Nature Niche: South Bay is our chocolate factory

Nature Niche pic-2-2-12

Special to the Parade

Scarlet Colley

Scarlet Colley

February is here and so it seems that our local birds are getting their breeding plumage. The laughing gulls that have white heads all winter are now getting their black hoods.

The pelicans are getting their colorful pouches and blue eyes. The Rosette Spoonbills are by far the most stunning as they get their hot pink wing bands, hot pink legs, orange tails, chartreuse skullcaps, black headbands and yellow wash across their breast.

Now that hunting season is over and no longer does the air ring with gunshot as flocks of fleeing ducks fill the sky, all the birds will calm down, spoonbills will return to south bay and the time for breeding pair bonding begins.

The photography opportunities at this time are my favorite, and south bay becomes a haven for birds feeding up on fat reserves for the nesting season. The low tides of bay provide vast tidal flats for feeding. A mix of shore birds in one photo can have over 20 species. Imagine feeding herons and egrets, intermixed with white pelicans dipping up fish, with their wings flared, looking much like swans, with spoonbills and white ibis.

That is a photo I love.

The shore birds such as dunlin, western and least sandpipers, dowitchers and willets, curlews and godwits, all portray a blend of browns and rust against the exposed turtle and manatee grass. Then a peregrine swoops through the scene and birds take flight filling the air with flight shots and sounds of wings rustling and birds calling.

Little eared grebes and bufflehead ducks dive nearby and we cannot resist seeing those ruby red eyes of the grebe as if a gem stone were placed on each side of their face.

To me, South Bay is like opening the door and entering Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. This is an exciting time of year to photograph the stunning colors in the world of birds on the bay. And of course our dolphins, they always seem to be nearby while we are photographing birds as if to be saying, “Hey, we are much more wonderful than those birds,” and they do try to steal the show.

Photographing pelicans and royal terns feeding with dolphins isn’t too bad either. It is our nature niche, and our nature center takes birding photography tours on the bay with just six or less people.

For info, call (956) 299-1957 and get photos like this one, mama mia.

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