Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fiddling Around

One of the most common animals in this area is a tiny little crab called the Fiddler Crab.  They are only about  1"-2" across and they have one oversized claw that (kind of) makes them look like they are playing a fiddle.

I noticed these recently because they were waving their oversized white claw at each other in what I assume is a territorial or breeding display. According to Wikipedia(!) - "During courtship, the males wave their oversized claws high in the air and tap them on the ground in an effort to attract females".

These little white flags moving in the mud made me notice just how many of these guys were there.

A couple of crabs no more than 6 inches apart.

Fiddler Crabs
Here is one waving his claw in the air.
Fiddler Crab
And a closeup so you can see his little crab face...
Fiddler Crab

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Now You See It, and Now You Don't...

The American Bittern is one of my favorite birds.  I can't really say why, but the fact that they are challenging to find and interesting to observe may be part of it.

During a recent visit to the South Padre Island Birding Center we had the pleasure of seeing an American Bittern fly across a pond and land in some tall grass.  It was easy to see while flying, and I had the camera up and ready to go.

American Bittern
American Bittern
Once they land in the grass it can be a real challenge to track them down. We found this one hunkered down in a small waterway.  Great camouflage on these birds!
American Bittern
Now we need to find that Least Bittern that has been reported...


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Caspian Tern in Flight

I am still working on taking pictures of Birds in Flight (BIF) whenever the opportunity presents itself. The South Padre Island World Birding Center is a great place for shooting flying birds.

I got this nice sequence of a Caspian Tern maneuvering through the air. They have some really long wings!! For birders, the dark tips on the bottom of the wing are a good field mark for Caspian Terns.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Where do tigers come from? WallyWorld!

We headed out to the Gladys Porter Zoo. It’s just down the road a little ways in Harlingen. We’ve been to this zoo before but it was many, many years ago.  Although there seemed to be an unusual number of employees zipping around in little carts, the zoo was looking pretty run down.  We paid $2 extra to go into the butterfly house.  We saw a Gulf Fritillary, 2 snouts and a hummingbird in the butterfly house.  
I have mixed feelings about zoos.  On the one hand I do not like to see animals in cages or in their captive “natural settings” just sitting there looking depressed and lonely.  Knowing that they should be out running as fast as they can.  That’s probably why I didn’t take too many pictures while we were there.  On the other hand I’m glad there is a place that injured animals have a safe place to live out their lives.

If you go to the zoo website they do list many ways they are helping out animals with wildlife rehabilitation, species survival plans, sea turtle rescue, etc. 

Flamingos (there were lots of different species)

Scarlet Ibis - We saw hundreds of these beautiful birds on a trip to Tobago.

Galapagos Tortoise

Mandarin Duck (related to the Wood Duck)
So, what is the answer to the age old question “where do tigers come from?”

The story we heard was that there was a woman sitting in the WallyWorld parking lot trying to sell three tiger cubs.  They were confiscated and taken to the Gladys Porter Zoo.   

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Two More Blue Butterflies

One of our readers (Sharon Wallace, of "The Odd Essay") asked if we'd seen the other blue butterfly in this region, the Mexican Bluewing.  We have, so thought we'd show others what it looks like.

The Mexican Bluewing is another tropical butterfly that barely enters the United States, and only in South Texas.
Mexican Bluewing - closed
Mexican Bluewing
Mexican Bluewing
She also mentioned the wonderful Blue Morpho butterfly of Central America. While it doesn't make it up into the United States, we got these photographs in Panama.  We found this butterfly as it tumbled to the ground, and we fear it wasn't long for this world.
Blue Morpho - Open
Blue Morpho - closed
So thanks to Sharon for mentioning these two beautiful butterflies!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Some Butterflies for a Change

Teri and I headed over to Sabal Palms Sanctuary to look for birds, but they were few and far between.  However the sanctuary has a small butterfly garden and we had good luck there.

Our best find was a beautiful Blue Metalmark.  Like other Metalmarks it is small at less than an inch across.  Only the male has the striking blue color. This butterfly just makes it into the United States in far South Texas.
Blue Metalmark
Blue Metalmark - Underwing
We saw another tropical species, the Zebra Heliconia, (aka Zebra Longwing).
Zebra Heliconia
Yet another tropical species is the Common Mestra.
Common Mestra
Much more widespread is the Queen.  This one was feeding on a Blue Mistflower, which we have found to be the all-time best butterfly attracting plant!
We also found two Crescents, a Phaon and a Texan Crescent.
Phaon Crescent
Texan Crescent
Just to show that all of the butterflies are not colorful, I've included pictures of the plainest butterfly I think we've ever seen, a Carolina Satyr. The underside is a bit more interesting than the top, but this is one plain bug!
Carolina Satyr
Carolina Satyr - Underwing

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pretty in Pink

We see lots of Roseate Spoonbills out at the South Padre Island Birding Center, but they are usually out in the water.  This week we had an individual that decided to go for a walk on the beach.

Roseate Spoonbill and Royal Terns
It got close enough for some really good pictures. These birds are coming into breeding plumage, so they are getting their intense pink feathers, green heads, and orange undertails. And you have to love those pink legs!
Roseate Spoonbill
Later that same day we had a very low flyover by a Spoonbill.  It completely filled the frame on the camera and had the sun shining through it from above which resulted in a cool picture.You can see each of the individual feathers in the wings.
Roseate Spoonbill

Monday, February 18, 2013

Birds in Flight

More birds in flight from the South Padre Island Birding Center.

Brown Pelicans are big and relatively slow, so they make a good target for aerial shots.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
A nice Redhead drake made a pass.

Redhead - Drake
I should mention here that Peregrine Falcons are fast. Really fast.  So if you are not ready when they fly by you get this:
Peregrine Falcon
In this final picture I was tracking a Belted Kingfisher across the sky, when it happened to fly beneath a Brown Pelican. So I ended up with this image.
Belted Kingfisher below Brown Pelican

Sunday, February 17, 2013

We're Homeless!

Well, not really homeless since we have our little place in Medina and we have an RV.  But, we sold our home in Elgin and have one less house.

We really enjoyed living in Elgin, gardening, fishing, etc., but owning a big house on 15 acres doesn't really work well when you are full-time RV'ers!  We hope that the couple who purchased it have many great years there.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Deader than a Door Nail

Have you ever wondered where the saying “Deader than a Door Nail” came from?

There are several museums around the Port Isabel area that we have never been to so on our day off we headed out to visit three of them. 

Our first stop was the Port Isabel Lighthouse.  The 74 steps to the top were well worth it!  
The view from the top:
The Lighthouse was constructed in 1852 and was built to protect and guide ships through Brazos Santiago Pass and the barrier islands.  In 1952, the Lighthouse was opened as a State Park and remains the only lighthouse on the Texas Gulf Coast open to the public.

On summer evenings, movies are shown on the outside wall.
The next two museums were a bit of a disappointment.  After reading the descriptions in the visitor brochure, I guess we were expecting a bit more than we found.

The Port Isabel Historical Museum was built in 1899 as a dry goods store and residence, it now houses one of the largest collections of Mexican artifacts from the U.S.-Mexican War.
The third museum, Treasures of the Gulf Museum, spotlights three 1554 Spanish shipwrecks. Meeting their fate just 30 miles north of Port Isabel.

So, have you been wondering where the saying “deader than a door nail” came from?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Different Type of Bird

During a recent visit to the South Padre Island World Birding Center we noticed a bunch of kites over the nearby Convention Center.  It turns out that a Kite Festival was going on. We were amazed at the wide variety of kites being flown.

Here are a few pictures. Two of them have a Parrot. Can you find it??