By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
“Are you a birder?” asked a woman as I walked across the promenade behind the South Padre Island Convention Centre earlier this week.
I stuttered for a second, first hesitantly saying “no” then “yes” before pitching my voice to better travel the distance between us. “Well, sort of,” I said.
I could understand why she may have thought I was a birder, laden as I was with a pair of cameras hanging from my shoulder by their straps. In truth, I’d been at the Convention Centre on other business, but as the sun was about to set, I thought I’d enjoy a few moments’ respite sitting along the low wall that hugs the marshy land which separates the building from the bay.
“There’s a whole bunch of scissor-tailed flycatchers in the bushes over there,” she said, motioning to a clump of low-lying shrubs maybe 40 yards away.
“Their tails are this big!” she said while holding her hands in front of her, palms spaced about eight inches apart. She smiled with excitement.
I told her my camera gear wasn’t really sufficient for birding since I didn’t have any long lenses on me, but thanked her for the tip. She continued along the sidewalk towards the south side of the building as I kept walking along the arc created by the low wall. Sure enough, seconds later a flash of movement from the bushes caught my eye. I set down my things and looked. My cameras may have been useless, but my eyes certainly weren’t.
There, flitting from one bush to another, was indeed a scissor-tailed flycatcher with its telltale forked tail feathers. I stood there for several long minutes as the sinking sun, its light bled of some of its blinding strength by a thin layer of clouds and mist, shone a wan, pastel orange cream light over the scene. The warm tones complemented the delicate little bird with its own sunset colors flashing from the underside of its wings and its flanks down towards its tail.
It wasn’t alone, either. A couple more of the birds perched here and there on the bushes. One took to the air and made an acrobatic display in the empty space between us before soaring up and off towards a stand of trees along the Convention Centre’s rear walkway. There, in the increasing dimness of the evening, I could see yet more scissor-tails hopping from branch to branch, clearly making ready to roost for the night.
Above me, the laughter of gulls created a growing cacophony as small flocks raced towards the bay’s shallow waters. A pair of ducks loudly announced their passage, as well. The long, slender silhouettes of some herons stood in contrast to the water which reflected the pinks and oranges of the sky above.
The sun sat lower in the sky — still well above the horizon, but its light now too weak to see the flycatchers very well anymore. I walked the center point of the retaining wall and sat down to finish watching the sunset.
Maybe I am a birder, after all.
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