Texas, Big Bend; a bit more

Please consider these images to be copyrighted and contact me for permission to use. By the way — I have imported a whole lot of blog pages from my Blogger site and they are now here at WordPress. Please scan back through there years for many many posts that you have never seen. Enjoy them. Thanks DEC

Texas is large as I have said in each of the latest Texas posts. With that in mind I am going to mix birds, mammals, and geology a few more times until I wear out the Lone Star State’s welcome. I’ll make most entries as image captions but a few topics will be expanded.

The geology of Texas is both surprising and yet not unexpected. It was under an ocean that divided North America into three parts: the Rockies, the Appalachians, and a huge sea in between — and it stayed that way for millions of years. Hence the geologic stratification and the abundance of limestone based rock. The mountain building and volcanic activity that followed moved things around. Texas is now a wonderful hodgepodge of geologic memories.
There are limestone layers, great swaths of lava and runny pyroclastic mudstone, and occasional towers or inselbergs. Habitats vary according to elevation and compass direction on all mountains. Faces of rock or forest looking south are heated more than those facing north and garner much more sunshine, one side will catch more rain than the “rain shadow” side, and these things when combined with elevation, create many micro habitats which will harbor different plant communities and in turn support slightly different animal communities. For most of us the change in trees is the most obvious of these changes.

The goal for most birders who wander through Big Bend includes the Colima Warbler. This small bird is a Mexican species that just squeaks over the US border into the Big Bend NP. We birders, crazier than fisherman and golfers, seek out this bird for life lists and any other list we may keep. The small rather plain warblers nest in Boot Canyon which is a relatively flat valley (especially welcome after the arduous climb up the Pinnacles Trail). We heard a couple warblers calling on the way up Pinnacles but never saw them so we persevered into Boot Canyon where we found a very cooperative bird or two. By cooperative I mean they could be seen and seen pretty well. As the image below shows they really didn’t pose for us and stayed in the emerging leaves as best they could.

On the way up the mountain we met a birder from Arizona (a lady, experienced, and knowledgeable) and we teamed up. So when we saw this bird it was a nice moment of celebration. I think it was a life bird for Fran but not for Ms Arizona or me. As a matter of fact I had had the bird a few times in years past without ever climbing all the way to Boot Canyon. We were there in April (the 17th) and the birds are most abundant in early May after they return from the south and they will sing into early June. We were a bit early and a bit lucky.
We climbed up for almost four miles and it was nice to see a smiley face every now and then. It was certain that I wasn’t smiling as the grueling climb continued; though the descent was much more impactful on my knees and hips. The iPhone said I walked over 23,666 steps and climbed the equivalent of 78 sets of stairs that outing. It felt like more.
You are looking up at a hummingbird bird nest. The pointy thing aiming at ten o’clock is a baby Anna’s Hummingbird’s beak. The nest is made largely from lichens and spider webs with some very soft fibers (both plant and animal) in the tiny cup. The baby bird may look a bit “spiney” as the feathers are still in sheaths. The feathers start off wrapped in these scabbards and as the scabbards fall apart the feathers fluff out. This is an adaptation to keep the feathers neat and whole while the bird is in the nest. You probably could cover the bottom of this nest with a nickel. The adult will weigh about 4 grams — that means you could mail 7 of them with a single stamp!!
One more Turkey Vulture image and homage. The vultures can fly very well but often choose to glide and soar; sometimes for miles and miles and hours and hours. They are pretty common throughout most of the US and this sort of bird, scavenging vulture, has established worldwide. They are now in significant danger from the rodenticides and other poisons we use to control “varmints” and protect crops. There is a species called Black Vulture in the US as well as the Turkey Vulture. This other vulture ranges north to Massachusetts, but is more common as a southern bird. The Black Vulture is a common Central American bird and the population sweeps north and eastward from Texas through the lower tier of states into Virginia and Maryland before the population thins out.

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