Category Archives: Birds

Berries and birds

I am almost, but not completely, compelled to camp next to this chokecherry (?) tree in my front yard to watch the birds (juncos, etc.) strip the tree and come back time and time again.

Last year I saw the flock of birds that stripped the tree and identified them, but I did not write down my observations, so, here I go again and I will record this time.

I write this nature post and I do not have either bird or berry tree identified. But, so, I adore berry and bird regardless.

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Filed under Birds, Field Log, Life in Balance, Nature Writers, Nature Writing Series, Plants and Shrubs

Merry Christmas from Sage to Meadow!

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I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rain fell and our reservoir will last (current analysis) until February 15. Enough water fills the cow tank so ducks feed and socialize.

The longhorn painting hangs above my daughter’s fireplace in Lubbock, Texas.

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Filed under Birds, Canvasback, Christmas, Ducks, Redhead Duck

The drumming lover: the plight of the Gunnison sage grouse

Grouse

SEVERAL springs ago some friends and I arose before dawn in Moab, Utah, to witness the sunrise mating dance of the Gunnison sage grouse: a surreal display of nine ornately plumed, chicken-size birds tottering about amid the sagebrush like windup toys, fanning their spiky tails and uttering a magical sound — “pop … pop-pop!” — as they thrust yellow air sacs out of their snow-white chests.

The Plight of the Gunnison Sage Grouse – NYTimes.com.

Read the rest of the article and support adding the Gunnison sage grouse, the drumming lover, to the endangered species act.

On the matter of we people expanding into the wild, the veld, we decide whether to deep clean and cultivate assiduously the earth or whether to leave unturned and uncultivated the earth upon which we trod.  In between this binary choice–turning or not turning the soil–there is no middle ground.  This choice is one of those locked-down moments of either-or, either alive or dead, nothing in between, either turning the soil for cultivation or leave it alone.

Therefore, to keep alive and robust the biota of this good earth–the Gunnison sage grouse, for example, –we must as a people, as temporary tenants of this space, here and now, leave sufficient areas of territory for species to live, to roam, to rest, to raise families.  Yes, we need to cultivate land as well, but large tracts of it?  At the expense of destroying major habitats?  In response to all living things, therefore, let us ratchet down, pin down less tightly, our clearing land and cutting trees and brush, so that we as a people can rise early in the morning and attend the dance of life in those spaces we have tenderly set aside.

(To be continued, The post-industrial order.)

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Filed under Birds, Life Out of Balance

Vacation chores

My Spring vacation ends today.  Tomorrow back to work, teaching.  On the list of chores for ‘vacation,’ several tasks were accomplished, some were not.  I changed the flatbed tire, carted the Case DX-55 for repair and managed cleanup in the corrals.  The tractor remains in the shop for repair.  The barn alleyway remains unpaved with rain coming tomorrow.  I shall have to wade through mud after the rain.

The unexpected came up.  I shopped for a lower-gas-mileage car, preparing to trade in the white F-250 (I’ll be left with Old Bull, the gray 2002, F-250).  Shopping for a new car ate up two days of the seven-day vacation.  Is that not the norm?  I did not purchase a new vehicle.

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I spotted a male Western Bluebird yesterday perched on a yucca-flower stalk, occasionally turning around on the dead pods, flexing its wings.

This morning I saw two monarch butterflies, one in the grove and one near the house.  They fly higher than treetops.

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Spring arrives in a couple of days.

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I have continued to photograph each new flower I see on the ranchito.  I’ve not identified all of them, but they have been photographed.  Yellow predominates as blossom color.  Here are clover with yellow blossoms and a pale-leaf yucca whorl.  The pale-leaf I am confident in identifying, but as to clover, have you ever looked up how many clovers there are?  There are several genus and species listed on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website.  This clover abundantly erupts on the ranchito.

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Succulents, Wild Flowers of Texas

Sparrow with Bluebell

The proper identification of this red-headed or rusty-headed bird continues to churn me, not only in my daylight hours, but also as I lie awake at night.  For the moment, the species identification includes: Rufous-winged Sparrow, Field Sparrow, immature White-crowned Sparrow.  (Probably another possibility looms in the Peterson’s.)  Factor analysis must wait, however, until I get some chores out of the way today. I will, however, cease all toil if I see these guys again so I can focus.  Thanks to Caralee, Rubia, Montucky and others that have further focused my attention on identification.

Here is a closeup of the Bluebell bell flower.  I discovered a patch thirty-by-twenty feet in size, east of the barn.  Walked right over the patch without noticing at first, saw this flower, bent down and looked around and there was the patch of bell flowers.  I wanted to get a closeup of the flower, so here it is.  I have seen field biologists on their hands and knees with a camera, snapping pictures.  Since I have this goal of taking pictures of every species of wildflower on the ranchito for one year, I best start kneeling with knee pads on?

Below is a wide shot of the Bluebell bell flower patch I discovered.  As you can see, the flowers are quite small, barely discernible in the photo as they are in the field.  You will have to click on the photograph to enlarge in order to see the flowers.  Looks like a lawn of sorts, but it is not.

I am off to the barn and field. I will be looking for the sparrow and flowers. The sun is shining and the temperatures are forecast in the upper 70s, lower 80s.  I shall pace myself.

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Filed under Birds, Flowers of Flying Hat

Yes, I know it’s a sparrow, but what kind?

Of course you know how it all starts out. Going to do one thing, then end up doing another! The rain ceased today, this morning actually, and I walked to the pond the see if it was overflowing (it was, but that’s another post). As I walked by the brush pile I had stacked for several years, I saw these birds flitting in the old mesquite stems and thorns. I thought: Ah, more white-crowned sparrows. I know you. I see you all the time.

Wrong.  I got back to the house, downloaded or uploaded the pics and they aren’t white-crowned, they have rufous coloring on their top.  How did I see white in the field?  Okay, I was mistaken.  Not the first time, nor the last.  Fair enough, I go to the Peterson’s.  There are several species of sparrows!  I knew that, but what rufous is it?  Ruffous-crowned, Ruffous-winged?  I finally broke down and went to the photo editor that I have, the Hewlett-Packard all-encompassing uber-editor to enlarge the photo and get some closer definition of attributes.  I take photographs with the full pixel rating: seven, eight megabytes of pixels so I can enlarge and view detail.  Yes, I know.  I am running out of space on my desktop after three years of blogging.  And, this is what I enlarged:


I go back and forth in my Peterson’s looking at all the sparrows, even the larks for goodness sakes. Tail is rounded, mustache? What’s a mustache on a bird?  I go to my Audubon field guide, but it does not even list any rufous sparrows. Oh, it’s an eastern region Audubon.  Figure that, will you?

I getting really frustrated not finding any attribute that is a definite signature until I look at the beak.  The beak.  It’s pink or brownish and the identity is finally achieved.  It is a Field sparrow with rusty cap, pink bill — a Spizella pusillad.*  It’s note is a tsee, having a ‘querulous’ quality.  Thanks to Peterson’s, I am relieved of puzzlement and doubt.

Starting out to check the pond, I end up spending time identifying a bird.  You know, the one with a pink beak and querulous quality to its note.

*Notes, corrections and additions:

For possible error in identity, please see the comments from Caralee and Rubia below.  The link provided by Caralee shows the Rufous-winged Sparrow in several colored photographs that correspond to my photographs of a ‘Field sparrow.’  A factor analysis is in progress to resolve identity.

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Filed under Birds, Field Sparrow

Meadow lark with morning sun

Early morning landing.

Early this morning as I walked down the road to feed Star, I saw these meadow larks (Sturnella neglecta) sunning on the barbed wire fence between the house and arena pasture.  I walked quickly back up to the house, grabbed my camera and took a few shots.  The larks are skittish and I did not get close, but I edited the ‘Early morning landing’ above as the sunlight pierced the feathers, creating an illumination that I saw only when I enlarged the picture.  Fascinating.

The photograph below captures the small flock on the fence.  When I came back to the house after feeding Star I looked out the front window and saw that the flock (or another group) had come around to the front of the house and was feasting on insects and seeds on the front lawn.  You can click on the ‘Larks on barbed wire’ below and obtain a larger image.  I did not get a picture of the flock at the front of the house.

Larks on barbed wire.

I have noted that birds are singing more here at the ranchito since the weather has warmed and rains have come.  I saw my first Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) a few days ago perched on a T-post beside the road to the barn.  I have a goal to photograph the bluebird this year.  I have seen as many as eleven bluebirds bathing in the runoff water from the horse trough.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

To disclose my identification of the ‘meadow larks’ above, I have to add that my confidence in typing the above birds as meadow lark is fairly high, but with a bit of doubt about western or eastern.  When I got the Peterson’s guide open and starting reading about the meadow lark, there are at least two varieties, western and eastern, and I will have to look closer for the signature attributes.  The white edges on the tail (seen in the first photograph) are specific signatures for the western variety, so I go with that identification.  Besides, this is west Texas. 

I will look again in the morning at the flock, pending their reappearance.

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Filed under Birds

Southwestern farrago

San Saba Weekly News, October 9, 1891.

Within the last two months, I have collected a special farrago of items relative to the Southwest and travel south of the border.  I had thought about writing a post on each of these items, but probably will not in the near future.  I do not want these bits and pieces to go stale.  So, in this mixed bag of  items you may find something of interest.  Click on the hyperlinks for details.

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Tundra Native Flies To Texas | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.  The Snowy Owl comes to Texas — near Dallas.  This is so rare of a sighting down here that I may drive over to the area and photograph the owl (Robertson State Park at Lake Ray Hubbard Snowy Owl sighting site location courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife).

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In Arizona, Rare Sightings Of Ocelots and Jaguars – NYTimes.com.  The New York Times relates to Arizona.  But, two years ago near Abilene, Texas, three sober people sighted what was thought to be a jaguar.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife agency did not confirm the sighting along a brushy ridge line that extended for miles running east and west.  Given the craziness of some hunters, I have not given the story publicity and I do not intend to pinpoint the location.

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How safe is Mexico for tourists? – World – CBC News.  This writer has experience in Mexico and his website seems worthwhile.  This is a valuable article for those of you seeking to take your Spring break in Mexico.  Combined with the State Department’s guidelines and warnings linked below, avoid some places and enjoy safely other areas.

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Mexico.  U.S. Department of State Travel Warning to Mexico.  The State Department updates these warnings regularly.

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BBC – Travel – A German enclave in central Texas : Cultural Activities, Texas.  This is about Fredericksburg, one of my favorite towns in Texas.  I went to Fredericksburg as a boy, before it became touristy.  It still has the old-town feeling.  This was written for the British Broadcasting Company.

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Filed under Birds, Fredericksburg Texas, San Saba Texas, Texas

Central Texas Christmas Eve 2011

Circulating around Christmas Eve and coming into Christmas Day, I have taken some photographs that illustrate rural and town life in central Texas.  These photographs were taken near Mingus, Llano and Fredericksburg.  Mingus is the town that is designated on my mailing address, although Hannibal (no longer having a post office) and Gordon are closer to my ranchito.  (The Mingus post office is slated to be closed because of cost-cutting measures.)

My Uncle Floyd and Aunt Lennie had a ranch at Cherokee, near Fredericksburg.  I spent summers and holidays with Floyd and Lennie as a boy and teenager.  My Aunt Lennie prepared chicken-fried steak that was actually a recipe for wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded veal steaks) and serve beets that were purple and sweet and icebox cold.  My cousin, Allan, and I literally begged her to prepare chicken-fried steak.  Little did I know then that she obtained her country cuisine largely from the Fredericksberg German culture.

Christmas variety cookies at Fredericksburg Bakery, December 24, 2011.

The Fredericksburg Bakery has been producing cookies and breads since 1917.

Here is Dooley's Red Angus bull, my neighbor to the west (December 22, 2011).

There is nothing wrong with the drooling Red Angus. He has been feasting on shortgrasses and hay, perhaps a few Christmas cookies.  He’s a very gentle fellow and will amble away when you approach him. The Red Angus breed is noted for its weight-gaining ability. I have considered purchasing some.

Red berries beside Highway 16 near Llano, Texas (December 23, 2011).

These berries look good enough to eat, but don’t! If you see berries or fruits that are red and you don’t know the variety, don’t eat the red!  These berries are not to be mixed into any Christmas recipe for cookies or breads.  Please refer to your favorite cookbook for ingredients in your cookies.

Texas boots on the last shopping day before Christmas (Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011).

Cottontail rabbit eating spilled grain, December 22, 2011.

I like this pre-Christmas Eve image. I had fed Star before dark and left the light on in the barn and stalls. When I went back down to turn off the lights, I saw this cottontail beneath Star’s feed and hay bin, delicately picking up stray nuggets of Horseman’s Choice 12% feed. I watched the rabbit for five minutes and snapped several shots with my iPhone, the one I include here being the best in low light.  The rabbit probably favors a sweeter fare, like the Purina sweet feed for performance horses.

Heron and squirrel along Baron's Creek in Fredericksburg, Texas, December 24, 2011.

Baron’s Creek runs through Fredericksburg, Texas. I walked along the creek yesterday and today. This afternoon I spotted a heron in the water and framed the heron with the pecan tree on the left of the shot. When I looked at the results, I saw a squirrel in the tree. Do you see the squirrel?  The squirrel had been gathering pecans, the heron waiting for the stray frog or fish.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day.  I hope to have another post about rural and town life in central Texas as well as the flora and fauna.  Be sure to note my attention to juniper on Christmas Day.

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Filed under Birds, Christmas, Fredericksburg Texas, Great Blue Heron

Walking with Great Blue Herons

The grove peninsula. This is one of several peninsulas formed by the meandering Salt Creek (December 2011).

Blue Heron tracks along a still pool of water in Salt Creek (December 2011).

I walked in the grove this morning.  Several peninsulas emerge in the grove, cut by the swift and long-flowing water of Salt Creek.  Upon purchasing Flying Hat Ranchito eight-years ago, I found a red metal chair on the peninsula I photographed, a solitary chair for the previous owner to muse, observe or rest.  I took the chair off the peninsula.

Wet and cold the air, I saw track of the Great Blue Heron that frequents the creek that meanders among the elm, oak and juniper.  I see one or two of them each day flying to the cow tanks about the ranchito.  The heron track I identified with my Peterson’s field guide to animal tracks, a new third edition I purchased when Border’s went out of business in Fort Worth.

I was not alone as I walked in the grove.  The Great Blue Heron — past and present — walked with me in the grove today.

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Filed under Birds, Great Blue Heron, Juniper, Life in Balance