Tag Archives: Wildlife

A lesson in Humility from Bird Seed

File Feb 10, 9 04 16 AM

 

I love birds, except for blue jays. Why my hate of them? There was a blue jay last year that destroyed the barn swallow nest under the patio. The swallows laid four clutches of eggs and with every clutch, the blue jay would eat the eggs. On the last attempt by this blue jay, the nest that had been there for years was destroyed. That was the same nest that gave a winter home to a Carolina wren.

With my love of birds, I feed and water them, especially during the winter when they have limited resources on the high plains of Texas. While checking out in Wal-Mart – I relearned a valuable and humble lesson and it came with the purchase of bird food.

The friendly and talkative young girl checking me out was probably no more than twenty. She commented on many of my purchases like all the cheese I was buying – yes – I love cheese to Lamb Chop (Azrael’s favorite toy), but it was the comments on the birdseed cake that caught my attention the most.

When she asked what kinds of birds I had I replied back that they were wild birds. I immediately could tell by the confusion on her face she did not understand what I meant by wild birds. She thought I actually had birds living in my house. Then I thought about my friend, June who has Archie and our conservation that morning. Archie was squawking loudly in the background. Apparently, there was a wild bird outside he that had peaked his interest.

As I tried to explain about doves, robins, and other birds, I could still see the confusion on the girl’s face, I took a patient breath and explained to her that the birds I was feeding were all outside wild birds that come and go. Some have dark heads, some have red colors, and some are almost entirely bright blue. They live in the trees, as well as travel all over town and Texas.

Sadly, she still didn’t get it. How do I know she didn’t get it? Because – her last comment said it all “well its cool that you don’t have them in your house.”

As I walked to my car and drove home, I reflected more on that exchange than I probably should have. But it truly bothered me knowing that this girl did not know about wild birds.

I cannot imagine not being raised outside and knowing what birds are or even a bobcat, toad, butterfly, or the smell of wildflowers. I must stop and realize that not everyone was raised around wildlife and exposed to the outdoors. I climbed trees like a monkey growing up and came into contact with a variety of bird nests and birds. I hiked with my dad on all of our trips across the states. I saw birds of many colors never knowing what they were. Someone did tell me what a magpie was in Wyoming and it soon became my favorite bird.

I cannot imagine not having the multitude of wildlife experiences I had. I certainly cannot imagine anyone else knowing what even birds are. But sadly – I did encounter someone who had no clue about wild birds. I can only hope to run into this girl again with bird food and try my best to explain to her again about wild birds.

In reflection, this was a hard lesson for me. But it these kinds of lessons that remind me of my humanity and that sharing my wildlife knowledge is one of the most important things I can do.

A Raccoon’s Magic

Wildlife camera trap research reveals quickly which animals are the most curious about their surroundings. I’ve had several white-tailed deer often love lick the cameras just to taste them. Greater roadrunners no matter where I’ve placed the cameras have found them and taken several selfies. Feral hogs have bumped some cameras more than once moving the camera into an awkward position, which results in getting blank or vegetation captures. A few raccoons have been curious about the cameras. There are the rare shots of bobcats checking out the cameras up close. Then there is the one time on Christmas Eve in 2015 that a Mountain Lion took three selfies.

What magic recently occurred to due a masked bandit as they are often referred to? On September 25, 2017 at 8:41 pm a wet raccoon approached one of the cameras at the Beaver Pond. After a couple of selfies were taken – one paw reached out and moved the camera at an angled position towards the opposite side of the Beaver Pond. By doing this minor movement this raccoon caused something phenomenal to be taken that would’ve never been captured if he or she had not been curious enough to move the camera trap.

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Raccoon first selfie.
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Raccoon second selfie.
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Raccoon’s right paw moving the camera.

Here are a couple of background explanations. A baby Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was born at 3RF earlier this year. It’s hard to tell on the following photos if this is the female or male of its parents without seeing them standing side by side. Males have a longer beak. After the Beaver Pond restoration process began in late 2016, several American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus or Rana catesbeiana) came back to the riparian area. I’ve heard their choruses of croaking over the last several months. These frogs are an important food source for many birds, especially large herons.

Back to that magical raccoon whom with its innate curiosity allowed the following images to be captured – a Great Blue Heron eating one of those bullfrogs. The series of captures shows before the bird swallowed it whole, it dropped and dunked it into the water several times, poked it a couple of times, and then proceeded to swallow the entire bullfrog in one big gulp with its head slightly turned sideways. The coloration of the bullfrog indicates it was a female bullfrog because male bullfrogs have yellow throats.

After the heron ate its dinner, it continued standing in front of the camera preening itself for several minutes. In one capture it extended its neck once more as if making sure the bullfrog was swallowed completely.

These images would’ve been missed entirely if the camera had not been moved at an odd angle by that lone raccoon. With future research, I plan to use two cameras at each location at the Beaver Pond, one straight up and down and the other placed at an angle. There is simply no telling what other wildlife interaction research photos that have been missed like these of the Great Blue Heron eating a bullfrog. So I discovered this thanks to a lone raccoon. From an ecological standpoint its priceless to see that the initial phase of the Beaver Pond restoration is benefiting these herons and other wildlife.

Additional, images captured were of a standing raccoon, one white-tailed deer doe stopping by the camera. In the last serious of photos, the baby Great Blue Heron was seen flying into the pond, capturing a crawdad, and swallowing it.

 

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Great Blue Heron and an American Bullfrog.

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