East Texas Naturalist Blog

Information and photographs mainly about nature in east Texas. Our authors have widely diverse backgrounds and write on a variety of topics.

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Bald Eagle Population Seems to Soar at Lake O' the Pines

Immature Bald Eagle2

I'm going to qualify the statement that titles this entry by saying that I've not yet had an opportunity to participate in an eagle count at Lake O' the Pines, although I've watched them here for several years.  I always have an eye peeled and my camera ready when we go on the lake, and while there are so many interesting life forms to see, there is no doubt that the bald eagle is one of the most impressive.  I believe our fascination may be two-pronged; not only is the eagle our national emblem, but this bird has only been off the endangered species list since 2007!

We've seen an abundance of young birds this year; they are more difficult to identify because they do not sport the white (bald) head, but their brown feathers are marbled with white.  At a closer look, though, there is no mistaking the distinctive hooked beak, large head, and a way of soaring with broad wings out flat just like a board!  We've watched them enough to notice a playful and energetic quality among the younger birds, and it is fascinating to see!

I've taken so many photos this year that I felt it necessary to do some research.  According to eBird, the terms "juvenile" and "immature" are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.  A juvenile is a very young bird that is still wearing the set of feathers it fledged with.  As soon as it goes through its first molt, it's considered an immature until it reaches breeding maturity, which is at about four to five years of age.  

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Michael Mathews
I am so glad you have joined us here. I look forward to more articles and, of course, your beautiful photographs.
Monday, 02 November 2015 19:11
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Yakety Yak - Don't Talk Back, Mockingbird

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Just a quick note this morning but I had to share it.

As usual, I started my day on my steps looking out over the lake watching the morning come alive; listening to the birds call; watching the egrets glide along the water looking for a place to feed; enjoying the cool air; and sipping my coffee.

There is a mockingbird that will sometimes land on my knee or on the little table next to me when I am sitting in my big chair by the feeders, especially if I have a bowl of mealworms. Today, he came and landed on one of the shepherds hooks and made some unusual calls. Then I made the little clucking sound that I make anytime the birds or squirrels come around. It is meant to be an identifying sound so they I am there (they don’t always notice me if I am still) and that they are safe around me. I have always done that and some of them respond to it – the squirrels will come get food; the birds just pose for me in a way.

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Living on the Edge...of the Woods, that is!

JillDeer

I love living on the edge...of the woods, that is.  Here in East Texas, there are lots of woods, so finding a home with an adjacent wooded area is not hard to do, even if you live in town, as we do.  This part of Texas isn't called the Piney Woods for nothing!   

My husband and I moved to Marshall almost seven years ago from Indiana.  We had lived in Texas before - College Station was our hometown for a couple years back in the mid-90's.  So, moving to Texas was not a complete change of climate for us, and I'll take our long, hot summers here any day over the long, cold, lake-effect snow laden winters of northern Indiana.   

As anyone knows who has moved to a new part of the country, finding something familiar in the real estate world, is like the comfort food we eat under stress - for us, it was a home on a cul-de-sac, and woods beyond our backyard.  We both felt an immediate connection and peace when we stepped out the back door and faced the glorious snarl of trees and brush that met our grassy lawn - and to add to our nature-loving joy was the small stream that ran along the back of our modest lot, connecting our parcel of human habitation with that of the wilds beyond. 

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Hitchhiking Bugs Don't Need Thumbs

Walking

My granddaughter found an interesting insect on her patio this weekend.  She is nine and loves "bugs".  She had her mother take a picture of it and send it to me so I can tell her what it is and why it had a baby riding on its back.  

What Lin had found is a walking stick.  To be precise, she had found a female walking stick who had a hitchhiker on its back.  The hitchhiker wasn't a baby, it was a male.  Ah, what an opportunity for talking about the birds and the walking sticks to a nine year old.  I don't believe my daughter took advantage of the perfect lead, but that really is not the point of this piece.

Walking sticks are really neat insects.  They are members of the family Phasmatidae and can be quite large.  The one pictured here, that my granddaughter found is nearly six inches long.  Well, the female is.  The hitchhiking male is more like two and a half inches.  They look very much like a small plant twig which is great camouflage.  Their movement is also very slow and steady which adds to their ability to remain inconspicuous. They also often remain motionless for long periods.  When disturbed, they often extend their legs and antenna which increases their appearance of being a twig.

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The Things I Did at Nine Years Old Would Get Me Put Under the Jail Now

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When I was growing up in east Texas, I caught everything I get my hands on including using various kinds of traps.  In particular, there is no telling how many snakes, lizards, turtles, toad, frogs and salamanders that I at least temporarily added to my collection.  At the time there were no laws related to collecting or capturing reptiles and amphibians.  Wow, has that changed.

One important part of all this is that you cannot even temporarily capture or handle reptiles or amphibians even if you are just trying to photograph them if you are on a road, shoulder or unpaved part of the right of way unless you have a Texas hunting license with a reptile and amphibian stamp.  It is up to a $500 fine.  

This also includes your actions as a citizen scientist working with the TPWD Texas Nature Trackers (only on public roads).  That program is for private lands, not public areas or roadways.

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