Archive for ‘Observations’

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


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!



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.