Greetings from Padre Island National Seashore

We visited Padre National Seashore in late February. Since birds typically migrate north on the Central Flyway much later, we doubted if we would see any exciting birding sights. We were pleasantly surprised we could observe interesting bird behavior in a serene and non-crowded setting.

It was an ‘away from it all’ experience, as expected of a National Seashore. We drove through preserved wilderness with grasslands and dunes on either side, and spotted at a hazy distance, migrant Sandhill Cranes and all-season White Ibis. We were the only birders on Bird Island Basin, so observed birds in solitude, sharing this windy, serene habitat with surfers.

Brown Pelicans, flapped their long wings, flew gracefully over water, and periodically dived to catch fish. Willet walked around, pressing its bill deep into water to catch prey. Snowy Egret sometimes took short runs in water, maybe to fend off strong winds?

Long-billed Curlews, winter migrants, flew above us, calling loudly. One landed, walked on the shore, and later thrust its long curved bill deep into a burrow, extracting what looked like a Crab. It walked hurriedly to the water to wash the sand off its catch. We noticed many such burrows on the shore, with piles of sand near them. We now realized these are home to crustaceans. We were lucky to visit during low tide which exposed them.

Black-bellied Plover foraged in water, and Western Meadowlark perched on grasslands near dunes, both winter migrants. The latter had a distinct yellow throat that we did not notice initially. We saw its vibrant color only when it turned to look our way.

Coincidentally, after this trip, we watched Cornell Lab videos about National Fish and Wildlife Foundation‘s project about a shared vision for grasslands. These featured both Western Meadowlark and Long-billed Curlew, in their northern grasslands habitat. It made us realize the importance of preserved areas such as the ones we visited, as they provide crucial habitat for such birds during winter, and also for all-year residents.

I have also contributed this content with additional photos in this Travis Audubon blog.


Padre Island National Seashore

Travelers might not picture stunning beaches and undisturbed lagoons, marshlands, and coastal prairies when they think of Texas, but Padre Island National Seashore preserves the largest undeveloped barrier island in the world with a range of unspoiled natural features. The varied types of geography at the park make it an ideal stopover for a range of migratory birds on the Central Flyway seeking food and shelter, and the American Bird Conservancy has designated the park a Globally Important Bird Area. An estimated 380 different types of birds inhabit Padre Island over the course of a year—nearly half the total number of bird species in the entire country.

State(s): Texas

Established: 1968

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