Linda learned how birds are banded, and I learned how to crawl on my belly to take pictures at ground level. In between we went on buses and boats to a variety of birding spots, sat in workshops, and just had a grand old time getting up at 4:30 in the morning day after day.
Anyhow while on my belly in the sand, I watched one tern climb upon anther's back. Then along came a guy with a fish to join the group. Not long after, a third tern tried to land to make it a three level stack. It looked like we were going to have a cheerleader tower. Alas, after only one try he flew off. The guy on top is a Caspian Tern while the others are Royal Terns.
Smith's Oaks on the Bolivar Peninsula is where Great and Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and Cormorants gather to breed. The rookery is an island in the middle of a large, alligator-infested pond. The combination of the island and the 'gators means the birds are well protected during the vulnerable time they are on the nest.
The warm winter combined with FeatherFest being held a week later this year meant that we were able to see chicks instead of eggs this year at the rookery. I hope you enjoy these photos.
One of Linda's activities took her to a bird-banding facility. The birds are caught in special nets called mist nets. When a bird flies into the almost invisible net it becomes entangled without harm. The bird is retrieved and put in a mesh holding bag to wait for banding.
When a bird is caught, it is carefully handled to avoid stressing or injuring the bird. The band is affixed to the proper leg, and the bird is measured and weighed. The bird is also examined for any signs of illness or injury, as well as to determine the gender if possible. All this information can be valuable for conservation studies.
Approximately 5% of banded birds are caught during another banding session and identified by their bands. Correlating the data that was initially gathered on the bird compared to when it is recovered can provide information on migration and range.
The Reddish Egret is a show unto itself. And if you see the show, be grateful, because there are only about 2000 breeding pair in the U.S.
Their feeding behavior is the show. You might see them running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in air, raising one or both wings, and then abruptly stabbing at a fish.
In fact the Reddish Egret is so interesting, I couldn't choose which pictures to include, so it is getting its own collection. We are fortunate to have these neat birds so close to us on the Gulf Coast
At one time this crazy bird scrooched down to go under a cable between two pilings. We were all fascinated because he's a bird and he can fly, and a hop over the cable would have been much easier.
Along with all of this, it is also home to the Elissa, a three-masted schooner that was built in 1877 in Scotland. The Elissa has a bit of a checkered past and has sailed under a number of flags and names. Today it is fully restored and functional making frequent trips from its home port of Galveston. The Elissa is one of the world's oldest sailing hulls still in operation.
Galveston is also the year-round homeport for three cruise ships from the Carnival Cruise Line and one ship from Royal Caribbean. Here you see the life boats from the Carnival Magic being tested. We were told the lifeboats must be checked every two weeks, so they do one side each week, with the ship facing the direction for those boats to be on the water side rather than the dock side.
This strange looking ship is known as a RO-RO (roll on - roll off). All its cargo is wheeled - anything from automobiles to trucks to tractors. The RO-RO has no facilities for above-deck loading, but has two loading ramps - one on the side and one at the stern. The port facilities determine which will be used.
Here you see the RO-RO being positioned at the pier by two tugboats. We watched this ship brought into harbor and rotated 180 degrees by the tugs before they began moving it to the pier.
Commercial fishing has been a part of Galveston since the city was founded back in the early part of the 19th century. Today, shrimping is the key part of the commercial seafood industry.
Right now the fleet is in port waiting for the beginning of shrimping season in July.
Finally I'll finish this post with three monochrome photos that I particularly like. I hope they catch your eye.
Thanks for visiting!