30 July 2011

Busy, busy summer

As the title implies, we're up to our ears in... life. Between wrangling pups, pup-sitting for others, work, school, work and more work, we've managed to get a few photos worth sharing:

Family portrait: Matt, Nauga, Heidi and Anakin. Awww.

A Black Witch moth on the back wall while blacklighting.

The Chihuahua named Little.

Pepsis wasp. Oh yes, there's an Entomology class afoot this summer!

Recent bug life: Lyside Sulphur, Eyed Elater and an Opuntia Beetle (the 'longhorn')

The reason you don't go the speed limit out here. Ever. This was taken at 6:40 - long before dusk!

...and, FINALLY, our first dung beetles of the season. It only took until mid July to see them at Post Park. Still no sign of them in town. Maybe after a few real rains?

16 July 2011

near and dear to my hawk tower

I wondered if this day might come: the Smith Point Hawk Watch is basically losing funding for a season. It is a brilliant place to see raptor migration but counting hawks there is like trying to count spaghetti as they boil! Falcons and kites are a MUCH more reliable count, but the location is prime for kettling Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds at the same time.

It is where I 'cut my teeth' with raptors in high school, spent the better part of a fall after Prin and have followed every snippet of its life through hurricanes and budget ails. For birds, for bugs, for life, Smith Point is not to be ignored.


Subject: Smith Point Hawk Watch
From: Susan Heath sheath/GCBO.ORG
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 15:07:08 -0500


We have been warned by our leaders that belt-tightening must take place and that all will feel a little of the squeeze. That reality has hit GCBO's Research Program for the coming year. To be honest it has always been a touch-and-go situation when it comes to raising the resources necessary to fund the important Smith Point Hawk Watch, and some years GCBO has had to swallow much of the cost, draining funds away from other, equally important programs. The season, our 15th, we have had to make a lemons-to-lemonade situation on the raptor migration monitoring project. In the past, the cost of the hawk watch was shared between Hawk Watch International and GCBO. This year neither party was able to raise the necessary funds to cover the expenses associated with running the hawk watch. Therefore we have decided to do two things: (1) try to keep the count going with volunteers, and (2) change the focus of the count a bit. We have decided to focus on the Swallow-tailed Kite, since Smith Point is strategically located to sample much of the southward migration of this vulnerable iconic symbol of the southern bottomlands. Kites migrate earlier than other raptors so we will begin the season on August 1st instead of the 15th as in the past. The Swallow-tailed Kite migration is largely over by October 1st so we will concentrate on that 60-day period initially. Several intrepid volunteers from past seasons have already volunteered to cover much of that period, but we need a few more volunteers to fill out the calendar. Several volunteers have agreed to continue counting through November 15, to keep this season's data comparable to previous years. Last, but to some by no means least, if in past Smith Point seasons you were in the habit of swinging by the tower to use the sanitary facilities, don't bother. Sadly that has been a casualty of belt-tightening this season also. We are checking with local officials to see if any one else can support that need.

If you have hawk watch experience and would like to volunteer, please check the calendar at:


If you are available for any of the open dates, please e-mail Sue at sheath AT gcbo.org and let her know of your preference. We really appreciate the efforts of all our volunteers to help keep the Smith Point Hawk Watch alive. We have high hopes that we will be able to raise funding to resume with paid counters next year. To that end, if you would like to make a contribution to the hawk watch or know of other organizations that can, we would really appreciate the support. You can make a donation at:


and specify Smith Point Hawk Watch or mail a check to the address below. Thanks for your support everyone!

Sue Heath & John Arvin

Susan A. Heath, Ph.D.
Avian Conservation Biologist
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
103 W. Hwy 332
Lake Jackson, TX 77566
Join us in our quest to study and conserve birds and their habitat around the Gulf of Mexico.

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