Wednesday, February 28, 2018

South Padre Island Sea Turtle Center

The opening of the new Sea Turtle complex on South Padre Island was cause for another trip with Ken and Terry Smelcer.  The Sea Turtle Inc. assists with conservation programs that include monitoring and protection of major nesting sites. 

This non-profit entity , based on south Padre Island, was founded in 1977 to rehabilitate injured sea turtles, educate the public about endangered sea turtles, and to assist with conservation problems to help populations of sea turtles recover.

The facility has been housed in a small building containing 8 large and 8 small tanks where different species of sea turtles are able to recover from some type of trauma.  Some of the problems were caused by people.  Turtles being tangled in fishing line or equipment, damage from boat propellers, or caught in fish traps.  Sea turtles are also debilitated from cold weather, ocean predators, or creatures attached to their shells.

Each tank gives a description of what happened to the turtle and expected outcome.

This beautiful, spacious building is the new section of Sea Turtle Inc

Terry likes it!

The front section of the new facility has areas for programs, educational displays, a gift shop, and a wonderful 8 foot aquarium.

A puffer fish

The belly side of a sting ray.

Blue crabs

The back section of the building holds 5 huge tanks for the resident sea turtles that cannot ever be released due to their injuries.

This big turtle cooperated by swimming right up to the glass.  Most of the other turtles choose to stay at the rear of their tank.

Modern technology was able to save this turtle, who was found with three missing flippers.

The strap on apparatus is made to clip onto her shell and can be adjusted as she grows.  Obviously this turtle will never be released, but now she has a huge new tank to swim in.

After touring the new facility we went next door to the South Padre Island Birding center which maintains miles of boardwalk.

A Black Skimmer taking off.

A Tricolored Heron preening.

Snowy Egret with his yellow feet, known as  "golden slippers"

At the end of the last boardwalk.  I think this big fellow just finished lunch.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Odds and Ends

A DEAR friend of mine (not mentioning any names) chided me for my lack of blog postings this month.  When looking over my daily log, I realized that working has cut into the time we usually spend exploring.  We did squeeze in a few adventures, so for Ruthie, I have gathered a few highlights to post.

Met up with Peggy Rudman at one of our favorite Wildlife Refuges, Laguna Atascosa. Peggy is staying in Mission, which is about 50 miles west of where we are located.   Juliet Vallejo, a Ranger at Resaca, came along for a pretty good birding day.  Peggy's expertise always makes for great birding.

The area around the visitors center was quiet that morning, but this Long-billed thrasher posed nicely while we were in the picnic area.  I missed a great shot at a  Northern Parula that came to the feeding station.

Like this better than "No Trespassing".

Peggy, Marlin and Juliet spotted lots of ducks and wading birds but the treat for the day was a lazy loop made overhead by the Aplamado Falcon. The Aplamado was extinct from Texas for many years, until a successful restoration project reintroduced them in this area.  They are now established here and there are multiple breeding pairs.

(picture from Wikapedia)

The next week we went over to Progreso, Mexico for the first time this year.  We met Terry and Ken Smelcer, along with Ken's brother Maynard and wife Nancy at the parking lot on the US side of the border.  It costs $.50 to walk across the bridge from the US side into Mexico, but only $.25 to return home.

Lunch at Angel's Restaurant

Ken and Maynard don't look very happy for some reason.

Angel's is on the third floor, accessed via a sketchy elevator.  The Restaurant is staffed by all male servers dressed in black pants, white shirts, black vests, and bow ties. Should have had a picture.

After lunch and some shopping, we stopped at a small canteen, called Jessica's, for a drink.  Fun Mexican pottery, but too big (and more expensive) to transport over the bridge and home.

Terry and I could not resist the bargain flower pots at the Canada store.  For $4.95 we were willing to carry them the 1/2 mile walk.

My favorite sign of the day, appropriately located behind today's clientele!

On Sunday night the Smelcers returned to Brownsville.  We found a great restaurant that has a band playing every Sunday night.  Cobleheads Restaurant has an open air patio overlooking a Resaca and the blues music was fantastic.

Resaca is the Spanish word for Oxbow lake.  Before the Rio Grande River was controlled by several dams, it would usually flood annually.  The flooding water would create deep arroyos, or ditches, which would dry up as the river receded and they became cut off from the main River.   Some resacas have water most of the time from a natural sources.  Most need to be artificiality filled.  The Resaca at our park, which requires refilling on a monthly basis, buys its water from the local water district.

Ken and Maynard still don't look happy.

Spring has sprung here in Texas.  The Huisache and the Acanua trees are all in bloom

 The Huisache tree, pronounced Wisachie, is native to Texas and they occur all over this park.  When they are in bloom, the fragrance is everywhere and the blossoms create a yellow carpet when they fall off the trees.

The blossoms are like little puff balls.

The Anacua blooms are white clusters of tiny star shaped flowers

Each of these blooms will become an orange berry that is loved by birds and other wildlife.

Wild flowers are popping up everywhere.

Our most common wildlife sighting.  We see these Nine Banded Armadillos throughout the park, digging for grubs wherever there is soft dirt.

This is Rey, resident dog here at Resaca de la Palma.  A friendly pup that keeps the wild animals at bay within the maintenance yard.

Marlin has been busy creating some new, natural looking, bird feeders for the feeding stations here at the visitors center.

He carves a troth in Texas Ebony logs, deep enough that it can be filled with bird seed each morning.  Then he locates a spot in an existing tree where the feeder log can be secured. 

These log feeders are rugged enough to stand up under the weight of our wild turkeys that come for a free meal.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Big birds and Little birds of South Texas

Since I put up a bird feeder right outside our door, we have had  many visitors.

The many colored Green Jay.  As frequent here as blue jays are at home.  These Jays only come a very short distance over the Mexican border into South Texas

The sweet singing Altamira Oriole.  Another Mexican visitor

Dozens of cardinals

And this lonely female Red Wing Blackbird. She comes to the feeder every day by herself.  Unusual for a blackbird.   Not sure but I think she has something wrong with her beak.

After a couple of weeks working, experimenting with a new camera, and settling in to a schedule, we are beginning to enjoy a few outings. 

Estero Llano Grande is a popular State Park and World Birding Center, about 40 miles west of Brownsville.  They have an organized bird walk on Saturday and Wednesdays.  Since we are usually working on Saturday, our option was for Wednesday.

The narration starts at the visitors center on the outside deck.  The pond here is usually full of a large variety of ducks and wading birds.

We met our friend Peggy Rudman there, along with about 8 others, and  enjoyed two hours of good birding. 

The visitors center and deck from the opposite side of the pond

The roof looks like it needs help, but it was built that way so all the run-off from rain would go into the pond

I was very disappointed with my pictures from that day.  There were some good sightings of distinctive birds, but my shots were less than great.  Mostly deletes, just one worth keeping, but still not too sharp.

Yellow crowned night heron.

Last Tuesday, a friend sent us information about the Hummingbird banding in a near by town.  Hard to get ready at 7 AM on one of our days off, but I convinced myself it would be interesting, and it was.

Kelly B. Bryan ( a Hummingbird bander is from Fort Davis, TX.  He travels the state giving demonstrations and compiling extensive data on hummingbirds.

Imagine putting a band on the leg of a humming bird!

Specialized tools are needed for each size humming bird.  The pliers are made so it is not possible to squeeze the birds leg to tightly.

The tan sock is used to hold and quiet the bird while it is banded, measured, and weighed.

After the birds are caught in a net, they are put in these bags before they are measured and weighed.

Each band is numbered and recorded along with weight and measurements

The tail and wings are measured

And the length of the beak

Wrapped up in the sock, the weight is recorded

Before being released he lets the bird drink to regain some energy

When all the data is collected, he places the bird in the open hand of a spectator.  Sometimes the bird flies immediately, and sometimes it will sit quietly for a few moments.

All the data goes into a national database, which allows tracking of individual birds, if and when they are caught again.  None of the birds caught this day had been previously banded.