Sunday Brunch

Last Sunday, at the east end of Galveston Island, a diverse gathering of waders convene in one of the Apffel flats retention ponds, enjoying brunch, feeding casually like at a banquet where you’ve rented the hall and are in no hurry to leave. The egret appears to be the leader but I’m guessing she would just as soon be fishing on her own. The stilts and the ibis do seem a bit cliquish but it is heartening, isn’t it, to see different varieties commingling and at peace. The brown ibis are immatures, ready to molt into adult plumage in a few months.

It’s warm and there’s a breeze but the sky above teases at maybe a shower from the roaming convection puffers that move through the air like big vaporous elephants going where the wind takes them. Soon it will be hot. Before this I saw a dozen Common Terns, early Fall migrants heading down to South America, resting in the sand at East Beach near the south jetty. Some of them youngsters, with black bills.

The Reddish Egret is definitely the solitary diner. Very active in their fishing maneuvers, dancing around and flashing wings to scare up minnows. Local ornithologist here has suggested that Snowy Egrets have learned this style from them and I’ve seen them behave this way too. They get territorial and will chase off other waders. It’s a big ocean, give me some space. This is a popular fishing spot for humans too, right at the end of Seawall where it meets the ship channel. You can watch huge ocean vessels loaded with cargo or petroleum, motoring to or from the Port of Houston, out beyond the no-swimming signs. In spots like this, the local birds get very used to humans and you’ll see Snowys sometimes walking around among the fishermen like they were family.

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