Tag: Texas Wildlife
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything—typically earthworms, insects, and other small animals, seeds, and fruit; also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, patient, and methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides.
Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
The great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) is a medium-sized, highly social passerine bird native to North and South America. A member of the family Icteridae, it is one of 10 extant species of grackle and is closely related to the boat-tailed grackle and the extinct slender-billed grackle. In the southern United States, it is sometimes simply referred to as “blackbird” or (erroneously) “crow”] due to its glossy black plumage, and similarly, it is often called Cuervo (“raven”) in some parts of Mexico, although it is not a member of the crow genus Corvus, nor even of the family Corvidae.
Great-tailed grackles originated from the tropical lowlands of Central and South America, but historical evidence from Bernardino de Sahagún shows that the Aztecs, during the time of the emperor Ahuitzotl, introduced the great-tailed grackle from their homeland in the Mexican Gulf Coast to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in the highland Valley of Mexico, most likely to use their iridescent feathers for decoration. In more recent times, great-tailed grackles expanded their breeding range by over 5,500% by moving north into North America between 1880 and 2000, following urban and agricultural corridors. Their current range stretches from northwestern Venezuela and western Colombia and Ecuador in the south to Minnesota in the north, to Oregon, Idaho, and California in the west, to Florida in the east, with vagrants occurring as far north as southern Canada. Their habitat for foraging is on the ground in clear areas such as pastures, wetlands, and mangroves, and chaparral. The grackles’ range has expanded with agricultural and urban settings.
Winter Wonderland (13)
When two seasons collide … (Part III)
A Sunny February Afternoon In Texas ~ 2013
Clouded Sulphur Butterfly (Colias philodice)
This species is a typical member of the genus. Both genders typically have pale yellow wings above with no traces of orange, unlike its close cousin the orange sulphur which may also be yellowish. Males have clean borders, while females have yellow dots within this region. Females sometimes exhibit a white form known as alba.
The underside of the male’s wings is yellow while the female’s is yellow or greenish white, and both have a doubled hindwing spot trimmed in brownish red. The hindwings show a series of four small red spots along the outer third portion, a trait that distinguishes the other North American species such as Colias interior, except for the orange sulphur which also shows them. Its wingspan is 32 to 54 mm.
This species has white form alba which can be very common in some populations, while rare in others. It can be confused with other white forms of Colias, particularly that of Colias eurytheme. It can often be distinguished by the border pattern of both wings, though some individuals are impossible to separate without the presence of other “normal” specimens. Though they differ in flight style, the white forms of Colias may be confused with other pierids such as Pieris rapae and Pontia protodice. White-form males are also known, but exceedingly rare in this species.
State Park of Texas: Fair Park, Dallas: A Visit At The Texas Discovery Gardens 2012 (3)
Flowers, fruits & soon to be butterflies
… to be continued …
Texas Snow Day In January ~ 2013
In mid-January of 2013, we weren’t expecting snow that day. Even FOX4’s Head Meteorologist, Dan Henry, said what a surprise it was getting snow. But in Texas, the weather is possible and very unpredictable. It can say light rain on the radar. And then we end up with snow the following morning. The birds were all fluffed up to stay warm in the cold breeze. Katelynn liked it. She didn’t have to school and could play with her little sister in the snow that day.
A Sunny January Afternoon In Texas ~ 2013
I miss those warmer January days in North Texas. Don’t get me wrong, Texas can have some cold Winter days. But on a lot of days, it was warm enough to sit on the backyard deck to enjoy wildlife feeding on berries, and watch the clouds go by in the sky. It also was easier to photograph the birds in the trees, in January and February. There was no leaf to obstruct the view.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
The familiar Great Blue Heron is the largest in North America. It is a large bird, with a slate-gray body, chestnut and black accents, and very long legs and neck. In flight, it looks enormous, with a six-foot wingspan. Adults sport a shaggy ruff at the base of their necks. A black eyebrow extends back to black plumes emerging from the head. Juveniles have a dark crown with no plumes or ruff, and a mottled neck. In flight, a Great Blue Heron typically holds its head toward its body with its neck bent.
Adaptable and widespread, the Great Blue Heron is found in various habitats. When feeding, it is usually seen in slow-moving or calm salt, fresh, or brackish water. Great Blue Herons inhabit sheltered, shallow bays and inlets, sloughs, marshes, wet meadows, shores of lakes, and rivers. Nesting colonies are typically found in mature forests, on islands, or near mudflats, and do best when they are free of human disturbance and have foraging areas close by.
Great Blue Herons are often seen flying high overhead with slow wing beats. When foraging, they stand silently along riverbanks, lake shores, or wet meadows, waiting for prey to come by, which they then strike with their bills. They will also stalk prey slowly and deliberately. Although they hunt predominantly daily, they may also be active at night. They are solitary or small-group foragers, but they nest in colonies. Males typically choose shoreline areas for foraging, and females and juveniles forage in more upland areas.
A Hot September Day In A Fox Squirrel’s Life ~ 2013
In September 2013 it was very warm in North Texas. The wildlife tried to stay cool, too.
National Wildlife Day 2022
Happy National Wildlife Day!
National Hummingbird Day 2022
National Hummingbird Day is celebrated on the first Saturday in September every year. Some communities celebrate this day with activities that include educational programs, hummingbird viewings, and field trips. Hummingbirds share the raising of the chicks and males live a lot shorter because they use so much energy in defending their nests. They use a lot of energy in flying and need to rest every 15 minutes, so we must make our gardens hummingbird friendly.
Happy National Hummingbird Day!
Visit At The Arbor Hills Nature Preserve ~ 2013
Nine years ago, Sara and I visited the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve for the first time. It is only seven miles away from our house. But I had no idea it existed until I looked at a park map on Google one morning. Katelynn was in school. And Sara was bored because she had no one to play with in the house. So, I decided I would take her for a hike in the park. The weather was nice and not too warm. It was perfect to see what the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve has to offer. On the way, I said to Sara: “Maybe we will see some wildlife in the park.” When we arrived at the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, we saw a lot of hikers, sprinters and runners. I told Sara to stay with me on the right side of the trail, for people who work out can pass us on the left. She did very well. We walked into the forested area. And Sara noticed a couple of squirrels chasing each other. One had a couple of pecans in its mouth. And the other squirrel wanted the first one to share at least one of the pecans. Sara and I made it all the way to the Observation Tower, where we had a nice view over a big portion of the park. After a little rest, we hiked back to the parking lot. Sara was counting the bridges, we crossed along the way. She said: “There were three bridges in total. And the squirrels were funny.” I’m glad she got entertained on this little trip to the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. 😉
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)
The most common rabbit species in Texas is the Eastern cottontail, identifiable by its two- to three-pound body, brown or gray coat, white belly, and distinctive white tail. They are widespread in brushy areas from southern Canada to South America, predominantly east of the Rocky Mountains.
Cottontails feed at night, subsisting on a variety of green plants, barks, buds, and grasses. Unlike the jackrabbit, which is actually a member of the hare family, cottontails are true rabbits. This distinction is important, as hares are born virtually self-sufficient, whereas rabbits are born hairless, blind, and helpless. In addition, hares tend to be larger and more muscular than rabbits.
The cottontail is an essential element of the food chain, serving as prime prey for many predators. As a result, cottontail life expectancy is extremely short — one year or less — requiring the prolific reproduction so often attributed to rabbit species. In addition to their reproductive strategy, cottontails thrive because they are swift-moving and can jump distances of up to eight feet at a time when pursued, making split-second changes in direction to frustrate and elude predators.
Cottontails are somewhat difficult to view, due to their swift and elusive nature. Viewing opportunities are best in brushy areas near ponds, marshes, and streams, particularly along the Texas coast.
by Shannon Blackburn in Wild Texas Travel Guide
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Mockingbirds are one of the most commonly noticed birds in the state of Texas. They are either applauded for their audaciousness or cursed for their persistence in nocturnal singing or in the defense of their territory. Insects, fruit, crustaceans, and small vertebrates make up the mockingbird’s diet. The fact that they enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables hasn’t exactly made them gardeners’ friends either, although they do eat lots of insects.
Mockingbirds are found in just about every habitat type in the state. The males’ territoriality and constant singing and displaying during the breeding season make them the most noticeable bird in Texas. Often this territoriality takes the form of early morning singing sessions or diving attacks on other animals or people!
Unmated male mockingbirds sing more than mated ones, and only unmated males sing at night. Both sexes sing in the fall to claim winter feeding territories. These areas are often different than their spring breeding territories. Mockingbirds mimic 50 other bird songs. They have also been known to imitate other sounds they hear such as rusty hinges, whistling, cackling hens, and dogs barking so expertly that even an electronic analysis could not tell the difference between the mockingbird and the original. Scientists have found that female mockingbirds are attracted to males that can make the most different sounds.
World Snake Day 2022
World Snake Day aims to increase awareness regarding the over 3,500 snake species that exist across the world. Not all of them are as scary or venomous as we believe them to be. The fascinating reptiles are often not given the recognition they deserve just because of the bad reputation they have earned over the years. The day aims to change the negative perception surrounding snakes and promote the love for all living beings — even the ones we fear.
Happy World Snake Day!
Hiking Into The Texas Sunset ~ July 2012
A hike along the creek in The Colony, Texas
Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans)
The Green Lynx Spider is a bright-green spider usually found on green plants. It is the largest North American species in the family Oxyopidae. This spider is common in the southern U.S., Mexico, Central America, and many West Indie islands, especially Jamaica. The species name, viridans, is Latin for “becoming green”. It should not be confused with either Peucetia viridana, a species that occurs only in India and Myanmar, or Peucetia viridis from Spain and Africa.
A Visit From The Cooper’s Hawk
January 18th, 2017
A couple of years ago, I saw a cooper’s hawk landing in our tree, to watch some small birds eating their seeds. I was very impressed by the size of this bird. After I did some research, I found out that little birds are the main diet of this hawk. So, by filling up the bird feeders I attracted the little birds, and therefore I attracted the cooper’s hawk. Back then I could capture a couple of photos of this beautiful animal, before it flew away.
Today, I had the same scenario: I filled up the feeders for the little birds. Some mourning doves, a common starling, and about a dozen house sparrows were munching those seeds away, when a cooper’s hawk landed in one of the trees in our yard. It observed the birds. But when it saw me, it flew off into the neighbor’s tree.
Cooper’s hawks are beautiful, but very shy birds. I also read a lot of reports about cooper hawks visiting the yards around this time of the year. And today was my lucky moment, again.
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
Although the Greater Roadrunner occurs throughout Texas, is well known, is the topic of much folklore, and is a very popular cartoon character, the only field research studies that have been conducted are in desert scrub or brush-grassland habitats in South Texas. As a popular multicultural iconic bird, from prehistory to modern times, it is surprising that it was one of the last bird species to be given state protection because of the mistaken belief that roadrunners were a threat to declining quail populations.
Mother’s Day ~ 2022
Happy Mother’s Day!
Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia Coenia)
The Common Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia), a member of the Nymphalinae subfamily, is distinguished by two eyespots on the upper side of each of its forewings and hindwings and by two orange cell bars on the upper sides of the anterior portion of the forewings. Its body color is brown. Its range extends from southern Canada and the United States to southern Mexico. Adults feed primarily on the nectar of flowers, such as those of chicory, knapweed, dogbane, and aster.
Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Red-eared sliders are Texas’s most common aquatic turtles. These turtles get their name from a broad red stripe behind their eye and their habit of sliding off rocks and logs when startled. Older turtles are often covered with a thick coat of algae. Some red-eared sliders can live more than 30 years.
Sliders are cold-blooded and spend hours sunning themselves on rocks and logs. If there are not enough rocks or logs for all of them, they will often stack themselves one on top of the other! They bury themselves in loose soil or mud during the winter to escape the cold. When population numbers get high, these turtles move across land to other bodies of water in search of food and space. They eat aquatic plants, small fish, and decaying material.
Sliders have poor hearing but are very sensitive to vibrations. This makes it hard to sneak up on them. Their name, slider, comes from the fact that they are quick to slide off rocks, logs or the banks if danger threatens.
Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)
The Eastern Fox Squirrel is the largest squirrel in the United States, about 20 inches (50 centimeters) long and weighs about two pounds (900 grams). It has dark grey fur on its back and tan fur on its belly. The tail is cinnamon/grey colored. Their feet are tan. Fox Squirrels got their name for their fur coat which resembles that of a gray fox.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
This big ‘Honker’ is among our best-known waterfowl. In many regions, flights of Canada Geese passing over in V-formation — northbound in spring, southbound in fall — are universally recognized as signs of the changing seasons. Once considered a symbol of wilderness, this goose has adapted well to civilization, nesting around park ponds and golf courses; in a few places, it has even become something of a nuisance.
The Canada Goose’s habitats are lakes, ponds, bays, marshes, fields. It uses different habitats in different regions; nests near water, winters where feeding areas are within commuting distance of water. Nesting habitats include tundra, fresh marshes, salt marshes, lakes in wooded country. Often feeds in open fields, especially in winter. In recent years, the Canada Goose has been also been resident in city parks, suburban ponds.