Tuesday, September 23, 2008

9 BANDED ARMADILLO (Dasypus novemcinctus)

Well I don't have all of the pictures I'd like to post, but I couldn't wait any longer to share these video clips with you. The Army Corp of Engineers has cleared a new hiking trail through the woods by my house and of course I couldn't wait to check it out. More pictures from that to follow, but for now, here are 2 videos I just had to post because - Armadillos are just SO CUTE! This one ventured close to me on the trail and as I stood very, very still I was able to get some shots. Armadillos can't see very well, but they can hear a little better and once he sensed my presence, he took off running through the woods!

While I had him in my sights, this guy exhibited typical Armadillo behavior, rooting around in the soil and under logs searching for a meal. Yes, they do dig around with their noses and look for grubs, worms, and other insects to eat. And yes, they do leave fairly large holes in the soil, which a lot of people with formal gardens seem to despise. I don't understand this adversity toward Armadillos at all. They are most excellent soil aerators, and they control the soil dwelling insects that destroy plants at the same time. From my observations, they do not uproot established plants, instead, they move the soil all around the root balls and provide a 'tilling' function that is better than any plow I have ever seen. All that is needed after an Armadillo comes through is a soaking from a water hose to flatten the mounds back down and the garden looks as good as new, but much healthier! Unfortunately, the way most people experience an Armadillo (besides seeing holes in their gardens and yards) is by passing them by in cars, lying 'legs up' alongside the highway. The poor little guys, like so many other animals, do not have a chance when it comes to vehicles and they experience a huge amount of highway mortality.

One very interesting fact about Armadillos is that each female bears 4 offspring at a time which are exact clones of each other. Apparently they are the only mammals which do this consistently and that makes them extremely unique! If you have some time and you want to read more about Armadillos, here is a link:

http://www.flex.net/~lonestar/armadillo.htm




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Friday, September 5, 2008

WHOOPING CRANES IN TEXAS!

WHOOPING CRANE (Grus americana)

(Photo credit Luther Goldman/US Fish and Wildlife Service)


Well, actually they haven't quite started their annual migration yet, but a prior comment on this blog prompted me to post about Whooping Cranes. They are an example of one species of beautiful migratory birds that us northerners and southerners 'share' during the year. Mid-October through March is prime Whooping Crane season in Texas - which should give me ample time to plan and execute a trip to see them first hand (stay posted!) I thought it would be a good idea to post some 'whooper' information in case any of you happen to be in the western or eastern flyways. That way you can be on the lookout for these magnificent creatures as they take to the skies! Fall migration has started and here in Texas we are noticing our skies dotted with more and more varieties of avian flocks as they head toward winter destinations. If you look up and see some very large cranes with all white bodies and black wing tips you just might be viewing some endangered Whooping Cranes.

Down here in Texas we have an extensive Whooping Crane project aimed at helping this most unique species survive and thrive. Whoopers stay north in the hot summer months and then migrate down south when those cold northern winds start to blow. The population counts reported over the last several years seem to indicate an increase in individuals so hopefully all of the effort is making a difference.

Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) are the rarest of all crane species and only found in North America. Our western inhabitants spend the winter months in Texas and summer months in Canada. The primary wintering grounds for the western 'Whooper' population are the coastal areas of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge located a little bit north of Corpus Christi near Rockport. Here is an informative link which also has an audio of the bird calls:

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/REFUGES/texas/aransas/whoopingcranes.html

Although Whooping Cranes can be found slightly north of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge or even slightly inland on private lands, the winter range for this population of birds typically only covers about 35 miles of this unique and pristine coastal habitat in Texas!

Whooping cranes are listed as a USFWS Endangered Species. In 1979 there were only 56 known birds in a wild flock that wintered in Texas and nested in Canada. In Dec of 2007 the count was up to 257 birds wintering along the Texas coastline. The 2007-2008 count was 266! So they do appear to be making a come back - slowly but surely. Whoopers are now federally protected from hunters however, their main threat continues to be the loss of coastal wetland habitat.

There is also lots of hard work underway to re-establish an eastern population of birds which will winter along the Florida coastline and spend the summers somewhere near Wisconsin. So far the Texas/Canada population has been the most successful as far as numbers.

SO - if you come to Texas - especially during the fall through early spring - don't forget to plan a trip to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for some most excellent biding adventures! And keep your eyes peeled - you just might see some rare and endangered Whooping Cranes!

These video clips were taken by BILL BEASLEY / TAILFEATHER PRODUCTIONS and reproduced with permission – Thank You, Bill for sharing your clips of these beautiful and rare birds in the wild!!!

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