Monday, January 31, 2011

It's time

It’s time for the annual “Can you find the sleeping Pauraque in this picture?” moment.

Here it is. Not too hard. Not too far away.



…and it’s Annie’s birthday today. She’s eleven. Happy Birthday Annie!



Sunday, January 30, 2011

This sucks!

 

We’re in way South Texas, picking off all the way South Texas bird specialties.  That part doesn’t suck.  What does, is that a Yellow-faced Grassquit was just reported at Goose Island State Park.  We have never heard of a Yellow-faced Grassquit in the United States before.  It’s not in any of our bird books.  We had to look him up on the internet to see what he looks like.  Definitely a lifer for us.  The problem is, we’re down south and Goose Island is north.  If we were back at Gulf Waters right now, we’d be within half an hour of it.  We could have popped over this afternoon to see if we could find the rare bird too.  We’ll have to see if there are more reports of him on subsequent days.  If he gets to be a reliable sighting, we might have to day-trip up to Rockport to get him.

 

Meanwhile, we walked a good deal of Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge today.  They’ve got the biggest trees in South Texas there; a huge old moss draped forest.  There is a giant hawk tower that lets you stand above it all and look out across the canopy and pick out the birds below.  It’s way cool.

 

We got three new birds for the year: Great Horned Owl, Ringed Kingfisher, and Green Heron.  That gets us to 158 species so far.  It’s not like that’s a lot of birds.  Our friend Jon is at 277.  That’s a lot.

 

The big Ringed Kingfisher was good to get.  It’s a kingfisher that’s about the size of a crow!  The find of the day, however, was an extended look at a bobcat.  He was on the grassy trail ahead of us.  We were far enough away that he paid us no mind, but close enough that he filled up the field of view in the binoculars.  We watched him hunt the edges and pounce on little critters and eat them.  We spent 10 minutes in the life of a bobcat!

 

80 degrees.  The air-conditioning got a good workout this afternoon after we got home.

 

 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Last Sunday

We took an all-day drive to Falcon State Park and Salineno. Falcon State Park is right on the border with Mexico (as is most everything else down here). It hit the news last year when there was some violence against a jetskier who ventured to the other side of the lake. Scary stuff, but there haven’t been any birding fatalities, so we went anyway.

We stayed on our side of the river and got some good birds for the year. Mallard, Western Meadowlark, Hermit Thrush, Lark Sparrow, Scaled Quail, and Cactus Wren at the State Park, then Clay–colored Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, Eastern Screech-Owl, and Audubon’s Oriole at Salineno.

Three orioles for the day. Here’s the Altamira oriole:



We took an all-day drive to Falcon State Park and Salineno. Falcon State Park is right on the border with Mexico (as is most everything else down here). It hit the news last year when there was some violence against a jetskier who ventured to the other side of the lake. Scary stuff, but there haven’t been any birding fatalities, so we went anyway.



We stayed on our side of the river and got some good birds for the year. Mallard, Western Meadowlark, Hermit Thrush, Lark Sparrow, Scaled Quail, and Cactus Wren at the State Park, then Clay–colored Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, Eastern Screech-Owl, and Audubon’s Oriole at Salineno.



Three orioles for the day. Here’s the Altamira oriole.




Thursday, January 27, 2011

If

If jackets get thrown on a chair, some of us pile into the middle of them and take a nap.


On the other hand….


Some of us are more attracted to dust pans.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is a nice place to be

A big park right out our windshield. Dogs can run free there.

The afternoon view:





Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday

A quiet day. Nothing to write about. Sunny. Calm. Warm. Didn’t go anywhere. Sat outside. Watched some Australian Open Tennis. Took a walk. The dogs kicked the pillows off the couch and took a nap.



Friday, January 21, 2011

Barenaked birding

 

It’s a real birding term.  It might sound funny, but it is not a reference to how much one wears, it’s about birding without optical enhancement.  All the other clues:  relative size, sounds, colors and contrasts, and behaviors, matter more.  It’s fun to do now and then.

 

While we’re here at this park outside Edinburg though, that’s the only way we bird, not because that’s the only way we want to see birds, but because this is a clothing-optional park.  I’m sure it would be a terrible breach of etiquette to wander about with binoculars.

 

There are many great places in the Valley to bird, so whenever we need a birding fix, we drive off to somewhere outside the park to do it with binoculars.

 

 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Follow-up

The Audubon Society owns The Sabal Palm Grove Sanctuary. They ran out of money and closed it. I heard they got money from a local foundation to reopen it, but there is more to the story than that. The local foundation didn’t grant money to Audubon. The Foundation actually leased the Sanctuary from them and agreed to run it long-term.

Remember that picture of the abandoned mansion I sent earlier?


As part of the deal, the Gorgas Science Foundation is going to restore it for use as their headquarters.





Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Here is a Dusky-capped Flycatcher



From behind.

You might think he looks a lot like the Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Great Crested Flycatchers…, and you’d be right. They all have a little rufous on the wings and tail, and some yellow underneath. There are variations of each. Accomplished birders tell them apart just by looking at them.

Luckily for us, he was calling incessantly, and his call is distinctive.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Some places

Are safer to sit than others.




He just looks way too pleased with himself.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter

 

Has loosened its grip.  A nice warm mostly rainy day today.  Seventies as far as the forecast can see.

 

Took a drive.  We were going to go get the Dusky-capped Flycatcher, but it’s a morning bird and we decided not to get up at 4:30 to go get it.  Instead, we slept in, then headed out to where a flock of Mountain Plovers has been spotted north of Harlingen.  We followed the directions, but the last road to get to where the Plovers are is a dirt road, and with all the rain the last few days, the road was impassable.  Soo close.

 

From there we headed over to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge to get the Aplomado Falcon.  It is being seen there, but not by us yet.  We struck out on that bird, but we got 70 other species while we were there.  We walked right into one rarity when we spotted a Tropical Parula right outside the Park Office!

 

A nice day, mostly in the car because of the weather.  We added 16 birds to our year-list; now we’re at 129.  It was a good day for wading birds.  We saw Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Reddish Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, White Ibis, White-faced Ibis.  We saw at least 100 Great Egrets, and estimated 200 Roseate Spoonbills.

 

Even though we didn’t get the Aplomado Falcon, we still had an 11 Raptor day, highlighted by 3 White-tailed Kites.

 

 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Featherbed

The whole bed mess


never actually exploded when we clamped it all down with a fitted sheet, but it threatened to.

Want to know how well it worked? It was awful. Who knew a giant pile of fluffy feathers could be so warm? It didn’t sleep hot and sweaty, but it sure slept hot! Great insulation, that goose down. I don’t think we’re in the right climate for a featherbed. Maybe if we were in Minnesota in the winter….

So, subtract one layer, the featherbed, leave the foam pad on for comfort, and get separation from the foam with cotton. (Did you know that if you order a 100% cotton mattress pad, you’re liable to get a 100% cotton mattress pad with pure 100% polyester fill? Really. It can happen.)

A completely cotton mattress pad helped. More than one pad helped even more. It’s a good bed now.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One of my favorites

The Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. A very small flycatcher.

He’s only 4 ½ inches long; smaller than a Goldfinch. The name is bigger than the bird.




Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It was 52 degrees and windy

 

…when we got up this morning.  We’re cold.  We complained to our daughter.  We’re 62 degrees warmer than her.

 

Now it’s 48.

 

I had to wear long pants.  I don’t know how much more of this we can take!

 

 

Monday, January 10, 2011

The real reason to use eBird

 

eBird is a cool tool for comparing what birds I’m seeing to what everyone else is seeing.  The coolest thing about eBird, though, is the citizen science aspect.  By enlisting recreational birders to submit their sightings, there is much more data recorded than could be collected by a research team of designated birders.  All the data submitted goes to a central repository.  All that data is available for study.  Check out one of the results, a migration animation:

 

http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/occurrence-maps/swainsons-hawk

 

Sightings reported year-round, from all over the planet, are helping researchers put together patterns for what birds do and why.  They put up occurrence maps for 15 species to start, and will add 5 more birds every month.

 

 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vermilion Flycatcher

One of the more striking birds we see.






Friday, January 7, 2011

Green Parakeets

There is a population of wild Green Parakeets that flies in to roost on the wires at a particular intersection in McAllen every evening.




It is not a quiet process.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzGhHBAvy5U

Parakeets aren’t the only birds coming in. The wires and trees are filled for blocks with grackles, blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds, and parakeets. In the video clip, some of the birds on the top wire are grackles. The rest are parakeets.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rough Weather

In the forecast. It’s going to drop into the sixties next week!



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

South Texas

Home of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Whatever you do.

Stay out of Annie’s way when she gets in a mood.



Monday, January 3, 2011

Henry

 

Late at night, when the house is quiet, Henry breaks out the nature documentary…

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnCChNGKOJw

 

 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday

 

Yesterday, New Year’s Day, we headed 150 miles south to the Valley.  (That’s the southernmost section of Texas; the Rio Grande Valley.  Perfectly flat coastal plain north of the Rio Grande, but for some reason, it’s called The Valley.)  We’re at Sandpipers Resort outside Edinburg.

 

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=205131835882428706345.000478e4c3b957768b192&ll=28.690588,-97.261963&spn=5.395592,14.029541&z=7

 

It’ll be a little warmer here and doesn’t require as many clothes.

 

 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What a party!

 

New Year’s Eve.  Five couples.  A shrimp fry.  A few drinks.

  6pm.  We’re going strong.

  7pm.  We’re thinking maybe we’ll celebrate the New Year on Eastern Time.

  8pm.  We’re wondering in which time zone it’s already the New Year.

 8:05.  We realize we’re not going to make it to 9:00.

  8:10.  We reach a consensus decision and declare 8:15 to be the start of the new year.

  8:15.  We blow the noisemakers, yell “Happy New Year”, do a group hug, and everyone goes home.

 

Happy New Year!