Sunday, October 5, 2014

October 4, 2014

A Fun Filled Day at the Island
October 4, 2014

It was a beautiful day at the beach today (Saturday).  (I had to finish this on Sunday because the Wi-fi at the hotel was not reliable in the late evening when I was trying to write.)  The temperature was perfect, the winds had died down, the sky had a few scattered clouds, and the water in the Gulf of Mexico was nice and warm.  The first thing we did in the morning was to take a walk on the beach.  There were already several people walking the beach and even a few swimming.  The birds were out looking for breakfast. 

We weren't really interested in breakfast, but picked up a couple of things at a convenience store to eat on our way to the Convention Center to check out the birds there.  I saw a Lesser Goldfinch, an American Redstart, and a Nashville Warbler, but the mosquitoes were swarming all over me so I told Ron we would have to leave and return to the hotel to get the insect repellent that I had forgotten to bring.

We returned to the hotel, but decided to go to Port Isabel and pick up some things.  I had just gotten home from the Ft. Worth area the night before the trip to the island, and my packing showed that my brain was not as focused as it should have been.  I had not taken anything but long slacks which aren't good for wading in the surf.  We hit a nice sale at Bealls and I got some great bargains including the needed beach attire.  We made a couple of other stops, but nothing spectacular.

Just after we crossed the causeway going back to South Padre Island, I had Ron stop and let me take some photos of a variety of birds gathered in a grassy area.  A week ago, the island had a very heavy rain - I think it was about 6 inches in a short time.  There is water still standing everywhere (one reason the mosquitoes are so bad).  This American Oystercatcher was looking for his lunch and found several things to eat while I watched him.

There were several varieties of brown and white shore birds that I have a lot of trouble identifying.  I will not take time to try to do that right now, but if I get some of them later, I will share that information with you.  There were sea gulls and sandpipers along with others.  It was a good spot for watching.

Once back on the island we decided it was probably time for lunch.  After a brief search we ended up picking up pizza at Pizza Hut and taking it back to the hotel.  I must tell you that Ron and I are not big on "fancy" eating places.  We are happy with chain places.  When I am in a restaurant that has "music", (and I use that term loosely), it truly sounds to me like I am standing beside a huge power generator.  I could hear nothing except that loud machine sounding noise and Ron said it was noisy in the place with a school group having lunch and the "music" on the loudspeakers.  They had seated us on the far side of the building from the high school students, but I really don't think it was their fault.  In fact, after we placed our take out order, the school group left and the noise level was the same for me.

Back in the room, we enjoyed lunch and the beautiful view of the beach.  When we were waiting for our pizza we had picked up an events paper and saw that this was the weekend for the Sand Sculpture Contest.  We decided to go to that and to the birding center.  It turned out they were almost across the street from each other, but the crowds for the Sand Sculptures were huge.  We went to the Birding Center and they said they were having a wedding there in a couple of hours, but we could pay and go out on the boardwalks and stay as long as we wanted.  We did that.  Ron took his Kindle and I walked and watched and photographed for a couple of hours.
Not everything I photographed was birds.  This alligator I think was waiting for a blue heron I had been watching that was on the other side of the bush where he was waiting - mouth open.  I think I stuck around long enough he got bored and left. 

Between the Sand Sculptures and the wedding, almost no one was on the board walks.  In our two hours there we only saw four other people.  NICE!  No running kids, no barking dogs, etc.

Ron sat in the shade reading and I had great success with the camera.  I loved having the area to myself and got a nice variety of birds.  There was a Kingfisher - a juvenile.  I am not sure which variety it is.  My guess is a Ringed Kingfisher, but the breast color is not complete, so I could be wrong and it could be a Belted Kingfisher.  It stayed in the shade, so it was hard to get a good photo.

For a while I watched a group of Roseate Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, and White Ibises.  They were a good distance away, but I got some nice photos.

There were all types of Herons and Egrets.  The Tri-color Herons are always fun to watch and beautiful.  They are very patient fishers.

After I had taken a bunch of photos of this Common Moorhen, I think she decided to gather her youngsters and they did not cooperate very well.

There were a few beautiful Great Egrets.
Off and on I would hear a bird call, but for the most part, they were either quiet, or I didn't hear them, but I think they were quiet except when they would tell me to go away.  This Green Heron tolerated a few photos.
Then he decided "enough was enough"!
I would know that look anywhere.  It says, "Would you go away!"
Others let you know they are through posing by just leaving.
Next I spent time watching two Brown Pelicans.  They were hunting supper.  They would float on the water and then take off like the one above, fly high in search of food,
Then pull in their wings and take a nose dive, hitting the water with a loud THUD! and usually come up with a fish for supper.

After about two hours of bird watching, Ron and I returned to the hotel and after getting a some water, took off on a four mile hike, going from our hotel to the jetties at the south end of the island and back again.  It was almost sunset when we left so it was dark when we returned.  Ron walked on the sand and I walked in the water.

It was a beautiful evening - perfect air and water temperatures, small groups of people along the way, and a half moon after sunset to light our way.
The fading sunlight was hitting the furthest row of waves.
We enjoyed watching the shore birds like this Great Blue Heron standing in the moon light.

Several ships were going out the ship channel and we enjoyed watching them.  Heading back toward the hotel, the lights from all the hotels lit our way.

Ron took this one as I walked on ahead of him.  

When we got back we decided to try the restaurant next door to the hotel and had it all to ourselves.  We were treated very well and they food was fine.  I will say, I never had a Club Sandwich with 4 layers and one of them seemed to be pimiento cheese; but is was nice and very reasonably priced.
It is hard to see places on the island struggling this time of year - their "off season".  The day was long with a lot packed into it, but we had a good time and a lot of exercise!

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