My time with the dragonflies at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Roswell, New Mexico was enjoyable, as I worked with attendees to teach them about these incredible flying insects. The normally hot, early September days turned abruptly cooler the day before the festival, a situation not good for dragonfly viewing. However, the milder temperatures allowed the field experience to be much more pleasant and enjoyable. I think all of the people who took the dragonfly tours have a new and much better appreciation of colors, lifestyles, and flying skills of the oldest insects on our planet (over 320 million years).
As I mentioned last week, one of my objectives of the trip to Roswell was to look for two oceanic birds, jaegers that had been seen on Brantley Lake just north of Carlsbad. After spending more than an hour scanning the lake looking for a large gull-like bird, I was about to give up the cause and leave. Standing on a boat ramp on the opposite side of the lake from the state park, I saw the jaeger flying by about a quarter mile away. My camera was on the back seat of the car, but with the help of a little adrenalin I quickly grabbed it and started firing at will as the bird was flying away from my location. My photos allowed me to make a positive identification of the bird as a Parasitic Jaeger, but the distance was too great for good detail. I did document a new life bird, always an exciting moment.
With jaegers and dragonflies in my memory bank, I now need to turn my attention to the HummerBird Celebration in Rockport in less than two weeks. I will be giving a talk on the owls of Texas and also help lead a field trip to the beautiful Fennessey Ranch located near Refugio. This festival is a celebration of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds’ staging along the coast as they get set to wing their way across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The tiny birds must double their body weight to have enough stored body fat to sustain the more than 30 hours of flight time.
One of the interesting things to do in the area at this time of the year is to stand at the water’s edge on the north side of the bay and watch the migrating birds fly within a few feet of your position at almost eye level. Most of the birds are swallows and rubythroats. Looking northward, you can see these birds coming right at you when they are at a distance of 100 or more feet away. As you turn to watch them pass by, you can see them rise skyward much like an airplane departing the airport. I cannot help having compassion for them and wish them bon voyage in their travel.
What is remarkable is that many of these birds are youngsters only a month or more out of the nest, and this a new experience for them. Their brains are guiding their flight direction as has been happening for migrants for many millennia. I wonder if they could know what lies ahead for them, would they have the courage to proceed on their long journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Their fate is in the hand of nature to find some tail wind, or calm air to help them, as they wing their way southward.
I invite all of you to come to Rockport/Fulton Beach for the 26th annual HummerBird Celebration to be held on September 18-21 at Rockport High School. The schedule includes hummingbird bus trips to various local gardens, the hawk watch at Hazel Bazemore Park in Robstown, and to Fennessey Ranch. A boat excursion in the bay area is also offered. A wide variety subjects will be covered in talks from Thursday to Sunday. Two large malls are open to buy art, crafts and nature supplies. For details of all programs, go on line to www.rockporthummingbird.com.
I look forward to seeing you in Rockport for a fun weekend of enjoying nature talks, field trips, hummingbird gardens, shopping, and excellent seafood. There will be something there for everyone.