Pictures of Life in South Texas

Here in South Texas, our winters are very short and we seem to leap right into spring in January. Here are some pictures of my year so far…

AK Shoot Feb 16

Drew finally got his AK-47 so we took it to the range to try it out.  I still prefer the AR-15 because it has a collapsible stock.  We’ve found our new favorite indoor shooting range: Point Blank Sporting Goods in McAllen.  It’s brand new and really spacious.  You don’t feel like you are right on top of everyone while shooting.

Green Jay Feeding Collage

I love Green Jays.  Just like their Corvid brothers and sisters, Green Jays are so smart.  This one found a weakness in the sunflower feeder and exploited it.  Sunflower seeds came pouring out.  The doves on the ground appreciated his hard work.


A banded Kiskadee at Ruby Pond.  My goal is to one day be able to read all the numbers on a band one day so I can report them to the Bird Banding Laboratory.


My first work trip!  We got to go see some nature centers and museums in Dallas!  This was the Trinity River Audubon Center.  Nice walking trails and boardwalks, and great indoor exhibits.  ???????????????????????????????

I also got to see a Rodin sculpture at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.  I wish we had more time to explore the whole museum but we had to rush through it.


The Dallas Arboretum (which is really a Botanical Garden) was incredible and it was only January!  I would love to go back in spring or fall.???????????????????????????????

We finished out duck season and I got a Scaup for the wall!  Oakley is good retriever, even if he does chew the butt’s off.  I miss duck hunting already.  And its been too windy to get out in the boat for fishing.???????????????????????????????

Our resident Eastern Screech Owl at work picked a very visible cavity for a month or so and let me take a few pics.???????????????????????????????

I kind of stumbled upon this gathering on a house in Mission, across the street from a city park and pond.  These Black-bellied Whistling Ducks seem to prefer this one flat roof as opposed to all the sloping roofs in the neighborhood!???????????????????????????????

Our staff member who was filling the feeders had to run inside for a minute and the Chachalacas took advantage of a container of homemade suet that was left unattended!???????????????????????????????

The Red-eared Slider in Ruby Pond has gotten so big!  We don’t know exactly where he came from but he seems to enjoy having the pond to himself.???????????????????????????????

I love the call of the Curve-billed Thrasher!  And the look of their orange eyes and big down-turned bills.  This Curve-bill was hanging out in our parking lot at work.
QM Cactus in Bloom

Our newest garden is a Cactus Garden.  It was planted this year and already many of the cactus are blooming!  Its a beautiful site.Raptor Banding Feb 2nd 02

Drew and I had a fabulous opportunity to tag along on a Raptor Banding field trip with Bill Clark, who quite literally wrote the book on Raptors.  We banded several Red-tailed Hawks.  It was an unforgettable experience holding those giant birds.  They would look you dead in the eye but were quite docile while being worked up.  Then we got to release them right from our own hands.

Spartacus Jan 27 Bogie March 15

Now that duck season is over we are doing a lot of relaxing on the weekends and it has been really nice.  Its our busy time of the year at work so coming home to these two babies is always a highlight in my day.  As spring approaches are calenders are filling up even more (including a last-minute getaway to HAWAII over Easter!) and I can’t wait to see what South Texas has in store for us.


Birder Non-Birder

I don’t consider myself a “Birder.”  When I think of a Birder, I think of someone who can ID just about any bird AND  can say if the bird is ambiguous enough that it can’t be identified.  If it’s a little woodland bird or a little shorebird, I pretty much can’t give a positive ID, ever. Which is perfectly OK with because those are not the birds I enjoy watching.  My favorite birds are big, colorful, and full of personality.

The first bird to really capture my heart was the Roseate Spoonbill, as seen here in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana.

I began to learn and love birds while in undergrad at LSU.  One of my favorite classes (Ecology of Louisiana Wildlife) brought us into the field for wildlife-watching and whatever we spotted in the field we had to learn and be quizzed on (by photos or calls) later in the classroom.  Outside of class I found I really enjoyed knowing birds.  I could IS an ibis and a roseatte spoonbill in the Atchafalaya basin.  I could hear “peter-peter-peter” and say “Tufted Titmouse!” while walking on campus.  Combined with my minimal knowledge of trees from Dendro, I enjoyed impressing people with my knowledge of the natural world.  In Arkansas, I liked seeing the delicate Tufted Titmouse at my feeder in the winter.  And the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds battle for territory during migration.  But I haven’t really expanded my desire to learn the nitty-gritty details of birding, or to travel specifically to see a certain bird.  I continue to be enraptured by everyday ducks, wading birds, and hawks on powerlines.

A banded Harris’s Hawk on a power line on my way home from work.

Now I live in the Rio Grande Valley (also known as the RGV or the “Valley”) which is one of the USA’s birding hot spots.  Tourists come from around the nation and around the world to spot a bird they won’t be able to see anywhere else in the country.  I’m lucky to work at a World Birding Center where I have learned about and seen many of our specialty birds and can share the experience with birders, non-birders, tourists, and locals.

The beautiful Green Jay, a South-Texas specialty and one of my favorites!

Many local people have no idea what a rich resource is contained in our small portion of Texas.  Coming from Louisiana and Arkansas where if you see a hawk it’s probably a Red-tailed, I still get a thrill seeing a beautiful but fairly common Harris’s Hawk on my drive home from work.  If I were a “lister,” I would’ve made several life-checks since I moved down here last year but what really makes me happy is watching Chachalaca parents corral their young as they run across the floor of the thornforest.

I will never get tired of watching the incredibly personable Chachalacas!

Sometimes living in the Valley has its drawbacks but going out to a wetland and watching Cinnamon Teal forage and rest has a way of reminding me to slow down and appreciate this tropical world that surrounds me every day.  When we move to begin another part of our lives, the birds of the RGV will always have a special place in my memories.  Here are some more of my South Texas favorites…

A White-tailed Kite. Beautiful bird of prey seen mostly in South Texas, South Florida, and coastal California.

Beautiful Altamira Oriole drinking from a feeder, not far from it’s nest at Laguna Atascosa NWR.

The crypticl Common Pauraque. Can you spot it?

Black-bellied Whistling Duck taking flight at Santa Ana NWR

Cinnamon Teal (center) at Estero Llano Grande State Park.

Greater Roadrunner doing what it does best- running away!

A pair of Groove-billed Ani’s. Even though they look like grackles, these birds are in the same family as Road Runners and Cuckoos. And they have a unique call!