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My Life’s Birds: #170

October 29, 2008

April 2, 1994 – McAllen Sewage Ponds, McAllen, Tx – There are places that we go as birders that seem odd to non-birders. Places that don’ necessarily headline the list of top tourist destinations. We all know what I’m talking about. Smelly places, gross places, places where the effluence of modern society goes to be hidden, buried, re-made into things that are socially acceptable. In America we have a lot of these places because we have a lot of waste. But the birds are where the birds are, and in many cases, interesting birds are where the waste is. And so we go there, despite the snickers behind our backs.

Birds love sewage ponds. It’s a fact. The why is pretty basic. Most sewage treatment facilities treat water in vast lagoons, either natural or man-made. This is usually the last step before the water is returned to natural waterways. Such ponds are usually high in nutrients and micro-organisms, and in many cases plant life is encouraged, providing, in the middle of a reminder of a particularly stinky by-product of modern life, a small bit of nature. Jim Lane’s Birder’s Guide to the Rio Grande Valley suggests the city of McAllen’s wastewater treatment facility as a particularly good example of this. So we went.

And you know? It wasn’t bad. Not only did we find a few terns, mostly Blacks, but that ubiquitous tail-bobber, the Spotted Sandpiper, a new bird for me. The promise of a South Texas specialty, like a Jacana, is what draws birders here, we failed to that end, but the Spottie was good enough for today. Our time in the Valley was coming to an end. We’d leave the next day. But it was a phenomenal trip, it always is down there.

photo from wikipedia


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