Thursday, September 29, 2011

When inch worms grow up

I first blogged this over at the other blog, and I managed to forget to take a picture of an inch-worm that adopted us. I had harvested some mesquite nibbles for the hubbardi bunch and the little critter caught a ride and found itself in with a bunch of non-geometers. So while I forgot to take its picture, it thrived. Then it started to look pretty bad and I felt terrible and was certain that, along with ~40 other caterpillars this season, it had died. It turned this bizarre shade of teal blue on one end and darkened and instead of being a long, juicy inch-and-a-smidge long... it was barely half an inch long.

But then it turned into a pupa. How ridiculously awesome! Picture from 18 September, after two days of a sickly looking caterpillar.

Interestingly enough, it started out copper on the bum and deep, emerald green on the wing casing - and shrank a bit as it turned more coppery all over. This first picture was taken on 25 September.

26 September! We're fairly certain that this is Rindgea cyda, the Mesquite Looper. Otherwise it's likely Rindgea s-signata.

And the empty case with a wandering hubbardi...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Migration at Gage Gardens

This morning we took a ~2 hour stroll through the Gage Gardens and stumbled upon a good bit of migration. We also met a wonderful British couple who humored us with patience as we exercised our weak grasp of European bird comparisons (in this case, Golden Firecrest to Ruby-crowned Kinglet). A good number of dragonflies and butterflies were out, but we tried to focus primarily on birds. Here's the resulting ebird list.

Location: Marathon - Gage Gardens, Brewster County, Texas, US

Date: Sun Sep 25, 2011 09:00 AM

40 species (+1 other taxa) total

15 Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
1 Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
6 Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
2 White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
1 Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
8 Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri
1 Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus
1 Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus
1 Allen's Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin
1 Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope
3 hummingbird sp. Trochilidae sp. (greenish-backed Rufous/Allen's)
1 Western Wood-Pewee Contopus sordidulus
1 Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
2 Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
3 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus
1 Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
10 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
15 Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva
1 House Wren Troglodytes aedon
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
1 Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
1 Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
1 American Pipit Anthus rubescens (heard only)
3 MacGillivray's Warbler Geothlypis tolmiei
1 American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
10 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) Setophaga coronata auduboni
25 Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla
1 Cassin's Sparrow Peucaea cassinii
40 Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida
3 Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus
6 Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus
2 Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
2 Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
2 White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
2 Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana
5 Dickcissel Spiza americana
12 Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
6 Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater
1 Bullock's Oriole Icterus bullockii
8 House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
4 House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mimicry is everywhere.

EDIT: species is actually Xerociris wilsonii - Wilson's Wood Nymph.

It works better on a broad leaf than beige stucco near the backdoor to a bar. But, so many of us are suckers for lights. And bars.

Let's look even closer.

Camouflage in a cryptic bird-dropping pattern is not entirely uncommon within the moth taxa. There are numbers of very small moths in a particular genus that do it quite well.

The Gage Hotel is excellent for observing moths during the day due to the numerous lights affixed to stucco, and adobe, walls. Many species remain at rest for atleast part of the following day. This particular corner, generally where only staff meander, is always one of the better for me.

(Xerociris wilsonii) Wilson's Wood-Nymph moth

This cryptic patterning mimicking avian urates and feces gives this moth a better chance of not being snacked by those swallows above and around it.

I wonder if an Alfred Hitchcock movie would have turned out differently if leading cast-members could have pulled this off.

In conclusion, be careful where you step.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Wait. What? ....

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It rained! It rained all evening and overnight. Everything is soaked and cooler. Heidi noticed this ... soaked and cooler... Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) on our roof early this overcast morning.

This individual or its species-mates are neighbors on our block; really, in the entirety of the town and likely beyond.

Regal-looking birds; they are certainly king-of-the-jungle in their territories. Impressively large feet and talons, a superbly built apex predator species. This species occurs across the continent, with several regional (clinal) variations.

They also sound wonderful when vocalizing at dawn, dusk, and in the black of night.

Did I mention, "Rain!."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Groove-billed Ani, Pecos County

photos by Harry Forbes

Back on the 12th of September, Harry Forbes emailed us about a Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) at the I-10 rest stop west of Ft. Stockton.

This member of Family Cuculidae, that is the "Cuckoos" ranges from south Texas in the summer, rare in winter around the Gulf Coast, and resides year-round in much of Mexico, through Central America, and northern portions of South America.

To Heidi and myself, this is always a Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas bird in our shared memories.

One characteristic of members of the "Cuckoo" family is the two toes in front and two toes in back on the feet.

In its "normal" ranges, these birds are a delight to encounter due in large part to the "family" groups they are found in. Primarily frugivores, we've seen them eat invertebrates when there is scarce fruit to be plucked; such as the Groove-billed Ani we had in Marathon last yr.

The following day I decided to swing up there to give it a look, and listen.

Since blogger is not letting me copy-and-paste...
Below is a link to my post to the Texas Birds list-serv:

Groove-billed Ani, rest stop 25 miles W. of Ft Stockton