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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Becoming a Birder is Incredibly Easy Except for the Hard Part - 4 Stages of Learning

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I was late becoming a birder. Oh, there was always some interest, but never strong. It was just a another feature of nature, that I, as a biologist and naturalist, wanted to have some familiarity. My real focus was on herps, reptiles and amphibians. Actually, it started with snakes, gradually began to include lizards, then turtles and on to frogs, toads & salamanders. Mammals were in the picture, too. By the time I was around 12 or 13, my bedroom and backyard was like a zoo - cages and aquariums everywhere. I didn't ignore birds for I did come up with lots of "abandoned" birds that I ended up raising. Of course, I know now that few of those birds were really abandoned, but was ignorant of that fact then. I "raised" a couple of Blue Jays, a Mockingbird, two Crows, a Turkey Vulture, and numerous Sparrows.

Later, as a biology student and then as a biologist, I was in the field a lot. While none of my work involved birds, I always made a point of getting to know the local species. Honestly, all I cared about were the more commonly seen species and it was just a mild curiosity.

I should add that I was doing a lot of photography back then as well. Birds were rarely a target for my cameras. I was mainly taking slides and photos of herps, flowers, insects, spiders and lots of scenics. Most of my gear was suited for closeup photography and not birding.

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Great News! NETFO is Joining Us


We got great news that NETFO is going to move over to the ETN server.  NETFO is the Northeast Texas Field Ornithologist group.  They have been around since 1990 and we are so glad to have them with us.  They will have their own section which basically will be a website within our website.  We will also be intertwined with much of their information and content as well.  

Anyone interested in NETFO and their bird reports, field trips, etc will be able to go directly to their website.  Much of their information will also be available on the ETN site.  In the meantime, you can visit their current site at NETFO Website

As soon as I can start getting them moved over, I will publish their new web address.  I hope it won't be too long.  Surely before the end of the month.  

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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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Enlightenment, and a Pied-billed Grebe...

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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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