Since my arrival in Port Aransas, TX Thursday afternoon, the weather has been cold, rainy, and extremely windy. Susan and I have enjoyed the comforts of a warm welcome by our good friends here so we didn’t feel the need to rush down to the beach, which would not have been quite as welcoming. When the rain finally stopped Saturday afternoon, the wind died down to a tolerable 10MPH, and the sun emerged briefly, I changed clothes and headed to the beach for my first look at the Gulf of Mexico since my arrival.
There were a few die hard walkers, some people looking for shells, and one intrepid metal detector who mined the surf for lost coins and rings. I saw none of the usual sanderlings or willets or ruddy turnstones sifting through the sand and the surf that I expected to see. There were a few laughing gulls and royal terns flocked high above the surf on the sand facing into the wind, most standing on one leg. I was surprised to see that the only activity in the surf was a couple of boat-tailed grackles that were wading and feeding in the surf. I’ve never seen grackles on the beach, let alone in the surf feeding on clams. Here is a series of shots that show the grackle grabbing the tiny coquina clam (some water drops flip off the grackle’s beak), crushing it (the nictitating membrane of his eye is visible as it crushes the clam and a piece of clam shell can be seen falling away), and finally, gobbling down the meat.
I’ve never photographed the grackles here although I’ve seen them for years on rooftops, lawns, and power lines. They have never seemed particularly interesting to me but to me their behavior today was unusual and I’m happy to have witnessed some interesting behavior that I wasn’t expecting to see.