Thursday, November 16, 2006

RGV: Sunday part 2

After our small group left the South Padre Island convention center and the Valley Land Fund lots, we crossed the causeway to Port Isabel and boarded a dolphin-watching boat. An armada of Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls surrounded the pier, while one Ruddy Turnstone briefly walked the planks.

As the boat slowly motored toward the swing bridge, we spied an Osprey carrying a fish... and a Peregrine Falcon chasing the Osprey before flying behind the boat and up into the causeway's girders. A very cool sighting.

Along the breakwater, we spied white-morph Reddish Egret, Sandwich Tern, Long-billed Curlew and Horned Lark. After passing through the swing bridge, we encountered Double-crested Cormorant, Black-necked Stilt, Eurasian Collared-Dove and this day-glow orange palm tree. Who thinks up these products? And who in their right mind buys them??

Luckily, we had more appetizing sights ahead of us, in the form of Great Blue Heron, Black-bellied Plover, Caspian Tern, Ring-billed Gull, Sanderling, White Ibis, lots more Osprey, Belted Kingfisher and Crested Caracara.

As we got into deeper water, we encountered bottlenose dolphins (very cool!) as well as Black Skimmer, Marbled Godwit, Franklin's Gull and -- one of my favorites -- Roseate Spoonbill. The sun occasionally broke through, the fresh air felt delicious, and it was a good day to be on a boat.

As we neared the beginning of the jetty, we couldn't help but see an unusual (at least to me) sight: three tugboats pulling an oil rig into the harbor. Leader Mike Hannisian mentioned that oil rigs often serve as resting spots for migrating species, a topic of some study.

As our boat approached the end of the jetty and the open water, we experienced some roller-coaster waves. Woo hoo! On our return to the dock, we encountered a large pod of dolphins, with a few coming within just a few feet of the boat.

After the bus returned to the auditorium in Harlingen, BirdChick and I ate lunch with Paul Baicich, tireless advocate of the Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp. Here, he tells Daisy of the benefits of the stamp's $15 price tag and its benefits to the national wildlife refuge system.

The next festival on my travel schedule: Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Fla., in late January. Join me and Laurilee Thompson!


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