Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BOBWHITE QUAIL!!!

Early in the month of May we woke up to an old familiar sound, but not one that we expected to hear out here in our location in central Texas! Just outside our window, calling in the early morning hours, sat a BOBWHITE QUAIL on the fence rail!!! He was sitting very near the bird feeders and just calling out for a mate!

In our area of Washington County quail are considered a very rare find. They used to be abundant at one time (in the very distant past, like 30 years or more ago!) but over-hunting, the introduction of fire ants, and loss of habitat all contributed to a severe decline and now they are considered extremely rare and hardly ever found in our county. Whether this was an escapee from someone's quail pen, or a wild version I guess we will never know. But it did peak our curiosity enough that we went hiking into the woods to see if we could find any of his friends, or if we could see him again..., AND WE DID!

Now this could be the same bird, or a different one, we couldn't tell. My husband (and wildlife adventure partner) is able to imitate a female quail call pretty well and this guy showed up within minutes of the second set of calls. We were about 10 acres away from the first quail sighting in our yard when we called this one up in the woods. I was able to get a video clip of the bird as he moved around us looking for the female - and a clip of his BOBWHITE call.

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If you've never heard quail calling, the male has a distinctly different call from the female. The voices sound similar but the pattern is unmistakably different. This is the call of the male.

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I have heard that a male quail will call until he locates a female to pair up with for mating and raising little quail. After about 4 days of hearing male quail around the property we heard a female call one morning. Since hearing the female call we have not seen or heard from our male quail friend. I am hoping they found each other and are happily roosting somewhere out in the woods! Until next time..............!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

TRES PALACIOS BAY AND SLOUGHS - CENTRAL TEXAS GULF COAST


Had a chance to visit the Texas Gulf Coast last weekend and this weekend for some rather rural coastal adventures. Kayaked, bird watched, alligator-watched, fished the brackish sloughs and the salty bay, bird watched some more, and enjoyed the gulf breezes. Both weekends it was fairly hazy along the coast making for slightly overcast days and cloudy weather. Several fronts have been coming in one after the other and the weather this spring seems unusually cool for Texas. The areas to the east of Tres Palacios Bay are sparsely developed and much less touristy than other Texas coastal towns making for a peaceful, more primitive experience along the waterfront. Lots of wildlife here!



In the bay a large group of Black Skimmers were congregating on the oyster beds along with some seagulls and American Oystercatchers. The Black Skimmers are very identifiable shorebirds because they are the only species in which the lower bill is longer than the upper bill. When they fly low over the water, they dip the longer mandible into the water and skim the surface to pick up small fish, snapping the bill shut on them! They are the ones with the orange and black bills.



One of the neat things about this area is the multiple brackish water sloughs that wind inland from the bay and provide a perfect habitat for all sorts of marsh critters and birds. This place is excellent for seeing a variety of birds and not too shabby for other wildlife forms too. It seems like there is always something new and different moving around in the water or back in the weeds to get your attention!!!! While I was kayaking a local fisherman pulled in an EEL on his line! That is a first for me, I didn't know we had eels in the bay!

A little later on in the day I was kicking back and enjoying fishing and bird watching near one of the sloughs when I noticed that a small 'gator had approached to "human-watch" me! He wasn't particularly scared (which did make me just a wee bit nervous) and came within 5 or 6 feet of me! A sudden movement from me sent him reeling back underwater with a large splash. I decided to find some higher ground with maybe not so many of his friends wading around- just in case they hadn't eaten in awhile!!!!


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Spider Lillies were in full bloom along the slough banks.........it is a little hard to see in the second picture, but they line the banks of the sloughs and basically anywhere there is shallow standing water. Those little white specks in the second picture are the plants in full bloom. This is definitely a wetland loving plant with an exotic-looking bloom!













Most of the land on this coastal peninsula is wetlands with shallow sloughs slicing through and winding around the area. Any of the slightly higher ground is occupied by cattle ranches and fish or rice farms. Later on in the evening on this day I crossed paths with some coastal deer just browsing with a cattle herd. They weren't very skittish which allowed me a short photo session and video clip before moving on. Until next time - Happy trails!




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Thursday, May 1, 2008

ROSE BREASTED GROSBEAKS!


WOW! Look what showed up today at the feeder!!! A male and female ROSE BREASTED GROSBEAK! They are obviously migrating through on their way to northern destinations and just stopping in to catch a bite! This is our second year for a male sighting, but our first female......
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They are really neat when you observe them, they act a lot like a parrot the way they turn their heads from side to side and look around. And those BEAKS! They could probably break iron with those things. They seem like pretty calm, subdued birds but they are fairly skittish and private - at least in our yard. I got these shots through a window (ugh!), so the quality is pretty poor - sorry! Hope you enjoy anyway, especially if you've never seen RB Grosbeaks!



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