Friday, May 14, 2010

Gecko Proof Moth

  At the Cabin with the Gecko People.

    Once the sun sets in warm weather and when I keep the lights down, my friends the Gecko people emerge from behind picture frames and bookcases  looking for nice tasty insects to eat.  I have no shortage of geckos with maybe more than 10-12 that share the cabin with me.  Some are quite large pushing 4" or so,while others are tiny sprites likely just hatched.
   I was raised in the days of screen doors and any time I held door open for more than a couple of seconds back then , someone would surely screech out for me to shut it "so the bugs don't get in".  Those days have long since vanished around here.  I don't have screens on the doors, but don't always leave them open either, especially during June Bug season.  But still after dark I leave the front porch light on and the front door open so as to supply my gecko people with a nightly buffet for maybe 30-40 minutes.  This "in-flight" usually consists of moths, craneflies and other small insects, including beetles.   Soon there are numbers of insects on the ceilings and walls and the door is shut.

  I turn off the lights as I go to sleep. Sometimes after I turn off the lights after resting a bit, maybe an hour, I then suddenly turn the lights back on seeing 4-7 Geckos on the ceilings and walls scarfing up on the goods.  They know the drill. I awaken the morning to find every single moth, beetle, cranefly etc. has vanished, consumed by my herd of geckos,...Yes sir there is not a bug to be found on the wall ceilings or anywhere.....With one BIG exception.  This moth on the right ( Hypoprepia miniata - Scarlet-winged Lichen Moth). Abundant at this time of year, these moths are often found in the dozens at my lights, but the gecko people want nothing to do with them at all.  Won't touch them for nothing so these moths are the sole remaining insects I find in the house the following morning.  They must be very non-tasty, toxic or the colors ward off the geckos.  It is a curious thing.
  The only other invert I find in the house in the mornings is the occasional bark scorpion.  In fact I figure a scorpion would eat a tiny gecko if it could.  Oh well, just how it goes around here.  Family matters can be boring for those not involved.

  I like geckos, and reckon it would be a sadder place to live without them. Sometimes I find their little black and white turds on a counter top or in the bath tub, by day they are ghosts behind walls and in crevices.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Some recent Migration stuff from the Texas coast.

  Over the past few days I have birded Port O'Connor intermittently as well other private properties in nearby counties.   There was a lot more than I can cover within this single blog as I am running behind.  Things are for sure winding down and the south winds are sure helping the migrants by pass the immediate coast....A good thing.
   This morning I passed a rice field being flooded for the 2nd time on 1289 just south of 238 in Calhoun Co what already has sprouted tiny rice.  It will be a fantastic place to bird tomorrow (May 8) and the day after.  I had little time to bird it as most of the water was way back in the field, but already there were hordes of Franklin's Gulls, Gull-billed Terns,m Hudsonian Godwits and White-rumped Sandpipers moving in.  I heard bird I have never heard before coming in, but will keep that thought to my self as I can not be sure to ID.  Saw 3 Black Terns over the field as well. The first of 1000's to come I hope.   Made no effort to count species/individuals but this field as well as the Indianola and Magnolia Beach fields should be hopping now as there is no forecast for rain and the farmers appear to be forced to buy water from the GBRA.  The rice is flooded late this year so the farmers will for sure have to contend with blackbirds after post season breeding by those birds, just as the grain is milky and soft..  A Purple Gallinule in an irrigation ditch was nice.
  Yesterday when we were with Tom and Kay Flores they had asked me about Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Kay Flores still wants one.  I had a single SY male with Red-wingeds on the newly flooded 1289 field.
  Folks reading this....If you want anything to do with rice fields this for year, this weekend may be your last shot before the rice gets too high or deep to see the smaller sandpipers.  Our count over the past 3 days is up to 23 Shorebird species with the Whimbrel at least, and maybe 24 if someone had a Long-billed Curlew I do not remember.  Also 3 Ibis species along with many other "wet spring" birds, including Grasshopper Sparrows, Dickcissels etc. etc..
   The only recent birds I have added to my Port O'Connor Square Mile project was a Mississippi Kite and "Brewster's " Warbler, although I am pretty sure I got on a female Oporonis yesterday evening though I could not be sure of the ID and it was wary given the number of folks present, I suspect it was Mourning, a bird I still need for POC this spring....  I just do not understand how certain areas on Galveston Is. can churn this genus out in numbers in the spring while I bust butt to find 1 or 2 every year.   Oh well they will be no problem in the fall.  The only other Wood Warbler I can hope to reasonably get is Black-throated Blue, but I may have missed that window now.
   I have my BBS stuff in hand now and once the swallow/Black Tern migration is complete I will do those vast corn fields again :-)

  Other counties just north and well east of Calhoun Co. seem very lackluster to me this spring while the brush lands of S. Texas  rock!  Spectacular.... Anyway just a quick unedited update for now.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Lesser Nighthawks in a Blinding World

Blinded by the light.

   I had the opportunity to visit/trespass on an old caliche quarry today in Jim Hogg Co.  I just saw the open gate and ask an old Mexican guy in a pick-up getting mail there if I could go in, noting his license plate just in case.  I was looking for something specific and pretty much found it.  He just waved me in .  I am not sure he understood me.  I had hit this location only once before in the dead of winter years ago and it is very remote.  A few of the old S. Texas birders like Arvin, Willie or Ben likely know of it.  It has the old 1930-early 50's bulldozer rusting away about 1/4 mile in on the "road" which is private on the left. (too bad someone filled that antique with bullet holes)  I got there and there was quite a bit of water in various very clear pools but nothing of note on the water in terms of birds.  The bare surface of the quarry even after maybe 60+ years of quarrying,  still shows little growth in terms of vegetation but there are patches.  I drove around a bit then walked.  It was very hot down there out of the breeze and other than fast four-legged herps very little movement.  That is until I started flushing up Lesser Nighthawks.  I flushed perhaps 16-17 in the about 3-4 acres or so but none appeared to be nesting or with eggs yet as far as I could tell.  How strange their calls are while still on the ground before being flushed.

By 11:00 it was very hot and very bright in this near pure white situ..  Have you ever read a book in the bright sunlight for 30 minutes and then try to see what was around you after the looking up from the white pages of the book?   Multiply that 2X and that is what I was feeling when I got back into the truck...I bet it took 6-7 minutes for my eyes to adjust back to the light inside the truck.   But it appears this is where the LENIs want to be....I can not even imagine how hellishy hot it must be 20 ft. down in that quarry in June as it was likely 88-90 this morning before noon.  I tried to take photos of some stuff but I could not even see the display on my little camera (which BTW is on it's last leg) to see what I was photographing....There is one sort of yellow flowered plant that seems to thrive down in the pit but while I know it well I do not know it's name.  Also in some of the large rain pools that were crystal clear to 3-4 ' deep there were tadpoles in the blue-green water feeding on God only knows what..   I may well be the last birder to see this quarry as I noted that the old highway fence has been bulldozed down recently....Likely in preparation for one of those damn ME-ME 8' foot high game fences.    They are strangling this state!
  The only other thing of note today was finding a dead badger on  JH Co. Rd. 339.  I looked in vain for Varied buntings in good habitat but failed to turn up any in Jim Hogg but drove thru Much good habitat for them in the short mesquite drainages.  Unfortunately I did not have the time for much piddle birding as I wished....I will say that on some of the back roads I had far more White-tipped Doves calling than I would have expected and Olive Sparrows and Bullock's Orioles were everywhere.  Far more than I saw or heard in the Valley. Hooded  Orioles aplenty where there was good habitat, but the Audubon's seem to be getting less vocal.....One of these days I hope to just walk, say 2-3 miles of one of my favorite deserted highways in the spring  when I have no where else to be.  Bet you would like to know that highway right. (wink)

  I would like to mention the Border Patrol station on 59 in Webb Co..   There is nearly always a group of 5 Ch. Ravens in that area ....Yesterday they were right where the road graders were parked and fearless.  I asked two of the agents if they were there all the time and if they fed them , but they did not have a clue what I was talking about....I mean I could have well just asked them about Elmer's Glue or Uranus ( not Ur Anus)...You know what I mean....They are killing their 3 puny ornamental yucca plants there with dog pee though because that is where they always take them to to their business. I always see dogs peeing on those poor plants when I go thru there.   There are tractor tires everywhere better suited, but they have to take them to the only ornamental plants there to do their thing....Lady Bird Johnson would have a fit.  An OD of nitro and salt....not needed right next to 160F summer surface asphalt.

  Anyway it is late, but it took me a long time to get over that pure white caliche and bright sun.  Tomorrow is another day.  Do it while you can.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Roots and Anis

    Well while not really nature oriented I thought I would show you what the roots of a giant wind turbine look like.  As you can see the base concrete has been already poured into a hole of unknown depth.  The remainder will go into the rebar fashioned octagonal shape above that.  The visible hole here is about 9-10' deep..  The structure is, I am guessing about 30 yds. across.  As you can see they are built to stay.  I took this photo this morning.  As you can see they are built to last and survive some pretty tough hurricanes.

   I saw lots of Anis today which was nice as I don't usually see them in the spring in such numbers.  Starting to feel like summer but with the rains the wildflowers are sure pretty along the back roads.