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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There's Another Stupid Cardinal or How Familiarity Breeds Contempt


If you only saw one Cardinal a year, think how much you would appreciate their beauty.  The male Cardinal in breeding colors is one of the most beautiful single colored birds in the world. Their fairly large size, their black mask and crest give them a distinctive and almost regal manner.  Many birdwatchers all over the world outside of the U.S. view the Cardinal as a huge prize on their Life List. 

Ah, but in my yard where I can hardly look out the window without seeing a Cardinal, their value as a noteworthy sight on my bird feeders honestly is not high.  It is not that I don't see their beauty.  It is just that I see it every day over and over again.  

I'm not so crass as to not appreciate them at all, for one can't help but feel some joy in their beauty.  Today, there were four males and at least five females around my yard (with ten feeders).  I enjoyed watching them, along with the Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, House Finches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, a single Pine Siskin, Chipping Sparrows, a Mockingbird and a couple of Song Sparrows.  It was a busy day on the feeders.

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Recent Comments
Kristi Mears Thomas
Love this, Michael! An inspiring message, and one that I have been thinking myself lately...we sometimes get so accustomed to the... Read More
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 07:03
Jill Wright
Great blog, Michael! That is one handsome cardinal, and you got an amazing photo of him. It is great when the scales are peeled ... Read More
Friday, 29 January 2016 12:21
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You've Got to Have Goals. Trying to Score With Nature in 2016.

Lop Fog

I love living on the lake. Many mornings, as soon as I am dressed, I open my front door, sit on my steps and watch whatever may be happening on the lake or on my bird feeders right in front of me.  Not a bad way to start the day.

This morning is a bit chilly, but not bad.  It is overcast, quiet and peaceful.  I have been drinking my coffee on my steps watching a large flock of canvasback ducks (Aythya valisineria) feeding and cavorting just off shore.  There are probably 40 to 50 of them drifting back and forth.  Each one occasionally ducks his head (no pun intended) beneath the water and quickly disappears as it goes underwater to feed.  Sometimes it seems as if there was a signal given and almost all of them go at once leaving a dozen or less still on the surface.  Good entertainment for a quiet morning.

The canvasback ducks don't usually come down to the more open waters near me.  They are normally in the more secluded shallow water that has lots of little islands and inlets.  That shallow water provides a lot of nutrients in the way of buds, snails, tubers, roots and insect larva that makes up most of its diet.  It is also more secluded and normally away from human activities.  However, it is still duck season and the area where they normally stay is not a safe place.  Down here, closer to human activities and in the open is definitely safer for them.  That is good for me for I get to shoot them now.  Yes, it is a bit of a cliche, but I am shooting them with a Nikon.  

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Hey, Eagles! How Can I Take Your Picture if You Keep Flying Off the Nest?


Yesterday, Saturday the 5th of December, I went on a field trip with fellow Texas Master Naturalist, Kristi Thomas.  Kristi also publishes her photographs on this website as well as writing a blog here.  She is an outstanding photographer and a great contributor to this website. 

She had also invited members of NETFO (Northeast Texas Field Orinthologists - http://members.tripod.com/netfo_tx/) for an event at Lake O' the Pines.  Part of the trip included a boat ride to observe water birds and visit a nesting location for Bald Eagles.  

Seeing the eagles and their nest was a treat and we have had some minor discussion about the eagle's nest in our talk forum - http://easttexasnaturalists.com/forum/bird-sightings/45-bald-eagles-nest-on-lake-o-the-pines.html.  One of the things we talked about was the location of the nest.

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"Bird of Prey" - the Osprey!

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Almost every time we are out on Lake O' the Pines, we will see at least one Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and until this past year I couldn't tell you much about them.  They are truly beautiful raptors in a distinct kind of way;  I love to see them hovering over the water with head down, wings beating fiercely, hunting for that next meal.  Others must realize their  important place in our ecosystem, because the Corps of Engineers has sponsored a project to erect several platforms at different areas of the lake, in hopes that they will be used by Ospreys to nest on.  

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Jill Wright
I can't believe I missed commenting on your osprey blog, Kristi! Wonderful information about this bird of prey!! They might be s... Read More
Sunday, 31 January 2016 20:26
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Enlightenment, and a Pied-billed Grebe...

Pied billed grebe3

This time last year, I could not tell you what this nondescript little brown duck swimming past our boat was.  I remember the first time I really noticed and photographed one, and how I had no idea how to start looking for what it might be in my newly acquired Peterson's Field Guide to Birds.  

Had it not been for a chance encounter last year, I wouldn't own the field guide, and I might not even know what I was missing.  One Saturday morning, after a rainy night, I noticed that the sun was peeking through the clouds and I headed to Lakeside Park beach area with my camera.  I do this when I have time, as it's close and visibility across the lake is good.  Even though the park area on the backside of the beach is closed to drive-through traffic during the fall and winter months, it's possible to walk in and enjoy, many times without seeing another human soul - just deer and birds and other wildlife!

This particular day, I noticed as I was coming across the dam that there were vehicles and people all around the beach area, setting up spotting scopes and cameras on tripods.  I wandered over to the lady closest to me and she explained that they were on a field trip with NETFO, which stands for Northeast Texas Field Ornithologists.  She shared her scope and introduced me to the other members.  They had special access to the back side of the area for the day, and allowed me to tag along through the park, look through their scopes and binoculars (I didn't yet own a pair), and didn't even shush me when I interrupted their listening for birds by speaking both too loudly and too frequently.  (This I only realized later, in one of those "ah-ha" moments that can come after you've learned just a little more!)  

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