Monday, May 28, 2007

Coming Home

We had been worried about leaving the kittens alone for a long weekend -- we weren't sure what we would find when we returned! Well... the kittens were nowhere to be seen. The food had hardly been touched and there was still plenty of water in the dish.

Then we heard a tiny "mew" and found them. They were on the top kitchen shelf. Our cabin is a bit rough and unfinished in places -- they were able to sneak up the attic stairs and over the kitchen wall. This shelf is about 7.5 feet off the ground! There's no telling how long they had been up there, and unable to find their way down. After we helped them down, they figured it out quickly enough, so we had to block the stairway so they couldn't get up there any more. (Especially as this is where I store my teapot collection!)

Oh, and here's an idea of what I've been going through the last couple of weeks while trying to process my pictures. (Not my kitten, but you get the idea -- oh and multiply that by two!) Thanks to TedTam over at LST for the link!

Visit to ANWR

When we first arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, we were attracted by the profusion of wildflowers right by the entrance. We both started taking pictures.

Here's a shot of a bit of the flowers -- notice the globe seedheads of these pretty maroon and yellow flowers. And of course, where there are wildflowers, there are butterflies!

This butterfly was about two inches across. I don't have any butterfly books, so I bought a "quick reference" card at the park's gift shop. That was a mistake, because this butterfly doesn't seem to be on it!

I'm guessing from the size, shape and "design" that his might be a member of the "Brushfoot" family of butterflies, and a possible cousin of the "Painted Lady" -- but I think this one is different.

On the other side of the road were several swallowtail butterflies. From my reference card, I think these are Anise Swallowtails. This first one is a bit "worn".

This shot gives a better view of the head -- the body is also black with yellow stripes. That wasn't clear on the reference card.

I chased this little guy around for a minute or two before he landed long enough for me to get a shot. He was really tiny, no more than an inch across if you stretched it out!


In addition to butterflies, I also saw a lot of dragonflies. I have no idea what species each of these are (comments are welcome). I have discovered that Dragonflies (who rest with their wings out to the sides) and Damselflies (who rest with their wings behind them) are members of the order Odonata, which means "toothed ones".

Update: I found a great site with lots of dragonfly plates and pictures that is helping me ID these creatures. See: The first dragon fly appears to be a "Blue Corporal," Libellula deplanta.

I was able to get at least three (maybe 4) different species. This one (on the left) appears to be an Eastern Pondhawk. All of these are dragonflies. I did find a great site to provide an overview: "Odonata: Dragonflies and Damselflies".

This dragonfly to the right seems to have a "tiger striped" body.

And this last shot of a dark blue dragonfly looks like it's body is "furry" -- but it's hard to tell for sure.

If anyone can recommend a good book on Butterflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies for the Texas area, I would appreciate it. Texas is in an awkward spot between "East" and "West" as most wildlife books are divided into Eastern US and Western US, and it's hard to tell where we fall.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lazy Afternoon on Fulton Beach Road

We made our trip to Port Aransas in the morning, then came back to Fulton for lunch. And then, of course we had to feed the leftovers (mostly french fries) to the seagulls. (Marc's favorite pastime -- well, one of them, anyway.)

I love having the birds hovering just a few feet away -- it's the only time I get really good "flying" shots.

After we fed the gulls, we drove down Fulton Beach Road, and saw this wonderful heron sitting on a pier.

A little further down, we came upon a group of birds having their mid-day nap. This juvenile pelican with the big yawn adds new meaning to the phrase, "Open wide!"

Here's another shot of the same pelican, possibly with a sibling.

There were several birds resting on that pier.

I especially like the geometric pattern of the pier at this angle as shown in this last pic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The "Bird Walk" at Rockport

Just south of Rockport proper, they have set up a long boardwalk that goes out into the wetlands. There were a lot of big waders (Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, a Tri-colored heron and a Reddish Egret (pictured below). But what really caught our attention was "Momma Stilt". This stilt had obviously build it's nest near the walk way and was trying to convince us she was wounded to draw us away from the babies.

Here's another shot of her with some good reflective action going. (Are reflections active? Maybe not.)

We saw a lot of flying birds that I'm fairly certain were sandpipers. Here are two different sandpipers. The smaller one is probably another white rumped (see the flying sandpipers below). The taller one looks like it might be an Upland Sandpiper.

These are both new birds for our life list!

Parting Shots

A last couple of shots from Port Aransas. While we were there, this skimmer (right) was really working the tidal pool (it's a large pool, but probably not a pond as I said before -- it's pretty shallow, I think).

This skimmer went back and forth -- skimming! You may or may not be able to tell that the bottom beak is longer than the top -- that enables him to skim the top of the water with this lower beak in the water. He was really flying fast, and it was very difficult to get a good shot.

There were a lot of black necked stilts there as well. This one was walking right below the walkway, and I was able to get some close shots. This one's legs are not as bright red as some, but you can see that it's eye is right below the white spot on it's head. Curious...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


When we first arrived at the bird viewing area, we saw two juvenile spoonbills. They were across the pond from us, and we didn't realize they were youngsters at first. The one on the right was trying to perch on a long limb.

It was humorous to watch this young bird's balancing act on the limb -- but these antics were what first caught my attention. This young 'un wiggled and wobbled every which way until it settled down on that limb.

Meanwhile, it's sibling was napping. These two pretty much stayed put most of the time we were there.

About the time we were thinking about leaving, an adult flew in. I'm guessing that this is a parent of the two juveniles because after it came in and fed a bit, it flew away again and the two youngsters followed. Well, one did -- and the other finally woke up and joined them.

I'm guessing this might be "Mom" -- look how she's posing -- just like a model on a New York Runway. And she's dressed in the height of bird-fashions. This year's hot color -- PINK! Now if she could only do something with that schnoz.

Tomorrow, I'll continue with the skimmer and a few stilts.

Great Blue Heron

I think there were probably 2 or 3 Great Blue Herons at the Bird Viewing Area in Port A. All were pretty calm. Herons are grouped together with several species of wading birds (but not cranes). The Great Blue and the Great Egret are both of the genus Ardea.

I was really excited to get some good flight pictures of this bird. One advantage to the big waders is that they fly rather slowly. We saw several large waders at Port A. My picture of the Tri-Colored Heron didn't come out well (it was too far away), and the only Ibis I saw were flying way overhead.

Monday, May 21, 2007


The next thing we saw at the bird viewing area were Sandpipers. This one was right by the entrance. After a lot of looking through the bird book, I think this might be a White Rumped Sandpiper (white something back there, anyway).

This bird was very cooperative, but I discovered two things. One is that most sandpipers look very similar and the second is that it's hard to identify a specific bird when his legs and bill are covered in mud!

OK... that's enough for tonight. I'll have more Port A pictures tomorrow -- we saw a lot of species at the bird viewing area! Then it's back to Rockport for more birds! This could take all week.

Water Rats

Well, you'll have to read these backwards, because Blogger does last in at the top.

Anyway, we went over to the bird viewing area in Port A (it's next to the water treatment plant!) And the first thing we saw was not a bird, but a "Water Rat". Now at first glance you might think this is a beaver, but it's not.

I have other pictures "going away" that shows the long bare tail -- just like a big rat. (But they're not very attractive from that direction.) These animals are cousins of the rats -- they're Nutria. They are very common in wetland areas.

Friday trip to Port A

On Friday we got up and after our usual "Rockport Breakfast" at the Duck Inn, we headed for Port Aransas -- fondly referred to as "Port A".

I love ferry rides -- but I must admit that this one is WAY too short!

Usually ferry landings are good places for birds to perch. At Port A, there are almost always a row of cormorants atop the landing gear, but not this time. Instead, we had this highly photogenic Pelican.

As we pulled into the landing, the pelican looked straight at me for this great "Head On" shot. Notice the colors on the tip of his bill.

A little further on, and he decided to look the other way. I must admit that I'm particularly fond of Brown Pelicans -- I love the colors and pattern on their heads and necks. White Pelicans are pretty when they are flying, with the black on their wing-tips, but otherwise, they're just plain! And besides, they go somewhere else in the summertime -- we didn't see a single one this trip!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New Birds for the Life List

We have about 4-5 birds to add to our Birding Life List from this trip. A couple of those are Sandpipers, but I was unable to get good photographs of these. I think Marc had better luck and may include some pictures later (he has decided to post his pictures on this blog as well).

The two new birds that I do have pics for are the Wilson's Phalerope and the Ruddy Turnstone. We saw both of these birds in Port Aransas. The Phalerope (right) was at the Port A Birding Center.

We saw the Ruddy Turnstone on the mainland while waiting for the Ferry. We both looked at it and said, "What is that?!?!?" Marc said, "Get a picture!" -- but the bird was on his side, so I handed him my camera. So Marc gets the credit for the Turnstone!

The last picture is not exactly a new bird, but one we've only seen a couple of times. The first time was on the boat tour when we finally saw our first whooping cranes. This is a "Reddish Egret". We did see one on the road heading up to the ferry to Port A, but this picture was taken back at the Bird Viewing area just south of Rockport. I apologize it's not a good shot -- the bird was quite a distance away.

Bath Time

While driving back toward Fulton we came upon these pelicans. A juvenile and an adult, with a gull that seemed to be following them around.

It was obviously bath time, and I was able to get this great shot of the adult splashing around for it's bath!

Osprey and Injured Birds

One of the first things we did after we checked in to our cabin in Fulton was to take our normal route down Fulton Beach Road. At the Connie Hagar Wildlife Sanctuary, we saw an Osprey -- I think it may have been the only one we saw on our trip (maybe we saw one other).

I took several pictures of this bird -- from two locations (these two are from the closer location). It was not until I was closer that I realized that this bird had only one leg. It possibly has an injury to it's shoulder (see the ruffled feathers?). While many birds often perch on one leg, I don't think that's the case with this one -- along side of the good leg appears to be a stump. And yet, this bird seems to be surviving -- it looks otherwise healthy. And in fact, when we drove by later in the day, it had flown to another location.

For some reason, I noticed several injured birds on this trip. We enjoy feeding the seagulls, and we often see birds with missing legs (sometimes both!) and feet, as these gull pictures show.

I've seen many injured birds in the past and wondered what might have happened to them. Of course there are plenty of dangers, such as fishing lines and such, but I think that most birds who are caught in a fishing line do not survive. I suspect that, especially in the case of the gulls and the osprey -- they went after prey that fought back -- or though of themselves as the hunter instead of the hunted -- a shark, barracuda, or other such predatory fish.

Now after saying that, I wanted to show this heron. I'm not exactly sure how it's injury came about. I took this picture on our second day, at Fulton Harbor. I remember seeing this bird last year. In spite of the broken leg (which improperly healed, so is forever useless), this bird does well. It probably has a lot of handouts from fishermen and folks at the restaurant, but I've also seen this bird stand on the dock with the water two feet below, and pluck out a fish. Pretty awesome, I'd say.