By MARILYN LORENZ
Special to the PRESS
If you happen to have looked up at the sky recently you may very well have noticed large birds flying overhead. Strings of cormorants by the hundreds and both large and small flocks of herons and egrets are passing by. The curlews have been back for weeks and sandpipers and terns are arriving by the dozens every day. It may still feel like summer to you but the birds feel the chill of autumn in the air and are coming south.
Most of these birds will just be resting here for a few weeks to get ready for the big flight to Central America and beyond. Young birds, born just three months ago, must build up their strength for a journey far longer than I will probably ever undertake and there is no forgiveness for error. The slightest mistake will cost them their lives. This stupendous pilgrimage occurs every year but is not as noticeable as the spring migration for two major reasons. 1. The birds are not in their eye-catching breeding plumage but, rather, their duller winter camouflage. 2. Instead of large flocks focused on a nesting destination, they come in streams and dribbles and are much more relaxed.
I recently participated in this year’s World Shorebird Day and was very pleased to see the great variety of shorebirds and other water birds we have as visitors. Elegant black-necked stilts mince daintily through shallow water on their astonishingly pink legs while assorted sandpipers run about hunting small water creatures. Our tally of sandpipers included: least, pectoral, semi-palmated, western, spotted, and sanderlings. All of these will be spending the winter here at the Birding and Nature Center on South Padre Island. There should also be quite a number of plovers, whimbrels, marbled godwits, and dowitchers as all of these also appreciate the accommodations on the Island.
Coming soon will be Black Skimmers and American Oystercatchers. These can often be seen lounging around on the beaches on the laguna side. They come in vast numbers and line up like fighter jets on the tarmac just waiting for the order to take off. The White Pelicans are also starting to return for the winter. They spend their summers catching fish on the Great Lakes and other smaller lakes up north, but they are dependable Winter Texans just like the Ospreys. In a few weeks the ducks and geese will be coming by the thousands. It is always amazing to see how many birds come here for food and safety for the winter while the north wind blows ice and snow over the rest of the country. But, then, that’s why we live here, isn’t it?
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