Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Flowers Have Sprung

Stopped by Maxwell Arboretum earlier today. The crocus are in full bloom, the daffodils are beginning to bud out, and the tulips are coming along nicely. Aaaah spring! Finally!

The honey bees were busy also.

Sandhill Cranes

The Lincoln Journal-Star had a front page article about Sandhill cranes this morning.

NEAR GIBBON - Doing the crane thing required a serious commitment from Jim and Edna Huggett.

The Marshall, Wis., retirees drove nearly 600 miles, woke a couple of hours before sunrise and endured a chilling walk to arrive at a blind along the Platte River in central Nebraska.

At first, they and 26 other crane tourists could just barely make out gray avian shapes in the twilight. But as darkness retreated, a gauzy light revealed clusters of sandhill cranes up, down and across the wide, shallow channel of the Platte.

They numbered in the thousands.

A chorus of calls grew in volume with the gathering dawn. Then, without warning, a clutch of cranes upstream from the blind lifted off, peeling downstream birds with them like gift wrap. The chorus turned into a roar not dissimilar to the sound that follows a touchdown at perpetually sold-out Memorial Stadium.

Much more, plus some photos at the link above.

For more information about Sandhill crane viewing, see my post from earlier in the year.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Great-Tailed Grackle

Great-tailed grackles are very noisy birds! This guy was enjoying a little puddle.

Love how the water beads on his back and tail.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aransas NWR

Taking a break from birds....

Saw a few mammals at Aransas NWR. First up is this Raccoon eating some bread in a picnic area.

A Nine-banded armadillo was out and about foraging. They eat insects. Seems like it would take a lot of insects to fill up it's tummy.

Last, but not least, is the Wild boar or Feral hog. They are a cross between domestic hogs and imported wild boar. They were on the refuge when it was established in 1937. There have been efforts to remove them in the past, but they are common on the refuge. They are shy and I felt quite fortunate to photograph this guy as I was leaving the refuge the last time I visited.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Different Kind of "Bird"

Never could nail an id on this one...

Seen at Padre Island National Seashore.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brown Pelican

Of all the birds on the Texas coast, the Brown pelican has to be the easiest to photograph. They seem to not be afraid of humans, so it is easy to get close to them to photograph them, and because they are large, you really don't have to get very close.

In the early 1970's they were placed on the endangered species list. The shell of their eggs were being weakened by the effects of DDT. This was a particular problem for them because they do not incubate their eggs like most birds. Most birds sit on their nests, Brown pelicans incubate their eggs by standing on them. They were removed from the endangered species list late last year.

All creatures, including us humans, are opportunistic. Brown pelicans seem to take it to a completely different level. I have often observed them standing just a few feet away from a fisherman, waiting, hoping for a handout. This series of photos was taken just below a fish cleaning station. They were being amply rewarded for their opportunism.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some Whooping Crane Information And Resources

While I was on the Texas coast I had the privilege of seeing and photographing some Whooping cranes.

There are about 400 Whooping cranes in the wild and seeing four of them, well it was just simply awesome.

Refuge Watch is a website that I frequently check. Today they posted a link to an AP article about a young whooper that was bitten by a poisonous snake five years ago.

At the bottom of the article there is a link to another article that talks about the whoopers and the blue crabs that are their primary food source while wintering on the Texas coast. features the reports of Tom Stehn, the Whooping Crane Coordinator at Aransas NWR. His last post is dated March 15. So far this year, there has only been one whooper death in their wintering grounds. Compared to last year when 23 died, I would say this has been a very good year for the whoopers.

I hope to return to the Texas coast next year. Perhaps I will take one of the boat trips that promise that you can see and photograph whoopers. Plans are what you make until you know what you have done, so we shall see.

White Ibis

This White ibis was doing pretty good! He caught crab after crab in a very short period of time.

Photos taken at Goose Island State Park.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Last of the Winter Texas Coast Shorebirds

Going to wrap up the shorebirds with this post.

First up is a Willet

Last year I saw Dunlins on the beach with the Ruddy turnstones and Sanderlings. This year I mostly saw them in groups, and taking a snooze.

Last year I did not see Black-bellied plovers. This year I saw them frequently. I probably should do a separate post about the differences from what I saw last year, as opposed to this year.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone

Two of the busiest shorebirds are the Sanderling and the Ruddy turnstone.

The Sanderlings seem to be almost continuous motion. There is usually a small group of them and they dart back and forth. They will forage in an area and then for no apparent reason they will fly off down the beach. There is actually a purpose to it. They are seeking stranded mollusks or crustaceans which have been left behind by receding waves.

The Ruddy turnstone also generally in small flocks. Their diet is more diverse, but they quite often also seek food left behind by receding waves.

Both photos were taken at Goose Island State Park.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Long-billed Curlew

Nebraska weather is a shock to the system after a month and a half on the Texas coast. Hit dense fog about 80 or 90 miles from home. Because of the fog it was a bit difficult to see some things, but there is still some snow in shaded areas and areas where the snow has melted looks pretty sloppy. Couldn't see very far down country (gravel) roads, but they looked pretty muddy also. I would suspect most of the farmers are hoping for some dry, warm, and probably windy weather, so that their fields will be dry enough for planting, when that time comes around. Alternatively they might have to consider planting rice this year!

I spent a day at Padre Island National Seashore in mid-February. The National Seashore is at the north end of Padre Island. I captured this Long-billed curlew foraging.

He puts that long bill to good use

And gets his prey

Monday, March 8, 2010

One Very Ugly Duck

I had spent the day at Goose Island State Park and as I left the park I decided to check out the surrounding area. The tide was out and I spotted this Muscovy duck at waters edge.

He is apparently rather tame, which is from what I have read, common. He started to come toward me (I was photographing from the car).

He stared at me as he came up the little incline to where I was parked and eventually went behind the car and into an adjacent yard.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Little Blue Heron

The last of the Texas coast herons!

The fish he was catching were really tiny!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reddish Egret

Staying in the heron/egret family. This Reddish egret was busy when I came across him and he paid me absolutely no nevermind!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tricolored heron

Don't know why, but it always suprises me how small a Tricolored heron is. Found this guy one day when I was exploring back roads that weren't on any of the birding "hotspots' lists. Some days you do better finding your own "hotspots".

Monday, March 1, 2010

Great Egret

Great egrets are also common on the Texas coast. Caught this guy "fishing" at Goose Island State Park.