G’nite y’all.

We had a bit of a Wii frisbee golf-a-thon tonight. As I turned out the kitchen lights at the end of the night, the silhouetted tulips caught my eye. Keeto says, “night night go seepies.” So, off I go… 🙂

No lions, tigers, or bears.

I checked the SD card on my critter cam yesterday.  I moved it a few weeks ago to point at the opening of a burrow I discovered that some animal had recently dug in the middle of our back lot.  I just wanted to see what I could see.  I captured countless daytime visiting backyard bird species (doves, blue jays, cardinals, titmice, wrens, mockingbirds,…).   But it turns out, it’s quite the popular nightspot.  Here are some snaps…it’s a jungle out there.  I thought these were the most interesting visitors.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Nine-banded Armadillo – time to set up the trap again
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Gray Fox – we’ve seen this guy during the daytime as well
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Damn cat – this guy and several buddies are out here day and night, chasing my birds away
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Opossum
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Cooper’s Hawk – bottom left of frame
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Racoon – this guy also stars in some crittercam footage I took of our trash can
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA
Another dillo – this one is posing standing up on his hind legs, almost cute, no?

 

In case you are interested, this is a nice reference for wildlife of Texas put out by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 

Boat run.

We are pet sitting this week – our niece, Julie’s, dog, and Doray & Tom’s parrot.   Because of that, we have been sticking close to home.  But, today we took the opportunity on this beautiful day to take a drive.

We stopped by several vantage points around the lake.  With the emergency flooding situation behind us, Lake Travis is dropping about 1.5 feet a day now, currently at 695′ above mean sea level.   The butterflies were thick today, which makes me very happy – so much of what humans do have hurt their populations over the years.  It’s nice to see them out there despite us.

IMG_6172

I believe these are Queen butterflies, on blue mistflower.  I think I’ll plant some of this in my yard!

We also stopped by the marina to check on our boat.  Our marina’s staff has been doing a wonderful job keeping all the docks floating and clear of obstacles.  They are running a shuttle to the docks for boat owners, since the lake is still flooded, and the water level is still about 15 feet above the parking lot.  Everything looks fine.  Our batteries are doing well (electricity has been off to the docks for 12 days, so far).

I brought my completed propane bag out to the boat and hung it.  It works great, and I found the perfect spot for it.

IMG_6174

Looking for a snack.

I spied this crested caracara atop the telephone pole at the end of my driveway.  I had just enough time to go back in the house for my camera and take this shot before he flew away.   It’s not a terribly clear photo, but the best I’ve gotten of one of these big birds so far.  Caracaras are in the falcon family, but they often hang out with vultures.  You may have seen one feeding on a dead animal in a field or on the side of the road.  They they also will eat small animals and birds that they can swoop down on and pluck off the ground.  I think that is what this guy was scanning the area for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brrr-ski.

Last night a cold front settled down in central Texas. The high yesterday was 92 degrees. The temps today have dropped nearly 50 degrees. A rude awakening.

All but one of my hummingbirds have moved on. This one has spent the day under the eaves out of the rain, sheltered from the north wind, and with its personal supply of nectar. I named her Ellie. I hope she makes it.

Fountain 4.0.

A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.

The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦

I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡

This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.

Wish me luck!

Them: 1 Us: 2,746.

I was working out in the yard today unloading wood scraps and trash from a box by the shop when I unknowingly disturbed a wasp nest. I was stung once, where the sun don’t shine (I’ll spare you a photo of that), but it could have been much worse.

Monte went out later and sprayed the nest with wasp killer. And uncovered it. It was huge! It’s burning in the drizzle out back as we speak.

While my butt-sting hurts terribly, I’ll take it. I’m glad I didn’t get swarmed.

Be careful out there….

Little helper.

We spent the morning working on the flower beds along the front of the house. This little guy hung around, feasting on bugs in the dirt – flirting less than a foot away most of the time – an adorable Eastern Phoebe.

Birding outing.

Doray and I visited Warbler Woods and Crescent Bend Nature Park today.  We saw many more species than I was able to capture on camera, but here are my only keepers.  I love the variety of migrant birds we get to see here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Common Yellowthroat female
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Painted Bunting male
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
White-eyed Vireo
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Bronzed Cowbird

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Black & White Warbler
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Louisiana Waterthrush
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Blackburnian Warbler female
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Inca Doves

Beach shots.

On my way to the coast on Friday, I made a side trip back to High Island, and was treated to another fun day of birding through their woods.   I also made a stop at Bolivar Flats – a beach on the gulf coast.   I am woefully lacking knowledge of shorebirds, but am trying to learn.   Afterwards, I took the Bolivar-Galveston car ferry to Galveston Island and then drove on up to Kemah to meet the ladies.  Some sights..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Memorial to those lost to the Deep
p4202522.jpg
American Avocets – with their funny upturned bills
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Wilson’s Plover – I was pleasantly surprised one of my in-flight shots turned out

For Pilar.

My friend, Pilar, called today with some editorial direction for sheila365 — more armadillo content (or aardvark, whichever). 🙂

Ok. I’m on it.

That’s the trap right now; next to the hole under the fence that used to be on the armadillo super highway. Unfortunately, we have not caught a dillo since last summer/fall.

We’ll keep trying. We may need to move the trap, because we are seeing evidence of armadillo activity in the yard.

I can, however, report that there are 3 or 4 cats that feel entitled to frequent and freely roam our lot every day, which would be ok if they were not STALKING MY BIRDS, which is infuriating.

Home maker.

A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers have consistently made appearances at my feeders for at least two years.   The male has chosen a tree in the front yard to make a hollow for their nest.   I will be keeping an eye on them!

P4172319.jpg

Birding trip extraordinaire.

I finished our tax return today, with 2 days to spare!

Now I’m finally getting the opportunity to look back through the notebook that I took with me on a birding trip last weekend.   I enjoyed two wonderful days on High Island on the Texas Gulf coast.   A cold front was predicted to sweep through southeast Texas last Saturday morning, and I got up early so that I could get to the coast about the same time the Norther did.   The hope was that the cold air and strong northerlies would persuade the wave of birds migrating north from Central and South America to land in the woods on High Island for cover, rest, and stay there for a day or so.   I left Austin at 3:30AM, drove through the advancing cold front and made it to Boy Scout Woods bird sanctuary right after sunrise.

It was drizzly, not pouring rain, but because of that, I didn’t take my camera out all day on Saturday.  But WOW was I treated to a diverse collection of birds.   It turns out that the front stalled a bit and took its time getting to the coast.  But it eventually did.  And though it wasn’t a fallout of colossal proportions, the birds were happy to stop for a break and birding was fantastic, giving me the opportunity to see nearly 100 different species, many of them lifers for me.

We southeastern and central Texas residents are incredibly fortunate to live right on the superhighway that is the twice-a-year-traveled pan-American bird migration path.  So, let me share with you a bit of my experience.  High Island is a small coastal island on the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of Houston; and it is unique in that it sits on a salt dome foundation, rising over 30′ above sea level, providing a habitat in which shrubs and forests thrive where they are not usually encountered until well inland.   The beach along Bolivar Peninsular and the trees in the sanctuaries on High Island are often the first thing migrating birds see after completing their 600 mile (and 15-24 hour) non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

My trip to High Island was quickly-planned, but I had an amazing experience.  First of all, High Island is home to a number of lovely birding sanctuaries/locations that are beautifully owned and managed by the Houston Audubon Society and/or the Texas Ornithological Society.   On my trip I visited Boy Scout Woods, Bolivar Flats, Smith Oaks woods & rookery, and Hooks Woods.  And since I was in the neighborhood, I spent time at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on my northwest trek back to Austin.

The Houston Audubon Society charges admission of $8/daily visit to their sanctuaries.  Or you can buy a (lovely) patch for $30 which is good for admission to all their High Island sanctuaries for the entire year.   I opted for the patch.  Because I WILL be back.

IMG_4152
A Prairie Warbler graces the 2018 High Island patch from Houston Audubon Society.

Around lunchtime on Saturday I got mighty hungry.  So you can imagine how pleased I was to see a sign outside the Boy Scout Woods entrance advertising the local St. Matthews United Methodist church BBQ lunch.  Every Saturday during Spring migration.  $12 a plate.  Delicious.  Also, I simply must encourage you to make sure you take advantage of the FREE, 3-times a day each Saturday during Spring Migration guided walks hosted by the fantastic group Tropical Birding.  Tropical Birding have been partners of Houston Audubon Society for many years.   Three expert guides walked us around the island with sharp eyes, ears, and spotting scopes, making it easy to see the birds that are usually so invisible.  I spent at least 8 hours with these guys and enjoyed every minute of it.

I didn’t have a plan to stay on the coast overnight, but I knew I would.  It was very easy to find an inexpensive place to stay in Winnie, Texas, just 20 miles north of High Island, right off I-10.

I did eventually get my camera out on Sunday, which was quite chilly, but at least it wasn’t raining.  I may post a picture or two from that set of photos in the future.  But, for now, if you are even mildly interested in birding, you must get down there soon!