Skip to main content

King Ranch

I've had a great time at the tail end of the American Birding Association convention - the bit I got to attend. Today, we went to the famous King Ranch, an iconic spot for Texas birders. This massive ranch sprawls over 825,000 acres and is chock full of wildlife. We saw Collared Peccaries, lots of White-tailed Deer, Armadillo, and of scores of birds, of course.

In the photo above, we're out scanning one of the wetlands on the ranch, and it was packed with birds. In all we saw about 105 species today, and many in good numbers. Our guides were Tom Langscheid and Steve Shunk, and they were extraordinary. Tom was instrumental in setting up guided ecotours through the diverse habitats of the King Ranch, and many birders now pass annually through the gates seeking rare species such as Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

The King Ranch's wetlands were a feast for the eyes, and I could have spent all day perusing them. In the foreground are a half-dozen Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, and many more than that at the top of the photo. A Roseate Spoonbill looms large, and there is a Black-necked Stilt at the bottom right. Olive Sparrows and Bullock's Orioles serenaded the group from surrounding shrublands, and the cast of avian characters dropping into the water changed continuously.

A subadult Swainson's Hawk drifts overhead. Note the really long wings, suitable for carrying the bird on its annual peregrinations between the Great Plains and Argentinian wintering grounds. We also saw the Fuertes subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk, several White-tailed Hawks, and insane numbers of Crested Caracaras.

It would pay to look twice before dipping one's foot in the water. Many an American Alligator was loafing about, sizing up the prey.

I'm now down in Harlingen, Texas, in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, and looking forward to some essentially Mexican birding. There's been a Blue Bunting and Crimson-collared Grosbeak hanging around the Frontera Audubon Center and I'll try for those tomorrow. Those two are major rarities, and would be new U.S. birds for me. Get 'em or not, I'll surely see lots of interesting things down here.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…