Posts Tagged 'Texas'

Texas Flowers

cactuscactuscactuscactusprickly poppyThese are some flowers I’ve been hoarding to brighten and warm up a cold winter’s day.

Adios, Texas

Buteo swainsoniTalk about “road-side hawks”! A Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). Loooong wings. Didn’t look like there was anything on the road, yet the bird must have been attracted to something before oncoming traffic flushed it (we, of course, had already pulled off to the side of the road).Parabuteo unicinctusAnother roadie, the Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), telcom-poll percher par excellence. Those shoulders!Falco femoralisAn Aplomado Falcon nest (Falco femoralis). There is actually a bird in there, but she can’t really seen here. Note the cactus that has grown around the nest. Another bird, probably the male of the pair, was seen another day devouring something to shreds in the distance. I wish I’d gotten a closer look at this spectacular bird, which like many another falcon, was once highly endangered.Petrochelidon pyrrhonotaCliff Swallow colony (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) on one of the bridges over the Rio Grande. The birds have expanded their range thanks to that most unlikely of ecosystem enhancements, highway bridges.Myocastor coypusNutria (Myocastor coypus) or Coypu, the invasive “river rat,” a term that doesn’t suggest their roly-poly beaver-size.Spermophilus mexicanusMexican Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus mexicanus). Pictured, like more than one life-form on this trip, through the window of the van.Amazilia yucatanensisOr, in this case, slightly out-of-focus, because you know those hummingbirds, they don’t wait on us. But you do get the red bill and nominal belly of this male Buff-bellied (Amazilia yucatanensis).Pitangus sulphuratusGreat Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), a bird I really appreciated.

Ball Moss

Tillandsia recurvataBall moss (Tillandsia recurvata) isn’t actually a moss; it’s a flowering plant. This particular example was found on the ground after it had flowered. This plant is in the same genus as the famous dripping Spanish Moss (and both are in the same family as the pineapple). These not-mosses are epiphytes, aerial plants that attach to, but do not parasitize, trees — particularly liveoaks (Quercus virginiana and Q. fusiformis) — and even some fences and power lines.Tillandsia recurvataI was really intrigued by these. Those photographed in hand were found on the ground (I try to be as non-interventionist as possible), presumably snapped off in the wind. The plant likes dead wood best of all. I wonder how long they survive after hitting the ground?Tillandsia recurvataHere’s one above.

Great-Tailed Grackles

Quiscalus mexicanusQuiscalus mexicanusQuiscalus mexicanusQuiscalus mexicanusQuiscalus mexicanusQuiscalus mexicanusQuiscalus mexicanusThe Great-tailed Grackle, a.k.a. the Mexican Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). Big, bold, noisy, communal roosters. The first time I met them was in San Antonio some years ago. They spent the night in the trees along the River Walk. I was pooped upon. That’ll learn me. This time I enjoyed them from an angle.

In 1900, this species was barely recorded in the U.S. Since then, they’ve followed irrigation into the midwest and plain states, making them one of the fastest range-expanding species in North American. The Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major), which you will find along the East Coast’s shoreline, including in Jamaica Bay, was once thought to be the same species, but is now considered separate.

Frog, Turtle, ‘Gator

Lithobates catesbeianusBig Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus).Chelydra serpentinaBigger, much bigger: Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Possible looking for a place to exit the water and lay eggs (you need another reason to enforce the leash law in our parks?). Judging by the shell, I’d say I’ve seen this giant before. Also, even enormous Snappers start small; here’s a baby I found in Mass a couple of years ago.Alligator mississippiensisAnd much bigger still: an American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)Alligator mississippiensisSteady! Not in Brooklyn. Spotted on my Texas trip last month.


The Caprimulgidae family of goatsuckers are named because they were thought to suckle milk from goats. The Greeks thought so, and their man Aristotle was sure of it; the Romans ran with him, I mean, Aristotle, right? and then Linnaeus followed them. All wrong, like a good many other traditions: the birds are actually flying insect-gobblers; their tiny-looking bills opening wide to gaping bug-catching mouths, with bristles that may help channel even more bugs to their doom.

Classed in the Caprimulgidae are the nightjars, like the Whip-poor-will, one of which I spotted in Prospect Park a few years ago and the Chuck-will’s-widow, which I’ve only heard. (A few lucky Brooklynites saw one perched on a tombstone in Green-Wood this past weekend.)Nyctidromus albicollisThere is also the Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis). This is a ground-roosting species common throughout the American tropics and just a little tiny bit of the U.S. We saw some at Estero Llano Grande State Park. One was with her two young; the birds were so well ensconced in the brush they were hard to see and impossible to photograph. You can see how their plumage mixes in with leaf-litter. But this bird was much closer to the path:Nyctidromus albicollisThe “jar” of nightjar is thought to refer to the European Nightjar’s jarring call. Of such slender feathers are names built upon.

In addition to the nightjars, which are more fully nocturnal, the Caprimulgidae also include the nighthawks. These birds are more active at dawn and dusk, and with their pointed wings and swooping flight look rather hawkish, specifically falcon-like. The Common Nighthawk can be seen over Prospect Park. The Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis) is found only in our Southwest (and further south). We saw some of these overhead in Bentsen State Park at twilight, but got a really good look at one flying in the afternoon at the South Padre Island Convention Center (a birding hotspot, with garden and boardwalk). On our way out of the Convention Center grounds, which was host to a vroom-varoom! motorcycle convention, we saw this Lesser perched:Chordeiles acutipennis

TX Insects

HeteronemiidaeWalking Stick on Peter’s bins. Texas has at least 16 species. AttaLeaf-cutter ant (Atta texana) highway. The ants are returning to their sprawling underground colonies with leaf fragments, which, farmer-like, they feed to the fungus they actually eat.Micrathyria hageniiThornbush Dasher (Micrathyria hagenii).Erythrodiplax umbrataBand-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata).MyrmeleontidaeAntlion. This is the adult stage.antlionsWe saw many antlion traps, where buried nymphs wait for their lunch to fall down into the soft sand pits. txt6Large Carpenter bee of some kind in the bottlebrush. Anthanassa texanaTexan Crescents (Anthanassa texana) perpetuating the species.

Altamira Oriole

Icterus gularisBig bright male Altamira (Icterus gularis).Icterus gularisA nest in progress: a woven sack hanging from the branches. This species, which just barely makes it into South Texas, makes the largest nest in North America: they can be up to two feet long.Icterus gularisThe female is carrying something stringy here for this nest.Icterus gularisThis was another nest elsewhere. The female is weaving from the inside.Icterus gularisHere she surveys her surroundings.

Brooklyn’s own Baltimore Orioles (I. galbula), just now arriving on migration, make woven sack nests as well, but the results are much smaller. I’ve seen both males and females plucking at rope in Prospect to gather fibers for the structures. Their nests often persist through the winter, looking like shredded baseballs suspended from the bare trees.


Gallinula galeataThe Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), formerly known as the Common Moorhen, now “split” or separated from that Eurasian species (C. chloropus). Unlike the somewhat similar American Coot (Fulica americana), this bird doesn’t have lobbed toes. Porzana carolinaLook at the long toes on this Sora Rail (Porzana carolina). All the better for walking through oozy marshes.Porzana carolinaWe saw several Sora in a couple of different marshes. They are the least-elusive of the marsh rails: a few years ago, one was even in Prospect Park, showing itself regularly. (Clapper Rails, meanwhile, are relatively common in our parts, or at least their edges like Marine Park, but more likely to be heard than seen. But one was seen in Prospect Park yesterday.)Rallus limicolaVirginia Rail (Rallus limicola), most readily distinguished from the Sora by its longer red bill, which you can even see in this near-silhouette. Not unknown in Prospect, but I’ve never seen one anywhere until this one at Estero Llano Grande.

“Thin as a rail.” I’ve yet to see the holy grails of our rails: the King, the Yellow, and the tiny Black.

National Butterfly Center

National Butterfly CenterSouthern Texas is home to the greatest diversity of butterflies in the U.S., and the National Butterfly Center, in Mission, is in the thick of the action down there. November is the time to visit, but we didn’t do too badly. As a bonus, we flushed a pair of Bobwhite.

It was evidently emperor butterfly day the day were were there, with Asterocampa clytonTawny Emperors (Asterocampa clyton) galore.
Asterocampa clyton

Libytheana carinentaAlso associated with hackberries are American Snouts (Libytheana carinenta). They usually perch with wings closed, and so I was lucky to get this shot.

We saw various swallowtails, Red Admiral, Monarch, Gulf Fritillary, Mexican Blue-wing (wow!), American Lady, Pontia protodiceCheckered White (Pontia protodice)Danaus gilippusand one of the other milkweed butterflies, a Queen (Danaus gilippus). Actually, we saw a lot of these, a magical realist amount of them (pace, Gabo!) flying about the milkweed in bloom.Gymnetis caseyiSome Harlequin Flower Beetles (Gymnetis caseyi) was also attracted to the center’s butterfly “traps,” gooey-baited areas. As big as my thumb fingernail. Spectacular and scarab-y! Stenelytrana gigasAlso seen, these beetles, Stenelytrana gigas, intimately involved in making more of themselves; they are mimics of Tarantula Hawk wasps.

larvaI don’t know what caterpillar this is; didn’t want to trample the lovely wildflowers to get a shot from the other end. huskAnd this empty pupa was found elsewhere, but this seems like a good place to post it.

nbcI really liked their building and surrounds.


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