Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lifer...The Flower Center, The Government Box works

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One of the reasons I had to hustle back yesterday was to make a meeting in Austin at this Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on some items pertaining to my Federal permits. I have never been there before so decided that by gum this was a grand opportunity to educate myself, see the place The last time I was at the Wildflower Center was when it was under the radio towers just north of Platt's Road at Hornsby, so let's see , hmm, ....that's been like 5-6 years ago :-) Even met Lady Bird there !

I greatly feared the drive into Austin, but got the directions off Google and with white knuckles made my way into town. I might as well have been in Denver for all I could tell. Nothing looked like anything I could remember and Slaughter @ Brodie Lane totally toasted my mind. It was a 42 mile drive to the center but I got there alive. I am VERY glad that they call it the Wildflower CENTER, for it was 100% completely different than anything I expected. For all these years I have heard about this place, I had painted up a picture of it in my head. A huge tract of land devoted to wildflowers and native plants. A deep limestone canyon or something draped with Maiden Hair Fern, a rambling brook all sorts of fancy trails towered over by Texas Oak and ancient Ashe Juniper etc.

Heck I wore my hiking boots, wore my camera, brought my water bottle and figured I had just as good a chance as anyone else out there to find the FOS Golden-cheeked Warbler! In short I had in my mind a place that was a bit like Turkey Creek with a parking lot and a place that sold potted plants and T-Shirts next to rows of Port-o-potties or something......I am not sure what I thought but it sure as hell was not what I expected .....For sure I saw no Golden-cheekeds. I remember dropping of Dan Brooks near the entrance off of Loop 1 years ago when that road was under construction as his wife worked there but I did not go in.

Don't get me wrong here now, I think the place is wonderful. I found it delightful and interesting. There were none of the small fields of planted wildflowers that I thought there would be like out there near Fredricksberg but there was a lot of neat sculpture and turtles so tame I thought they were fake until I tossed a tiny pebble on one. Noticed that their Mexican Plum is not even budding whilst mine is in damn near full bloom....Elevational thing I guess. Everything mostly was dead and shrivelled up there, I suspect from that real cold weather a few weeks back. But there is some pretty rock work and art and they sell all sorts of stuff if you want it, and way more than I had a chance to look at. Was glad I went and finally saw it but can never be be what I always imagined it was again. And while I would never have made it there without this meeting, I would recommend a visit to anyone going into that part of town for sure.

That is the other thing, somehow I had it in my mind this was way out somewhere. At least a few miles out of town. Shucks it will soon be a downtown park it appears the way Austin is growing. San Antonio has it's Brackenridge Park and Zoo. Austin needs it's Hornsby and Wildflower Center. I can very much appreciate all of the many 100'000's of dollars and volunteer hours it must have taken to put the wildflower center together Would not mind seeing it when the flowers there are in bloom. It was a very busy place today though I was in the auditorium most of the afternoon. I went 3-4 hours early, lots of kiddos. Should have researched it better and would have better known what to expect..

Ladd, I finally put that little old TV up on a table thingy and hooked up the government converter box. After piddling with it a while it came on. All it seems to have though is low budget Latino comedies and soap operas and I don't speak Spainish so those ain't fun, and there is Foxx...But I can't understand stupid. Oh well there is a damn TV here at least for a few days. Hope these posts come out right, I'm tired and hurrying. Just catching up.


Webb Co. Amish, Home

Piddled around Webb Co. some more, finding some fair things but nothing of great note The deer somehow sense that season is over as they were obvious and everywhere. All the San Antonio and Houston Bubbas sure missed some trophies or decided to let them alone as breeding stock. I saw some grand bucks.

Looked one more time for the Cassin's Vireo briefly in Freer but still missed it, though a Sedge Wren was a big surprise. Migrant? I would have never have expected one of those in a patch of hackberries. An opossum was curled up in a ball in a portion of some old nest to sleep away the day. Hardly an animal of this country either.

Nothing else occurred and I drove up 59 toward home. Came to 796 and decided to stop by and see if John was home (John the Wheatear guy). I drove up to the enterence but saw several birders aimlesssly milling around down there so passed on that and went over to the store where David said John and the other boys were down in Tyman building a fertilizer barn anyway. I bought a quart of honey and a big tub of fresh churned butter. What was cool was that out there by where they shoe horses were two of the biggest turnips I have ever seen in my life. You think you seen big turnips?! These two were larger than basketballs and they likely weighed 12-14 lb.s ea. We talked a while then some folks came in with eggs so I left.

Down that same road that the store is on but a mile or so north, were a couple of birders that were out walking along the road. I guess they had already scored on the Wheatear and were looking for Lincoln's Sparrows or something. The lady with the brilliant red and blue coat looked like she knew what she was doing. Or maybe they were faking it, just waiting for me to drive past far enough so he/she could potty....Hey I do that sometimes :-)I got back to Utley a bit before dark tired, but in time to have 8 Sandhill Cranes say good evening.

Feb.27 through March 1
Within moments of finishing my note of Feb. 17., I received a key in the mail that provided me access to properties I needed to access the next day, the last of February, in the mail. The problem is the area was 200 miles away in one of my least favorite regions of the state, but nonetheless I threw a few things in the truck and was gone within minutes .....leaving the poor cat behind with minimal chow (I forgot).

I arrived near Liverpool 4 hours later in the dark and completely worn out. Had a restless night and extremely early morning. Blurry eyed the next morning, I was trying to relocate some properties with poorly marked gates not only in the dark but also a dense fog.I finally found the place(s) I wanted then after many problems with gates, got into some old farming areas....Sugar cane field many years ago...Rice mostly today. I birded there nearly all day and saw a lot of nice things in an area I can only describe as an utter maze of new and very, very old irrigation ditches and canals. I drove many a mile birding here , often just trying to get from point A to point B.

As I said, when I arrived it was very foggy but as I was on sort of a dike road, if it could be called that, I looked ahead with my bins and saw 3 Short-eared Owls perched on the road in the dim light. Early on SEOWs were just all over the place to be be replaced shortly after wards by harriers as the morning got brighter. I even flushed a couple of owls during the day! They must be in migration.

Twice I got stuck, but only once seriously. So seriously that I thought I would have to walk for miles for help as there was no possible way to describe my physical location or how to get to where I was except by GPS which was worthless for that purpose with canals every 200 yards........After an hour and the loss of 2 nice 2 X 10" boards brought along especially for this purpose, my shovel and several cords of found dead wood under the truck I managed to get out by some miracle. I was completely muddy and exhausted but still had the rest of the birding day to finish. The rest of the day was uneventful except for the frustration of locks and the endless back tracking because of some of them. I did see a single Cassin's Sparrow which really caught me off guard for Brazoria Co. and there was a single Couch's and Vermilion Flycatcher too. I am no expert on the UTC but a CASP in this country at this time of year has to be a pretty damn good bird.

I must have just missed clouds of geese/ducks it seemed.. I did not see or hear a single one but found closely cropped fields where 1000's or 10'000's must have been given the fact that there was poop everywhere...It looked like hail stones in one field. What grand fertilizer that would be in a garden. Some of it seemed still mushy as though left just yesterday. But when geese decide to go, they get.

Finally, I finished my birding day late in the afternoon and wanted to get on the road. I wanted to try to get to Rockport, but just could not stay awake during the drive, so called Petra who let me stay downstairs so I could avoid a lousy motel. Passed out asleep almost immediately after getting there. It rained that night lightly. Remember that I got stuck so bad the day before? A hell of a lot of that mud came off in her drive with that rain. She sent me "Thank You" Photo the next day. I left so early the next morning I did not notice it.

Yes I left there at dawn the next morning and birded the CTC down to Kleberg Co. before I decided a visit over to Freer might be fun. It was very windy. I was surprised to find a new location for Mountain Plovers off 665 in Jim Wells Co. 14-15 of them. I looked for the Cassin's Vireo in Freer but did not find it, but north of town in the cemetery I found two Ground Doves. One so bright red and with so little white in the tail, that you know I thought it had to be a male, a male, ah maybe hum, a male Santa Claus? :-)

The next morning bright and early I headed way on down to Webb Co. for some fun birding ....Working on my "List" you know :-) What was utterly desolate and bare ground just 2 months ago is now a carpet of yellow and pink flowers everywhere. Everything in bloom and gorgeous. I did not find much of note except a large rattlesnake, Rock Wren, and 2 Sandhill Cranes in a very odd location. Cassin's Sparrows were singing everywhere. The Lark Buntings are thinning out and the males are beginning to look real sharp. The Verdin's are singing and nest building.....I have still to hear or see a single quail of any species in this country.......Last time I was here the ground doves were all courting. It was hard to find a single one this time around as I assume they are now breeding (?).....Great Horned Owls are just everywhere and the Harris's Hawks are all gone off to nests . Things happen fast.....So much change in just a matter of a few days. There is so much more I could write about this country.....Maybe someday. Found a nice arrowhead.