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.

If you write about nature in east Texas and would like to join us here, please contact us.

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!)  

Continue reading
Tags:
Rate this blog entry:
5
576 Hits
0 Comments

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.  

Continue reading
Rate this blog entry:
6
Recent comment in this post
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
1149 Hits
1 Comment

Yakety Yak - Don't Talk Back, Mockingbird

Mockingbird011216close

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.

Continue reading
Tags:
Rate this blog entry:
9
633 Hits
0 Comments

You Can Eat But Not You; Not You Either, Squirrel, Get Back - Selective Feeding

feeder
image

When I decided to get some bird feeders, I really didn't put a lot of thought into it.  I just went to Walmart and grabbed a bunch on inexpensive feeders.  My main criteria at the time was cost, perceived effectiveness to attract birds, and ease to use. 

I ended up buying 1 hummingbird feeder in the traditional red and clear plastic, 4 plastic tube type of seed feeders, and 3 suet wire feeders.  Grand total was approximately $40, not including feed.

I started off attracting some interesting species: chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, house finches, hairy woodpeckers and a red-bellied woodpecker.  Before long there was lots of activity on the feeders with the addition of cowbirds, mockingbirds, English sparrows and squirrels.  Lots of squirrels.  

Continue reading
Rate this blog entry:
5
873 Hits
0 Comments

Get Back! No Pictures For You

Pileated
image

I try to have a picture with each of these little messages, blogs, stories or whatever they are, but this time I was not fast enough to take one.

I was grilling butterfly pork chops and turned to go back in the RV to get a plate when I saw a large bird out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up and there was a Pileated Woodpecker flying from one tree to another just about 100 feet away.  I stepped inside and grabbed my Nikon D60 with a 200 mm lens on it.  I walked slowly towards the tree but only got a few steps when he took off for the far beyond.  No chance to get a picture.

Hopefully I will get another chance.  I believe he came from the woods across the highway where I usually walk and perhaps I will catch up with him there soon.  I haven't been walking over there lately because of all the rain.  It is really muddy over there with the slightest rain.  With the nearly constant rain for the past 3 months, it is really sloppy over there.

Continue reading
Rate this blog entry:
6
937 Hits
0 Comments