South Padre Island, Sargassum Birds, 4/25/14
After a few hours of looking at pretty passerines at south Padre Island yesterday, I decided it was time to drive the beach and look for rare stuff like Black Turnstones and Wandering Tattlers (I like to think big!) However the beach was loaded with tons of Sargassum and driving was very difficult so I didn’t get as far as planned. This time of year the south east winds blow the floating Sargassum seaweed onto the beach where it provides lots of food for migrating shore birds. I saw close to 200 Ruddy Turnstones while driving only ten miles.
Black-bellied Plovers were scattered along the beach.
I found a neat flock of twenty migrating Willets but my inept camera skills caused me to miss the photos. Here’s a single.
Hundreds of egrets, mostly Cattle Egrets, moved north.
When there’s Sargassum seaweed, there’s also the Sargassum Fish, Histrio histrio. This member of the frogfish family is a voracious little predator in the floating beds of Sargassum. It comes equipped with its own little fishing pole that lures unsuspecting prey into its cavernous mouth. This Laughing Gull is proudly showing off the Sargassum Fish he caught. Not so fast buddy!
The proud victor. And for the Sargassum Fish, what goes around comes around. Though not a puffer, the fish has the ability to gulp air and enlarge to make things difficult for the would be predator.
A real surprise on the beach were passerines feeding in the Sargassum weed. Here’s a bright Yellow warbler.
And a late Louisiana Waterthrush. At least that was my ID based on jizz. I also saw one that was clearly a Northern Waterthrush.
“Hey, have I got something for you!”
“Just leave me alone.”
After ten miles of bouncing on the rough beach, I decided against fifteen more miles to the Port Mansfield Channel so I turned around and headed for home. Guess I need to get an early start and try again.