Mental health day

Galveston Island State Park was the balm my soul needed. Not nature in little pockets; not hooray, I stumbled on something; NATURE, glorious, free, exuberant nature. I needed to be surrounded by wildness, dipped into it and rolled around until the stench of indoors had completely washed away.

Mission accomplished.

I spent over an hour with scores of shorebirds. I love this photo because you can see how very much larger great egrets are than their smaller cousins the snowy egrets. The lone great egret looks like a giant in their company. I love that there are two birds in this photo who would be hard to notice because they do not stand out like the egrets. I enlarged their heads so you wouldn’t miss them. The bird on top is (I think) a yellow-crowned night heron. The other bird is a tri-colored heron. You can see one of those flying in the photo at the top of the post.

This is a seaside dragonlet. I love that some small dragonflies are called dragonlets. This is a female. The male is darker and mostly blue. For once, the female is a lot showier!

One thing Galveston was full of were dragonflies. This wandering glider is one of the really large dragonflies that hovers and zips before you can get a good look. After many, many, many photos, I managed to get a good look. I love how the legs are tucked up aerodynamically. But they are spring loaded. They can grab an insect out of the air with those claws and chew them up with fierce, but thankfully tiny teeth.

A whole flock of black-bellied whistling ducks flew overhead. There is something so innocent about their faces. You can reliably find them if you know where they like to hang out, but their range in the United States is very limited so it’s a cool bird to show out-of-state birders.

These birds were very far from the observation deck on which we stood, but fellow master naturalist (Galveston chapter) Deb Pence managed to spot the reddish egret in the distance. I focused the camera on it just as a gust of wind fluffed both the reddish and snowy egrets’ luxurious breeding plumage.

In addition to all the egrets and herons, there was a smattering of white ibis wandering around probing the muddy depths with that curved bill.

Of course, there were cool insects! These are two coastal tiger beetles. I haven’t looked them up, but I would bet that the little one is a male and he is waiting for his chance to mate with the larger female. They were skittering every which way, which is what caught my attention in the first place.

This great blue heron was standing majestically on the edge of a boardwalk I had to cross. The first photo I took, her body filled maybe 1/10th of the frame. I took five or ten steps and snapped a bunch more photos. Her body filled 1/6 of the frame. Each repeat of this (walk, pause, take photos), I was more sure that she would take off on the next step. This isn’t the last photo, just my favorite. By the end, all I could fit in the frame was her head. When she looked about to fly I paused to capture her takeoff. Which included a fake right, go left maneuver that almost threw me off enough to miss her victory honk as she flew away.

I had to use iNaturalist to id many of my photos. A theme emerged. We have already met the coastal tiger beetles and the seaside dragonlet. We will now encounter a seaside sparrow who popped up behind me. I was terrified if I lifted a foot I would lose him, so I managed to twist so far around that I must have looked like that girl from the exorcist. That’s a cool bird for me. First one I’ve ever seen.

Next, the seaside lavender.

Lest you come to imagine that everything interesting is in Galveston, when I was looking through the photos I had taken, I ran into one I snapped unthinkingly the day before. I was taking an extreme close-up of a tropical milkweed flower. When I got a look at it, turned out, I was photographing a tiny spider’s hidey hole.