Sabal Palm Audubon Center is located south of Brownsville right along the U.S./Mexico border. Even before we parked the car, I spotted our first lifer of the day (and 13th overall). The bright black and orange of the Altamira Oriole was a joy to behold as it was silhouetted against the dark, gray skies.
There were the usual feeders right next to the Visitor Center. Squabbling for better feeding positions were the gaudily colored Green Jays. We were thrilled by the bright green and yellow and blue hues flashed before our eyes as we chalked up lifer number 14. Number 15 were the relatively drabber White-tipped Doves taking advantage of the seeds that fell from the feeders.
From the feeders we took to the trail that goes around a small pond. As we were walking we heard some squawks and saw a Cararcara chase an unidentified hawk. Later, we saw the hawk perched atop a tree across the pond. It was a juvenile Gray Hawk and our 16th lifer. At the pond were some Least Grebes and calling Kiskadees. A Common Yellowthroat hunted the vegetation sticking out of the waters for some tasty insects. Northern Cardinals were busy working the trail grounds.
On the return trail, we met Art & Janet Riley from Michigan. They informed us that there were some Black-crested Titmice visiting the feeders where we saw the Green Jays earlier. Sure enough, our lifer number 17 darted in and out of the trees near the feeders.
We continued on to the Native Trails, where small birds abound. Sparrows, warblers, vireos and gnatcatchers were flitting about and it frustrated us no end because we were hardpressed at identifying these tiny, active birds and coming up with only a few that we have already seen before (Olive Sparrows, White-eyed Vireos, Nashville Warblers). Ladder-backed Woodpeckers also announced their presence by their tapping on the tree trunk.
We had lunch at the Golden China buffet then off to South Padre Island. South Padre Island, it turned out, was a resort town. Hotels and pricey restaurants lined the main thoroughfare. Towards the northern end of the island was the Convention Center and right next to it was a boardwalk that extends into the marshy area by the seaside. Given the right weather condition, this boardwalk would undoubtedly yield a virtual goldmine of bird species. Today, however, gloomy skies and blustery winds only gave one additional lifer: The Little Blue Heron was our number 18.
There were some plovers on the mudflats some distance away that I hoped would be another lifer (either a Piping or a Wilsons) but the identity was very much iffy and I will not include it at this stage.
As the afternoon progressed, so did the intensity of the wind and coldness. We thought it prudent and healthy to rush back to the warm comforts of our hotel room.
P.S. on the plovers. It was a Semipalmated Plover which wasn't a lifer for us.
Gedau Estate, Sandakan
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