Our first visit to South Padre was windy and cold – 4 degrees celsius. I stepped out of the car to photograph the ocean and soon popped back into the warmth. Our winter coats were safely packed and stored under the bus, as we lovingly call our motor home. So we had a quick lunch at Daddy’s and headed back to base camp.
When we tried again a week later, the temperature had warmed up to 24 degrees (C). I was still tired from my outing a few days earlier, but our time on the Rio Grande was drawing short and I hate to waste opportunities.
The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is on the bay side of the water, and offers about 1/2 mile of boardwalk over wetlands, with covered blinds from which to photograph the wildlife. Immediately through the Visitor Center’s doors we spotted a Snowy Egret in a camera-ready pose. A pair of Coots honked a welcome and a Little Blue Heron stood at attention. It was a good day for birding.
A splash to my right drew my attention to a small school of fish gathered in the water. Fascinated, I watched them roll about in the water. On the nearby shore, a Little Blue Heron was also watching, his head bobbing side to side like a little wind up toy. In this shot he’s looking at me as if to say: “Don’t get any ideas; this is my lunch!”
I was not the contender he needed to be worried about for the overhead traffic was busy with large water birds circling and a Northern Harrier that kept swooping by. Our lenses were clicking in all directions trying to capture the magic of the moment, although Ric is more proficient at catching the birds in flight than I am.
The lucky fisherman was not to be the Little Blue, but this Reddish Egret, who made a grand entrance, landing smack dab in the middle of the stream, where I’d just seen the fish. What a magnificent and fun bird to observe. Almost extinct at one point due to hunters collecting their plumes, these egrets are now protected. Certainly don’t see these beauties in the north.
The next boardwalk took us out over the water, where thousands of ducks gathered, although the blinding sun stopped me from getting any sharable pics. We spotted Mallards, lots of Redheads, a cluster of Pintails, and some Green-winged Teals.
The boardwalk then passed over a marshy area with tall grass, and there in the water I spotted the most beautiful aqua coloured bird gracefully wading through the shallow water in search of food. After consulting with our birding friends, I think it is an immature Little Blue as they start out white and only gain their darker blue colour with age. My picture does not do justice to the actual hue.
Both my camera and my own battery died at this point, but there was much more to see. Legs burning, I pushed on, letting Ric go ahead of me and vetting the paths to save me taking excess steps. I bypassed a couple of walkways and opted to follow one long stretch that led to a pond, where a group of birds gathered on little island. I pulled out my iPhone but couldn’t get close enough. The walkway followed the pond and offered a covered sitting area on the other side. I decided to perch myself there for a rest. I was just about to settle in when this fellow caught my eye, stretched out in the sun just across the stream from me.
The Northern Harrier was still following, and Ric got a few good shots, but I was left to just to admire its beauty. Lesson learned: always carry an extra camera battery.
Exhausted and hungry, we stopped at Blackbeard’s for lunch, on the main strip. Ric decided to try the chicken fried steak – something we don’t see on menus back home. An enormous of platter of french fries, green beans piled on top by two steaks, breaded and fried, and a greasy looking slab of buttered toast arrived.
I was really glad I’d ordered fresh fish and vegetables! I don’t know who they expected to eat all that, unless it was our friend, the alligator.