Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ramah Maringuoin Eagles - First Video 2010

Ramah Maringuoin Bald Eagle Nest from Jane Patterson on Vimeo.

First video of this year's Bald Eagle nest near Ramah & Maringuoin in south central Louisiana. The location of the nest is perfect, both for the birds and for the on-lookers. The tree stands alone in a large ag field and has visibility for miles on all sides. It can be observed from the road very well. And I think, unlike last year, the view will not be completely obscured when the tree leafs out either.

There is one chick visible in the nest. You can catch glimpses in the video as it moves around and as the parents feed it. Click on the title above to watch the video on the website -- it's larger and easier to see!

This my first video of the nest, but likely not my last! Note to self: use tripod!

The Ramah Maringuoin Eagles

The Bald Eagles that have nested in years past near Sherburne South Farm WMA are back, and better than ever! They have a new nest this year. It's in a large water oak situated in the middle of a bare field, so it's very easy to see. And, time will tell, but I think you'll be able to see the nest even when the tree leafs out (unlike last year) which will be great for watching the nest progress.

There is definitely a chick in the nest! Difficult to tell if there is more than one. The one I could see looked to be about 2-3 weeks old. According the what I read in the references, they spend about 75 days in the nest, so we should be able to watch this little guy grow for the next 2 1/2 months or so.

To find the nest, take the Ramah Maringuoin exit off I-10 west. Turn right on hwy 3000 when you exit, then take the first left (almost immediate). Take the next right turn. This will take you across a small bridge over a bayou and onto the road next to the levee. Follow this for about 2 miles until you see the sign for South Farm on your left. Look to your right and you'll see the Eagle Tree.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hummingbird Banding video

Hummingbird Banding from Jane Patterson on Vimeo.

Next best thing to being there!

Watch Linda Beall band a Ruby-Throat Hummingbird -- fascinating process! She explains every step as she bands, weighs, measures, and marks the bird.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Miniature Miracles

Most people are familiar with hummingbirds...tiny, flying jewels that never seem to sit still, flitting from flower to flower. They are so tiny and look so fragile. But these birds are remarkably resilient. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds we see in the eastern part of the U.S. migrate each year from Mexico and Central America up into the U.S. from the Gulf Coast all the way to Canada -- and then back again! More species of hummingbirds occur in the western part of the U.S. than the east, and some of these little birds also migrate. They are supposed to head for Mexico and Central America as well, but in the past 30 years or so, people have started seeing them along the Gulf Coast and even in some eastern states during the fall and winter months. Dubbed "western vagrants," these birds may take up residence in our yards here in Louisiana for the winter and keep us company while we're missing our ruby-throats. The most common of these western hummers is the Rufous (technically, Selasphorus Rufous). I've been fortunate enough to host a handful of these birds, mostly Rufous, over the past few years (since I've known to keep my feeders up and pay attention!). Nancy Newfield and her crew have come to my yard each year to try to band these birds so that we have a better idea where they come from and where they go. Since these birds nest from the northern Rockies to Alaska, one of them may turn up 2500 miles away some day!

Today was Banding Day 2010. They caught 2 female Rufous hummingbirds in my yard. One was new... The first thing they do is apply a band, in case the bird escapes while it's being handled. Generally they are very docile and of course they are treated very carefully. The tiny aluminum band contains a unique code of a letter and 4 digits that identifies only this bird. It's applied gently to the tiny leg of the bird.

Each bird is inspected carefully for general health and to try to determine age....

Each bird is weighed... they're looking to see if she's put on fat and might be ready to migrate back to the west coast

The feathers are inspected to see where she is in the molting process. Hummingbirds generally replace their feathers during the winter months -- getting all pretty for the breeding season!

After the banding is done and all the data about the bird are recorded, the bird is marked with a non-toxic liquid "paint" that will allow us to see from a distance that this bird has been processed. If there is one more than one bird in a location, different colors are used so the host can tell the birds apart. Since this is virtually impossible without the color-marking, this is one of our favorite parts of the process. The "paint" will disappear as the bird molts their head feathers.

This pretty girl is ready to go! We caught her again twice this morning when she came back to the feeders. She had a pretty trying day but I'm sure she'll be fine. She's a tough little bird!

Nancy Newfield and Kevin Morgan on stakeout, patiently watching the traps...
The second bird that was caught today turned out to already have a band on her leg! She was banded in my yard in 2006, so this is her 4th year to travel thousands of miles cross country to my yard! If that doesn't amaze you....well....I just give up :-)

She was marked in blue so I can tell her from the other bird. They think there may have been a 3rd one in my yard, so if I see one that's unmarked I'll know that's the case....

And I got the honor of holding her for the release. The best way I can describe this is "a feather with a heartbeat." She's so light you can barely feel the weight of her on your hand, but you can feel the heartbeat just vibrating, it's beating so fast... She rested there for a moment...and then poof! Back to the shrubbery!

Since she's come back for 4 years in a row, I decided she needs a name. She shall be called "Tish" for "titiana" which means auburn-gold the beautiful feathers in her gorget.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Other Texas Wildlife

Still so much to learn...

One of the neatest things at the bed & breakfast was the bird life. The hosts set a great table for the birds and they were there throughout the day. In addition to the collection of titmice and sparrows, we noticed a yellow bird on the feeder. Two wing bars, yellow-orange beak, about the size of a cardinal...what was this bird? My first instinct was tanager...but the wing bars? My best looks of the bird were without a camera at hand (of course) but I finally managed a couple of mediocre pictures.

Without good internet access and my field guide library, I wasn't able to figure out for sure what the bird was until I got home. Anyway, long story short...the bird is a female Western Tanager...and it doesn't seem to belong in coastal Texas. It's one of the fun things, and the frustrating things, about learning birds. Knowing when something is special, when it doesn't belong. And it's something that can only be learned with experience, with time in the field. Sometimes you get lucky and you get some documentation and you can prove what you saw, other times you don't know to get a picture or think to get one and the opportunity is lost. It definitely keeps you on your toes!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Tree House at Rockport

On our recent trip to Texas to see the Whooping Cranes, we stayed at a bed and breakfast on the Copano Bay. It's actually a garage apt that Marsha and Harry Krenek rent out, and it's a wonderful spot. Situated in the middle of a coastal live oak grove, on a bluff overlooking the bay, it's a tranquil spot and one that is wonderful for wildlife. Not only were there plenty of birds around, but we spied raccoon, deer, fox, and the biggest, fattest fox squirrels you'll ever see. We highly recommend it if you're in the market for a place to stay near Rockport-Fulton, TX.
Copano Bay Retreat

(click on each picture to see larger version)

Sunrise over Copano Bay -- view from the bluff toward the northeast

Great Blue Heron sittin' on the dock of the bay

Ned sittin' on the dock of the bay (well, the steps leading to it, anyway :-))

Spotted Sandpiper bobbing on the rocks

Rockport's famous for its hummingbirds of's one that couldn't bear to leave. Female Rufous

Black-crested Titmouse -- I guess I should have chosen a picture that shows his crest, huh? I'll have to look for one

The only Lincoln's Sparrows I've ever seen have been hiding in shrubbery...these came right out the feeders (but were still pretty shy).

Well, don't you look chipper!

In the live oak canopy

Nice place to relax and enjoy nature


The Littlest Grebe

The Grebe who thought he was a penguin from Jane Patterson on Vimeo.

I happened to be on the observation tower at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, Tx one evening. Looked down and noticed this bird fishing. He was hard to follow with the camera -- you can see how quickly he propels himself through the water with those webbed feet. I love the huge droplets of water that gather on his back when re-emerges. He reminded me of a penguin chasing after fish-- all feet and rounded body and no suggestion of wings at all....

My lifer Least Grebe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

But there's more here than Whooping Cranes...

A few other scenes from the Whooping Crane tour.

A view of the Rockport Marina
The Fulton Mansion on the waterfront The drunken Peregrine. (Captain Tommy's nickname for her -- not mine. He said she looked like she was leaning up against the nesting platform for support after a hard night on the town :-))
Forster Tern. What did the birds rest on before we added flotsam and jetsam?
At one point we picked up a small group of Bottle-nosed dolphins who wanted to get their pictures taken and frolicked in the wake, hamming it up.
These Oyster-catchers didn't have to work too hard to get oysters. They were standing on a big ol' pile of 'em.
A study in Cormorants. With a Ring-Billed Gull thrown in for good measure and size comparison. The Double-crested are the larger, bulkier Cormorants -- the Neotropic the smaller and more delicate.
We spied a coyote on one of the outer islands. He was not particularly happy for the attention.One Dunlin, Two Dunlin, Three Dunlin, Four.
You get the idea. No those are not insects. Those're ducks. Thousands of 'em, in the distance.

Crab fisherman are having to work hard for a the cranes, they're finding the blue crabs very hard to come by this year... Peaceful, early morning marina

Visiting the Whoopers

Ned and I went to Rockport, Texas this past weekend to see the Whooping Cranes. Captain Tommy Moore's boat, the Skimmer, sails out of Rockport to the islands and bays off Aransas National Wildlife Refuge just north of there. The Whooping Cranes generally hang out in these marshes looking for their favorite dish -- the blue crab. Unfortunately crab are scarce this year, so the cranes are having to work harder to find food. The census taken of the cranes this year numbered them at 264. We saw 14 of them on our trip...

Distance made me wish for the mega-lenses that other folks use to photograph these great birds.

More photos from the trip forthcoming...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wings of Hope Wildlife Sanctuary

Eastern Screech Owl with injured leg

Visit the link below to see some pictures from our recent visit to the Wings of Hope Wildlife Sanctuary and rehabilitation hospital in Livingston. The sanctuary is run by Leslie Lattimore. Leslie takes in and cares for all sorts of injured wildlife, from birds to squirrels and otters and, well, you name it! It takes a lot of time and energy and dedication to care for these animals, and you can tell it's a labor of love for Leslie and her volunteer staff, like my friend Amy.
Scenes from Wings of Hope - Dec 2009

Visit the Wings of Hope Sanctuary website
You can also visit the website to find out how you can arrange to visit the Sanctuary in prrson and meet Leslie and "her" animals.

Gulls on Ice

What's wrong with this picture? Can this be Baton Rouge? Frozen lakes? Gulls skating on thin ice??

Butter-butt (aka, yellow-rumped warbler)

Orange-crowned warbler

Hello Phoebe!

Sunset over the batture