Thursday, January 28, 2016

Laguna Atascosa

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
Laguna Atascosa is a National Wildlife Refuge located on the coast of far South Texas. Established in 1946, the refuge encompasses more than 97,000 acres of freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats, and beaches - a convergence of temperate, subtropical, coastal, and Chihuahuan desert habitats. The refuge includes the more recently acquired Bahia Grande Unit and the South Padre Island Unit.

Sunset along Scum Pond Trail of Laguna Atascosa
It is a designated Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) which, along with Rancho Rincón de Anacahuitas in Mexico, hosts at least 100,000 shorebirds annually. Within the National Wildlife Refuge System, Laguna Atascosa has the most recorded species of birds. In addition, it hosts the largest population of ocelots within the United States with a current estimate of 50 ocelots. Other unique species within Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge include the Aplomado Falcon, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle, and the Redhead Duck, part of the reason for its original establishment. More common species that can be found at the refuge include the Texas Horned Lizard, Couch's Kingbird, Plain Chachalaca, American Alligator, Brown Pelican, and the exotic Nilgai. With such a variety of species present and many endangered, the refuge is a center for conversation and recovery efforts for many.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Couch's Kingbird

Couch's Kingbird, Tyrannus couchii
Found in southern Texas into Mexico, Couch's Kingbird is a medium-sized songbird similar to the Tropical Kingbird, best distinguished by song. Couch's Kingbird prefers thorn forests, brushy clearings, and tropical forests, but can be found in suburban areas. They are a permanent resident within its range although some individuals may move south during colder winters. Their diet may include small fruits, but is mainly insects which they catch by watching from a perch. Little is known about their breeding and nesting behavior, but is assumed to be similar to the Tropical Kingbird.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Busy (Hiatus)

Sunset at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge.
It's another busy week so there will be no posts this week. While I'm keeping to the same schedule this year of trying to post every Tuesday and Thursday, do not be surprised by the increase of hiatus posts, either. I'll try to give you some nice pictures while you wait, and this one you'll see again, soon!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Brown Pelican

Juvenile and Non-breeding Adult Brown Pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis
Brown Pelicans, the darkest plumed of the pelicans, are large, stocky seabirds found along warm sea coasts and rarely inland. Unlike other pelicans, the brown pelican dives from the air to obtain its food, the force of impact stunning small fish which are easily scooped up. While the fish are small, brown pelicans typically eat approximately four pounds of fish a day including menhaden, herring, mullet, silversides, and minnows, although those on the west coast rely heavily on anchovies and sardines. The juveniles retain their overall brown appearance until around 3 to 5 years of age to which their plumage turns to a white head and neck, but with a brown nape and neck gained during breeding season. The Brown Pelican both congregates in large flocks and nests in colonies. The females generally lay 2 to 3 eggs with incubation shared by both parents. To keep the eggs warm, the parents use the skin of their feet, essentially standing on the eggs. Unfortunately, this contributed to their near extinction in the 1960s and 1970s as DDT thinned eggs cracked under the weight of the incubating parents. Thankfully, the Brown Pelican has since made a strong and stable return with the most current IUCN status of 2012 listing them as Least Concern.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalacas, Ortalis vetula
The Plain Chachalaca can be found in the far South Texas and is the only member of the family of guans, currasows, and chachalacas, a family which contains approximately 50 species with many of endangered status due to hunting. They are most often found in small groups of 3-5 individuals with a preference for scrubland, thickets, and forest edges. They are non-migratory and known for their loud call, especially during breeding season. Unlike most other galliform birds, the Plain Chachalaca is mostly arboreal earning it the common name Mexican Tree Pheasant. They have been known to feed upside-down to pick the ripest fruit from a tree, but will also feed at seed feeders. The precocial young can fly short distances within a week of hatching and cling to tree branches as soon as they dry.

Note: While not the best photo, there are more than five within the photo and at least one visible by tail feathers. With luck, I can provided an updated, better photo in the future.