Texas Travel Diary - p 5Snowy Egret (57952 bytes)

20 April 2003
High Island is more than just hordes of colorful songbirds.  Close views of one of the country's best mixed rookeries can be had at Clay Bottom Pond.  In April and May just about every tree on the appropriately named Heron Island is laden with nests of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Neotropical Cormorants, Tricolored Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, and even a few White Ibis.  Alligators wait patiently below in case a chick falls from a nest..
    The Snowy Egrets are especially photogenic as they collect dead branches and twigs for their nests.  Now they are in high breeding plumage, with red lores and orange feet to go with their long graceful plumes.   It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that private wildlife conservation in the U.S. began with egrets' plumes.  So popular were the plumes as decoration for women's millinery a century ago that many people feared the birds would be hunted to extinction.  One of the first groups formed to protect egrets eventually became the National Audubon Society.



An equally impressive bird is the Roseate Spoonbill, who likewise sports colorful high breeding Roseate Spoonbill (55827 bytes)plumage.  A flock of pink spoonbills winging across a blue sky, a photo of which I wanted but didn't get,  is a breathtaking sight.  But up close, with their bare lime-green head and odd spatulate bill, they look just a bit too primeval for my taste.  Like feathered dinosaurs or something.

20 April 2003 
My last stop on the trip is Sabine Pass, at the far southeastern corner of Texas.  It's a small town barely clinging to life.  The state, it seems, gave up and is letting the sea reclaim coastal Highway 87, the town's westward link to Bolivar and Galveston.   Just before the road ends, however, is Sabine Woods, another wooded stopover for migrant songbirds.  Before this trip, I read on the internet that remote Sabine Woods was visited by few birders.  Everyone else, however, must have read the same article, because the place is now swarming with birders.  Here I complete my wading bird portfolio with a Green Heron.  It usually skulks in the Green Heron (56337 bytes)shadows and reeds at lake's edge, but this one, who makes a nice living on the frogs at Sabine's Woods' central pond, comes into the open to pose for a few seconds.  Like other wading birds, Green Heron is at its best during high breeding, when its yellow legs turn bright orange-red.


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