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Archive for the ‘Texas Birds’ Category

The rumors spread throughout our community of birding enthusiasts: “There is a new sub-species of Warbler and he can be seen near South Padre Island if you have a boat to take you out to the remote area where he lives. He has a chestnut colored head and some call him the Mangrove Warbler.”

Scarlet and Pat Boating

Scarlet and Pat Boating

Pat’s friend, Scarlett, has a boat and is willing to take us to the willow bushes lining this arm of Laguna Madre Bay. Early morning is called for, and we drive to the boat dock and motor out in the crisp morning. Idling along we search and search … no luck … the tide changes … harder to get close to the banks of willow … and after a few hours we accept that the search is in vain.

Willows and Heron

Willows and Heron

Pat and Scarlett agree that not many people have seen him. Is he even still here?  Home we go slightly disappointed … it was a long shot … and the dolphins frolicking in the water entertained us. Back at the dock, we are offered fish by a young boy who makes his living fishing from the docks.

Boy on the Dock

Boy on the Dock

Here is a cheery little cookie who tells us, “As soon as school is out I run down here and catch fish. I have to have them at the market by 5:00 in order to sell them.” He is as cute as can be and we wish him good luck.

A couple weeks later Pat and Scarlett go out to the willow bank and take this photo

Mangrove Warbler

Mangrove Warbler

… he was there … just not when we were … C’est la vie!.

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Michael Emenaker

Michael Emenaker

Here is the merry face of Michael Emenaker … one of the volunteer caretakers of the birding site in Salineno. This site is on the bank of the Rio Grande river with Mexico on the other side. It is an ideal place to see the “specialty” birds of this humid, tropical region.  Michael comes down from Colorado to fill bird feeders, monitor people, and insure the health and good will of humans and birds, alike.

Michael Filling Feeders

Michael Filling Feeders

Let us all be thankful that he has assumed the mantle of previous caretakers so that we can enjoy the Green Jay, all the Orioles, the Kiskadee and Roadrunner etc, etc. Every day he spreads peanut-butter/corn meal glop on the tree trunks and awaits the influx of many hungry birds.

One of the most spectacular birds is the Golden-fronted Woodpecker who is seen only in Texas. Another bird seen only in southernmost Texas is the Olive Sparrow with his dull greenish tint on his back. He is shy and hard to see as he prefers dense underbrush as his home. Sharing his neighborhood is the tiny Black-crested Titmouse who darts in, grabs a sunflower seed and dashes away giving almost no time to take a photo …many blurry shots of him I have taken before I managed to get this one of him. Hopping slowly next to the Olive Sparrow is the Black-throated Sparrow in his crisp white and black tuxedo. They all delight the people grouped around Michael who patiently names them for the beginning birders. Thanks Michael!

The Cactus Wren ! A desert bird who is comfortably at home building his nest right in a towering cactus. No one will bother his nest tucked into the protective spines of a cactus. He is a medley of stripes and dots. What a visually spectacular bird!

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Finally, the Pyrrhuloxia … took me a while to get his name right … he is gray with a vermillion face, a pointed topknot, and red scattered down his chest. Sitting on a blue feeder tray he is delightful.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Come on down to the Rio Grande Valley to see all these resident birds.

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Tree With a Secret

Tree With a Secret

This ordinary tree hosts a butterfly who uses its mottled bark to camouflage its wings … it is so successful it takes me many minutes to spot the Variable Cracker butterfly. If you walk by this tree you hardly notice the dark gray spot blending in with the other spots.

Variable Cracker Butterfly

Variable Cracker Butterfly

The Cracker is cleverly hidden. I guess the butterfly who blends in the best is the one who survives to pass on his camouflage genes.

Variable Cracker Butterfly

Variable Cracker Butterfly

The pattern on his wings is so elegant…looks like watered silk.

Can You See It?

Can You See It?

There is a bird here! Can you find him ? Look for his open eye … that might help … a master at disappearing. He is the Pauraque, a nocturnal bird of the brushlands from southern Texas to northern Argentina.

 

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Playing Hide-n-Seek with a tiny sparrow may not sound like the highlight of the week … but it is for me!

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

This crisp “Tuxedo” bird, with his black and white markings, lives in arid desert scrub-land where it seems he might have trouble keeping his immaculate appearance, yet there he is, looking splendid. He is shy and elusive like his cousin, the Olive Sparrow. Their habit is to make quick forays from beneath sheltering plants, grab a seed, and scuttle back under cover. Over a period of 7-8 years I have managed to get a few blurry photos but never one that shows their true colors.

Rancho Lomitas Garden

Rancho Lomitas Garden

Today we are out at Rancho Lomitas in Texas, where we called ahead and arranged for a man to meet us at the locked gate and allow us to visit his RV trailer where he has fed birds for 18 years. Jim meets us and we sit outside in his garden and admire the huge cacti and many statues, baubles, and various hanging feeders. Then comes the big surprise … a Black-throated Sparrow ambles out, picks up a seed, and instead of running quickly back under the bushes, he fluffs his feathers, and utters a clear loud note. Two more stroll out and the three of them pose casually among the cacti. Terrific!

Then out comes the Olive Sparrow to join them and he also stays in full view displaying his olive green back for the world to see. As if this is not enough riches for one day, a whir of wings deposits a flock of Scaled Quail at our feet. None of them seem concerned that people are near them.

Finally, venturing out to get a drink of water from the drip feature is a Clay-colored Robin. I think he has been re-classified as a thrush in the last few years but in my mind he is a robin with his round, chubby profile. Another hard-to-see bird! Rancho Lomitas is an unusual place … we enjoy these Southwestern birds in peaceful silence broken only by the liquid notes of a Cactus Wren perched on top of a blue sphere. Bird Heaven indeed!

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Roadrunner with eye patch clearly visible

Roadrunner with eye patch clearly visible

What do I know about the Roadrunner that I did not know yesterday?  Quite a bit … as seen in these photos this bird has a bare patch of skin behind each eye. I knew that … and usually the bit I have seen is bright blue. In these pic’s you can actually see that the patch is shaded blue anterior to red posterior.  Never saw that before!!

Close up

Close up

We had the treat of varied weather with short spells of pelting rain: light, misty rain, blinding sunshine and foggy horizons as we drove to Falcon Lake in Texas. Once there we saw a dozen or more Roadrunners.  They had their feathers fluffed up because it had rained but were out in full force in the sunshine seeking breakfast. Getting out to get a good shot i noticed the X tracks in the wet sand … with four toes they have two facing forward and two facing backward. It is called zygodactyl … who knew?

Eyepatch is visible even from this view

Eyepatch is visible even from this view

They live in arid scrub land and mate for life which is why we saw them in pairs searching for grasshoppers in the wet grass.

Roadrunner hunting for lunch

Roadrunner hunting for lunch

What a treat they were as they sped away from us. It was a stormy day harking back to my childhood when every day we lived WITH the weather not running indoors to escape it. Blessed rain to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

This may be what the roadrunner will find to munch on! I was hunting an elusive butterfly when touching a leaf caused a strange insect to cautiously climb up a stalk of grass and stop … so I took his picture instead of the splendid butterfly I was chasing.  Then he suddenly hopped … UP! … and OVER! a full 4 feet away. What an incredible distance for such a little guy.  We chased him and every hop was 4 to 6 feet at a hop. WOW!  I looked him up and he is a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper found in the deep South around ponds and wet areas. He turned out to be a she as males are brown and females are green.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Here my friend holds the blade of grass she was perched on. You can see she’s about as big as a toothpick and shaped just like one!

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PUSH ME                                                                           PULL ME

The Inside                                                                          The Outside

What are the attractions of the world inside the South Padre Island Convention Center? The people, the booths of pottery, painting, note cards and unusual items. The hustle, the bustle, the opinions of the attendees about your paintings.

On the other hand, there are the attractions of the world outside on the beach. The birds, the butterflies, and the vast open reaches of sky and sea. The soothing sound of wind, the kites floating gently in the sky, and the flocks of Royal Terns and Black Skimmers huddled, facing the wind, on a sandy beach.

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Reading the Japanese poet Issa

A good world —
dew drops fall
by ones, by twos

Our Rose Throated Becard reflects the morning of January 20, 2017. He is fluffed up in the gray fog at Estero Llano and is obscured by drifting clouds of mist, yet his patch of rosy feathers shines out at us. We get a brief glimpse and then he is gone to find his breakfast. A poem written in the 1700-1800’s by Issa perfectly describes the park in Texas where we see him. The trees and bushes all have dew drops lined up along their stems and we hear their quiet drip as the mist begins to clear. Lovely morning.

Rose Breasted Becard

Rose Throated Becard

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