We still managed to visit the state park and enjoy some time walking on the beach. The picture above was taken during one of our walks. What is fun about the photo is that you are looking east – not west – and seeing the sunset reflecting on the Gulf and the horizon. Linda saw this (I was facing west to catch the sun going down) and said that if I took the picture people wouldn't believe the colors. She was stunned by the beautiful colors of the Gulf which is usually a muddy green. Well, here is the picture – believe it or not.
We were on the island for the cranes. Sandhill Cranes breed in the upper midwest and through to Alaska and most of Canada. They migrate across all of mid-America and winter in California, Texas and Mexico. The cranes are gray with some rust color and a red crown of bare skin on their head. They are large birds typically 4 to 5 feet tall with a wing-span as great as 7-1/2 feet. As you can see below, Sandhills are absolutely elegant in flight, flying with their necks and legs straight out which gives them a long, sleek look.
We were there for the cranes, but we saw lots of other birds as well. There were wading birds – egrets, herons, and ibises – and shorebirds – oystercatchers and black skimmers – and waterbirds – cormorants and both brown and white pelicans along with a number of different waterfowl.
Pelicans, Oystercatchers and Skimmers
American Oystercatchers and Black Skimmers are very social birds and tend to live in large flocks or colonies. The oystercatchers feed in sand or mud flats looking for oysters, clams or mussels. They use a long, heavy bill to open the shell.
The skimmer has an especially interesting method of feeding. The lower part of its red and black bill is longer than the upper bill. When feeding the skimmer flies very low over the water with its lower bill slicing the surface. When the bird senses that it has touched a fish, the upper bill snaps down instantly to catch it. Often you can see a dozen or more feeding skimmers flying in a straight line along the water's edge, all with their bills cutting through the water.
No matter where there is water you can find the egrets and herons. The two most familiar are the white Great Egret and the mostly gray Great Blue Heron. These two tall, slender birds can be seen wading in wetlands or along shorelines looking for small fish, shrimp, crabs, and amphibians such as frogs. Both birds spear their prey.