28 April 2009

promised: potty post!

There is a fascinating world of poop out there. If there's a word for the science of poop, I wish I knew it. I've discovered that potty things exceed simple excretion - it's also a science of knowing that leaving your camera in the car when stopping at a restroom will guarantee some pretty awesome bugs. Of course the standard rule is that you must photograph said creatures prior to entering the restroom or they'll be gone by the time you get out. There's the standard "poopology" that when searched will tell you how to determine when your pet bird's health is at risk (yep, minty green droppings in certain grouse could mean pneumonia and death within 48 hrs). There's also the "bird poop" that really isn't poop at all, so much as... moths! (linked photo taken in the RGV in May of 2003) Or caterpillars! And in the time-honored tradition of rolling poo, it's hard to beat the classic dung beetle.

It's a little bit of everything that this post will be addressing... with pictures!

The moths that look like poop were out and about while we were in Concan.

At least one dung beetle was out and about, rolling its prize at Cook's Slough.

And of course, there's a bathroom adventure for everyone. This Painted Lichen Moth (Hypoprepia fucosa) was clinging to the bathroom wall at Kickapoo Cavern State Park

Now, this next snippet is courtesy of Candy McNamee, one of our fellow explorers in Concan, whose lemon tree is host to Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) larvae. Growing up, the Meyer lemon tree in my yard would occasionally have an extra large bird dropping as well, but I never got such amazing photos!

On a non-poop related note, the mystery twig that would not let go of the concrete wall at Utopia's park/lake thing turned into a caterpillar of sorts. Any ideas, anyone?

Exploring the "Greater Uvalde Area"

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Today finds me in Waco at the end of a few rainy days - not that I'm complaining - it's wonderful to see that there will be a plethora of plant and bug life to keep the summer nesting successful. That said, you've not heard from us in a while because we've been out chasing the bird and bug life.

Perhaps "Greater Uvalde Area" is a misnomer, as Concan, Utopia, Vanderpool and Kickapoo Cavern State Park are quite a distance from each other. Nonetheless, from Wednesday evening until Sunday morning, Matt and I joined some dear friends in Concan. "The Gansons" generally refers to Collins, Charmaine, Evo (African Grey Parrot), Nova (Red-bellied Parrot), and their relatively new pair of rescue Budgies. For the sake of this post, however, it's just Collins and Charmaine. As such, the Gansons had been in Concan for nearly a week with their friend, Candy, by the time we arrived. The cabin at Neal's Lodges was very comfy, very new, and very echo-y. The bbq came in handy for some amazing steaks that Collins conjured up, and the residual heat from the coals turned into "Burning! ...on a stick!" when Candy and Collins roasted marshmallows. Charmaine and Matt and I took a less charred approach with ours. But I digress.

The porch lights yielded a nice variety of bugs - pictures of those to come. The pre-dawn gas station stop en route to Lost Maples offered the best White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) photographing opportunity that we've had yet, point-blank shots at a lovely critter.

Otherwise, leps found included some new bugs for both of us: Common Streaky-Skipper (Celotes nessus), an Empress Leilia (Asterocampa leilia) - new for me, and a very pale Texas Powdered Skipper (Systasea pulverulenta) that got away before we could get a picture.

Old favorites we stumbled into included Reakirt's Blue (Hemiargus isola) by the dozen and one cooperative Orange Skipperling (Copaeodes aurantiaca).

A few more interesting lep-related pics are on their way. That post, however, will be full of thrilling poo-related adventures. Alas, it's up to your imagination until posted ;-)

20 April 2009

Even during the mundane

Banality doesn't exist. One may just have to look a little harder at times.
In spring? Look and listen.
Look and listen up, around, and most certainly look down.

While Heidi and I were moving some things out of her Abilene residence to the back of my truck: First flights of....

(Chlosyne lacinia) Bordered Patch

(Staphylus hayhurstii) Hayhurst's Scallopwing

Be aware of what thou mow-est this year. What might seem an undesirable weed may not be so undesirable.

17 April 2009

crowns you never see

I'm sure we've all had our moments of looking at some old Audubon type depiction of a "crowned" species and wondering where on earth that ridiculously garish cranial addition came from. In light of this profound oddity, we bring you... roadkill.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is one of my high school weekend hangouts. Yeah, I was that kid. Before I get to today's featured roadkill, I need to point out that Anahuac was severely impacted by Hurricane Ike. Here's a shot of what the visitor's center looks like - the building used to be a whole building, not 2/3 of a building... note the makeshift visitor's center to the left.

...hah, I also snuck a moth pic from the restrooms (that thankfully were not destroyed!) I'm not sure of its ID yet, but posting an unknown will motivate me to correct that asap ;-)

Summary for Anahuac NWR: Donate! Friends of Anahuac NWR is the support group for the refuge and they can use all of the help - volunteer or dollar wise - that they can get. Oh, and they're also on Facebook!

Now for the promised roadkill. Driving away from Anahuac, this Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) caught my eye.

I spared you the frontal shot of the bird (you're welcome), just wish I'd gotten the crown in focus, but you get the idea - EAKIs are lovely creatures. They have a very distinctly flycatchery pose and habitat preference, preferring open areas with a nicely visible perch to those pesky woodland lurkers. Anyway, not to play favorites, I just miss tuxedo-clad flycatchers. Abilene is full of Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis), and Houston did have a few, but vertical tyrants (WEKI's scientific name amuses me) just don't replace the crisp Eastern...

Sadly, the critter's front side prevented me from being too tempted to bring the body back to TX A&M, but I wonder if salvaging parts should really be more at the top of my agenda than it currently is. Ah well, there will always be days without ice packs and coolers available, I just need to make those days fewer and farther between!

16 April 2009

as promised, post of blatant promotion

Here's a very long link for AlternativeGiftRegistry.org, where Matt and I are registered.

Also as promised, blatant promotion! Apples to Apples (as presented by actor/poet/pseudo-cousin Chad) and a look at Tropical Birding's HQ across from Boyscout Woods at High Island. They've even got dibs on High Island info!

Let's not forget the aforementioned Ike-ing of the Bolivar Peninsula - some of the homes were barely touched (this part of the island lost probably 90% though), and what was once a bait shop is now a tidal extension of the Gulf.

And this post would not be much if I could not promote Yacht Basin Road (#57), - and the idiots who built along either side of the road (yet, we should note that there was less damage to RV hookups than the "real" structures - they can thank dunes and marsh for that, but now the dunes are gone).

*** NOTE ***
If you go to Google Maps and enter "Bauer Rd." for "Gilchrist, TX" and look at the street view, you'll see what I mean. Just pan in a circle and compare the yellow building to the giant puddle (which, admittedly, was more parking lot than bait store). It's a hollow feeling.

Enough of my blathering, go forth and don't build on barrier islands!

High Island notes / An Easter spent

Heidi and I were at High Island, TX this past Easter weekend as she has previously noted.

She, a native of Houston, grew up (birding-wise) at locations such as Boy Scout
Woods (BSW) and High Island, and the Bolivar Peninsula. I was on fairly new turf; never having been to BSW and only once up Bolivar Peninsula.

Some notible birds, for us, are following:

11 April 2009

Anahuac NWR seriously got Ike'd. Trees cleared. Any veg still there has been
thoroughly salinated and deathly brown.

Only rails we had here were -2 Sora (Porzana carolina)
Yellow Rails have been seen on early morning and late evening walks. We did not
-Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swansoni)
-Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula)
-Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens)
-Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)
-Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
-Royal Tern (Thalasseus maxima)
-Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri)
-Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
-White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
-White faced Ibis. (Plegadis chihi)

High Island (BSW)

-Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) 1
-KENTUCKY WARBLER(Oporornis formosus), atleast 3 probably 4.
-Little Blue Heron (Eretta caerulea), a group of ~20 flew over head
-Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), same number as LBHE. I'd never seen TRHE fly grouped in such
-Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica)
-Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), many munching on mulberry fruit
-Orchard Oriole, of all ages, many.
-Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora perigrina), a great look at a breeding male
-Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis), atleast 2
-Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) . I have never seen one (on the mainland) in APRIL! It
flew over BSW. Strange times we live in.
-Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea). 1 male, along with a Baltimore Oriole and RBGrosbeaks enjoying
mulberries. This SCTA was hitting insects as well. It's been awhile since I've
seen a Scarlet.
-Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina), 1
-Northern Parula (Parula americana), a few over the course of our stay
-Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), 2 at BWS drip. Others during our adventuring.
-Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). These guys wait forever to go north. Still a flock of ~20 in
my Woodway (sw Waco area) neighborhood.

12 April 2009 High Island (BSW)

-Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus), 1
Plus other birds that have been mentioned already.

Heidi wanted to drive up Bolivar Peninsula to see what things, post-Ike, looked
like. She can report far better than I describing before and after.

The following are some of the birds we scribbled down from Bolivar Peninsula:

-Sanderling (Calidris alba)
-Ring-billed Gull (Larus delewarensis)
-Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator). Often enough, these guys are far out in the water.
Post, Ike, the water comes to within a few meters of the highway. Where that
does not happen, little Lagoon-lets, have formed in the remaining beach. (Mostly
there is no beach anymore.... Bolivar is now 3 feet lower in elevation, by the
Curious as to what some of these, somewhat established now, small lagoons might
bring closer to us. Anyhow, next big storm and that hwy may be gone...
-Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
-NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW (Ammodramus nelsoni), 3-4. This was the "NSTS spot", down a particular
road that I don't recall. Again, my wife's homecourt advantage; I was just
driving. ;-) These were life birds for me. We had tried this spot earlier in
our lives to no avail.
They were as cooperative as this species and habitat could possibly be. We
stayed and gorged on glimpses and unusually long-looks before they
dropped down. Bird topography by bird topography, these were diagnosed and
enjoyed. I am quite thankful to my shorter, and equal half for this.
-Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), many on the ground mixed with Forster's Terns
-Willet (Tringa semipalmata), lots around.
-Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens), including a "White-morph" near the beginning of the "NSTS road"
-Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), 2. No Clappers for us.
-Black Tern (Chlidonias niger), 2.
-*WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL(Anas bahamensis), 1. Apparently, this single bird has been there for
atleast another yr. Not thought to be an established pop, nor migratory...
just this one. It was certainly my first, outside of captivity, to see. For
those concerned with countability, this guy is not. Still, a striking organism.
-Dowitcher sp, 2, in pond near WCPI.


Not a bad weekend at all. For me, it beats easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Well, maybe the chocolate isn't so bad. Just no need to put it in a basket

Personally spending Easter this way puts me far closer, and more intimately, to the Source than walls and stained glass. For here you not only feel Its pulse, you can see It, smell It, be included among It.

"Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmmm...and well you should not! For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter! You must feel the Force around you, here; between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere!...yes, even between the land and the ship." - Yoda, Degobah System, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...


13 April 2009

Registry, After-Ike, and More!

Wow, kudos to my mother for catching the typo in the wedding post! Apparently I managed to state that we got married in May, but it's not May yet. So that has been corrected - March 27 is what it now (correctly) reads.

For those of you who grew up playing board games, I apologize. I do not mean to insinuate that board games are irrelevant or intimidating, but growing up with a sister who could take Greek mythology and turn it into a board game that not even the gods could win... well, I prefer Scrabble (or hiding under the bed) to a game of Monopoly. That said, this weekend was full of exciting firsts; our first Easter, our first trip to High Island/Boyscout Woods, a few life birds (none shared), our first look at Bolivar after Ike, and our very first physical wedding gift. Now there are some remarkably dear and wonderful people who have contributed to the "Matt and Heidi" honeymoon, reception plans, you name it.. and now we've got Apples to Apples. My long-lost semi-college friend Chad is a poet/actor who teaches school groups about poetry and has shown up in Texas more in the last 3 years than I've made it to IL or NC. Since he was in Houston over the weekend and knew that I'm a huge fan of Apples to Apples, it worked out nicely that I didn't own the game. He even picked the most eco-friendly wrapping that he could - his arms! Before you cringe, he was holding the box. Very tree-friendly!

That brings us to the official registry. By popular demand (or threat, perhaps?) we've pieced together a registry. The idea is basically that we really don't need much in the way of "things" so much as we'd definitely appreciate sponsorship of the adventures facing us - for example, the condo in FL is an amazing opportunity to explore the Everglades, we just need to get there! Hence the registry promotes gift cards for Southwest Airlines. Of course, at some point Matt and I will actually be living together, but between his collection of kitchen things and my amazing stockpile of mixed linens, we can definitely get by. Also for the "getting by" - we added a "donate" button for the blog! Ideally contributions will help us sustain this blog in terms of practical support, like camera repair for when my camera's preview button finally explodes.

It should be noted that the birding route for Sat/Sun was the I-10 Trinity River rookery to Anahuac NWR to High Island. The evening break was with my dear and wonderful friend, Michael, who no longer lives in IL (he was my escape from campus while I was at Prin), but instead is constantly adventuring about as a guide for Tropical Birding. From High Island, we gawked our way down the peninsula and Yacht Basin Road before having our first Easter lunch together in a quiet, romantic corner of a Galveston Island Taco Bell. Immediately following our table selection, the place was swarmed with screaming children. After hugging my folks in Clear Lake and visiting with some friends that might as well be family, we headed back north and west to Katy, for the visit with Chad and our dear friends/quasi-family, Charmaine and Collins Ganson.

Soon to post:
* Photographic evidence of the Ike-ness and travels.
* Species accounts for weekend sightings & respective life birds.
* Shameless promotion for Tropical Birding.
* More shameless promotion for Tropical Birding.

04 April 2009

let them eat cake

Attwater's Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri)

In the time-honored tradition of spring, love is in the air. You knew that already. You perhaps have already seen pairs of damselflies for the last month, ovipositing in puddles. If you're among a small and obscure club of enthusiasts, you've seen Attwater's Prairie Chickens booming. Maybe you've even noted pairs of frisky duskywings at the local park. Perhaps you've even stepped on them without noticing. Either way, Matt and I had been scheming up a remarkably cliché "June wedding."

But wait! That would require shuffling of legal documents in counties far removed from our usual haunts. In fact, that would even be after the weekend when my sister & brother-in-law and nephew (who now weighs 9+ lbs!) will be in from California. To make matters more complicated, we're not even sure if my grandmother from Germany (or now wheelchair bound father) would be able to make the trek out to the initially intended location. Egad.

So on Friday, March 27, 2009 Matt and I got married. No worries about including the families; Matt's father is a reverend, his mother is awesome with a camera, his sister provided moral support and held my cell phone so my mother could listen in on speaker phone.

Receptions will proceed somewhat as anticipated. If any of our beloved readers (what, all three of you?) will be in the Houston, Abilene or Waco areas between now and the end of June, drop us a comment or e-mail about dates, a few details are still TBA.

Back to the reminiscing about spring. Yesterday at Mother Neff State Park, Matt and I overheard at least two Golden-cheeked Warblers in some deliciously appropriate habitat of mixed oaks and ashe juniper. We proceeded to trek around the upper elevations of the park and located a snacky Orange Sulphur. Literally, being snacked upon.

So while odonates may prefer to dine on lepidoptera, Matt and I were wed with tasty morsels of bread pudding from our beloved Buzzard Billy's.

Plains Clubtail (Gomphus exturnus) w/Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Video of snacky dragonfly soon to follow!

*Edit: video I captured of clubtail devouring Orange Sulphur is long, and thus a huge file that has taken forever to attempt attaching the file. Will try again in the future.-matt*