First Time on a Bird Tour

Before I talk about the bird tour I should probably mention that I did find time to go into Corpus Christi and I liked it a lot.  It’s very close to Padre Island and has almost every store you could possibly need.  If you have an America the Beautiful pass you can enter and exit Padre without paying the entrance fee. If not, you need to pay the $10 fee and then either stay onsite, or you can leave and then return after 5pm when the guard shack is closed and reenter for free.

I needed to run a few errands and ended up getting a hair cut, going to Best Buy (lost my lens cap), and going to a Goodwill Store and a Salvation Army store.  My jeans have been taking a beating and I was running low, so between the two stores I found 2 pairs of jeans and 4 pairs of jean shorts for the low-low price of $32 total. Can’t beat it, and the Goodwill is pretty nice there.  I also went to Walmart and bought a couple of things, and the one closest to Padre Island is really nice.  It had almost everything you could want.  There are even a couple of movie theaters in town and we talked about trying to see a movie, but ultimately just stayed on the island instead.  You really don’t need to leave if you don’t want, just make sure you stock up before you get there.

Anyway, back to the bird tour!  While we were at the visitors center I saw a sign for a free 2-1/2 to 3 hr van bird tour.  Since we see these tours all the time, but are usually on day trips to a place and don’t want to spend the time I was excited to sign up.  The tour was run by a retired couple who freely said they were bird enthusiasts not bird experts, and we were given books to help identify the birds we saw.  Initially, I was pretty disappointed, because although we were allowed to go into areas we otherwise couldn’t access, we weren’t allowed out of the van and my 100mm lens could barely see, let alone take pictures of the birds.

Because life is too short and I hate feeling like I am being held hostage I asked if we were going to be allowed out at any point, thinking if the answer was no I would have them drop me off at the visitors center and go on my way.  The answer though was we would be able to get out three times, so I stuck it out and ultimately I was glad I did.  It was interesting hearing about the island and the couple was very nice, but because there was no PA system in the van we had to leave the AC off to hear them.  The air was on/off throughout the ride which helped keep the temps tolerable, but really a little speaker system would have done wonders. Still I was really excited when at our first stop that we could get out, they pointed out a Black Wing Whistling Duck.  This was a first for me and bit unusual because it wasn’t on the paper they gave us with common birds and I was just able to get a couple decent shots of them.

Black Wing Whistling Duck from the road you couldn’t see them because they blended in so well

Little blue heron could barely see, but they saw it

Very excited about this puffed up grackle. He was trying to impress a female close by but she was ignoring him

One of the great things about the tour was the fact that they really knew their birds and I really learned a lot about identifying them.  I was not a birder before we went on the road and really only started because I admired the pictures that Howard from RV-Dreams took so much, but it has been quite a bit of fun in our travels.  Even though I use the Merlin Bird app to identify, which is a great app, it’s still tough especially when the birds are not breeding.  Still, I try though, and get excited when I can see a bird and the fellow bird enthusiast made it fun.  Lee, not so much, but he was a trooper, but it really wasn’t his thing.

We learned that Live Oak grows in mounds here because the saltwater is 8-10 feet under the soil

This pond was relatively close to our campground and was full of a variety of birds. Later I came back here and tried to get some better shots but it was pretty marshy

Lesser yellow-legs.  It’s hard to tell if they are greater or lesser from far away because you don’t have perspective on their height

I did get a nice shot of what I think is a female green-winged teal

And I was excited by this shot which had a green winged teal on the left and a blue winged teal on the right.  Wish the picture was better, I might have to break down and finally buy that 500MM lens

The reason I don’t have a longer lens buy the way, is part of the fun for me has been being able to at least glimpse the animal with the naked eye.  After seeing grizzlies far away and missing out on several birds I might have to change my stance on that.  Anyway, they did drive on the beach in a couple of places, but that was disappointing, because we didn’t get to get out there either.  I actually got better shots the day before, but I did get a few from the van.

I think this was a Willett

More laughing gulls in breeding plumage

A non breeding herring gull

And a breeding herring

And I am not sure what this guy was but he was awfully cute.

This Caspian Tern was pretty far away, but his red beak was very distinctive

We were told this was a reddish egret with a whit morph which is a new bird for me and I guess you can see the reddish tinge when it flies.  They were hoping the boat traffic would drive him our way but he never came closer.

The best part of the whole tour was when we stopped at the boat ramp that was actually within walking distance of our campsite.  I knew the boat ramp was down there, but what I didn’t know was that a group of white pelicans were hanging out nearby.  We had seen lots of grey ones the day before, and I thought they were all on the ocean side, but a whole group of them were hanging out to get some fish from the fishermen. Deb you mentioned you liked pelicans, well I dedicate this section to you 🙂

This group was a little far away for good pictures

They were out on a sandbar watching the ships come in

This group was closer to the dock.  Really really close

My pic..bad hair day!

Lee’s pic

The very best part was, as we were watching one pelican grabbed a huge fish out of the water and swallowed it.  The tour guides said they had never seen that before, and Lee and I both got pics of it.  I’ll try to put them in the order as we saw it happen.  Really, really cool.

When he initially caught it the one next to him tried to take it away

He pulled it up and we saw it from the front and initially we didn’t know what we were looking at

Then he pulled it up more so we could see how big it was

Then he flipped it

He turned away from us and there was a group gathering including the sole grey one in the area

And you could sort of see it sliding down. Really interesting and amazing they could swallow something that big.

That was really an amazing thing to see and we got a few other shots as well.  This was by far the best place we went, so make sure if you ever stay here, that you walk or drive down to the boat launch area.  It was a fun tour and I learned quite a bit, although I wish we could have gotten out more.  That night when we got back someone with a tent was parked in the spot right next to us.  We could have avoided this by buying two spots and spending $10 a night, but there were so many openings we really didn’t think it was necessary.  Once they arrived and set up we decided to go ahead and head out the next morning, a day earlier than we had planned.  We were on our way to Silsbee to meet an RV tech who was going to replace the floor in our closet/laundry slideout.  More about that next time, for now I’ll just say we had a wonderful time at Padre and would absolutely go back. We’d love to try camping on the beach itself, or at least at Malaquite.

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12 thoughts on “First Time on a Bird Tour

  1. Tracy,

    Nice pictures. Personally I feel you can never have to much lens for a camera. I have an 18-200 and a 70-300 that I use on my Nikon. That pretty much covers the ranges that I generally shoot.

    I really like the Pelican shots and the sunset. Very nice pictures. Thanks for sharing.


  2. You might not be satisfied with your bird pictures, but I’m getting a lot of pleasure from them. Thank you for the time you spend sharing with us.

  3. Ah, thanks! I loved the Pelican pictures! The white ones were so pretty. Especially their bills. Do you know what the growth on their bills is called and what it’s for? It amazes me how the sharp fish fins don’t cut through the thin looking “skin” on the bills. Glad you enjoyed the tour and your time there.

  4. Loved the bird pictures! Thanks for the tip on the Marlin app! I forget to even look for things like this but I guess I should know by now….there’s an app for everything anymore.
    We used to love watching the white pelicans when we had a place at Grand Lake, near Grove, OK. They arrive every year around the first of September and stay for a month or so. We loved to just park our boat and float among them. Watching them catch fish is just amazing, and the way they circle around in the sky before they land is just beautiful. Well, we just enjoy watching everything they do!!! I learned the names of a few birds we saw while we were in Rockport thanks to your pictures. A great post Tracy.

  5. Cool shots and nice blog! I initially noticed your “Pelican vs Fish” shots. Wow that looks like a huge fish (do you know what kind and can you see it thrashing about inside the pouch?) caught and staring down it’s captor’s throat here! So can the bird really manage to win the struggle and gulp that entire thing okay?? The peckish pelican must have been hungry, if eaten, does the unlucky prey get swallowed wriggling all the way as well?!

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