Saturday, November 10, 2012

Eastern Screech-Owl at Bentsen

This Eastern Screech-Owl was seen by the 38 participants on this morning's Lower Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival field trip to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. It apparently roosts right next to the road on many days, but some days it goes to another spot that apparently isn't visible from the road. We were lucky today.

We saw lots of the valley's specialties here, especially at the feeders maintained by the state park. These Green Jays created lots of oohs and aahs.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Birding in The Lower Rio Grande Valley

I'm in Harlingen, Texas for five days of leading field trips for the excellent Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. The first two days have been great. Yesterday I did one of the "Big Day" field trips with Willie Sekula. We tallied 131 species from Estero Llano Grande to South Padre Island, including lots of Harris's Hawks, a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and a Black-throated Gray Warbler. At Estero we ran into my friends Sophie Webb, Michael O'Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and Shawneen Finnegan leading a sketching workshop.

Today, John Arvin and I were joined by our participants on a boat ride on the bay from Port Isabel. Here's George Colley pointing out a pair of Peregrine Falcons on a tower. Best bird of the day was a gorgeous male Mangrove Warbler.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Week 1 Garden Update and Another Hobby Revealed

The garden's coming right along, thanks. The first seedlings popped their pair of cotyledons out of the soil surface on DAY 3, which is right up my instant-gratification alley. It was the row of mustard spinach, so that's what you should plant if you hate waiting.

This is what it looks like after a week. The foreground is the bed of randomly planted starts from my friend Greg. Turnips, mustards, beets, and mache are all up, but the only visible lettuce is rouge d'hiver. No sign of the carrots yet, despite our daily highs in the mid 80's to around 90°F all this past week.

My other non-bird hobby:
I'm almost surprised to have noticed that I've never mentioned my knitting on this blog. I guess I've been subconsciously trying to stick to a theme to match my screen name of "Birdernaturalist," but this is MY blog, after all. So I come out of the closet yet another time:  for the past 2 1/2 years I've been addicted to knitting. I have a Ravelry profile, and I have a stash. I rarely come out of a yarn shop empty handed. Mostly socks are my thing, but I've knitted scarfs, hats, dish rags, hot pad holders, a cardigan, and a camisole. I knit on the plane, in the airport, and even some evenings during trips. I knit each weekday while listening to Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.

This are one of my latest projects, a gift for a friend, entirely knitted while on the scouting/fam trip in Ecuador and Peru this past month. The yarn itself was a gift, a self-striping dye pattern that is supposed to have the colors of the olympic flag. For every metal won by the US team in London this past summer, the price of the yarn would drop by a few cents.

I had no idea what how the yarn would knit up, given what it looked like rolled up in a ball.

One last bit of birdernaturalist news: While I was sitting in the yard this week a Red Crossbill flew over. Will we have some on the CBC?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another Rock Corral Canyon Visit

This past Tuesday I led a Tucson Audubon Society field trip to Rock Corral Canyon in SE Arizona's Tumacacori Mountains. I like this place more and more each time I visit it.

The 2-mile road in has a rather steep spot with loose rock which (it turns out) requires a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to ascend – not just high clearance. Luckily we had enough 4x4 cars for all 13 of us to fit in, and, passing many Rufous-winged Sparrows along the way, arrived at the main parking area in a mesquite bosque.

Birding began right away, with Bewick's Wren, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Gray Flycatcher (heard) and a very late Black-chinned Hummingbird all coming in to my imitations of Western Screech-Owl and pishing.

Just up the canyon was a Golden Eagle hopping and creeping on the ground on the opposite hillside. We must have surprised it after its breakfast of cottontail or ground squirrel.

Just as we crossed the threshold into the Atascosa Highlands CBC circle, Sue Carnahan heard a gnatcatcher. A bit of pishing and owl imitations brought it in – a female Black-capped! Already, the best bird of the day, and we had just started.

In addition to the 40 species of birds we netted (checklist at eBird), we looked at butterflies, bugs, and flowers.

This stand of Anoda abutiloides, Indian Anoda was a good find.

On it were this Erichson's White-Skipper and a runt Desert Checkered-Skipper.

We puzzled over this fuzzy understory plant, but Sue and I put out instincts together and eventually figured it out: Iresine heterophylla, Standley's Bloodleaf, in the amaranth family.

Another semi-tropical plant is the acanth Tetramerium nervosum, Hairy Fournwort, but we didn't find any of its exotic butterfly feeder, the Elf. We did see another rarity though – a Mimosa Yellow came into a flowering Trixis for some of us.

Despite there being very little water in this canyon, we saw a few dragonflies and this spreadwing damselfly, Archilestes californicus, California Spreadwing.