Archive for ‘Nature Notes’

Crab Dinner

I enjoyed watching this determined Willet (Tringa semipalmata) crunch and munch a small fiddler crab into an ingestible size. Though seemingly a drab brown/gray bird, they are attention getting in flight with their bold black and white wings. Num, num!

Bath Time

The Laughing Gulls made the best of the freshwater puddles after the big rain last week. I liked the water droplets in these photos…

Here to Stay

Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) are common worldwide with most breeding in the northern tundra. There are some down here along the Gulf Coast, however, that choose to not go the extra mile and stay here year round instead. Currently, they are rocking their bold “calico” breeding plumage. These short and stocky shorebirds busily use their strong bills to probe the soil or turn over rocks for tasty morsels (hence their common name).

Energetic Egret

Compared to the staid demeanor of the majority of the heron family, the entertainment value of the Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) is off the charts! While the others tend to approach hunting as a study in patience, the Reddish jumps, spins, and flaps its way to a meal. I spent hours the other afternoon captivated by this one’s antics. (The distinction between heron and egret is a bit fuzzy – all egrets are herons but they generally have white feathers and produce white plumes during mating season.)

Surprisingly, this charismatic and active egret has been poorly studied. The species suffered greatly during the plumed hat craze of the late 1800s. Texas Parks and Wildlife estimates there are less than 2,000 nesting pairs in the nation and they are listed as Threatened in this state.

Best to listen to the video with the sound off, I apologize, it was extremely windy that day.

Pretty, Deadly

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This Eastern Coral Bean (Erythrina herbacea) is very similar to the Western Coral Bean (Erythrina flabelliformis) I grew up with in Tucson. Interestingly, the Eastern has been found growing in isolated populations in Southern Arizona, believed to have been imported through trade by the Mogollon culture. Both species owe their common name to their vibrant red seeds. The plant is full of toxic compounds that can cause paralysis when ingested.

The seeds have been used to make personal adornments, like necklaces, for thousands of years. I once read that Spanish missionaries made rosaries out of them and when they kissed the beads they inhaled the powder and were sickened. Perhaps poetic justice for forcing Catholicism and fealty to the crown onto the indigenous cultures?

 

Nesting Season

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I discovered this egg rolling in the waves on the beach a few days ago. Based on a bit of research, I’ve determined it came from a Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla). They are the most prominent birds here and we are smack in the middle of nesting season. In fact, part of the Rockport Beach peninsula is closed right now to protect the nesting area. Several stages of the season were observable.

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Mating Laughing Gulls, Rockport, Texas May 2019

Is it just me, or does she look irritated?

To actual nesting:

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Laughing Gull Pants in the Heat While Nesting, Rockport, Texas May 2019

The pair will take turns tending the nest during the three to four week incubation period. I have yet to see any hatchlings but I hear that they are exceedingly well camouflaged so it will prove to be a challenge.