Archive for ‘Nature Notes’

Puffball

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This adorable little fungus reminds me of an upside down butternut squash. I’m lousy at identifying mushrooms so much so that I refuse to forage them. I’ll admit, I am wary of fungi. Especially after learning of the author Nicholas Evans’ horrific experience. He grew up mushrooming so no one questioned the contents of his basket before he sautéd them and served the whole family. Nicholas and his wife and two children had to go on dialysis for years. Yep, I’ll stick to just admiring them.

Our Other Pelican

The American White Pelican is one of the largest birds in North America with a nine foot wingspan.  I watched the entire bathing process of this pelican. It showed little concern for myself or other landlubbers…

Brown Pelicans

This photogenic male is rocking his colorful breeding plumage about a month early. He definitely stood out from the flock the other day in Port Aransas. Brown Pelicans are one of America’s greatest conservation success stories. In 1903, the precipitous decline in their numbers led President Theodore Roosevelt to establish Pelican Island, our country’s first wildlife refuge. When removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009 biologists estimated there were over 190,000 breeding pairs in North America.

While Brown Pelicans typically feed by diving into the water with a tremendous splash, thereby stunning small fish, I was treated to a less dramatic display. These pelicans were taking great gulps of water while floating in the shallows. After tilting their heads down to drain excess liquid from their throat pouch they tossed their heads back to swallow their catch. Gulls hovered nearby, hoping to take advantage of any escapees.

Shark Eye

The Shark Eye Moon Snail (Neverita duplicata) is a predatory mollusk found along the Gulf Coast. The empty shells are highly coveted by Hermit Crabs. This one was still alive so I carefully tucked it back into the small hollow in the shallows.

Fiddler Crab Lives Here

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Denizens of saltmarsh edges, Mudflat Fiddler Crabs (Uca rapax) are excavators extraordinaire. Much of their lifestory is evident in the landscaping outside their burrows. Scritches in the sandy mud form when they claw up and ingest the soil. After siphoning out any organic matter, they roll up the leftover sediment and spit it out in little balls. The larger balls in the photo are the byproduct of burrow expansion.

Sadly, I didn’t see the crab so I couldn’t tell you the sex of the burrow owner (while female claws are both the same size, males have one enlarged claw called a chela). A male attracts a mate by waving his big appendage around. No correlation to the human male. Nope, none at all.