March 4, 2011

I’ve been speaking in schools in Corpus Christi, Texas this week, which means I have had a chance to walk near the salt marshes and see the huge numbers of birds - many, many species - which live here at the Gulf Coast.


We drove out to Portland, Texas ("over the bridge," as they say in Corpus Christi) and in short order saw a Great Egret, standing on one leg in the salt marsh, a White Ibis (given its name by the Ancient Egyptians, who considered ibis to be sacred birds), an American Avocet (sweeping its long bill through the shallow muddy water in search of food), an endangered Wood Stork, many Royal Terns (dapper in their black and white plumage, these elegant looking birds are cousins to the common gull), and a whole colony of Roseate Spoonbills. When we first saw this mass of pink birds, my wife and I thought they must be flamingoes (we’re from New York City, so we don’t know what we are seeing when it comes to Gulf Coast wildlife!). A very smart sixth grader told us what kind of birds these were.

And of course, we saw many brown pelicans, one of the most common birds of the Gulf Coast. I have always loved to watch pelicans feed in the ocean. They start by hovering high over the water, scanning the waves for fish. When they spot food, they make a steep, hard dive, sometimes from as high as 50 feet (15 meters), and explode into the water - it is like a bomb going off when they hit. I learned something new about pelicans this week. The reason they can dive that way without being injured is that they have air sacs in their shoulders and neck that act like air bags in a car, and protect them from the impact when they hit the water.

In order to identify and learn about all these birds, we bought a laminated bird identification folder with pictures and descriptions of typical bird life on the Gulf Coast. You can do this wherever you travel - hotel gift shops and souvenir stores almost always have them, to use for identifying local birds, fish, or wildlife. It is a great way to learn about nature wherever you go.

Thanks to all the students, teachers and librarians in Corpus Christi for sharing your great city with me. It has been a fun week! 




Sun rising over Corpus Christi Bay




Roseate Spoonbills photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Estatuary  

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, birds, School Visits   •  Permalink (link to this article)   •  Share: