Friday, July 30, 2010

Heavy Thoughts

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

One need only see my introduction post to know why I feel rather torn over this snippet of video:

video

That's a train with about 10 turbines worth of tower parts going west. And at the end? That's a falcon tower that I work alongside. May the two never mingle.

Raptors are incredibly susceptible to wind turbine collisions. Aerial hunters, aerial scavengers, aerial migrators, they all have a few things in common. And wind turbines are not part of their evolution. So creatures with low reproductive rates (namely, bats) will take a much greater hit in terms of population... and it will probably come to that at some point. Populations of creatures generally do not exponentially expand to meet human trends, unless french fries are involved. For turbines, they'd need to exponentially expand to sustain their increased mortality rate; not an increased food supply.

Having grown up with the Gulf as my backyard, it is agonizing to catch snippets of the news regarding the oil spill. But I cannot bear to look at continued fragmentation and fast-tracking of poorly researched technologies (who, incidentally, break blades that aren't recyclable... that's 115 FEET of fiberglass and epoxy going to a landfill). Even the idealists who tout solar farms - industrial everything is not good for everything. Desert is fragile, solar farms destroy their footprint. Wind farms fragment land and take an additional toll on living creatures who simply pass through the area. Much like windows. But if we produce the energy where it is used, perhaps we'll understand that the need is not for "more" energy, but for truly green energy. Green in the way that won't smother half of a region and will not push bat numbers to the lowest points in recorded history (white-nose syndrome up north is compounding the impact). If energy efficiency works, wonderful. Until then, we just need to cut back on things we don't desperately need - like air conditioning that requires inhabitants to wear sweaters in the summer.

Edit: it seems, as of 2011, that some broken blades are being repaired. No further details nor references were provided.

I digress. But I cannot with a clear conscience support wind energy as it is done today. Perhaps vertical axis wind turbines (contiguous, single blade, preferably) will catch on and we can do a new round of R&D with fewer impacts... but for now, I'll sheepishly continue to unplug anything I see that isn't in use, and keep plugging-in to an absolute minimum.

For the bats, for the birds.

meet group 3

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

It feels like Group 1 (and what's left of Group 2) just left the box yesterday. Clearly, they've grown up a lot, since they came to us at about the same stage as Group 3:

video

This group is 4 males and 1 female, all mellow and alert. They're eating quite well, and look ready to go on the 31st!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

playing with rocks

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

This is K8 on the evening of the 26th, playing with a rock... or a bit of dried cow pie. Regardless, she was later joined by two other birds, because playing with rocks is the cool thing to do. And developmentally important!

video

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cassin's Sparrow

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

I present to you, the sound of summer (turn up the volume!)

video

In the typical male display, the Cassin's Sparrow (Aimophila cassinii)sings while flinging himself upward from the top of a shrub... and then he flutters down to another shrub. It is the ubiquitous sound. And we like it!

Tomorrow we will be getting our next box of Aplomados (six, rumor has it) so things might get a bit quiet on the blog until we get caught up with that. Their release is scheduled for the 31st, and we'll be feeding/monitoring uninterrupted through the middle of September.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

tug o' quail

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

I apologize for the poor image stability: my chuckling was shaking the camera.

We see ?BG on the left, minding his own business. We see ?BG on the right, picking at a quail. And in the middle is OK(BR).

video

Apparently the head of a quail is delicious.

Another thought on power struggles.




scriptura on a sabbath

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.


Yeah, we had to work. I've always preferred my church-with-no-walls anyways. Deals with the here and now.
There has been a particular skipper (family Hesperiidae, well family for now) species that Heidi and I have only occasionally seen out at our work site here in northeast Brewster County, TX. For a frustrating period (at least for me in particular) we (read I) just could not get a photo of this minuscule insect. A test of patience; we have many.

This morning, manna from heaven... or rather Earth... same thing perhaps.

Pyrgus scriptura Small Checkered-Skipper




This species is small. The first individual we came across many days ago was the size of -H's pinky nail. Almost think of pygmy-blue, but a checkered-skipper.



This particular individual was larger than the aforementioned, but still a diminutive checkered-skipper. Its common name is appropriate.



For those readers lepidopterally-inclined:

-Notice how much black is on the upper-side.
-Notice the lack of apical spot
-Check the fringe. Particularly the hind-wing fringe. It's barely checkered, if that. The dark notches not reaching the end of the wing. It gives the fringe a noticeable bold-broad whiteness.
-Hard to see in these pics of the usually lacking white basal spots on hindwing above. Some spring individuals do have them.
-Notice the gray-white area of the base of the costal edge of the forewing.



The World works in mysterious ways.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How You Can Help

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

TPWD's Aplomado Falcon Species Overview

(or copy/paste http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/aplomfal )

The above link is a great way to get familiar with Aplomado Falcons as they currently exist in Texas.

Here is what they say about How You Can Help

Aplomados can be sensitive to human disturbance, especially during the breeding season. Human activity, including close or prolonged intrusion in a bird's territory, or loud and unusual noises, can cause nest abandonment. Human intrusions can also make Aplomados more susceptible to detection and harm from potential predators. A safe viewing distance is 200 yards or more. Suitable viewing at this or greater distance may require a spotting scope with 10 to 15 X or greater magnification. Birders should always respect private property rights in Texas regardless of the species being pursued.

Birders should keep in mind that Aplomados remain extremely rare in Texas and are federally- and statelisted as endangered. Therefore, all reasonable and suspected sightings of this bird should be reported immediately to an expert birder, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for further verification. Observations should include a detailed description of the bird's location, appearance, activity, and surroundings. Verification of sightings is extremely important in the context of the Aplomado's scarcity and future conservation.

Ultimately, recovery of Aplomados in Texas will depend on the interest and direct involvement of private land owners since lands within the falcon's former range are mostly in private ownership. Texas land holders interested in promoting Aplomado Falcon conservation measures should consult with experts in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or The Peregrine Fund for technical guidance and other assistance. Texans can contribute to nongame wildlife resources conservation by supporting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's "Special Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Fund" and by purchases of special nongame decals and stamps issued by the department. A set portion of the revenues generated by these programs is used to purchase endangered species habitats and to support the publication of nongamewildlife informational materials and other nongame activities.
(All added emphasis mine.)

video

...another help is a good headwind.

Aplomado Falcon Hack Site Attendant

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Here's a quick FAQ list for folks new to the recent posts:

What are we?
For July, August and September, we are Aplomado Falcon Hack Site Attendants. Meaning we feed/water/babysit Aplomado Falcons at a "hack" site.
Hack = falconry term for "release"

A what falcon?
Aplomado Falcons are the only Endangered falcon species in North America; Peregrines were de-listed not too long ago. They are roughly the size of a long, slender pigeon, a bit bigger than the American Kestrel ("sparrowhawk"). While they are still found in northern Mexico, due to overgrazing and poor land management they were extirpated* from their former range in New Mexico as well as south and west Texas. Their habitat preference is open, dry grassland interspersed with yucca (a nest site favorite) and low shrubs. Their food preference is small birds.
* extirpated = they no longer occur in a region that they occupied in the past (you could say that bison were completely extirpated from their historical range - they are not extinct)

What is the job?
Aplomado Falcons are raised at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. As they approach 40 days old, they are sent to release sites where they are kept in boxes on towers until such time as they can be released (around 40 days old). After release, there are morning and afternoon feedings and observations. We take notes on anything significant in terms of behavior and report back to our field supervisor who is the brains behind our site and others in the region. Constant feeding and monitoring is required to ensure that leftover quail parts won't attract raccoons, vultures, ravens, etc.

How many falcons will you release?
Our site is scheduled to have only one more box (5-7) after these first two (14 in the first batch). There is no way we'll still have 21 birds accounted for at the end of the project, sadly the odds are not in favor of that. Indeed, a few birds didn't even return after their release days.

Released on the 10th, last seen on the 11th:
59BR
78BR
Released on the 11th, last seen on the 11th:
OPBR
13BR
Released on the 11th, last seen on the 15th:
42BR
66BG

(All of the above birds are male; they have a black band over a color band on their left leg and one aluminum band on the right leg. So 59BR would be a 5 black over 9 red. Oddly, only one missing bird has a green lower band - this means that the vast majority of our remaining birds are black/green and only two are black/red!)

So as of the 19th, eight birds are "regulars" and seen every day, feed every day, and are otherwise accounted for. Only three birds remain from the release on the 11th, and two of them are females. All but two are still around from that first release, and the two who went missing, did so very early on. Owls are a huge predator threat at this stage so our fingers are crossed.



Helpful links for Aplomado Falcon information:
The Peregrine Fund - Aplomado Falcon Conservation Project
The Peregrine Fund - Aplomado Falcon General Information
Wiki - Aplomado Falcon

"Windscorpion"

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.
As the evening drew near a couple of nights ago with birds accounted for and the easterly wind picking up as the Glass Mountains were being framed by pastels....

... What... Is... That?

There is some organism running toward us. Yes, running. Now across the bare patches in front of us.

Running.
And not of class Insecta.
However, yes... phylum Arthropoda.
Order Solifugae.

SOFULGID!!



".., also known as camel spiders or windscorpions, are fast-running nocturnal hunters of deserts. While not venomous, they have the largest jaws for their size of any invertebrate,



the better to shred prey of all kinds. Like shrews, they eat constantly to maintain their frenetic metabolism. By the day they hide in burrows or beneath stones, boards, and debris." (Eaton, E.A., and K. Kaufman, 2006.)





Around half the size of the local tarantulas, this organism is large, fast, alert and aware.

Wow! We were blown.
What a planet. What a world.


*Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman, Field Guide to Insects of North America, Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

cough it up

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Cats have hairballs. Birds do, too. Owls are perhaps the best known family for their pellets - most folks have to dissect an owl pellet in school at some point. Frugivores (fruit eaters) don't consume so much indigestible stuff, so they don't have to cough up pellets. Long-billed Curlews, who eat crustaceans, do hack up pellets. Shrikes, hawks, even kookaburras - if they eat bone, fur, etc, as part of their diet and can't digest it, they have the ability to expel the undigested material.

Meet 58BG, who happened to fling a pellet while I was recording:

video

In case you missed the pellet being flung:





That gray clump? That's the pellet. Don't see it? Meet my horrible photoshop skills (bear with me, it's a new editing program I'm tampering with!)





The glob of feathers and bone being flung away looks pretty darn huge. So like any bodily-function enthusiast, after 58 left, I went over to investigate. Considering at least two pellets were expelled (one shortly before I started recording), that's an awful lot of Mystery-Quail-Parts to be coughed up. Not wanting to let a good photo chance go to waste, I now present this lovely image:



For those inquisitive minds, I did not handle it with bare hands, that's what sticks are for. Texture, however, was easy to note - slimy! Once it dried, the texture looked a bit more powdery, but that's less exciting to discuss. In a few days it will probably crumble away to nothing, but at least it has been documented in a fairly fresh state. Eeew.

Matt would like to point out that our birds are not dainty eaters. They do not carefully select which nibble of muscle upon which they will snack. They are given whole quail and if they don't fling the feathers away, down the throat! There isn't much waste, either. A very well-picked quail ends up having only wings, legs and maybe a keel... if that! Apparently heads are a delicacy, we'll find parts of the beak, but I suppose the skull is as lightweight as the rest of the other bones, so that's pretty easy to choke down along with other juicy morsels.

A quick note on other bodily functions:



What goes in comes out as an entirely different segment of the environment. After giving energy, it continues to nourish the ground and shelter small creatures. And it's very handy to roll, if you're an excrement enthusiast like dung beetles are. While 58's pellet may never sprout a mushroom or be bundled off with a flourish, it's far less obnoxious to accidentally step in!

Thanks for stopping in, sorry to have ruined your appetite!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"It's a TRAP!"

Posted 11 March 2012, and backdated to match original post's date. 
Spring is in the air - temps went from the low 80s to the 20s and back to the 70s - insects are gradually making their appearances. Plants are not yet eating wildlife. Hm. Maybe once the flowers go nuts. To celebrate the spring return of the bug-eat-bug world, here's a re-post from 27 July 2010, because we can. It was written during our summer of monitoring Aplomado Falcons, 10 miles east of Marathon.

***

"It's a trap!"

There's a little green plant with pretty white flowers that grows a few feet NW of our shade tarp.



We really didn't pay much attention to it until one day it ate a Pearl Crescent. Upon close inspection, it literally appeared that the butterfly was dead, stuck in between flowers and caught on a dead bloom. I had seen a butterfly in a similar situation in New Mexico almost a year ago, but the culprit had vanished. This time, the critter was still there. It was the dead bloom... also known as the Ambush Bug!



Technically a shrub is a woody plant around a meter in height. This plant is not a shrub. But I've affectionately started to call it the Ambush Shrub, Shrub of Doom, etc. On the first day that we saw the Pearl Crescent succumb to a tempting flower, only one Ambush Bug was noticed. That was the 16th. On the 18th, four were counted on four blossoms. On the 20th, there were six of them, still on four blossoms. And along with them, there were little flower spiders! So it wasn't too much of a surprise when a Reakirt's Blue was nectaring in an uncomfortable position...

How many threats to the butterfly can you find in the photo below?



It will be interesting to see how this menu diversifies over the next two months. Thankfully our Nysa Roadside Skipper hasn't fallen prey to the Ambush Plant yet, and hopefully our one Small Checkered Skipper at the site won't be the next, either. Granted, that may be the only way to get a cooperative photo of it!



Kind of looks like it wants a hug...



Our humble opinion:



Here's my awesome computer art skills answering the earlier question: 1 spider and 2 Ambush Bugs



***

We'll cut the post here and reminisce over how 2010 was the greenest, wettest, most spectacularly birdy and buggy year that has been seen out here for a long time. And it was followed by a record drought with incredible winds and heat and that combination led to record fires. Fires are necessary, but that was quite the combination of forces.

Eventually more of the Aplomado Falcon photos and videos will be cross-posted over here for easier access, but it's a species that has had nothing but uphill battles in this region. So for folks wishing to see them, we'll suggest Laguna Atascosa NWR and the Rio Grande Valley.

Mystery Bird - Answer

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Our site visitor whose decapitated photo was posted on the 15th was this:



An adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)!



Look at that face! I'm not sure how people dislike "blackbirds" - they're extremely charismatic, just a bit drab, most of the time. Alas, most of my photos are from a funny angle because he was too close to get a better angle and I didn't want to spook him.



And now a video:
video

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

needs practice

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.



The Desert Ironclad Beetle, of Zopherus Omorgus genus, is apparently also called the "Death Feigning Beetle" - the individual(s?) that loiter around our tarp apparently did not really take that name to heart. Note the stillness when this video starts. That's it. That's the 'feigning' that everyone is so proud of! Alas, I think I'd have called it a Desert Ironclad "Pause Feigning Beetle" instead...

video

Mystery Butterfly - Answer

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.



...it is a dark phase Tropical Buckeye (Junonia genoveva)!



Mystery Bird answer will be posted tomorrow!

Monday, July 19, 2010

yard confessions

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

We gave in and bought a hummingbird feeder not too long ago. Four Black-chinned Hummingbirds (2 females, a young male and an adult) keep it pretty well guarded. Yesterday we finally met our landlord who trimmed the front jungle. Weeds were about knee-depth in spots... we liked it, though. Alas, now that the lovely greens have been sent back to the earth, there's a spigot where high veg once grew. So we put a rock under it and it catches the drips - so now we have a cluster of Lesser Goldfinches and a few invasives who come to visit.

New yard bugs, per Matt's notes:
Definite Patch 7/13
Theona Checkerspot 7/13
Bordered Patch 7/18

Here's a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) from work:

video

Yes, it is trying to nectar on my finger - sweat must have delicious salts.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

teamwork

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

This video could mean one of two things - we either have really big ants here, or really small scorpions.

video

Or both!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

elegance

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Here's a snippet of the agility, grace and elegance that our young Aplomado Falcons now exhibit:

video

They've only been out of the box

Friday, July 16, 2010

state of mind

Originally posted over at Seetrail; edited for relevance and backdated here.
"The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity. Suns and planets teach grand lessons. The stars make the night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the light." - Mary Baker Eddy

The Marathon Basin is inspiring. Aside from hot, dusty remoteness, there are desert flowers that respond quickly to rain. Whitebrush/Beebrush is a fragrant distraction every time I open the gate at work. You can barely see that it really is a woody shrub, so covered in flowers as it is. Silver Sage is another lovely shrub, purple and pastel green with the silvery leaf that shimmers... poetry at 95 degrees.

Out on the site we had 2 javelina (collared peccary), then in town we had a fox trotting along the road. There's a family of raccoons that feeds along the shoulder of the highway every evening when we leave around 9:30 with at least two young. I guess most folks never cross paths with them, but there's rarely a day that passes without our little dung-rolling companions. So much to say about dung beetles, it's a shame that most folks don't give them much credit.

video

busy parents

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Here's a peek from the front window on the 15th:

video

That's Gladys the female leaving and Gladys the male showing up with a bug for the three little Gladyslings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mystery Bird

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

From about 10 am until nearly 10:30, our site was visited by this bird:



Unhelpful hint: it's standing under Heidi's tripod.

Answer will be posted on the 21st!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

last of the box

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

We saw these birds from the transport box:



Into hand:

 


Into the box:

 

Peeking into the box:

 

And now this:

  video

Growing so fast, no?

Mystery Butterfly


Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Your only hint: it was a life butterfly for Heidi, not for Matt.



Answer will be posted on the 20th.

days go by

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

"The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." - Aldo Leopold

Apologies for the lag in posts - our babies have left the box! So we had a few days of waking up at 6 am and going to bed around 11, followed by more of the same.



Of 7 falcons released on the 10th, 5 are still accounted for. Of 7 falcons released on the 11th, 5 are accounted for. All 10 of those accounted for ate heartily this morning. One is even starting to chase beetles on the ground(!)

In other news:

The roads have yielded roadkill javelina, plenty of live gigantic red/yellow millipedes, the occasional tarantula, and on Friday night our first snake. It was tiny, fast moving, and gone by the time we turned around to look for it. For a rainy 67 degree evening, hopefully it found warmth and shelter quickly! Only two or three stereotypical desert toads have been seen, but tonight while unloading gear after our evening observation, Matt found and brought me a little spadefoot type toad (herp folks, we need your help! we have no herp guide!) ...that was the 9th. On the 10th, Matt found a crazy looking Vinegaroon (looks like a scorpion on the front, but has a looong pointy vinegar-shooting needle-like tail). On the 11th we were visited by a whiptail lizard of some sort and a teeeny little walking stick. On the 12th, we had a very cooperative [name withheld for photo quiz] butterfly. The 13th provided me with my "life" [Western] Mexican Hog-nosed Snake!



Mystery Toad!

We've had Mule Deer and crazy grasshoppers, a splendid abundance of different weevils, plenty of dragonflies that never land (orange shadowdragons?) and the heat-of-day hum of cicadas.



Vinegaroon - wiki link

The site has also provided ample Vesta Crescents, tiny orb weaver type spiders, two flyover Long-billed Curlews, one flyover Willet and one other flyover non-Killdeer wader that never cooperated. Add the teal (silhouetted, sadly) we saw on our way to work on the 10th and it's feels almost coastal! ...almost.



Tiny walking stick.

Today we had our first Texas Horned Lizard, first chance to update the blog for a while... the usual madness. Hopefully we'll get the lizard and some snake photos posted soonish. Until then, a few posts are scheduled to pop up in the next few days regardless of whether or not we have access, so enjoy!

Brace for 2 photo quizzes coming soon!

Friday, July 9, 2010

a peek at k8

Originally posted over at Seetrail; backdated here.

One bird in the first release group is K8 - you can see the bands on 59 and OK clearly in this snippet, but K8 is the restless alpha female you see at the end (actually, the only female in the group). Her constant pacing and impatient hopping around often leaves other birds wondering how they were knocked from their perch. She's feisty. This morning most of her tail feathers were a few inches shorter - in the final moments of the video below, you can see some of them starting to break.

video

It won't impact her much, since baby feathers are fairly weak to begin with. They just grow super quickly and it takes a lot of energy to get them out so fast. Adult feathers are slower to come in and of a much higher quality.

[will add two more photos here when I get a chance!]

EDIT:





In the lower photo, you can see the quail board in the background - we slide a little wooden tray into the box so the falcons never see us. Quail are zip-tied to the board so the birds won't pull them all off the board... it prevents buildup of nasty, over-ripe, smelly quail pieces. Aren't you glad you asked?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

One More Face

Originally posted by Matt on Seetrail; backdated here.

Not a member of the genus Falco.


Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata)

Heidi and I came across this guy on the property we work on. It seems if there is a turtle species that follows the two of us around, it's this guy. We love meeting this organism each time we are granted the opportunity.

There are a few of them around with all the rain. It was actually nice to find this one on private property rather than the side of the highway, hoping to cross.

It was mentally refreshing to see this terrestrial turtle. To be reminded of good things.
There are many turtle species that live on this land mass, not on the waters surrounding it.
Then there are the unfortunate souls, equal (in the least) to ours, that are in the Gulf of Mexico.
They are very closely related to fellow beings I worked with, lived among, and maneuvered around while on Tern Island of the French Frigate Shoals atoll. LINK.
Sadness.
I've yet to re-shape the particular and unique anger, so heart-hurting, that this BP event has formed in my core. It is only related to it and nothing else. I will continue to work on it. Presently, its shape remains the same.

Alright... back to life. Back to these young falcons Heidi and I are privileged to associate with. Good times. Good work. Good things.

That which is beyond Self.

Good evening.



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

watch your mouth

Originally posted by Matt on Seetrail; backdated here.

Some of us don't have mouths, however..

Heidi discovered a big, beautiful beastie of a moth this afternoon at a county park ~5 miles from Marathon.


Western Poplar Moth (Pachysphinx occidentalis)

This Sphingidae family member does not feed (a characteristic more known of the adult Silkmoths, Family Saturniidae). It's larvae feed plenty, on willow and poplar leaves.



A new moth for us.

faces

Originally posted at Seetrail; backdated here.

Here are a few more snippets from yesterday's transfer -

video

These birds all hatched in the June 1-4 span, so they're almost ready to adventure out and figure out what this life is all about. You can tell from the videos that they really are Not Thrilled about this handling and going from box to box with [un]pleasantries exchanged...


video

Overall, this is a project that *does* something. Allow me to explain. For example, a baby ocelot or jaguar born in a zoo will stay in a zoo. It will live out its life in relatively crowded conditions (compared to wild ranges), it will be subjected to constant human contact, never be able to roam its own native habitat...

video

I've worked with Attwater's Prairie Chickens, nearly doomed to extinction by urban sprawl, fencing, overgrazing, and loss of prairie (and trees, among other things). They are essentially found in only 2 places - dedicated preserves where they are heavily repopulated, and captive breeding projects.


video

So to antagonize young falcons may be temporarily unpleasant for them, but they will live the life of a falcon. Their species still exists in the wild, their habitat still remains. They will not be shuffled off to other captive breeding programs because their survival in the wild is impossible. Yet these are the last of the Endangered falcons in North America - Peregrines were de-listed a while ago.



...ponder these faces and think about how it's easier to save habitat before something is Endangered, because once the habitat and ecology surrounding a critter are gone, you need all of that in place for reintroduction. If that is even possible. Otherwise, if captivity is the last chance for the species, is it really surviving at all? Or are we, as humans in general, simply setting aside a feeling of guilt with captive populations because the critters are not technically Extinct?

intro to the yard

Originally posted at Seetrail; backdated here.

The yard around the house is scruffy, mostly native, mature Juniper and Cottonwood type trees - a few unidentified shrubs host MASSIVE amounts of pollinator creatures - see Matt's previous post for photos. There's a sage (?) bush in the yard that is teeming with unidentified caterpillars... and what else occupies the yard?

Birds:

Turkey Vulture 7/4
Eurasian Collared-Dove 7/2
White-winged Dove 7/2
Inca Dove 7/5
Common Nighthawk 7/2
Black-chinned Hummingbird 7/4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 7/4
Vermillion Flycatcher 7/2
Ash-throated Flycatcher 7/2
Cassin's Kingbird 7/3 nesting
Barn Swallow 7/2 nesting
Cactus Wren 7/5 heard
Northern Mockingbird 7/2
Curve-billed Thrasher 7/2
European Starling 7/4
Canyon Towhee 7/4
Great-tailed Grackle 7/2
Bronzed Cowbird 7/2
Orchard Oriole 7/4
House Finch 7/2
Lesser Goldfinch 7/2
House Sparrow 7/2
*domestic red junglefowl 7/3

Butterflies:

Queen 7/2
American Snout 7/4
Sleepy Orange 7/4
Lyside Sulphur 7/4
Gray Hairstreak 7/4
Texan Crescent 7/4
Western Pygmy Blue 7/4
Reakirt's Blue 7/4
Orange Sulphur 7/5
Question Mark 7/6

We're of course cheating on both lists - if it was seen on, over, or on the edge of the property, it has been counted. Also, for birds, if it was heard from the property, we're counting it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Boxes

Originally posted at Seetrail; backdated here.

The elegant cardboard transport container:

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The fancy plywood home base:

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...we have fourteen baby Aplomado Falcons!

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Pollinators between rain events

Originally posted by Matt, over at Seetrail; backdated here.

Alex-influenced rain followed Heidi and I all the way out here. I had lived out here for ~ 4 yrs and never had consistent rain, for so many consecutive days.

At the moment it is partly cloudy, and the wildlife is happy. Particularly at a shrub in the front yard. SO many wasp species, a few net-winged beetles, and some familiar butterflies.

One of my favorite members of the wasp order, Hymenoptera, is the Cicada Killer (Sphecius spp):



These are huge 2+ inches long insects. When one hears within the monotony of the "whining cicadas" summer-long buzz a cicada quickly and individually deviate its contribution, likely it's due to an attack from Sphecius species.

One particularly interesting wasp family is Scoliidae. They are largish, hairy insects that are parasitic to larvae of scarab beetles.



Females dig around to uncover scarab larvae, lay an egg on it, and peace on out of there.

So many other wasp species on that particular shrub, so little time.

A few butterflies found their way on to it, all of which are very familiar:


Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile), North America's smallest butterfly with a wingspan that may not even reach half an inch.


Reakirt's Blue (Echinargus isola)


Texan Crescent (Anthanassa texana)

We do have a porch light. As Heidi mentioned, there happens to be an active Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) nest using it as substrate. So we are going to have to come-up with another plan for attracting moths at least until that nest has fledged.

It is currently in incubation stage.
We've named the swallow Gladys. However, it has been observed that both parents share incubation duties.... how nice. So Gladys is female, and Gladys is male.

This is Gladys...., well, Sir Gladys I suppose:


Also, our first two groups of young Aplomado Falcons (Falco femoralis) arrive this afternoon!


We don't have internet at the house. We have to walk several blocks down slope to pirate wireless from a local business. With that in mind, plus once the falcons arrive we'll be going full-throttle, we aren't yet sure how regular our blog updates will become.
We will all just have to see.