A Well Placed Sign

I think one of the reasons I am drawn to birding is the ever increasing challenge inherit in the activity. Like my other favorite pastime, running, the barrier to entry is pretty low. If you want to get started in running, all you really need to do is grab your favorite pair of sneakers, lace them on and pretty much go. Over time that gets to be easy so you think to yourself, maybe I will go further or perhaps try to go a bit faster the next time. Complete that bump in ability and next thing you know you are training for a marathon or some other crazy running related activity – wrapped up in all of this is the ongoing investment in tailored shoes, technical clothing and of course new breakthroughs in hydration and fuel.

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Compare that to birding. To get started, all you really need is to … well, go outside and look. There are very few places that are inhabitable, that doesn’t have at least one bird to look at if even a House Sparrow or Crow. Like Running, the desire to do more starts creeping in so you expand your circle and start acquiring a few reference books. Eventually you are planning your vacations around a particular bird and invested in some serious photography equipment. The challenge has escalated to getting a better shot of a bird or properly identifying a never seen before species. In Running and in Birding, the thrill of the accomplishment is the fuel that keeps the interest revving.

Sounds impressive doesn’t it – the struggle of man vs wild, overcoming incredible obstacles to get the shot and burning the midnight oil pouring through reference books barely able to keep the lids open enough to compare your blurry image to the hand drawn reference. That may be true for some situations, but don’t be fooled, there are times like this that are embarrassingly easy.

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Hit the jump to find out what this new bird is!

Continue reading A Well Placed Sign

Gator for Fast Food Delivery

The month counter has officially gone up by one which means the post count falls all the way back to zero. Figured it was time to give my non-birding friends a break from the barrage of birds last month. Don’t be fooled though, you are not out of the woods yet .. or more appropriately I guess, not out of the Gulf Coast yet. If things go as planned, there will be a bevy of new birds to read about this month from our Texas trips. First, let’s have a chuckle!

Birding Gator Speak for Food Delivery

That there is one scary beast. For some reason I really wasn’t thinking about the dangers of birding on my first trip to Texas several years back. It wasn’t until our second visit to Padre Island that we came face to face with a living dinosaur or rather BIG ASS LIZARDS. Our first day at Padre Island Birding and Nature Center back in January 2017, we saw a number of signs on the railings supposedly indicating an Alligator sighting. We didn’t see a single one that morning and both of us decided it was all a grand hoax to tease the visitors.

Alligators encountered while birding Texas in January 2017 - South Padre Island

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Gator shots we were able to get in the tin!

Continue reading Gator for Fast Food Delivery

Cha Cha Cha Went the Birdy’s Feet

Hope everyone is keeping warm wherever you happen to be. The Midwest is once again on a freezer lockdown as the temps plummet again into single digits. As I tell people, I really do not have a leg to stand on being that I choose to live in a state that experiences all of the seasons – the good with the bad, the perfects to the extremes. The irony of it all is Linda was quick to inform me tonight about the weather conditions in the very region we have been featuring this month, Texas. While we were down there over Christmas break, the temps were unseasonably cold. We went all the way to the Rio Grande and I didn’t get the chance to wear shorts once. The mercury essentially hung in the high 30s low 40s cresting once into the mid 50’s on the last day we were there. Don’t feel bad for us, our home town was experiencing -22 windchill. Our friends accused us of bringing the cold down to Texas and yes, it did warm up to mid 70’s the day after we left. Guess what, it is snowing in the Corpus Christie area and the windchill temps at South Padre are 18. Based on the covering we saw for 40’s, my guess is the locals were raiding grocery stores and bundled up like the kid in A Christmas Story.

Thanks to the web, you get to experience our latest southern Texas bird from the comfort of your home.

Plain Chachalaca shot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Freson Texas in January 2017

That rather strange looking bird is not a chicken although Cornell did imply it was a chicken relative. It isn’t a color deficient Peacock either. This happens to be a Plain Chachalaca. I can say without a doubt this is one of Linda’s least favorite birds to encounter in the wild – at least when I am around. For some reason the name makes me laugh. Upon initial discovery of the name, I thought it was pronounced Chawkalawka. Channeling my inner child this was uttered in a deep long drawn out verbalization – think lost rainforest tribe dancing around a fire chanting to the fire gods. Every time Linda and I encountered one I was obligated to inform Linda of its arrival by repeating my new tribal influence moniker. Chaw Ka La Ka Chaw Ka La Ka Chaw Ka La Ka Ugga Ooga-chaka, ooga-ooga hooked on feeling I’m high on believing that you’re in love with me.

Plain Chachalaca shot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Freson Texas in January 2017

Hit the jump to find out more about the Plain Chachalaca.

Continue reading Cha Cha Cha Went the Birdy’s Feet

Another Find in Sticky Mud

If you have not noticed yet, I am definitely trying to make the most of the extended holiday weekend. It is amazing how much more you can get accomplished with 24 additional hours to consume – not to mention the weather down in the teens with a good wind punching up the chill factor tends to keep me inside in the warm den. Most of you should know by now, ever since starting the sister site Wildlife Intrigued, I try to keep my social interactions/observations/commentaries out of the wildlife related posts preferring to keep those dedicated posted only on the Life Intrigued flagship site. However, there are times when those experiences are too intriguing (in this case read hilarious) that I can’t wait. As a quick one, my wife recently placed an order at a local pizza joint. This particular establishment has odd sizes for their orders always prompting a discussion on what size we should order just for the two of us. I heard her ask the order taker on the phone for assistance on the average number of people a particular size offering could feed. She then went silent with a quizzical look on her face followed by a muffled chuckle. She later told me the reason for the reaction – the clerk indicated he wasn’t sure, “but it does come in eight pieces”. I’ll let that sink in a bit if the humor hasn’t already materialized.

Meanwhile, how about we get to the real feature of post.

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

No surprise here, ANOTHER birding find from our trip to Texas back in January 2017. Like the last post on the Altamira Oriole, this new addition to my birding list comes to us courtesy of Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. Thanks to an overheard response by the ranger at the visitor center, we now refer to this birding hotspot as the Sticky Mud Lagoon. A visitor wanted to know what Atascosa stood for…a question we had never thought to ask. Now we all know thanks to a knowledgeable employee. This southwestern Buteo became quite the stumper when trying to ID it. The rufous coloring on the shoulders initially led me down the Red-Shouldered Hawk path.

 

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

The rather clear white breast left a lot of skepticism once I had confirmed the Red-Shouldered has a fairly barred chest and lot more streaking on top of the wings. A quick search of southern hawks produced the possibility of the Harris’s Hawk. The region was localized to the south Texas region, so that was a positive. Definitely has the red shouldering, but based on reference shots of that particular Buteo, it appeared the marking on the Harris’s is significantly larger than the patch on our specimen. A quick validation of the chest coloring knocked that ID out of contention. The Harris’s sports a dark breast and carries the reddish coloring down through the leg feathering. I am pretty familiar with the Hawks in the Midwest and those encountered out west. The large size (larger than the common Red-Tailed) of this one and more solid markings were not aligning. Opting to look at each and every Hawk in my reference books, eventually came to the conclusion that this particular specimen was likely a White-Tailed Hawk. This was initially dismissed because the reference book shots has the long wings moved off of the tail giving me the impression the tail was always visible and distinctively white. In reality they have very long pointed wings that do hide their white tail feature. There is also a black tail band near the tip. If you look closely at the two pictures above you will just barely see it between the twigs of the tree. Fairly certain on my end, I sent it off for confirmation from my brother Ron. His first response was “Red-Shouldered” which prompted a recounting of the process that got me to the White-Tailed. Upon further analysis and some dead on reference shots on the web we are now in complete agreement – a new +1 and yes, another bird Ron will have to make an effort to catch up on. For reference, here is the backside of the Hawk showing the fairly solid coloring and those long tapered wings.

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

Linda and I encountered this bird on the way out of the refuge. The day was coming to a close, but following my golden rule, of “If you see it, shoot it”, made Linda pull to the side so I could get a few shots in the tin – thus the limited perspectives. I already covered some of the unique aspects of this new bird. To add a couple more facts, the white tail and black band is unique for Buteos in North America – had I been able to get an inflight shot, the ID could have been a lot easier. They seem to be the Hawk with the largest latitude span extending down into the Caribbeans. Lastly, juveniles have a 15% longer tail than adults – their tail feathers are not able to cover that length completely. Our specimen besides being very large, had sufficient coverage indicating it is indeed an adult.

That’s all I have for you on this particular bird. Hope you enjoyed reading about my latest addition. Now regarding the conversation on pizza size. I hope you realize by now, that the number 8 is the standard cut format for pizzas – half, half, mid slices which always produces … wait for it … 8 slices regardless of the size of the pizza and thus why my math major wife found it so amusing.

Should Have Known to Look Up

Going for the trifecta with today’s featured post. If you have been following along, we are all about the big state of Texas here at the headquarters of Intrigued. More specifically, we are laser focused on pushing my bird count up thanks to a number of visits to the Gulf Coast – wiping the sweat from our brows, pounding Alleve to counter the swelling in our fingers from typing and rubbing our eyes from pouring over reference books to properly ID the backlog of images we are trying to get through. Like the last post on the Vermilion Flycatcher, our current focus of attention was pretty easy on the ID front.

Altamira Oriole shot at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge Texas January 2017

Up to this point, I have been able to cover our local Baltimore Oriole (link here). Thanks to a trip to South Dakota I was able to add the Orchard Oriole to the mix (link here). Adding to this growing collection of Orioles, a visit to the Red Rocks Ampitheatre produced a surprising Bullock’s Oriole (link here). Not a bad haul when it comes to the Oriole family. With those, I pretty much had the northern, east and west staples covered. Turns out, I can now add the southern tip of Texas – and I mean the very southern tip.

Altamira Oriole shot at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this Oriole family member.

Continue reading Should Have Known to Look Up