Sunday, March 16, 2014

"The Valley", etc.

Here we go again--it's been 6 months since my last post! I would really like to post more regularly. I feel so incredibly blessed to have a life full of things I love: relationships, nature, a terrific job..... And I'd like to write about it. I would like to try for a more realistic goal of one post a month, minimum. But I have a lot of (old) ground to cover!

First are a few photos of the park where I work in Laredo.

Gulf Coast Toad at my park (Laredo)
Our office at work got a bit flooded with one of our large storms, and when I moved some boxes, I found this dude!!!! I took him outside.

The lake levels really came up high at my park!

My friend Glenda, from our local Audubon chapter, started a birding club at the high school where she teaches. Here we are on a field trip at my park!!
This cute garter snake was chilling out in a large tractor on a ranch in south Texas.

I so do love large, sprawling trees. We don't really have them in Laredo (okay, we pretty much don't have them at ALL in Laredo). This one is in San Antonio near my boyfriend's house.

Smokey is my boyfriend's dog, who has pretty much captured my heart.
Next are some photos of a November trip to "The Valley". So I live in Laredo, which I actually *do* tend to think of as "south Texas". But if you continue down the Rio Grande about three hours or so, you get to "really really south Texas", or, as Texans call it, the Rio Grande Valley (often just shortened to The Valley). The Valley comprises a bunch of medium-sized cities about 20 minutes (tops) from one to the other: Edinburg, Weslaco, Mission, Harlingen, Brownsville, etc., and it is known by birders NATIONWIDE because it is really, really terrific birding. And butterflying. And the lizards! It's pretty darn awesome.

As part of my job, I have been extremely lucky to travel to lots of cool parts of the state for work. This past November I got to help out at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Here are some photos from this.

Believe it or not, this is not a wasp, but a moth pretending to look like a wasp! Texas Wasp Moth at Frontera Audubon.  
Blue Spiny Lizard (or Texas Spiny Lizard--I forget which!) 
The award for most prehistoric-looking bird in south Texas goes to the Plain Chachalaca. They are SO bizarre, and they get into strange poses, and make unearthly noises. So cool. 

Hackberry Emperor butterflies all drinking something delicious at Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley State Park, Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. 

Green Jays are so beautiful that it's hard to believe they're "junk birds" in the Valley. Junk birds meaning that in the state parks, they're everywhere!!

This is the best example of camouflage used by a bird that I have ever seen. Common Pauraque: these birds are nocturnal, and during the day they find a place to roost on the ground. 

Here's the Pauraque again. 

Eastern Screech-Owl.

Yellow-crowned Night-heron looking pensive. 

Sego palm is not actually a palm at all, but a prehistoric plant. 

Groove-billed Ani is a very odd-looking bird that, in the United States, can only reliably be found in South Texas and Florida. Here is one perched cooperatively on a branch at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. 

The bridge at Santa Ana NWR was so cool!

We gathered for the field trips EARLY in the morning, which did allow for amazing views of sunrises!

This spotting scope is burdened down by lots of gear!

At the festival, I helped man a booth for Lake Casa Blanca State Park and the Laredo Birding Festival. There was  a live raptor exhibit at the other end of the exhibit hall. Several times, one of the birds got loose, and flew around the building, much to the surprise and delight of festival-goers! here is an endangered Aplomado Falcon sitting in front of our Laredo Birding Festival banner! Photo taken by a City of Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau employee. :)

Spanish Moss draping the trees at Santa Ana NWR. 

This was the bird species highlight of the festival: the 2nd US record of Amazon Kingfisher was found!! (The first US record was in Laredo, a few years ago). 

and here is my very poor photo of this bird, taken by my phone through a spotting scope. 

That's all for the moment!!!

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