As we walked onto the beach on the Schlitterbahn boardwalk to get to the walk, however, we lucked out yet again:
So after some farewells to the good old friends I'd been lucky enough to see again this weekend, AB and I went to the sand flats north of the Convention Center, a great staging area for lots of shorebirds back in the winters I've gone to Texas. As usual, the Valley delivered.
Here's a Caspian Tern somehow managing to gulp down a huge fish he'd just caught in the Laguna Madre -- apologies for the low-light low-quality images:
Check out my catch!
Okay, I'm ready for this... I'm so ready for this....
Oh. My. God. It's like I just swallowed a pillow.
Please, digestion, PLEASE begin now.
Also found among the many Caspians were these two (I think?) Black Terns:
Lots of Wilson's Plovers were being cute and giving us the stink-eye:
And the Least Terns were practically dive-bombing us and screaming at us. We were at least 25 yards away from where several of them were sitting on the sand, but I'm guessing that was still too close so we backed off.
GET LOST. Beat it. Scram. I mean it. Boys, GET 'EM.
We hit the Birding and Nature Center once again, hoping to get pics of the Least Bittern -- which I showed you last post, pathetic though they were! -- and we also saw the regulars:
Tricolored Heron in full regalia
Snowy Egret, just after snagging a tasty morsel
a terrible but ID-quality photo of some Cattle Egrets,
birds I grew up calling "cowbirds" because they were
always hanging around the cows
Pied-billed Grebe, apparently not so common here in
the summer; this was the only grebe we saw the whole trip --
no Least Grebes, so no temptation to scoop one up and put
it in my pocket! I was sad AB didn't get to see one of those.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck baby butts
His (her?) markings aren't as impressive as the images online, but I can't find any other similar mammal match for the area.
And, as always happens when I go to the Island, I just HAD to try for the Aplomado Falcon. Longtime readers of this bloggy KNOW my tales of woe, my years of frustration and getting stuck in the mud and arguing with my sister (oh wait, I spared you that story)... and yet, I couldn't NOT go for it, you know?
AB and I looked. And looked. And looked at TUVUs, at seagulls. At cactus. At the non-muddy road. No Aplomado. No nothing.
Again, I assert that, like the Unicorn, the Aplomado Falcon is a mythical beast, and all sightings of him are merely the rantings of those who could use a stint in the booby-hatch.
I also engaged in my other usual Texas activity -- trying to make a common bird into something exotic, because it's TEXAS, dangit! -- . This trip's entry:
We had several Swainson's Hawks:
At this point, it was Sunday evening, and I had one more potential lifer to chase: Red-crowned Parrot, seen near a Baptist church right in Harlingen. We'd tried on Thursday night but hadn't seen anything, but this time we doodled until right at sunset. I took AB to see the Iwo Jima memorial, and while we were out on the loop we saw this:
I can't begin to tell you the emotions that went through me when I saw this sign. It was just so amazing to me. See, when I was a kid, growing up in the Valley, the worst insult you could hurl at someone was "faggot." (It still IS in many places, I realize.) I didn't even know what the word meant, but I began to see a few limp-wristed guys in the movies or on TV that everyone laughed at as girly guys to be laughed at; I didn't even connect the whole "gay" thing with anything sexual; I was that naive. I was raised by pretty strict parents who took us to church every week, and I didn't know a lot about the world. I won't bore you with the details, but I didn't figure things out until I was well into my adulthood, and there was a LOT of angst during that process -- a LOT of angst and heartbreak and drama. Coming out was tough for me; the time I grew up, in the place I grew up, this kind of stuff just wasn't discussed.
So... to see this sign, an official state sign, in Harlingen -- well, I gotta tell you. I almost cried when I saw it. And to have my fiancee by my side... well, it was just pretty special.
After that, only a lifer would do! So we went out and got us one:
They were so raucous and loud! It was so great! I was now at a ridiculous (for me) 403 lifebirds. Life was good. We could leave Texas now.