Archive for ‘Nature Notes’

Frog Life

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In an interesting coincidence I had two encounters with American Green Treefrogs today.  I awoke this morning to discover a flock of White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) aerating my lawn. The hungry horde probed their long bills into the St. Augustine grass seeking out large insects and small creatures. This ibis was incredibly pleased to nab an American Green Treefrog. Don’t tell Kermit, he just lost a relative.

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This afternoon while strolling through the Ivy Lane Nature Preserve I spotted this little one living up to its name. Found in America: ✓ Skin color green: ✓ In a tree: ✓ Is a frog: ✓. Nailed it!

Kermit!

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This adorable American Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) has taken refuge in my outdoor laundry area. We didn’t get that personal but I believe this to be a male since he is so tiny and I think I saw some wrinkling under the throat (indicating a vocal pouch which would expand so he can loudly advertise for a mate). Oh, and their call? Sounds a lot like a cowbell. More cowbell, baby! This little guy can hang out all he wants since they are ravenous insectivores. Anybody that eats mosquitoes is good by me!

Bubble Butt

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Last week during the Whooping Crane Festival I had a chance to revisit the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK). During my first tour a dozen years ago I was charmed by the charismatic and dedicated founder Tony Amos. With his British accent, twinkling eyes, and infectious enthusiasm it was easy to become a supporter of his efforts.

Sadly, in 2017, just over a week after Hurricane Harvey caused massive damage to the ARK facilities, Amos passed away. Thankfully, all the animals at the ARK survived the storm and the organization continues to fulfill Amos’ mission of rescuing and rehabbing sea turtles and migratory birds.

Though five of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found in the Gulf of Mexico the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is the most common patient at the ARK. The nearby Aransas Pass is an incredibly busy shipping channel, Corpus Christi is the 4th largest harbor by tonnage in the U.S. So it should come as no surprise that many sea turtles have been struck by boats.

The damage to their carapaces can cause air to get stuck inside, a condition called bubble butt. The air bubble makes the turtles more buoyant making it harder for them to feed and avoid predation and other dangers. Sometimes, the issue resolves itself as the turtle gains strength and the animal is released. (Note the discolored bump on the top of the shell. Not the best photo, I know but they are faster than you might think.)

Oh, Deer!

I know most wildlife enthusiasts suggest getting out first thing in the morning but I’m not much of an early bird. No worms for me, thanks anyway. Happily, I find that late afternoon/early evening is also an active time. On my most recent visit to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge I came across five different groups of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

That should come as no surprise since Texas has the largest White-tailed population in North America, with an estimated four million of them. Interestingly,  I noticed that mosquitoes were quite fond of the deer (note the dark spots on the face of the deer in the second photo). Pretty sure she wanted to borrow my bug repellent.

Cute Little Face

 

I found a couple unusual specimens washed up on the Rockport Beach recently. Topping out at 10 inches long, the Striped Burrfish (Chilomycterus schoepfi) is a resident of coastal estuaries.

Just looking at their tiny fins one can guess that they aren’t fast or agile swimmers. It is thought that their ability to inflate (similar to a puffer fish) helps them avoid predation.

They don’t need to be fast to catch their prey of shellfish, barnacles, and occasionally, crabs. Their beak-like jaws help them chow down on their crunchy diet. Note to beachgoers, their spines can be hard on bare feet!

Solitary No More

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At one time, the Blue-headed, Plumbeous, and Cassin’s Vireos were considered the same species called Solitary Vireo. Using genetic evidence the species were officially separated by the American Ornithological Union in 1997. While touring Aransas National Wildlife Refuge I was captivated by this vibrant Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius). I watched it hop around the live oak trees for a good twenty minutes. Mercifully, it halted for a brief respite so I could capture this image. Thank you, little one.

Don Quixote’s Lance

 

Several of these yuccas, also known as Spanish Dagger (Yucca treculeana), were blooming during my recent visit to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. They are not only showy but every part of this amazing plant can be utilized.

The flower stalk and blossoms are both edible, as are the young leaves and the fleshy fruit. The fibrous leaves are a source of cordage, not just prehistorically but also during WWI when roughly 80 million pounds were collected in New Mexico and Texas to compensate for the jute shortage.

Lastly, the roots produce an excellent soap, called amole, which is prized as a shampoo. Oh, I mustn’t neglect to mention all the various decoctions and medicinal uses. Not just a pretty plant!