2022-09-03 Saturday at the SPIBNC

Mangrove Warbler - Setophaga petechia oraria
Mangrove Warblers are actually a subspecies of the Yellow Warbler collective. Spend a day at the SPI Bird and Nature Center (BNC) and there will surely be some interesting birds for your entertainment.
Wilson's Plover - Charadrius wilsonia
For years, I’ve wanted to meet Wilson’s Plovers. What a treat to finally find them in south Texas. 
Prothonotary Warbler - Protonotaria citrea
I first met Prothonotary Warblers here on South Padre Island when they were headed north in the spring of 2021. Now I was meeting them as they traveled south to their winter homes somewhere between the Texas Gulf Coast and South America. 

I spent the day soloing at the SPI Birding and Nature Center (BNC), and had a lovely time with the birds, and with the people there with me, enjoying the same. Javi Gonzalez is the resident biologist, or naturalist here and is always a joy to hang out with. The first bird that greeted me was a Wilson’s Plover that Javi pointed out, so even before I was able to visit with him, I marched out on the boardwalk to capture the plover, a species I’d long hoped to meet. 

As it happened, Javi and his lady followed me out to the boardwalk. I hoped to meet the Mangrove Warbler, and Javi was looking for it too. I’d spotted the bird during one of my spring 2021 tours here, and at the time most of us believed the bird was just visiting. But time has shown that they’ve homesteaded here and have raised a family or two. All my prior meetings were quick peeks, and impossible to get any images. Today, this changed, and I enjoyed close views. While the gray-skies behind its perches left much to be desired, I was happy to finally get a few reasonable images.

When I finished my morning visit with the Mangrove Warbler, I continued exploring the boardwalk. My previous visits showed me it is worthwhile to explore the entire length of the boardwalk, as the changing seasons, and even the time of day can provide new players on the stage. 

When I completed my first round on the boardwalk, I headed back to the visitor center where Javi and his lady were watching for migrating warblers at “Songbird Alley”, a section of the property next to a raised deck where shade trees shelter a modest water feature that attracts warblers and other smaller birds, and they can find a drink, a bath, and relief from the hot sun. The relaxed setting at the edge of the deck is ideal for visiting with friendly, like-minded nature lovers, and I enjoyed spending some quality time with Javi and his lady.

After Javi and his friend retreated to the shelter of the air-conditioned environment inside the building, I ran into Marianna and Matt Wright from the National Butterfly Center (NBC) in Mission Texas. It was my first meeting with Matt, but I knew Marianna, from the time I spent at the “Big Sit” birding event in the spring of 2021. 

Shortly after Matt and Marianna showed up, the skies darkened and a strong cool wind kicked up, bringing with it a torrential downpour that lasted 20 minutes before petering out to a drizzle. The brief storm gave us time to visit and catch up with news about our mutual friends at the NBC. Matt and Marianna invited me to join them for a ride on the Rio Grande aboard their powered pontoon boat. I remembered my friend Luciano telling me how much fun he had while aboard their boat. I hope I can take advantage of their kind offer.

I walked out to the RV and fetched the rain-cover for my camera, then I launched on a second tour of the boardwalk. The recent cloud-burst seemed to settle the smaller birds under shelter, but perked up the foraging marsh birds. My favorite memory of this walk was the time I spent with a Clapper Rail working the shallow mudflat next to the boardwalk, just below my perch. This shy and retiring bird was so close, head-shots were all that were possible with my big lens.

As I left the Clapper Rail’s company, another photographer approached, and I pointed out the bird for him to enjoy before I walked away. I ended my visit after capturing a few of the many Green Herons in the marsh. Green Herons in the spring nest prominently in the mangroves near the boardwalk, and judging from the high numbers of adult-sized juveniles, I’d say their nesting season was a smashing success.

With several days worth of images collected, I thought it wise to take a day off to work on my blogs. Sunday’s day of rest felt good. Stormy weather on Sunday, and reinforced on Monday, let me know that my time might be better invested with indoor activities, than traipsing around in the rain. However, my experience told me that these storms last only a little while, and drier conditions hold possibilities for pleasant explorations after the squalls subside.

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