Monday, February 15, 2010

Yin Yang in the Natural Word

We're at the World Birding and Nature Center. But we aren't birders.

A guy at the dog park thought we might like this place, and considers it a Must See for tourists to South Padre Island, Texas. It's a world-class bird watching area. With an incongruous neighbor: A sewage treatment plant.

It looks bad (well, not in the picture above, but when you are here, you see it from just about every viewpoint) and it smells bad, too (ESPECIALLY when you climb to the fifth-floor observation deck and stand downwind. PHEW!)

But on most days, it's not so bad, says the volunteer/birder we meet.  Before the center opened in 2009, he'd slog through the dank boggy waters next to the plant to watch his birds.  Now, he sees his birds and stays dry by walking out over the center's mile of boardwalk. The walkway traverses the dank, brackish water and extends out into Laguna Madre (a huge lagoon and the only one in the U.S. saltier than the ocean).

So this Odd Couple is, apparently, good for each other. The water spilled by the treatment plant helps create the center's multiple water environments which attract about 300 species of birds. And an alligator or two. There's freshwater, brackish water, salty water, even saltier water and two kinds of wetlands, a muddy one and a watery one. So birds, take your pick.

Today, there are few takers.

A North Wind  (which means it's a cold wind, I've learned) sends most of the birds into hiding, so we spend more time with the few we see.

We are not birders. So we don't know if this big white guy out there is a heron or egret, or maybe a ibis? It doesn't matter. We stay with him for a while, watching as he walks stealthily though the salty lagoon, dining on little silvery fare he fishes out of the water with his bill.

We spend time watching a blue guy do the same.

We watch a black duck-like bird fly away and a lot of little round birdies with yellow bottoms dance in and out of the fence. We see a lot of white birds with black heads swoop down to the water and slurp? Are they drinking? Dining? We can't tell, but it looks like a ballet.

We watch and hear a black shiny bird (a grackle?) complain when we get too close and a big grey bird take flight.

We are not birders, so we don't know who these guys are or why they behave as they do.

But we're watching birds. So we're bird watchers. Next to a water treatment plant. And by the end of the hike, I don't mind at all.

1 comment:

CE Webster said...

Great post--it is so much fun bird watching. I love when people discover the hobby (sport)!