Author: Moody Gardens (page 1 of 34)

MOODY GARDENS INTRODUCES THE GOLDEN GIRLS OF TEXAS

Starring a Chinstrap Penguin Named Fox and a Few Other Gals – the Oldest in North America.

 

In honor of Penguin Awareness Day, Moody Gardens introduces their Texas Golden Girls, a few of the oldest Chinstrap penguins in captivity in North America. The star of the show being Fox, the second oldest Chinstrap penguin. Fox hatched one day after the first oldest, who resides at SeaWorld San Antonio. Chinstrap penguins in the wild have an average lifespan of about 15 to 20 years, while the oldest penguin at Moody Gardens turned 37 last month.

 

Fox resides in a smaller extension of the South Atlantic exhibit behind the scenes at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid, along with a few other geriatric penguins that aren’t able to get around as well as they used to. Another Golden Girl is Gandalf, she is also a 37 year old Chinstrap penguin at Moody Gardens and she hatched about a week after Fox. There are three other Chinstrap penguins that are 34 years old in their little community, as well as three more that are still on exhibit and can be seen inside of the South Atlantic exhibit or from home on the live penguin webcam at MoodyGardens.org. Most of the penguins inside of the retirement community at Moody Gardens are female and being recognized as the Golden Girls of Texas.

 

Fox was collected as an egg by SeaWorld in 1983 and hatched at SeaWorld San Diego. She was moved to Moody Gardens in 2003 and has been thriving ever since. The biologists who care for her liken her to the local mall walkers as she makes her daily laps around the pool to stay active in her senior years. She does have minor arthritis and a degenerated eye due to a detached retina, but she sure doesn’t let those things keep her from having a good time.

 

Wagner was previously the oldest Chinstrap penguin according to Association of Zoos and Aquariums records and the North American Studbook. He passed away at 34 years old, and called Moody Gardens home; though Fox and the other 37 year old Chinstrap penguins have now surpassed that. This demonstrates the excellent quality of care that the biologists at Moody Gardens take when it comes to their animals. The biologists provide enrichment for the penguins and other animals on a daily basis, enrichment is anything that changes up their environment and makes their life a little different every day.

 

“We tailor animal enrichment to each individual, for the penguins in our retirement home that may not have the best vision or be able to get around like they used to, we typically use auditory or textile enrichment like jingle bells and windchimes or felt and towels for them to hang out on, “ noted Senior Biologist Maggie Reynolds.

 

Having these Chinstrap penguins on exhibit allows Moody Gardens to educate the public about the issues that these birds face in the wild. Chinstrap penguins, which are native to the Sub-Antarctic region of the world, are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. However, wild colonies are slowly decreasing in population due to climate change and overfishing. Limited food resources causes these birds to have to travel further from shore to hunt for fish, and therefore renders them more vulnerable to predation and other natural elements.

 

The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States. In addition to the Chinstrap penguins, five other species including Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Rockhopper penguins also call the South Atlantic Exhibit home. The warm-climate Humboldt penguins live in an exhibit right next door to their chilly-aired friends. With over 1.5 million gallons of water, the Aquarium Pyramid houses marine life from five distinct environments. Not only does the collection include penguins, but they also have sting rays, sharks, seals, sea lions and over 200 different species of fish.

 

FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY TRIPLES IN SIZE

Expansion triples the protected area in the Gulf of Mexico, including protections for 14 critical reefs and banks

National conservation groups and aquarium partners celebrated the expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, announced today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The expansion increases protections within the Gulf of Mexico’s only national marine sanctuary from 56 square miles to 160 square miles and includes 14 critical reefs and banks.

Moving forward, this expansion means increased protections for important species and habitats. The expansion areas will be home to future conservation work and support resource protection, science and research, recreation and stewardship for local communities and the country. In particular, the sanctuary’s expansion provides an excellent opportunity to:

  • further explore the wonders of our ocean;
  • study healthy reefs, especially as potential sites to seed and restore future reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean;
  • better understand resilient ecosystems in the face of changing climate and pollution; and
  • connect families and children with our ocean and build stewards through conservation expeditions, conservation programs, and exhibits and outreach.

Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary’s expansion is great news for marine conservation in the Gulf. The sanctuary protects incredible coral reefs and an amazing diversity of species. It connects communities to the ocean through educational opportunities including Ocean Guardian Schools and Aquarium-Sanctuary Partnerships. The Foundation supports conservation work in the sanctuary and we look forward to expanding our work in the newly designated areas. We appreciate NOAA and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries for their efforts in making this expansion happen.”

“Moody Gardens is very pleased with the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS),” said Greg Whittaker, Animal Husbandry Manager for Moody Gardens. “Through our Aquarium-Sanctuary Partnership for America’s Keystone Wildlife, we work to align our conservation-education messaging and field conservation efforts to broaden the impact of the great work being done by the FGBNMS team. The expansion of the Sanctuary’s protection over these additional 14 banks and the diverse biological systems they support is exciting and we anticipate years of collaborative Aquarium-Sanctuary projects associated with these natural resource gems. Moody Gardens’ dive operations will continue to serve as a resource to our FGBNMS partners as we explore the new undersea habitats and protect the ecosystem. We look forward to showcasing the discoveries in our backyard Sanctuary to our millions of visitors here in Galveston.”

“The advanced growth of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) is a triumph for coral conservation. Our Aquarium-Sanctuary Partnership provides us the opportunity to continue in the rescue and aid in the protection of Florida’s coral,” said Texas State Aquarium Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jesse Gilbert. “Our aquarists will continue their work to preserve the genetic diversity of the reef to help further restoration efforts. In support of our mission, we will continue to educate and inspire the appreciation for our seas and support conservation.”

“This expansion represents another milestone in protecting crucial habitat and a vital part of our planet’s life support system,” said Keith Sanford, president and CEO of the Tennessee Aquarium. “By partnering with the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, we’ve been able to help millions of inland residents understand their role in protecting the health of the Gulf of Mexico by working to safeguard the rivers and streams running through our communities.”

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary lies one hundred miles off the Texas and Louisiana coasts and is the only sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Home to an ecosystem created by water from 31 states and Canada, the existing sanctuary protects some of the healthiest and most resilient coral reef communities in the entire Caribbean and western Atlantic region including salt domes, or underwater mountains, on which the reef-building corals live.

Its deep water habitat includes salt domes, which are underwater mountains, and the reef-building corals that live on top of those formations. Those who visit for sportfishing and diving can see coral heads bigger than cars and a bounty of wildlife including whale sharks, sea turtles, mollusks, crustaceans, birds, manta rays, and hundreds of species of fish. Below the coral cap in deeper water are additional species including octocorals and black corals.

While Flower Garden Banks offers outstanding recreation, its offshore location makes it a major center for research and conservation activities.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, beyond its natural wonders, connects communities, including aquarium partners, with the ocean for innovative science and exploration work, community stewardship, and educational opportunities, including five Ocean Guardian Schools in Texas.

Four aquariums formally partner with Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Aquarium-Sanctuary Partnerships for America’s Keystone Wildlife Project supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas; Moody Gardens, Inc.; Texas State Aquarium; and Tennessee Aquarium. Priority interventions include fish and coral recovery, invasive species and marine debris removal, sea turtle rehabilitation, and mooring buoys that deter boats from anchoring on reefs.

America’s national marine sanctuaries are the essential network of protected waters owned by every American, which sustain miraculous species, coastal communities, and our shared heritage. The National Marine Sanctuary System includes 14 marine and one Great Lakes sanctuaries and two marine national monuments. These unique waters sustain critical, breathtaking marine habitats that provide homes to endangered and threatened species. They preserve America’s rich maritime heritage and are living laboratories for science, research, education and conservation. Sanctuaries also offer world-class outdoor recreation experiences for all ages and support local communities by bringing billions of dollars to their economies. Communities across the nation look to sanctuaries to protect nationally significant areas of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.

 

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve America’s maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at marinesanctuary.org.

 

The Texas State Aquarium (TSA), the Official Aquarium of the State of Texas, is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) institution that is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its mission is to engage people with animals, inspire appreciation for our seas and support wildlife conservation. TSA, the largest aquarium in Texas, cares for over 4,000 animals and has been named the #4 Aquarium in North American by USA Today. Learn more at texasstateaquarium.org.

 

The mission of the Tennessee Aquarium is to connect people with nature and inspire them to make informed decisions about water and wildlife. Admission is $34.95 per adult and $21.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.

Galveston CVB’s Chasing GREG’s Upper Texas Coast Dispersed Flock Big Day 10/24/20

From Greg Whittaker, Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager:

2020 has thrown us all for a loop. There’s nothing normal this year and we’re all figuring out how to navigate the daily challenges through things that seemed so easy and normal way back in 2019. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD)  24th annual Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) is no different. Known as the biggest, longest, wildest birdwatching tournament in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic forced TPWD to cancel the event in April and move it to the fall. Through the month of October 141 teams are birding in 42 categories ranging from a Big Sit from within a 50 foot diameter circle, to a state-wide “dispersed flock” Big Day. We are thankful to again have the sponsorship of the Galveston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for our Chasing GREGs Big Day team. We opted to try the new dispersed flock category that allows us to bird as smaller “pods” and our social distancing allowed us to cover a broader range through the day.

Using Greg Miller’s guidance and strategy from our 2019 Big Day, we mined 20 years of eBird listings over the 13 counties in the Upper Texas Coast region. We identified eight that offered the best opportunities to put together three routes that hit the locations with the widest diversity and most unique species. October’s expected bird diversity is lower than what our region sees during the height of the spring migration. The eBird data confirmed that the third and fourth weeks in October have higher species counts with more of the fall migrants reaching and passing through our area. Our team consisted of myself, Lee Schoen, Kristen Vale, Jeff Sexton and Clayton Leopold. Our calendars aligned on Saturday October 24th and we focused our attention on both the historical eBird data and the current listings for those counties in which we intended to bird. Numerous reconnaissance trips were made in the days leading up to our big day and many area birders were called upon to allow us to swing through and check out the rarities they had in their yards and other hotspots. We sincerely appreciate our “village” in the effort as many of them were competing on other GTBC teams. We even relied on an active Big Sit at Coastal Heritage Preserve to get us a couple rarities and a Great-horned Owl late in the day. Thank you Greg Hall – you an an unofficial Chasing GREG. We took full advantage of the entire day with our first species logged in at 12:18 a.m. and our last bird, a Barred Owl identified just after 8 p.m.

Our total species list rounded out at 183 for the day, which was an increase of 20 over our spring 2019 effort. Although there were less overall species diversity in the fall, our ability to split up and cover more territory more than made up for it. We managed to scare up to 18 waterfowl species, 25 shorebirds, a dozen gulls and terns, nearly all of the anhinga, cormorant, pelican, heron, egret, ibis, spoonbill group, 13 raptors, 9 sparrows and 10 warblers. The wayward Varied Thrush that’s been hanging out in Surfside even made our list along with a California Gull that popped up at Bolivar Flats that day. Collectively the five of us covered a total of 900 miles surveying areas within 8 counties over 21 hours.

It’s rewarding to see a large species list after a day like this, but it’s even more fulfilling to be part of a robust birding community that offers us all the opportunity to get out for an organized even, or just a casual venture after work. Birdwatching is one of those activities that is safer and more achievable under the restrictions COVID-19 has imposed on our daily lives. Spending time outside appreciating nature in the company of others offers ample social distancing opportunity and the chance to actually see and talk to other human beings.

I’d encourage other other team leaders for the various Big Sits and Big Days to send in a similar summary of what you did and saw in your groups. Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council’s website is the prime location to spread the message that we live in a great place to enjoy nature and we stand at the ready to tell these great stories.

Get outside and enjoy the fall weather and let nature heal your soul.

Experience Fall Bird Migration Season with a Hotel Package at the Moody Gardens Hotel

The Fall Bird Migration is in full swing on Galveston Island and we have a hotel package to help the birders out there make the most of it. Stay at the Moody Gardens Hotel, enjoy breakfast at Cafe in the Park and then go on a personal tour of the Moody Gardens property looking for all kinds of bird species with our Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker. Greg will also share some insider tips on great birding locations around Galveston Island so that you can go out and bird on your own.

For a preview of what to expect here’s an overview of what happened when Greg went out for a tour on Oct. 17.

From Greg:

Saturday’s birding was a bit shorter than normal as the weather came in around 10 a.m. and started drizzling on us. We did manage to walk from the Hotel around the retention ditches to the west side of the Aquarium Pyramid, then out toe the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat dock and along the Offats Bayou shoreline, behind Palm Beach and out to the Moody Gardens Marina Dock. We then walked along the Lake Madeline channel to the Learning Place oak grove before returning back to the hotel. My eBird checklist for the outing estimated 3/4 mile distance over the hour we were outside.

I counted 25 species we encountered and am listing them here in taxonomic order, the order they appear in bird ID books.

Mottled Duck, Rock Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Neotropic Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, White Ibis, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, European Starling, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, House Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle and 2 unidentified warblers.

The two Marbled Godwit that flew overhead when we at the south end of the retention ditch were a nice surprise and one of the neater encounters.

There are a few more dates for this one-of-a-kind tour before the season is over coming up on Oct. 31, Nov. 7 and Nov. 14. Click here to book your experience today.

Louie, The Country’s Oldest Jumping Rat Passes Away at Age 12

Moody Gardens was sad to recently announce the passing of Louie, the oldest jumping rat in the collective U.S. population.

Giant jumping rats are a nocturnal, endangered species native to Madagascar who face challenges in the wild including habitat loss, slow reproduction and limited range. Within the ecosystem they occupy a niche rabbits would normally fill in other areas of the world. They are monogamous and breed during the rainy season giving birth to one or two offspring. Their lifespan in the wild can be about six years while they can live to be around 10 in facilities like Moody Gardens.

Louie’s favorite foods were banana and peanut butter and he loved to train with his keepers as well as forage for bugs that were fed by our biologists to the Pygmy Slow Lorises but dropped by them onto the floor of the exhibit they shared in the Rainforest Pyramid.

Louie will be greatly missed by the Moody Gardens staff and his keepers, as any animal loss is considered a loss of family. We know that many of our guests will miss him as well. Do you have a photo or favorite memory of Louie? Share it with us on social media!

Palm Beach Opens With a Splash!

The gates opened at Moody Gardens Palm Beach June 5 as guests were invited to stick their toes in the white sand, relax on the lazy river or take part in one of the many other ways they can rediscover their Happy Place. For many families, this was their first outing as COVID-19 capacity restrictions continue to lessen in Texas. The attraction will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We are excited to be able to welcome guests back to Palm Beach for a refreshing diversion,” said Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt, who added capacity restrictions will significantly limit access and planning ahead will provide a better guest experience. “We strongly recommend that guests plan ahead and arrive early as entry will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.”

During the weeks that Moody Gardens was closed a comprehensive Health and Safety Program with extensive sanitization and training was implemented for the well-being of all staff and guests. The Pyramid Promise also offers guests an experience that is clean, safe and fun.

Guests are encouraged to purchase their tickets online. This approach minimizes personal contact through cash handling and ticket disbursement at cashier windows. Moody Gardens has also moved to a cashless digital payment policy property wide and is only accepting credit/debit cards to reduce contact transactions.

Admission to Palm Beach is $26 for adults and $20 for children ages 4-12 and seniors.

For more information please visit www.moodygardens.org or call 409-744-4673.

PALM BEACH OPENS WITH A SPLASH!

The gates opened at Moody Gardens Palm Beach June 5 as guests were invited to stick their toes in the white sand, relax on the lazy river or take part in one of the many other ways they can rediscover their Happy Place. For many families, this was their first outing as COVID-19 capacity restrictions continue to lessen in Texas. The attraction will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We are excited to be able to welcome guests back to Palm Beach for a refreshing diversion,” said Moody Gardens President and CEO John Zendt, who added capacity restrictions will significantly limit access and planning ahead will provide a better guest experience. “We strongly recommend that guests plan ahead and arrive early as entry will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.”

During the weeks that Moody Gardens was closed a comprehensive Health and Safety Program with extensive sanitization and training was implemented for the well-being of all staff and guests. The Pyramid Promise also offers guests an experience that is clean, safe and fun.

Guests are encouraged to purchase their tickets online. This approach minimizes personal contact through cash handling and ticket disbursement at cashier windows. Moody Gardens has also moved to a cashless digital payment policy property wide and is only accepting credit/debit cards to reduce contact transactions.

Admission to Palm Beach is $26 for adults and $20 for children ages 4-12 and seniors.

For more information please visit www.moodygardens.org or call 409-744-4673.

MOODY GARDENS GOLF COURSE TO REOPEN MAY 4

Top-ranked, scenic course opens in prime condition with COVID-19 guidelines in place

Golfers yearning to hit the links following a COVID-19 extended stay at home will discover greens in peak condition when the Moody Gardens Golf Course reopens May 4. COVID-19 protocols are in place to provide golfers with a clean, safe and enjoyable experience. While the course was closed, seasonal aerification and other maintenance was addressed to allow ample time for the greens to heal and be ready for play.

“The course is looking absolutely spectacular,” said Moody Gardens Golf Course Superintendent Steve Yarotsky, who added that the aerification is usually scheduled for a little later in the season and offers less than ideal conditions for golfers. “It’s nice that we were able to get this maintenance completed to allow golfers maximum time on the course and the best of conditions as they have been patiently waiting for their next tee time.”

COVID-19 protocols at the course range from increased cleaning practices and staff training to eliminating contact with a variety of tools and surfaces that offer the potential of direct and indirect contact. Policies that limit one player per golf cart, no rakes in the bunkers or sand bottles on carts and other protocols are all implemented with the health and safety of guests and staff in mind. Seating at the course’s Pelican Grille will also be limited to 25 percent capacity in accordance with state guidelines for restaurants.

Moody Gardens Golf Course was rated the No. 6 course in the Lone Star State, according to a recent ranking by Golf Advisor. The annual Golf Advisor state Golfers’ Choice lists are compiled by analyzing the ratings and reviews submitted by members of their review community throughout the year. Out of 352 reviewed Texas golf courses in 2019, the Moody Gardens Golf Course took the No. 6 spot.

With its stunning island views and beautiful greens, the course has become one of the most popular public golf courses in the state. The par-72 course is a Jacobsen Hardy design and measures 6,900 yards from the farthest back tees. Raised elevations, new irrigation and drainage systems were added. As the first course in the continental United States to use the salt-tolerant grass paspalum, it also uses effluent water from the City of Galveston to water the grounds as a part of Moody Gardens conservation mission.

The premier public golf course has earned rave reviews from TripAdvisor, GolfNow and Golf Advisor since those improvements, including being named to Golf Advisor’s Best Of and Top 50 U.S. courses list.

For information or to book a tee time, call 409-683-4653 or visit www.moodygardensgolf.com.

Spring Bird Migration – Halfway Report

By: Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker

 

As we hit the halfway point for April, I finally caught up on entering eBird lists and tallying the species I’ve encountered here at Moody Gardens. It feels a bit like my 2018 experience as I bird my way through my day. Binoculars and camera as permanent accessories while I deliver paperwork across property, or pick up deliveries from the warehouse. With all the typical spring migration activities cancelled and very little bird-nerd camaraderie happening, my time outdoors is my link to normal. I feel so very fortunate to be going to and from work in such a natural wonderland that my daily commute doubles as an enjoyable leisure activity.

Through the first 7 days of April, I encountered 109 species of birds. Through the second week, I’ve added 39 more for a whopping 148 species so far this month. There’s a reason Galveston County rates in the top 3 in the nation for birding in April. As I write this, I’m missing the nervous buzz that accompanies our annual Featherfest preparations. Meeting fellow birders as we check in at headquarters. Scouting eBird lists for upcoming trip locations to get the most up-to-date information for our guests. There’s still quite a buzz in the air for those of us fortunate enough to get out and bird. The spring migration is certainly still happening and in fact, the persistent north winds over the past few days have led to a great fall-out with loads of colorful passerines scouring our vegetated woodlots for the snacks they offer. I chose the image above for this blog as it’s the namesake bird for Houston Audubon Society – the Yellow-throated Warbler that adorns the logo. This fella dropped in early this afternoon after a tough trans-Gulf journey. If you’ve got the time, get outside and spend a few minutes looking through those hedges and trees. The birds are here!
In addition to the shear excitement of ticking off new species every single day, I had some surprising encounters over the past 2 weeks. On April 1st as I was leaving property, I stopped to take a look in one of the Oak groves favored by spring migrants. I did catch a female Cooper’s Hawk fly in with a fresh catch, a Rock Dove. As she tore into it, she was oblivious to me stalking in closer to snap a few pictures. Just as I got in a good location and started clicking away, the male flew in and mated her, answering the questions I’d had on whether this was a pair or not. She didn’t even stop eating and certainly didn’t share with him. This also answered the questions on why the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and Green Herons weren’t busy nesting in this grove as they have in years’ past. As of 3 days ago, she’s sitting on a nest and he’s still showing up to bring her food, and the grove’s not particularly birdy otherwise.

Through the first couple days of the month I encountered a Red-shouldered Hawk eating a Blue-winged Teal, and a Louisiana Waterthrush catching and eating a fairly good sized Sheepshead Minnow. On the 6th, I found a freshly dispatched Barn Swallow mounted on the barbed wire fence adjacent to a Loggerhead Shrike’s perch. 3 days later I found a freshly killed Sora in a similar state. How does a Shrike kill a Sora and carry it up to a barbed wire fence 6 feet off the ground. All I can say to Mrs. Shrike is that’s SOME provider – she must be impressed. Just yesterday, that same Red-shouldered Hawk with a taste for blue, offered me a great photo-op as it unceremoniously dismantled one of those gorgeous Indigo Buntings that are flitting about property by the dozens.

Easter Sunday was the night for nighthawks as a late afternoon birding excursion offered views of over 2 dozen Common Nighthawks streaming in off the Gulf. We were fortunate enough to tease out 2 that were smaller, flying more erratically, closer to the hedges, with white flashes at their wing-tips. The lesser seen Lesser-Nighthawk.
Monday after Easter was Sparrow day. The strong northwest winds delivered a plethora of the little brown jobbers with enough interest in foraging that they allowed adequate viewing and photo-ops to decipher 9 species, plus the ubiquitous House Sparrow. The usual suspects including Savannah, Swamp and Lincoln were augmented with Chipping, Clay-colored, Song, Vesper, White-throated and the striking Lark Sparrow.

The past few days have been blessed with the blustery weather that’s unkind to the migrating birds, but kind to the birders. Warblers, Vireos, Buntings, Orioles, Tanagers, Grosbeaks, Thrushes and the Sparrows mentioned above are here in good numbers. The 3rd week of April is statistically the best week for migratory bird watching here in Galveston County. If you can get outside and spend a few hours appreciating Nature’s bounty in an appropriate socially distanced manner, please do. It will do your soul some good.
Stay safe peeps.

Greg Whittaker is Moody Gardens animal husbandry manager and, as a birding enthusiast, frequently leads free Birding 101 and Birding 201 tours around the island.

Eskimo Curlew sighted at Galveston Island State Park!

 

By: Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker

5 years after I sent an April fool’s email to several of my local birding colleagues, I can dust off the prank and repurpose it with a more tangible meaning. The World’s a strange place right now and we’re all searching for those anchors of “normal” to help us make sense of things. Perhaps our Lost Bird Project Eskimo Curlew sculpture can be a reminder to us all that what once was, may not be, and what is, may disappear.

Insert joke about finding irony in a metal sculpture. It may be fittingly ironic that a half century after the last of its living namesakes disappeared quietly and unnoticed from this Island, and Earth, we have its memorial reappear with a similarly eerie lack of attention and fanfare.

This is not by design. The community support around this momentous event warranted a party, a celebration, wide ranging acclaim for the installation of this 7’ bronze beauty. This was our chance to showcase our chapter in the nation-wide project designed to focus attention on how Humans can have profoundly bad effects on the natural world when we don’t cherish things around us.

Todd McGrain’s vision to create stoic reminders of our fellow American’s past bad choices and nudge us just a little bit towards caring for what we see in our back yards is now part of our own Island’s heritage. The first 5 chapters of the Lost Bird Project are also here in Galveston, but again the planned spotlights and fireworks around this really cool opportunity were snuffed out by a miniscule marauder reminding us all of our fragile existence and mortality. Nature doesn’t value species, races, clans or individuals as any more or less important, but simply and methodically moves forward with all the beautiful chaos and dynamic change that has always been in play.

Within the guidelines of social distancing, please go outside, breathe the spring air, soak in the sun, and listen to the chorus of migrating birds on their annual April visit. If you get the chance to go to the Galveston Island State Park to see our new nature tourism treasure, spend the time to feel the spiritual connection to the natural space. Be safe.

Greg Whittaker is Moody Gardens animal husbandry manager and, as a birding enthusiast, frequently leads free Birding 101 and Birding 201 tours around the island.

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