"In the night...the scream of the rabbit is terrible. But the scream of the owl which is not of pain and hopelessness and fear of being plucked out the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer, is more terrible still. When I hear it resounding through the woods, and then the five black pellets of its song dropping like stones into the air, I know I am standing on the edge of the mystery, in which terror is naturally and abundantly part of life, part of even the most becalmed, intelligent, sunny life--as for example, my own. The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live, too. There is only one world."
Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Falcate Skipper

Sunny, almost 90F, and windy in open areas. Not a potentially birdie day, so we went Edinburg Wetlands this morning where it is sheltered and often has a lot of butterflies. (And we had to take our bottles and cans to the recycling center anyway.)

First, the token flashy bird picture:


























Then, some colorful butterflies, and a tiny one. I'm not even going to bother labeling because...........








...because we got a big one today. So let's cut the crap and go to the chase. 
The following is a Falcate Skipper Spathilepia clonius. (falcate - curved like a sickle; hooked)

"Range: Argentina north through Central America to Mexico. A rare stray to South Texas." 

Pictures from a set of a dozen or more I took this morning today at Edinburg Wetlands. 😄






Butterflies R Us - Gunnar 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Chihuahuan Raven

The photographs were taken on the Old Port Isabel Road near the north entrance. This may not be a "life bird", but it is certainly the first time I have taken photos of one. (Lorna's are better.)



We had coffee with Lorna's sister Anita and John on South Padre then went to The Birding Center. The birds are starting to migrate north and the tide was high so there were not huge numbers. Where a couple of weeks ago there were 10,000 Redhed Ducks, now there are none. But the weather was perfect (except for wind) and we bumped into a number of past acquaintances to talk to. 






And send in the clowns:  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.


- Gunnar

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hildago Pumphouse to NBC

It was raining as we headed to McAllen, but then we were invited via cellphone to join friends at the Old Hildago Pumphouse. No rain down there. 

We saw some birds that I didn't get photos of - primarily Catbirds and a Western Tanager. I would have loved the Tanager as I have never taken a picture of one, at least a male. The Black Phoebes were there, but at some distance, as they tend to be. 

We decided to stop by the National Butterfly Center on the way home. First we checked on the Monk Parakeets on Violet, and the Burrowing Owl up on the levee on the way over there. I was struggling with the lighting then, but eventually I got a little better handle on it. We visited for while with a Border Guard up on the levee. As we were parked right up the road from the RESTRICTED AREA sign he could have obviously hassled us, but they rarely seem to. There has been Owls nesting there for at least four years. He was interested in the Owls, even seems to have taken some ownership of them, I suspect because he recognizes that people value the birds. Lorna encouraged him to pick up one the bird I.D. folders at H.E.B.  It can't hurt to have a one more body on our side.












Overall I am pleased with the photo of the Black Phoebe on the giant pump intake pipe, the Clay-colored Thrush (nee Clay-colored Robin), and the Anhinga with pink throat pouch.

Your mileage may vary - Gunnar

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rufous vs Allen's?

Usually when you see a bird you cannot I.D. you just go to the species family section in a guide book or cellphone app and pick out the picture that looks like your bird. Sometimes not. A photo really helps. Sometimes.

Gunnar to Rick Snider: 
"Is this an immature male Rufous Hummingbird ... or female?" (versus an Allen's?)


Rick:
"To identify as a Rufous you have to have a clear spread-tail shot to see if there is a narrowing of the tip of R2 which the Allen's doesn't have. Often males have more rufous on their top tail feather, R1, females less. Spots in the throat are variable. Only adult males can be be identified as Rufous, rather than Allen's, if they have a substantially rufous back."

Gunnar: 
"I did get a rather poor photo of the Allen's at Justin LeClaire's backyard earlier in the week. Couldn't prove it by me, but Justin and the Delesantros did I.D. it."



Rick: 
"Yes, green in the center of the back of an adult male means Allen's in almost all cases. A small number of green backed males, percentage not well established at 2% in California, are green backed Rufous in which case they have to measure the width of R5 in the hand to prove it is an Allen's and not a green backed Rufous. In Justin's case with two green backed males one was banded and R5 measured to remove all doubt. The second male was not captured and measured so you have to go with the fact that 98% (or whatever) of the green backed ones are Allen's and call it an Allen's.

 Slightly less confused - Gunnar

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blue Buntings and Blue-headed Vireos

This year the pathways of the Quinta Mazatlan Estate are filled with hopeful birders from around the country hoping to get a look (or even a photograph!) of a Blue Bunting. This first year male Bunting (an adult would be fully blue) is a single rare stray from central Mexico which has drifted up across the border and set up camp at Quinta.

While I certainly enjoy seeing a rare bird, a beautiful bird, I saw and photographed one a couple of years ago and this one a few times this year. It really is wonderful to see the excitement of other the birders who have made a special trip to see it - or try to explain to non-birders what the hell all the excitement is about.   

I keep coming back hoping to get The Shot. So far, only okay photos. Here is today's "okay" shot.


Here are some more birds that happened in my line of fire. A sad one, look at the broken leg on the banded Curve-billed Thrasher.  Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Rufous Hummingbird (possible Allen's?). Blue-headed Vireo.







While the rest of the world was all a-twitter about a Blue Bunting, I was more excited about getting a photograph of a Blue-headed Vireo. It is only the second decent photo I have taken of the bird, the other was one I took in my Minnesota backyard last year. 

Day cut short. 90F and very humid - Gunnar

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Allen's Hummingbird

My picture is an I.D. photo at best. This bird was originally spotted in the backyard of a professional biologist in Edinburg, Texas. A number of knowledge folks have verified the identification as an Allen's Hummingbird. This morning we waited quite a while for it. Why all the above B.S.?  This bird is a West Coast bird that should not be here, and it is very difficult to separate the identification from the much more common Rufus Hummingbird. And I think it may be my first, or possibly second, "life bird" this season in the Valley. Not that I am counting.

And a some other things we saw in a Trailer Park on the banks of the Arroyo Colorado. I think the Golden-fronted Woodpecker is nice. And the Moscovy Duck if it wasn't feral. The grooming Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is okay, in a peaceful feeling Oriental way.






And damn, a larger than life-sized Labrador named Karl. That is really tough to beat in closing. - Gunnar

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Damn Marsh Wrens

Marsh Wrens are extreme introverts that do not like to be in the spotlight. And they are silly hard to get focused on in the cattails and sedges. Yesterday I was trying to get pictures of a close wren with a 200-500mm zoom lens. Jeez. I got a dozen or more pictures of tails and brown feather blurs.  You want wren photos? Talk to Lorna, not me.



Harumph - Gunnar

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Green Heron Feather Maintenace

I suppose there are folks who think a bright red, blue, or screaming orange and black bird are the most beautiful birds in the world. Maybe. I am not saying they are wrong, the perception of beauty is a very personal thing. I am just saying that apparently they haven't seen a Green Heron. 


Birds spend a lot of time in feather maintenance and this time of the year the  herons, particularly the males, seem to be either sleeping, eating or fussing with their feathers. The first shot below almost seems like an invasion of privacy. The heron is accessing the oil of it's preen gland which it will rub on it's feathers. Students, the word for today is uropygial gland.




Looks good; well done.    - Gunnar