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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spring is for the birds

It's spring migration time here in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Colors abound as birds fly to South Padre Island, take a break for nourishment after a long trip across the Gulf of Mexico, rest a while and then head north.

I've learned so much by watching for birds on the island. Birds, common to some but magically new to me, taught me much about nature's artistry. I've fallen in love with the painted bunting, the indigo bunting, the black-and-white warbler, and many more of these beauties.

While I've learned that the island is a major stopover for birds, I've also found many other locations throughout the country that provide respite to weary travelers - sort of a hotel chain for birds as they travel between their summer and winter homes.

Mike Norton from Traverse City, Michigan, reports on fascinating birding opportunities in his neck of the woods. Along with spring migration, many birders attend the annual Leelanau Peninsula Birding Festival celebrating the May nesting season. I'm intrigued by some of their offerings.

"Birding by tall ship" sounds like an expedition I would love. This cruise takes birders to an offshore island to view the waterbirds. Then there's "birding by ear," a hike that teaches birders to recognize hidden songbirds by their calls. I need that. Mike reports that 120 bird species were spotted at last year's festival. I want to go!
Painted Bunting

The US Fish and Wildlife report that birding in now America's number-one outdoor activity. They estimate 51.3 million birds, plus about 16 million Americans who look for birds when they travel. I fall somewhere in the middle - a birder wanna-be, late to the game, but totally enthusiastic.
Yellow-bellied sapsucker

My camera is my constant companion and I will most likely spend the rest of my life looking for a way to capture nature's beauty. I'll never succeed because the reality is always better but it sure is fun to keep trying!
Chestnut-sided warbler

Here are some photos from spring migration in South Padre in recent years.
Black-and-white warbler