Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Afternoon in Paradise

Friday was the start of my 3-day weekend and earlier in the week I suggested to Darlene that she take the day so we could do some photography. As the week wore on, it looked like Friday would turn into another work day for her and another snake work day for me. So it was a pleasant surprise when she called shortly after 1 pm and said she had finished for the day and was heading home. The weather was perfect so after she got home and changed, we grabbed our cameras and headed out, not really knowing where we might land. After a quick discussion about lunch, we decided to head for the island.

Thirty minutes to our east lies South Padre Island, a beautiful 4-mile stretch of world class beaches, hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants. It's also the home of the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, a spectacular 50 acre sanctuary for our native species as well as birds and butterflies on their seasonal migration. We had been there many times over the years and it seemed the logical place to take photos. After a late lunch at "Daddy's", we drove over to the sanctuary.

As I had hoped, the butterfly garden was alive with butterflies. Gulf Fritillary's were everywhere as were several species of Skippers. One or two Monarchs were about which signaled the beginning of the fall migration. As I rounded the bend of the garden, I heard a familiar voice, that of Scarlet Colley. I've ran into Scarlet many times over the years, doing everything from post storm surveys to career days. She's always outgoing and friendly. She and her husband, George, own Colley's Fin to Feathers Photo Safaris on the island. We struck up a conversation about the butterflies and wildlife in general. She then asked if we had ever seen the alligator.

Now, I've heard a lot of people talk about the alligator that lives there in the salt marsh but I had never seen it. It even seemed a little far-fetched to me that an alligator would live in salt water. So when she offered to show us the alligator, we jumped at the chance. Out on the boardwalks we went and all the while Scarlet called "Aloishea!". I stopped to take a photo of a juvenile Great Blue Heron while Darlene and Scarlet proceeded on to the blind at the end of the southern-most boardwalk. To my amazement, through the cattails, I saw the familiar shape of an alligator's head that was slowly moving towards the sound of Scarlet's voice. Scarlet said she had known her 12 years and named her Aloishea from a children's book she remembered from her childhood. What an incredible bond between these two. You can read a tribute to these two special ladies on Darlene's Blog.

The afternoon could not have gotten much better in my opinion but Scarlet insisted we be her guests at the Sealife Center in Port Isabel on our way home. Details and photos of the creatures we met there will be forth coming in another blog. Photos of our "Afternoon in Paradise" are below. Enjoy!

Visitors are greeted to South Padre Island by this "photo-worthy" pull off, coming off the Causeway from Port Isabel.

"Daddy's" is owned by the nice folks who own "Dirty Al's".
The menu there includes Cajun Cuisine.

The South Padre Island Convention Center sits next to the Sanctuary.
You are greeted by an incredible Killer Whale mural painted by the acclaimed environmental artist "Wyland".

The World Birding Center's Visitor's Center is already being designed.

A view of the Laguna Madre from the Convention Center.
A viewing area at the end of one of the Sanctuary's boardwalks is visible in the salt marsh.

The Sanctuary's Butteryfly Garden attracts many species of butterflies.
Here, 2 Gulf Fritillary's take nectar from the same clump of Blue Mist.

Close-up of a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly.

Another visitor, a Painted Lady.

The Monarch migration has recently begun.

A juvenile Great Blue Heron tries to become invisible in the cattails.

A close-up before flight.

A common moorhen posed under the bird blind until...

"Aloishea" comes to greet us.

Detail of Aloishea's head. Her right eye is partially covered by a cataract.

Darlene takes a photo of Scarlet for her blog.


darlene said...

Baby, this is a fabulous post! I think I see improvement in your photography each time we go out to shoot, not that improvement has been needed. =) The vivid photos capture the 'essence' of the afternoon.


York said...

Nice! I really like the close-up of the great blue heron. Lucky you had the patience to stop and get those shots before rushing off to see the gator. BTW, the gator looks like she has contact lenses, her eyes are so pretty. I wonder if anybody has studied her. Odd that she'd live in that salt water so long. Does Scarlet feed her? I hope that's not what the dog was for. Ha.

steve's girl said...

Thanks for sharing your great day with a post. Love the butterflies...maybe we will have to visit Brownsville again someday and explore the nature center and meet Aloishea! In the meantime, we will be happy to enjoy it through your great images.

XXXX said...

Fantastic! Great entry Jim. Although I was disappointed that you didn't get any photos of the elusive and enigmatic yellow-crested blue-billed Deep South Texas snapper. Oh well, maybe next time!

LaVibora - Jim Campbell said...

Thanks for the kind word everyone! I've noticed an increase in the Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterflies here at the office today, feeding on the Hibiscus. They are really coming in behind Monday's front.

XXXX - The yellow-crested, blue-billed deep south Texas Snapper doesn't typically appear here until late December. You can bet we'll be there waiting!