South Padre Island might be better known as a place that gets taken over by Spring Breakers but for birders, it happens to be a major waterbird hotspot. I was reminded of that on a trip to the area last week. Thousands of wading birds, ducks, terns, and other aquatic species were concentrated in the area and made for exciting, non-stop birding action!
The lagoons in southern Texas are one of the most important area for wintering Redheads. There were quite a few at South Padre Island although these handsome ducks should be heading north within the next few weeks
As for shorebirds, the most elegant one in the area was an American Avocet.
These delicate looking shorebirds strike a distinctive pose with their needle-like, upturned bills. They mostly nest in shallow wetlands of the Great Plains and in the west.
As usual Great Egrets were also present.
It is hard to believe that these common wading birds almost went extinct in the USA little more than a century ago after being relentlessly hunted for their plumes. Fortunately, the Audubon Society fought to protect these and other egret species and their numbers quickly rebounded. It is always a pleasure to watch these graceful birds in action.
Spoonbills are another common sight at South Padre Island. With their spatulate bills and amazing pink plumage, they just might be our most exotic looking bird species.
There was so much action that day that it was sometimes hard to know where to look!
Royal Terns were flying around and diving for small fish. I am guessing that this one either caught a fish that was hiding in a bit of seaweed, or missed the fish and ended up with the seaweed instead.
Black Skimmers are always fun to watch as they fly just above the surface of the lagoon with their lower mandible skimming through the water. When it touches something, it snaps shut. I was lucky to catch this one right in the act of closing its bill!
More action was provided by a Northern Harrier that coursed over the marsh. Although this raptor mostly takes smaller prey than ducks, that didn’t stop most of the birds from taking flight every time the Harrier passed overhead!
Waterbird action should continue to be good for the next month or so as the ducks are replacd by migrating shorebirds.