Migration already starting
Migration The birds are back! Even though summer is just beginning here, many shorebirds are already on their fall migration routes, stopping on local Gulf beaches and back-bay flats. The second most common birds on our beaches are the sanderlings. I’ve counted just over one million sanderlings in the past 30 years of counting on Mustang Island beach. (Can you guess what the most common bird on the beach is? I’ve counted a million-four of those.)
Despite their abundance, sanderlings disappear during the month of June when they are on the nesting grounds in the far northern Arctic tundra. They are back now, and it’s good to see these little birds feeding at the shoreline in their characteristic fashion: Running out in groups as the waves recede, probing the wet sand for tiny crabs and worms, then racing shoreward en masse as the waves roll back in.
The piping plovers are back, too. I saw the first on July 2, the earliest ever. These birds nest in the Canadian lakes areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan and our own Great Lakes and Great Plains regions. Some are uniquely banded, and I’ve been following some individuals since 2003.
Look out for marbled godwits -- large shorebirds with long two-toned, slightly upturned bills. There are many of these to be seen as well as snowy, black-bellied and Wilson’s plovers; willets, ruddy turnstones, dunlin, western sandpipers, American oystercatchers, long-billed curlews among the shorebirds, and black, royal, Caspian, sandwich, Forster’s and least terns, laughing gulls, reddish, great, cattle, and snowy egrets among the other birds on the beach.
Look out for this year’s baby gulls and terns begging for food from parents that usually ignore them. The big, goofylooking boobies and gannets may have stopped coming ashore now.
The ARK has many of these recovering Sulids. Next week I’ll tell you about our efforts to treat and release them.
You’re going to get a little bit of Walton Avenue with each column for the next several weeks. I’m not sure why it has been so important for me and my late brother Eric to reconstruct that home in our memories for the past nearly 60 years. Perhaps it was The War (WWII), perhaps our mother’s early death, but more probably it was leaving the country of our birth for a new and exotic place. I owe it to Eric and my younger sister Jill to put it in writing. I hope you enjoy sharing it with me.
Imagine you’ve just got off the number 156 red double-decker bus at Collingwood Road and were headed to Number 14. You would turn left on the Sutton Bypass, also known as Oldfields Road or the A217, and do what your mum told you not to do -- run across the busy bypass dodging traffic.
You’d keep going past the collection of shops we called “Round-the-Corner” (Mum would ask us to go round the corner to get something at the green grocer’s). There was the bicycle shop that also sold model trains and cars: Beddoe’s the grocer’s, the green grocer’s that was also the post office, the barber’s, butcher’s and the newsagent where we both had newspaper rounds in our time. Turn right at the newsagent’s on to Gander Green Lane, walk past the chemist’s and estate agent’s, past Jill’s friend Kay Fruer’s house.
At this point you might glance across the road to see a metal-working plant (“The Works”), a mysterious haunted house, dark and foreboding, and the house of Mrs. Fidge and her son Donny. We always giggled at the name Fidge, and Mrs. Fidge was famous in our lore. Did she live in the haunted house (no), and where did Donny go to school (don’t know)?
I once ventured into the haunted house looking for treasure. In one room I found the floor strewn with some sort of receipts. Each one had a postage stamp on it. Was this it? Were they Penny Blacks of Queen Victoria, worth a fortune? No, they were the most common George VI penny stamp of the time, and every one had a hole punched in it rendering even those worthless!
Back on Gander Green Lane you would turn left and cross the road at Windsor Avenue, go one block (although we would never have used the term “block” -- that is a very American word) to make a right turn on Walton Avenue. You would pass the Stink Pole and Granny Cabbage Stump’s house hidden by a tall wooden fence before coming to the first of the Walton Avenue denizens’ houses. We’ll start right there at Number 2 next week.
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the ARK (Animal Rehabilitation Keep).