Saturday, January 29, 2011

Camera Critters

The Armadillo wasn't the only visitor to my campsite during my
grand adventure.  Although the Yellow-rumped Warbler
(Dendroica coronata) breeds on or near my property in
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and is a daily visitor, I was
simply delighted to stroll into my site
after an early morning hike to find ......

.....who was a curious about me as I was about him.

Maybe this little guy recognized me from Cape Breton
and was wondering what I was doing way down here in TX, too.

I am reminded of a post I recently read by Kim at An Oft Traveled Road
where she introduces the concept of the "beginner's mind"
from the practitioners of Zen Buddhism.

"Having a beginner’s mind", she writes, "means allowing a sense of openness and eagerness to come forward as you make new discoveries or as you learn to apply new meanings to what has become familiar."  (Don't be misled by this - the article was actually about birds!!)

I re-interpret this as being just as excited with seeing the same species every day as I was the first time I was able to check them off on my 'lifelist'.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Armadillo Sighting

I have recently returned from a week long, internetless camping adventure at the Guadalupe River State Park.  Although the nights were below freezing and the days a little crisp, I enjoyed the time to myself in this amazing habitat.  I pretty much had the campground to myself, which, on moonless nights, got pretty spooky.  But I did meet a new friend.

This very junior naturalist was visiting the park
for the day with his parents. 
He was very proud to show me all the bells and whistles
attached to his vest.
There were lots and lots of pockets.
I love pockets.
He was pretty excited because he had just seen an armadillo.

Nine-Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

I was pretty excited, too, because
I knew armadillos to be nocturnal.
But I wasn't the only one observing these daytime visits.
While I was away, Marvin at Nature in the Ozarks
shared his knowledge about these curious little critters,
and I learned from him that because the temperatures were so cold
they stayed in their warm little burrows during the night,
and had no other choice but to forage for food
during the daytime.

I don't believe they see very well, but they have a great sniffer...

...and can run pretty fast when they feel threatened.

It was delightful to be sitting at the picnic table in my site,
reading or writing,
and hearing a rustling sound nearby,
only to look up to see an armadillo rooting through the dirt,
right there, in MY space!

The Nine-banded Armadillo is the Texas State Animal.

                Armadillo Rodeo

   Jan Brett is one of my favorite children's
   authors and illustrators.
   This book will make a delightful
   addition to you child's library.
   It graces mine!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sky Watch Friday - Black Vultures

Landa Park
New Braunfels, TX

Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) soar through the skies
above the Comal River as it flows quietly through Landa Park.

Roosting on a small island right smack dab in the middle of the river,

the vultures share their space with cormorants,

various waterfowl, and turtles. 
There were also geese and Wood Ducks nestled in
amongst the roots of the trees at the water's edge.

The Black Vulture is a very large bird of prey,
measuring approximately 25 inches in length, with a 5 foot wingspan. Its plumage is mainly glossy black. The head and neck are featherless and the skin is dark gray and wrinkled. 
Since they feed primarily on carrion,
the absence of feathers about the head and face help to keep it clean.

They have short, broad wings that show a white patch
on the underside of the wing's edge during flight.
This is one sure way to tell the difference from the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura ), who show silver-grey beneath the flight feathers along the entire length of the underwing.  Up close and personal, it is easy to tell the difference between the two because the Turkey Vulture has a bare and wrinkled red head.

Turkey Vulture

The Black Vulture doesn't have as
wide-spread a range
as the Turkey Vulture,
which we are now seeing
in the skies as far north
as Nova Scotia.  But it is a
year round resident within
all of it's range.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Camera Critters

My Little Helper,

To see more Camera Critters,
click HERE!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Shortly after my arrival here in Texas, I couldn't resist taking advantage of a warm, winter afternoon in a new place and I headed off for a walk.  Moving along at quite a clip to get past the houses, I was looking all around me - oh, there's a bird; ooh, a Tiger Swallowtail.....when down I went.

I'd twisted my ankle not once, but twice, and I could barely stagger over to the curb.  If someone had seen me and pulled over to ask me if I was all right, this one time I would have said, "No, I'm not".  Once the initial pain and shock subsided, I looked up the road to see whatever could have made me do that to myself.

And there it was.  Laying all by itself on the side of the road.  The biggest acorn I've ever laid eyes on.  I pocketed it, brought it home, and measured it.  It was 6.5" in diameter, and 3.5" from top to bottom.

Although the original culprit is not pictured, you can clearly see just how large these 'smaller' Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) acorns, or Mossycups, are.  We have Bur Oak in Maine, but the size of the acorns they produce is normal acorn size. 

"Bur Oak typically grows in the open, away from forest canopy. For this reason, it is an important tree on the eastern prairies, where it is often found near waterways in more forested areas, where there is a break in the canopy. It is also a fire-resistant tree, and possesses significant drought resistance by virtue of a long taproot. New trees may, after two to three years of growth, possess a 1–2 m deep taproot. The West Virginia state champion Bur Oak has a trunk diameter of almost 3 m (9 feet).

The acorns are the largest of any North American oak (thus the Latin species name macrocarpa--large fruit), and are an important wildlife food; American Black Bears sometimes tear off branches to get them. However, heavy nut crops are borne only every few years. In this strategy, known as masting, the large seed crop every few years overwhelms the ability of seed predators to eat the acorns, thus ensuring the survival of some seeds. Other wildlife, such as deer and porcupine, eat the leaves, twigs and bark. Cattle are heavy browsers in some areas. The bur oak is the only known foodplant of Bucculatrix recognita caterpillars." (

I'd be interested in knowing how large the acorns grow
in other parts of the country.
Does this support the myth that everything is bigger in Texas?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Out for a Stroll

(Anthus rubescens)

Enjoying the warmth of a S. Texas afternoon,
this lone arctic/alpine breeder
was nonplussed by my presence. 
I guess she figured if she stayed a few
steps ahead of me, she'd be all right!

Feeding on insects, she was comical to watch as she flitted around the 
matted, dried grasses, pumping her tail in perpetual motion.
It was difficult to capture a clear picture because she never sat still.

None of the shots of her in the grass were clear enough to post.
But, further along I came across several small flocks
of these little doves, feeding in the grass.

I'd practically be on top of them before they'd flush,
lifting barely 2 feet off the ground,
in groups of up to 7 or 8 individuals. 
They'd land just far enough to be out of my way.
When they flew, under their wings was a pretty copper color.
They are
(Columbina inca).

Did you know that "a group of doves has many collective nouns, including a "bevy", "cote", "dole", "dule", and "flight" of doves"?

For those of you who read my post about the young man who went missing prior to Christmas, I have happily updated that post
Please re-visit to see how lucky he and his family truly are. 
They certainly have reason to celebrate a New Year!