Both kids had exceptional birding moments during our six days in Texas, but it's Phoebe's experience that I'll relate here. Liam's we'll share another day.
Julie and I'd been working during the festival as guides and speakers and the kids came along where space was available. They went along on one of Julie's trips and helped me with the large group of young birders on Saturday morning. Then on Sunday we all got to be together on a Breakfast with the Birds trip to a local private ranch called Rio Costero. Al Batt was one of the other guides and he and Liam kept up a constant banter about going "squatchin'." (This means they were going hunting in the South Texas scrub for sasquatch.)
|Birding a resaca at Rio Costero.|
The ranch was amazing, the birding was engaging, and the breakfast was so good that we all ate too much. After taking the group bus back to Harlingen, our family hopped in the rental car and headed for South Padre Island. We'd promised the kids an afternoon at the beach—they'd never seen the Gulf of Mexico. Well, actually Phoebe had, as a three-year old, but that doesn't really count.
It was hard to leave the beach, but time was winding down and there was another place, across the street from the beach access, that I wanted to visit: the boardwalk adjacent to the South Padre Island Convention Center. This boardwalk and the natural and human-enhanced habitat around it is a famous birding hotspot. In early spring the birding action is in the small trees between the start of the boardwalk and the convention center. I once did a Big Sit here during the Texas Birding Classic and it was crazy birdy. This being November, the best birding was out in the marsh through which the boardwalk winds.
|Moments before Phoebe's great bird sighting.|
We ran into a small flock of familiar Ohio birders who had found an American bittern, which they were kind enough to share with us. Phoebe really like this one and we began telling her some of the natural history of the species. She even recalled seeing them before on our annual trip to North Dakota.
Umm. YES Phoebe, that's a least bittern!
|Phoebe's least bittern!|
|Watching the least bittern.|
I can't accurately convey how happy and proud these few moments made me. We've never pushed our kids to get into birding. Sure, we've have forced them out of bed in the wee hours regularly in their lifetimes just to bring them along with us on birding trips. And we've thrust expensive optical instruments into their tiny hands and implored them to get a good look at some fabulous bird or other. But we've never forced them to become bird watchers. Now it seems the metamorphosis is happening naturally. [Which was ALL part of our evil plan from the beginning!]
|Phoebe keeping the trip bird list on our Breakfast with the Birds field trip.|
Phoebe is already there. It might take Liam a bit longer. It would help if we could just get one good look at a sasquatch. Now THAT would be a lifer!