Friday, January 27, 2012

See What I Do

I work for Biology.  I have 5 tracts which I travel to each week to do a waterfowl and shorebird survey, counting each species and then enter my findings into a database on the computer.  Wallace has been going with me this season and he has been a great help.  We travel about 300 miles per week.  We are out in the elements:  cold, heat, wind, sun, ticks, chiggers, bugs, etc.  You get the picture...It can be taxing at times, but the fun outweighs the bad.

He opens gates, totes our scope, and assists me with my counting.  He knows coots!!  He is learning more and so am I.

So, here we are at East Lake, one of 3 salt lakes that is managed by Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR.  We leave Santa Ana at 5:00am and arrive there about 6:15am.  We approach the lake slowly with the lights off so as not to alarm the birds.  Immediately, the sound is deafening.  At the crack of dawn, this is what we see dead ahead of us.

The Snow Geese take off all together, they are first to leave.  Our estimated count is 2000.

This is what we see from where we park.  Sandhill Cranes!!!  Keep in mind you are not seeing all of them.

I walk down to get a better view.  Maybe something else is hiding in that mass!!

Unlike the geese, the cranes take turns taking off.  By 7:30, they are all gone...out to the fields to feed and they return at dusk to roost for the night.

In the last blog, I had a picture of a bobcat track.  Here is a coyote track to compare, nails and all.

The next tract we went to is El Ranchito.  It is one of 3 freshwater wetlands I survey with a good variety of things.

We had a grand total of 23 American Wigeon today.  Surveying here is challenging.

Mark, I now have a caliche road to get me to the area.  Last year Mark got to go out with me a few times.

This plowed field follows the waterway where I can stop and peek through the vegetation at various points.  It's like riding a bucking bronc as the tractor loves to come right up and plow the road.  The property belongs to the refuge but the cooperative farmer gets to farm the field for a while.  He gives back a portion of the land to the refuge until he farms himself out.  The ride can be tedious!!! 

As I said, it can be challenging.  I use a tape recorder and transfer the information to paper when I get back at the end of the day.

This is one unwelcome guest.  It is a Nutria.  More later...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

La Sal del Rey Tour

Here are our volunteers from Santa Ana NWR who signed up for the trip to La Sal del Rey (the salt of the king).  Tom on the left with the windex, cleaned our windows.  Thanks Tom!  Tim helped out by being in charge of my scope and unlocking gates for us.  Thanks Tim!  We were immediately serenaded by two Bewick's Wrens.  Sweet!!!  The weather was perfect!!!

It is a 35 mile drive which takes about an hour.  We arrived and made use of our NEW restroom facilities before our short stroll to the lake where I give a short talk about the importance of the lake from a historical point of view to the importance of it from a wildlife point of view.  I can't give you my talk as I will be taking another group soon and I don't want them to read it here.  However, I will blog about it at a later date.  It is a wonderful place!!!

Here we are having fun exploring the beach, identifying tracks, looking at birds, and anything else Mother Nature puts before us.  Eight Snowy Plovers appeared right in front of us on demand as that was the one bird requested.  We also saw 5 coyotes as they ran at the far end of the lake.

Bobcat or coyote???  Answer at the end.  But I bet you know the answer.

We then had lunch at Rudy's Barbeque in McAllen before returning to the refuge.

These trips help new volunteers learn about some of the other tracts that make up this South Texas Complex so they can better inform the public.

Our next outing will take us to Salineno and Roma.

The answer.....Bobcat as there are no claws showing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Deep in the Heart of Texas"

Some of you didn't understand my last blog title.  It is a verse from the song "Deep in the Heart of Texas".  A song that was written in 1941 and spent 5 weeks at the top of "Your Hit Parade" in 1942.  The University of Texas Longhorn Band performs it during each football pregame.  Google it for the rest of the lyrics.  When I was growing up here in the Valley there was a TV show on channel 5 by the name "The Ty Cobb Show" that featured local talent every Saturday.  I sang that song while my sister played the piano for me.  We performed EVERY Saturday!!!  That song means a lot to this Valley Gal!!!

We have our volunteer tour of La Sal del Rey tomorrow.  Stay tuned for that adventure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"The sage in bloom, is like perfume....

Cenizo, better known as Purple Sage was profusely blooming at Los Olmos.

We took a little trip with our supervisor, Imer de la Garza, out to one of Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR tracts near Rio Grande City named Los Olmos (the elms).  This piece of property was sold to the refuge by Wallace's best friend.  It is a very nice parcel of land that has some endangered plants on it.  We were eager to see it again.

Last year, the guys put up some solar panels to get water for the wildlife.

The concrete structures were built a long time ago.  They were made to hold water for the cattle that was on the ranch at one time.  You can agua!!!  The Spanish name for these structures is "pilas".

The windmill (papalote) used to bring in water and is now defunct.  A thing of the past.

Here are the two, trying to figure out what to do!?!  The system required too much maintenance so it was dismantled and parts of it will be used elsewhere.

It was good to get out in the field with our "super".

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cracker Critter

See if you can see what lies upon this tree!!!

I was sitting at our dining room window when I just happened to see this butterfly flopping around through the trees.  It got my attention...when it finally landed...I realized it was a cracker...Gray Cracker that is.  I have only seen this butterfly in a book, so it was a lifer for me.  My book says it is a regular in extreme south Texas!!!  There are not that many sightings tho'.  Reported late summer into fall??? 

Anyway, a little excitement to share with you today.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Volunteer Tours

When Jennifer asked if I would like to do the volunteer tours again this season I said sure would.  Our first one was Wednesday to Laguna Atascosa NWR.

Here are just 6 of the gang who signed up for this trip. 

We left Santa Ana NWR at 8:00am.  We signed in at the vc and spent a little time in the bookstore, hiked a few close trails, checked out the facilities, and then were on our way to drive the Bayside Drive 13 mile loop of the Laguna Madre.

The freshwater wetlands were all dry, but we enjoyed the day.  The weather was perfect...very little wind!!!  We stopped at the observation deck to enjoy our sack lunch as we got to know each other a little bit better.

After lunch, we finished the loop drive, then drove over to the other observation deck where we enjoyed watching Rosette Spoonbills doing their back and forth feeding motions with those strange looking bills.  We also found a Long-billed Curlew close by, the largest shorebird in North America, which is a threatened species.

All of the other trips are completely filled with our next one being at Sal del Rey which is one of three naturally occuring salt lakes in the area and all owned by Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR.