Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Laguna Atascosa NWR

Along the country roads leading to Laguna Atascosa NWR,raptors perch on all the power lines and poles. Kestrels seem to be the most common, dropping swiftly to the grass for a mouse. Larger birds can take a bit more examination to identify. If it's dark all over, except for the rump, it's a Harris Hawk. Red Tail Hawks join them, and Harriers swoop low over the fields. Is it an adult male? Female? Juvenile? Maybe, gasp, could it be the Aplomado Falcon, which is being reintroduced in the area? We thought we saw a falcon twice, but still aren't sure, just hopeful.
The Caracara is larger and distinctively colored. No guessing there! We are getting good at finding White Tailed Kites too, although we can't always persuade them to look into the camera.
Raptors seem to prefer perching on power lines and poles in flat country such as Texas and Arizona. What did they do before there were any power lines and poles? Today we found them on short mesquite trees, atop yucca plants and one Osprey perched on a tire stuck in the mud of the bay!
At the Visitor's Center, a feeding station tempted a flock of Green Jays with grapefruit. Yummy! The 88,000 + acres of the Refuge hosts over 413 species of birds, including residents and migrants, as a Globally Important Bird Area. They also have the majority of remaining ocelots in the country and Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles, along with Aplomado Falcons. We didn't see any of these animals, but we did find two different groups of Javelinas - a collared peccary that looks much like a pig. The alligator we found was as big around as a large tree trunk. Dick wanted to take one of the walking trails after completing the 15 mile driving loop, and I did so unwillingly. But a short time into the trail, he touched my shoulder and pointed down the path. A Bobcat silently crossed the trail before us!
Yesterday we saw a Long Billed Curlew for the first time. As usual, when you find a bird or plant once, they turn up all over the place! We saw them in the Laguna, as expected, but also in the fields munching on insects. My question is, how do they manage those long bills while still in the egg? Do they grow after hatching? Are they long but soft, and get hard after hatching? The sky looks blue, but is really dark storm clouds behind sunshine in the foreground. The landscape in the Refuge varies from marshy along the hypersaline Laguna, to thorn thickets, to prairie. The animals all call it home.

Reddish Egret fished in the bay. Well, it's more like running the fish down to catch them! See how fast this guy is chasing his lunch around the bay!

1 comment:

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

I don't know how the Curlew does anything with that beak. I can't help projecting when I look at the photo: if I were him I'd likely trip over it! It also looks like it would be heavy enough to give him a neck ache. Impressive!