By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Though the beats are still bumping at the beach and bayside parties, Spring Break 2017 is quickly winding down, it seems.
Once again, the seasons are changing — Monday ushered in the first official day of spring with sunny skies and a warm breeze. As our college coed guests make their way back to their respective campuses folks here will soon start making preparations for the rest of the tourist season. Up next are Semana Santa, or Holy Week, followed by Memorial Day, Independence Day and more.
This year’s mild winter means the spring wildflower bloom has begun across the state. In some places it’s felt like the flowers got a bit of a head start. In Big Bend country, for instance, people were reporting seeing bluebonnets as early as February, though the high desert’s unique and harsh climate may have had a little something to do with that.
Soon, too, our feathered friends will begin their long treks northward heading to their summer grounds. Some have already begun the journey. I hope my one of my favorite species, the osprey, will keep hanging around for a few weeks yet.
I haven’t been out birding like I wish I could, so I haven’t seen what kinds of avian migrants have been making their way through our area, but I do remember one year where the Island and the Laguna Madre region got a special treat.
I think it was early in 2013. The winter hadn’t been too bad that season, either. Dozens of species of birds were already mid-migration when we got a brief but strong cold snap. It was such a short cold front. It was really only chilly for about a day, and maybe slightly cooler than normal for another day or two after that, but that was all it took.
Suddenly, by the hundreds, birds were practically dropping out of the sky, shocked as they were by the sudden cold weather. Birders even have a term for it: it was a fallout.
The exhaustion from the their long trip, in combination with the unexpected appearance of a cold headwind, was too much for the tiny creatures who desperately began searching for any spit of land where they could land to rest.
South Padre Island became that first sight of land and soon every tree, bush, shrub, decorative pond and bit of green space was filled with warblers, indigo and painted buntings, orioles and more.
Local birders began scrambling to help the little guys out by placing pieces of citrus fruit and birdseed at busy gathering spots. I remember going down to the Convention Centre with a camera in hand; I wasn’t the only one. Dozens of people showed up to take in the spectacle. The birds didn’t seem to mind as they happily pecked at the fruit or bathed themselves in a little water feature not far from the Wyland Wall. As the sun climbed higher into the sky, its warmth spreading among us, the birdsong grew louder as well. It was perhaps one of the best symphonies I’ve heard.
Now, you might not see so many different kinds of birds all at once unless another fallout happens, but if you look closely, you’d be surprised what colorful surprises await you in the trees and brush in the coming weeks.
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