list goes on and one. Oh, did I mention all of these birds were RIGHT THERE!!!

Tri-colored Heron... South Padre WBC

Roseate Spoonbill... South Padre WBC

Whether it be Estero Llano Grande or South Padre Island World Birding Center you should plan for a full day at each location. You can rush but you'll only be stressed that you did. So take your time and be ready for a LOT of birds!

Indiana State Bird

Indiana State Bird
Northern Cardinal