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CWS_BigBlue(WR)_lg.jpgNotes from the Canyonlands



Chuck has retired but
his past blogs are still wonderfully entertaining.

Occasional observations and notes from Dr. Chuck Sexton, the wildlife biologist at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  Chuck has been on staff at the Refuge since 1994 and has been a student of the ecology of the Texas Hill Country for over 30 years.


*** Be sure to click on the "Read more" button to see the full text of each entry!
***The public can read Chucks posts, but only dues paying members (logged in) can comment.
  • Monday, February 08, 2010 10:38 PM | Anonymous
    RCSP_HPR_Zagst.jpg     What could be more enjoyable on a cold winter morning than kicking through a grassland recently “decorated” by grazing cattle, or picking your way through prickly-pear when you really want to concentrate on that itty-bitty little brown job that just dove into the bush up ahead, or daintily dancing over a chilly prairie creek to chase a bird that doesn’t know the real meaning of ‘swamp’?  It don’t get any better than this!

         Bill Reiner Jr., Byron Stone, and I each came to appreciate sparrows from slightly different birding pathways but in the end, we all became Emberizid Enthusiasts, Ambassadors of Aimophila, Spizella Specialists, Purveyors of Pipilo, or whatever epithet you might dream up.  Personally, I've always liked a bird ID challenge.  If I lived near the coast, I’d spend more time with confusing immature gulls.  If I lived in the eastern woodlands, I’d strive to pick up the identification subtleties of migrant warblers in dull fall plumage.  But having started my birding career in the dead of winter in the mesquite plains around San Angelo, Texas, if I couldn’t get enthusiastic about studying sparrows, I wouldn’t have had much to look at.  Texas in general, and the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country in particular, offers a high diversity of these dashing little feathered dinosaurs for our viewing pleasure.  They may not be as gaudy as spring warblers, buntings, or orioles, but they are jazzy in the own subtle ways of plumage and behavior.

    CWS_HPR_Mickel.jpg
    "Sparrows?  I don't know nothin' about no sparrows.
    I thought I was supposed to lead a winter *bud* identification field course."

    Photo: Charles Mickel

        This year’s participants were treated to a beautiful weather day.  A nice chill in the morning was sufferable.  The afternoon was so nice that even the sparrows took some time off, much to our chagrin.  (I thought they were contractually obligated to stay easily visible, but apparently they hadn’t read the fine print.)  Nonetheless, a grand time was had by all, with the intensity and enthusiasm of the morning gradually morphing into an easy camaraderie and chatter about a day well-spent.

        Statistically, the day was hit and miss.  (See a complete bird list "Below The Line".)  We tallied a total of 17 species of “sparrows”, in the familial sense of the word.  We missed five of our “regulars” (Black-throated, White-throated, and Swamp Sparrows, Eastern Towhee, and, of all things, Dark-eyed Junco), but made up a little ground with a Lark Bunting glimpsed and photographed by Byron, and .... drum roll, please .... a new species for the Refuge: Brewer’s Sparrow.  The latter was identified by Bill Reiner and his group on their morning tromp around the Flying X.  [Historic note:  Bill had added the elusive Baird’s Sparrow to the Refuge list with a sighting barely a hundred yards away from the same spot on April 22, 2006.  He has the knack, and the Flying X provides the show.]

         My two tours couldn’t match the diversity of Byron’s or Bill’s but what we lacked from the list, we made up for in quality looks at some specialties like Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Canyon Towhee.  In fact, a pair of Canyon Towhees at Hickory Pass Ranch provided book-ends to our day, popping up to make them the first birds studied in the morning sun and bidding my group fairwell as the sun dropped behind the trees in the late afternoon.  SparrowFest 2010 has come and gone and we all survived.  Below, I forward some of the documentation, kindly provided by Laurie Foss, Fred Zagst, and Charles Mickel.

    CWS Group1_Zagst.jpg
    I offered my morning group the option of visiting two distinctly different habitats:
    Climbing up the vertical cliff adjacent to Cow Creek,
    or walking through the flat grassland...


    CWS Group2_Zagst..jpg
    Happily, they chose the latter.
    Photos: Laurie Foss

    Flying X_Mickel.jpg
    The early bird(ers) got the (Brewer's Sparrow) worm ...
    (Well, I guess that proverb doesn't transpose smoothly for present purposes.
    )
    Here, the midday crowd attempts to refind that 1st Refuge record at the Flying X.

    Photo: Charles Mickel

    PSR_Mickel.jpg
    Turnabout is fair play:
    Bill Reiner's afternoon group searches in vain for a Black-throated Sparrow.

    Photo: Charles Mickel

    CATO_HPR_Zagst.jpg
    One of the cooperative Canyon Towhees at Hickory Pass Ranch,
    warming up--like the rest of us--in the morning sun.
    Photo: Fred Zagst

         As always, special thanks go to Friends of Balcones for organizing and supporting this event so thoroughly.  We are always grateful to our neighbors and private landowners who allow access to their special corners of the canyonlands.  This year that included Joan Mukherjee (Cedar Stump Ranch), Jacquelyn Mouton and David Johnston (Hickory Pass Ranch), David & Cynthia Castleberry (Peaceful Springs Nature Preserve), and Dub & Ruth Lyon.  As well, it wouldn't be SparrowFest without the refueling offered up by Chef Heidi Wittenborn of The Adequate Snack.  Thanks again to Laurie Foss, Charles Mickel, and Fred Zagst for use of their SparrowFest photos.  The Rufous-crowned Sparrow at the top of this blog is by Fred.

    * * * * *
    Below the Line:

    A small sampling of sparrows in literature (other than field guides):

    “I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”
    Henry David Thoreau, Winter Visitors

    “Whenever I hear the sparrow chirping, watch the woodpecker chirp, catch a chirping trout, or listen to the sad howl of the chirp rat, I think: Oh boy!  I'm going insane again.”
    Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts
     
    * * * * *
    Further Below The Line -- SparrowFest 2010 Bird List:
     
    Northern Bobwhite
    Black Vulture
    Turkey Vulture
    Northern Harrier
    Cooper's Hawk
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Crested Caracara
    American Kestrel
    Merlin
    Wilson's Snipe
    Eurasian Collared-Dove
    Mourning Dove
    Great Horned Owl
    Red-bellied Woodpecker
    Centurus sp. (prob. Golden-fronted Wdp.)
    Ladder-backed Woodpecker
    Northern Flicker
    Eastern Phoebe
    Western Scrub-Jay
    American Crow
    Common Raven
    Carolina Chickadee
    Black-crested Titmouse
    Carolina Wren
    Bewick's Wren
    House Wren
    Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    Eastern Bluebird
    Hermit Thrush
    American Robin
    Northern Mockingbird
    Brown Thrasher
    European Starling
    American Pipit
    Cedar Waxwing
    Orange-crowned Warbler
    Yellow-rumped Warbler
    Spotted Towhee  --  a few here and there; fewer than normal
    Canyon Towhee  --  two pairs at two locations
    Rufous-crowned Sparrow  --  small numbers, great looks
    Chipping Sparrow  --  common in edges and woodlands
    BREWER'S SPARROW  --  one at Flying X, 1st for Refuge
    Field Sparrow  --  common and widespread
    Vesper Sparrow  --  fairly common, widespread
    Lark Sparrow  --  at least 10 at Peaceful Springs
    Lark Bunting  --  one photographed on Eckhardt (ByS)
    Savannah Sparrow  --  abundant in grasslands, etc.
    Grasshopper Sparrow  --  fairly numerous in grasslands, etc.
    Le Conte's Sparrow  --  numbers seen well by 4 of 6 field trips
    Fox Sparrow  --  a few, scattered
    Song Sparrow  --  fairly common
    Lincoln's Sparrow  --  fewer than normal, but fairly common
    Harris's Sparrow  --  small numbers at two locations
    White-crowned Sparrow  --  fairly numerous
    Northern Cardinal
    Eastern Meadowlark
    Western Meadowlark
    Brewer's Blackbird
    Brown-headed Cowbird
    House Finch
    Lesser Goldfinch
    American Goldfinch
    House Sparrow
  • Sunday, January 31, 2010 11:37 PM | Anonymous

         Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense (1905)
         History is more or less bunk.
    Henry Ford, Chicago Tribune, 25 May 1916


         I am an inveterate note taker.  My earliest efforts were probably the scribbled observations collected for my Boy Scout “Nature” merit badge which required me to watch and document the insect activity at a patch of flowers in my front yard for a day.  Unfortunately for the history of science, those notes are no longer extant.  mb078c.gifAs for the most recent 30 to 40 years of my outdoor career, we’re in pretty good shape.

         Over the past several weeks--in my absence from this blog space--I have spent some time going back through notes covering four decades of my birdwatching observations*.  More properly, I should say I’m “coming forward” through these notes, having started by digging out the first scraps of paper from 1970 and perusing subsequent notebooks, journals, and field checklists chronologically.  Quite naturally, this has been a fun trip down memory lane.  In the past few days, I’ve finally arrived at the period 1988-89 which has some relevance to this Refuge.

         In an entry dated May 1, 1988, entitled “Wandering around”, I described how I went out to check on the spring migration only to find that there were no migrant birds evident in the woods along Walnut Creek on V12_93a.jpgthe east side of Austin so “I reversed [my course] and headed NW”.  It was a fateful choice.  For the previous few years, I had been intently studying the distribution of the Black-capped Vireo throughout it’s range.  The species had only been listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service the previous October.  I had begun to develop some ideas about where vireos might be found and why (think: geology).  My new NW course out of Austin took me along RM 1431 west of Cedar Park and north onto Nameless Road.  This pathway was inspired by some old sightings of Black-capped Vireos near the intersection of 1431 and Nameless Road by Charles Easley of Travis Audubon Society and by my perusal of some area geologic maps.

         By the time I’d made it up to the Travis/Williamson County border on Round Mountain Road I had seen no patches of really good-looking vireo habitat but had encountered a small list of songbirds, one Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a cooperative Western Hognose Snake.  I came over the gradual divide marking the county boundary and onto BCVIa_GWL.jpgWilliamson Co. Road 282.  I screeched to a halt just a few hundred yards into Williamson County when I saw some oak brush intermingled with junipers.  I jumped out of the car and listened for a moment...and up piped one singing male Black-capped Vireo!  About a half mile up the road, another stop near some scrubby oak brush at the intersection of CR 282 and 281 yielded another singing Black-capped.  The significance of these sightings was two-fold:
    (1) These constituted the first records of Black-capped Vireo in (relatively underbirded) Williamson County, and (2) the locations of the brushy habitats which the vireos had chosen corresponded precisely with my theories of which geologic substrates best support vireo habitat.

         I grabbed a quick celebratory snack in Liberty Hill, filled up with gas, and headed back out onto the narrow county roads west of town.  My wandering eventually led me back onto RM 1869 and westward towards Burnet County.  Just as I passed the Burnet County line, a large patch of shin oak brush presented itself on the south side of the road.  Once again screeching to a halt--there was a lot of that going on that day--I stepped out of the car and was greeted by *multiple* singing Black-capped Vireos!  A mile up the road on the same ranch, more shinnery blanketed the landscape.  I’d hit the motherlode.

    SOOD_1997a.jpg
    Low oak shinnery habitat on the Eckhardt ranch,
    not much different from the way it looked in 1988 when Black-capped Vireos were discovered here.
    The small clearing just beyond the grass and fallen trees marks the site of the (future) Shin Oak Observation Deck.


         At the time, there were just a few isolated records of Black-capped Vireos in the far west edge of Burnet County on the bluffs of Lake Buchanan, but nothing like this.  I reported my findings later to the newly-formed Biological Advisory Team for the Austin Regional Habitat Conservation Plan, and the rest...as they say...is history.  We determined that the large patch of oak shinnery was on a ranch owned by Donald Eckhardt.  The Eckhardt ranch became one of the early additions to the newly-established Balcones Canyonlands NWR in 1992.  That very same patch of shinnery now harbors the Shin Oak Observation Deck where no small number of visiting birders have tallied their “Lifer” Black-capped Vireo, and around which we continue to manage habitat for the Black-capped Vireo.

    SOOD Under Constr.jpg
    The Shin Oak Observation Deck, under construction in early 1998.


    SOOD Vert.jpg

         The history lesson?  Keep on wandering and take good notes!

    * * * * *
    Below The Line:

    Here are some even earlier versions of the wisdom on learning from the past:

         Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.
    Euripides (ca. 485-406 BCE)

         What experience and history teach is this--that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
    G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of History, Introduction (1820).

    * My review of birding journals has all been part of a somewhat obsessive and vain effort to see where I stand in the “Texas Century Club”, an inspired project sponsored by the Texas Ornithological Society to challenge birders to tally at least 100 bird species in as many counties as possible.  [My thanks to fellow writer Bill Reiner Jr. for helping me put that last sentence into readable English.  Any errors are, of course, my own.]  So far, having reviewed just the first 20 years of my birding career, I’ve found at least 22 counties where I meet the century standard, and I’m still gleaning.

  • Wednesday, December 30, 2009 6:12 PM | Anonymous
    orange.jpg     I am partial to the color orange.  Given my birthplace (City of Orange, in Orange County, CA) and my choice of colleges in central Texas for a graduate education, I am beset by good feelings when I settle my eye on almost anything in the color spectrum about midway between yellow and red.  A nice sunset, a migrating Monarch, a lively prescribed burn dancing through a prairie--and orange M&Ms--all bring a smile to my face.  (I also grin at the thought of all the other colors of the candy that purportedly "melts in your mouth, not in your hand".)  But as for orange junipers, ... not so much.




         I'm home for the holidays with a long "Do List" of tasks in the yard.  Link to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's page on Ashe juniper.I have to work fast: The cedar pollen is upon us*.  Along with thousands of other central Texans, I suffer from cedar fever from late December to early February.  When I see the young developing pollen cones on the tips of cedar branches in mid-December, I begin to tense up; I know my time out-of-doors is limited.  If I had enough vacation time accrued, I'd probably spend the whole winter in some warmer, cedar-less landscape.

         It is only slight comfort to know that not every cedar tree carries pollen.  Cedars are unisexual, with male and female flowers on separate trees.  The cedars loaded down with the familiar blue berries are the female trees.  The pollen of course comes from male flowers.  Now in early Link to a detailed article by Smeins and Fuhelendorf (from the 1997 Juniper Symposium).winter, the sexes are easy to distinguish because any mature male cedar old enough to form pollen cones gradually morphs into the dreaded orange hue.

         We all make choices: My wife and I chose to move into a nice home on a wooded lot which included about two dozen mature juniper trees.  In a bit of cruel irony, as many as 11 of the 15 biggest cedar trees immediately around the house (i.e. right outside my windows and doors) are male.  I guess we lost that lottery, for which the odds of "winning" or "losing" should be 50-50.  I've consulted with author and juniper expert Elizabeth McGreevy about this skewed finding and we have no ready explanation.

         Here's a homework assignment:  Right now while the censusing is easy, put on a pollen mask, go out in your yard or on your ranch, and take a census of all your cedar trees (i.e. the older ones) to see what your ratio of male (small orange cones) to females (blue berries OR green without berries or cones).  The bigger the sample the better.  If you own dozens of acres or thousands of trees, a random sample or a linear transect through a typical stand will be sufficient ... unless you are reeeeeally into counting junipers.  Send your juniper census (number of male and female trees; total sample size) to my work email at chuck_sexton AT fws.gov.  At the end of January, I'll compile all the results and report back on this new citizen science effort.

         After several weeks of suffering--from the pollen, not from statistics--I'll look forward to these same trees turning from bright orange to a darker reddish brown.  That marks the time when the male cones have finally dispensed the last of their pollen and the cones are about to fall off the trees.  If I understand the physiology of this tree correctly, in the early part of the pollen season it is a freeze followed by bright blue skies and a warm sun that will cause the male cones to burst and offer up their grief.  Oddly, late in the cycle, it is precisely another freeze (or a good hard rain) and a gusty day which will put the cones on the ground.  Good riddance.

         Just to leave you on an upbeat note, here are some nicer orange things in the natural world:

    Link to Julia Heliconian on Butterflies and Moths of N. America web site.

    Link to Greg Lasley's page for Rufous Hummingbird.  Link to Greg Lasley's page for Northern Shoverler.  I was standing beside Greg when he took these Le Conte's Sparrow pics at Attwater P.C. NWR!

    E Bl_neck Garter_crop.jpg

    The Prescribed Fire Program at Balcones Canyonlands NWR.

    * * * * *
    "Below the Line"

    *   It is common knowledge in central Texas that "cedar" and "juniper" refer to the same trees.  While it is true that all of the juniper we see in the Refuge area belongs to one species, Juniperus ashei, I apply my own grammatical twist on this botanical nomenclature:  When I speak of this woody component in good Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat or when I am admiring some old stately survivor of this type, I reverently call them "Ashe junipers", but when I speak of the same species of plant invading prairies and rangeland, I spit out the vernacular "cedars" with the all the disrespect you'd expect from a long-time Texan.

    [As usual, the nice bird portraits are from my compadre Greg Lasley; the rest of the images are my own.]

  • Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:43 AM | Anonymous
         Monday, Dec. 14, marked the beginning of a three-week period during Link to NAS's website for the 110th Christmas Bird Count.which "Citizen Science in Action" is in high gear across the continent.  This is the 110th year of the Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the National Audubon Society.  Tens of thousands of birders fan out to compile a measure of the early-winter status of birds in their favorite neighborhoods, parks, refuges, ranches, lakes, seashores, etc.


         The Refuge's count is made in a 7.5-mile radius circle which encompasses all Refuge tracts and surrounding lands.

    Balcones CBC Map w Sections.jpg

    Our Friends Laurie Foss and Shelia Hargis graciously took on the task of organizing and compiling this year's count.  I invite you to check on our Balcones CBC web page for more details of the spectacular outcome produced by our 38 participants on that mild Monday!  (Hint: A record 111 species!)

         As with every CBC, several unexpected species were encountered.  Documentation of rarities, either by detailed written descriptions or by photos, is aSATH_KK_20009CBC.jpglways important in such endeavors.  Shelia and her team identified two Sage Thrashers on Peaceful Springs Nature Preserve, one of the "hot spots" of birding on private lands within the Refuge area.  Karen Kilfeather was there to get super documentation of one of the thrashers (left) and other finds.  Another good discovery was a Green-tailed Towhee, found by Marjorie Dearmont and the Whitewater Springs team.  We have had a few unconfirmed reports of this species previously, but this adds a solid record for the Refuge bird list.  Another new bird for our overall CBC list was a White-eyed Vireo, a species that is common in the spring and summer but a rare winterer in the Austin area.  (Information was flying around so fast and furious at the countdown dinner that I failed to make note of who reported the "WEVI" or where it was.)  A couple of other reports still being evaluated--Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Sprague's Pipit--would represent more new species for our overall CBC list.

         I was assisted by Mike and Pam Goolsby as we covered the HQ area and nearby tracts.  About 10:30 a.m., we started on the now-obligatory hike up the primitive, back-country trail which follows Post Oak Creek upstream.  Birding was very quiet until we finally stirred up one nice mixed flock along the creek not far from Bottom's Up Hunt Camp (...subject of a future blog).  Among the chickadees, titmice, kinglets, and other birds attracted to my screech owl tape, was one Hutton's Vireo.  This is a species of west Texas and the western Edwards Plateau which had only been recorded on the Refuge once before, on the CBC in 2000 by Bill Reiner Jr. and his team.  I recognized the significance of this bird and worked to see (and confirm with Mike and Pam) all the salient field marks.  After a few minutes of study, it dawned on me that I had my new point-and-shoot camera on my hip!  I fired off about 5 frames of the "vireo", four times documenting the perch from which the bird had just departed.  Though not of Audubon magazine cover quality, my one successful yet fuzzy image of the bird can actually be said to document the Hutton's Vireo, distinguishing our bird--with some technical points of plumage, proportions, etc.--from the similar but smaller Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  For comparison, I found a nice photo from west Texas which shows what a Hutton's Vireo is actually supposed to look like:

    HUVI_BCNWR_2009CBC_sm.jpg   HUVI_08_GWL.jpg
    My Hutton's Vireo documentation (left)
    and what the species really looks like (right; courtesy of Greg Lasley)


         We couldn't have had such a successful CBC without the efforts of our 38 counters and especially the cooperation of several private landowners including the Landherrs, Howisons, Canyon Ranch, Hickory Pass Ranch, Peaceful Springs Nature Preserve, Camp Balcones Springs, and our enthusiastic neighbors in "the subdivision formerly known as Whitewater Springs".  MANY THANKS to one and all!
  • Tuesday, December 08, 2009 10:56 PM | Anonymous
    cartoon-beaver-clip-art.jpg     I like trees.  I like seedlings, saplings, mature trees, grand stately trees, and malformed little runt trees.  I love 'em all.  There is something interesting about every tree.  One of my favorite old English proverbs is: "He who plants trees loves others beside himself*."  Yet I am fully aware of the dynamics of forests--of birth, growth, and death in the natural world.  It's probably good in my business not to get emotionally attached to any one tree (or bush or bird or any one creature).  In the course of our very diverse habitat management tasks here at the Refuge, we (collectively) grow and nurture many trees, but we also cut some down, trim some up, and generally watch over the health of our woodland stands.  That said, there probably aren't many individual trees that we would fuss over.

         On all 23,000+ acres of this Refuge, we know of just one naturally occurring Bald Cypress tree (Taxodium distichum).  I believe it was originally discovered by one of our former colleagues, one of the "Oak Wilt Boys", either Bill Reiner Jr. or Eddie Hertz (with apologies if I have misstated that).  It was first noted when it was a wee sapling barely 3 or 4 feet tall, on the edge of Post Oak Creek, just about 200 yards from the Refuge HQ.  No one takes credit for planting this tree; it probably derives from a seed which floated in on one of the Lake Travis floods of the 1990s which pushed water (and Bald Cypress cones) over FM 1431 and up Post Oak Creek onto what would later become the Refuge's New Salem tract and the Refuge HQ.  Over the 6 or 8 years since its discovery, we have watched it grow into a strapping young tree of nearly 15 feet.

    BaldCypress 2007_sm.jpg   BaldCypress 2009_sm.jpg
    Our lone Bald Cypress tree, on Post Oak Creek, in summer (2007, left) and winter "plumage" (2009, right).

         So it was to my great dismay that I noticed last Thursday, Dec. 3, the first gnawings of a beaver around the base of the tree.  (Let me quickly add that I like beavers as well.  They are an interesting addition to our Hill Country setting.  I have never lived or worked in a region such as the Great Lakes or New England where the species can be downright annoying; I have yet to gain that level of antipathy towards this giant rodent, but this particular beaver is testing my patience.)  I made a mental note to keep checking on the damage, hoping that over the past weekend, the beaver would either not return or would decide the Bald Cypress tree was not to his/her liking.  I was making plans for how I might protect the tree.  Monday came around and, with all the email, weeds to pull, moths to photograph, and cold drizzle to avoid (see previous post), I failed to check on the tree.
         Today, Tuesday, I was horrified to see that the beaver had been, well, busy...to coin a phrase.  The bark had been gnawed off about half way around the tree.  I don't think this beaver is trying to fell the tree for a dam or such construction activity; I just get the impression he was hungry for the inner bark as a snack.  I'm not a beaver expert; I may be misjudging the evidence**.  But that was the last opportunity he/she will have to harm this specimen tree.
         I cut a section of 1/4" mesh hardware cloth, gathered some wire cutters, fasteners, and pliers and headed down to the creek.  I wrapped a section of the hardware cloth around the trunk, two feet tall above the water and six inches down below the water line, and secured it as best I could with some heavy wire.  (Mind you, the tree sits about 2 feet out from the bank of the creek.  So, if you will, picture me with my boots off and my pant legs rolled up, dipping my toes in Post Oak Creek on a crisp December morning, to build this tree cage.)  Like any nurseryman, I now find myself fretting over this one tree.  I'll check it tomorrow and the next day and next week to see if I have deterred the beaver.  I must apologize to other trees nearby if the deflected beaver dietary focus is displaced onto them; we all make choices.  I can live with this one.  Time will tell.

    BaldCypress 20091203_sm.jpg   BaldCypress 20091208_sm.jpg
    Before (left, Thursday, Dec. 3) and After (right, Dec. 8).
    Note the expanded gnawing that happened inbetween those dates.

    * * * * *
    "Below the Line"

         * Chuck's Forestry Rule:  No one should be allowed to cut down a tree that is older than himself/herself.  This would go a long way towards protecting big trees and old-growth forests.  It would also provide an incentive for timber companies to hire at least a few VERY old lumbermen in order to have access to older cohorts of trees to cut.  We may assume that, under my rule, any tree over about 100 or 105 years old will have escaped the threat of a chainsaw or dozer.
     
         ** Actually, I hope I am not casting blame on the wrong rodent.  Some folks have asked me how I would tell the difference between the gnawings of beavers and those of the destructive nutria.  We have seen both at various times on the "Turtle Pond" on Post Oak Creek next to the HQ. To my knowledge--and I could be corrected by some mammologist--nutria won't completely gnaw down sapling trees, an outcome we have seen in several instances along Post Oak Creek.  Some critter, which I presume to be a beaver, has cut down buttonbush shrubs, willows, and even a few unlucky junipers which happened to be near the creek bank.
         Just to cover my, uh, bases, I would like to herewith apologize to all beavers of every stripe if I have maligned this noble species in error.  This includes a shout out to all the students, faculty, and staff of Oregon State University, as well as those of Babson College (MA), Bemidji State University (MN--I bet you never thought you'd see them mentioned in this blog!), Bluffton University (OH), Buena Vista University (IA), CalTech (CA), etc., etc., etc., and lest I be inexact, don't forget the "Battlin' Beavers" of Blackburn College (IL) and the Scarlet Knights of Arcadia University (PA), formerly known as Beaver College.  Whew!  I feel better already.
         For a thrill ride through the mascots of this great nation, see College Nicknames on smargon.net.

    [The beaver graphic at the top of this blog was ripped from iloveclipart.com.]

  • Monday, December 07, 2009 10:19 PM | Anonymous
         I'm still in the practice mode with the new camera, but you can already tell that I am enamored with the macro capabilities of the little machine.  In spare moments today, between exciting emails, pulling weeds, and ducking out of the cold drizzle, I managed to take a couple of close-up shots of moths which had sought shelter on the Refuge HQ building.  Here they are:

    Mythimna unipuncta_sm.jpg

         This buffy little moth is an easy one to find.  It is the Armyworm Moth, Mythimna unipuncta (formerly Pseudaletia unipuncta).  It is one of the "LBJ's" of the moth world (little brown jobs), about 1 inch long.  The slightly two-toned buffy color of the forewings, with just a dull dark stripe through the middle and a couple of vague pale spots are the basic marks to help identify it.  It is a common moth, distributed worldwide, and a member of the largest family of moths, the Noctuidae, which has about 20,000 species worldwide and nearly 3,000 in North America.  Charles Covell (see below) describes this species as a major pest of many plants, including alfalfa, corn, other grains, vegetables, young fruit trees, etc.  He mentions further that "armyworms are named for their feeding habits--they feed in fields by the thousands at night, then migrate in large groups to new areas when their food supply is exhausted" (Covell, p. 105).  There's no telling what the caterpillar of this moth might have been eating around the Refuge HQ.  (A search for information on this moth on Google even found 15 blog postings about the critter!  I guess I'm #16.)

         Next up is a little jazzier critter but again quite common:

    Costaconvexa_centrostrigaria_sm.jpg

         The intricacy of the patterns on the wings of many moths can be endlessly fascinating--and endlessly confusing--to anyone who takes the time to look closely.  This is the Bent-lined Carpet Moth--and, no, they don't eat carpets.  This is another smallish moth; it's wingspan is barely an inch.  The scientific name is Orthonama centrostrigaria (more recently placed in the genus Costaconvexa).  It is a member of the second-largest moth family, the Geometridae, or "geometers".  The larvae of moths in this family are the familiar "inchworms" which make their way along twigs or leaves with their funny looping crawl.  This species is distributed over much of North America; the larvae feed on species in the Knotweed family such as the knotweeds and smartweeds (Polygonum and Persicaria spp.).  It might also feed on dock (Rumex sp.), one species of which occurs as a weed in the lawns around the Refuge HQ.
         Identifying this Carpet Moth wasn't quite as straightforward as the Armyworm.  I had a hunch it was in the Geometrid family because of the triangular forewings and the multiple wavy lines across the wings...but that just narrowed it down to one of several thousand species.  Even though this species is illustrated in Covell's field guide, I identified this the hard way: My favorite moth photo resource is the Moth Photographer's Group, maintained by the Mississippi Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University.  It's not for the faint of heart; you kind of need to know what family or families of moths to begin looking in.  Even then, thousands and thousands of species are illustrated.  But the good news is that they present crisp, coordinated "plates" of illustrations that are easy to rifle through--much easier and more complete than any of the published field guides.  I was getting pretty bleary-eyed after having looked through hundreds of species of geometer moths on that website when I finally stumbled upon a match.

         There are just a few good general guides for identifying moths, most of the North American moth literature appearing in rather technical publications.  (See, for instance, this introduction to moth publications on the Moth Photographer's Group website.)  The best known book is Charles Covell's "Moths of Eastern North America" in the Peterson Field Guide Series published by Houghton Mifflin (1984).  Much harder to find and much sought-after is W. J. Holland's "The Moth Book", originally published by Doubleday in 1903 in a hardbound edition and subsequently reprinted in paperback in 1968 by Dover Press.  A very good reference list of moths for the Austin area was compiled by James Gillaspy at the University of Texas's Brackenridge Field Lab on Lake Austin Boulevard.  You can find an introductory (read: meager) list of the moths of Balcones Canyonlands NWR--as of 2008--in this pdf document.  That list is already out-of-date; it doesn't have either of today's moths!
  • Thursday, December 03, 2009 10:56 PM | Anonymous
    Flag_sm.jpg     Let the record show that when it comes to cameras and photography, I am certainly no Karen Kilfeather, John Ingram, or Greg Lasley with their skills and top-of-the-line equipment.  Yet I am no Luddite; I don't oppose technological progress.  I'm just slow to catch up with new things.

         I still play records occasionally.

         I've never done anything on eBay and I just looked at something on YouTube for the first time a few months ago.  It even took quite some persuasion, coaxing, and coaching to get me blogging here.


    CellPhone.jpg     CellCalendar.jpgI didn't get my first cell phone until about two years ago.  The only thing I do with it is call people--imagine that!  I don't want to check the latest sports scores or look up the tides in Galveston on it.  (I admit it: I've given up wearing a watch--that's the other thing I use my cell phone for.)  I certainly don't need it to take pictures or video.







         Which brings me back to cameras.  In many respects, I'm a low maintenance, low-end kind of guy*.  I was still using slide film long after Greg switched to digital photography.  Along with much of the rest of the world, I was skeptical of digital technology being able to reproduce the crisp images of my beloved Kodachrome.  One day, Greg was playing around with his first digital camera and he sent me a nice close-up pic of a water strider which he'd found at Doeskin Ranch:

    Water Strider_sm.jpg
    (Photo copyright Greg W. Lasley; used by permission.)

    I was impressed, but I jokingly said: "I really can't identify your water strider to species unless I can count the bristles on the front foot."  He called my bluff and just a few minutes later, sent me an enlargement showing the bristles on the front foot of his critter!

         Despite that demonstration, I've remained low-end in my photographic abilities and equipment, preferring to leave the heaving lifting (literally and figuratively) to the aforementioned professionals.  A few years ago, Realty Specialist Nancy Unbehaun had graciously loaned me an older, small point-and-shoot camera to nudge me gently into the digital world.  Since that time, I've taken thousands of new images all over the Refuge with it and it has satisfied my needs quite well.  (I'll talk about "documentation" of things on the Refuge in a future blog.)  However, by circumstances which I won't reveal (to protect the innocent and the embarrassed), the need recently arose to replace that little digital camera (which, it was determined by accident, does not make a very good seat cushion).

         Which brings me to my new toy.  I went out and plunked down $199.99--which happily coincided with the exact number of pennies I had in my pocket that day--and bought myself a new digital camera which might be described as a "high-end, point-and-shoot" thing.  I won't reveal the brand since I can't endorse anything here, but this camera has a 10 megapixel image density (Did I say that right?) and has a 10X zoom.  It has image stabilization, which means a clumsy oaf like me can take a reasonably crisp picture of a subject which may be in motion for one reason or another.  It has more icons on the controls and LCD screen than I can keep track of.  Luckily, it has an "Easy" mode for shooting simple pics.  I like Easy; it suits me.

         This is not a technology blog, nor a brag about my new-found photographic abilities.  The latter have not improved noticeably since Tuesday.  I guess this just falls into the category of, "Holy Cow!  Look what this new thing can do!"  So without further ado, here are some first-day images taken with my new toy.  These cropped, reduced, web-sized images don't do justice to the high density originals, each of which is about 2 to 4 megabytes, but you...ahem....get the picture.

    A Tachinid fly (perhaps Archytas ~apicifer) on Cowpen Daisy...and its bristly back (a.k.a. thorny thorax). (The adjacent Cucumber beetle was the focus of a subsequent picture, not included here.):

    Fly_close.jpg   Fly_bristles.jpg


    A Common Checkered-Skipper...and its scaly body and wings.  Note the bristles on the seeds (achenes) of the Shrubby Boneset on which it is perched:

    CheckSkip.jpg   CheckSkip_hd.jpg


    A little lichen, about 3/4" across...and a closer look at its fruiting bodies.  I expect that lichenologist Taylor Quedensley at U.T. can help me identify this one:

    Lichen_sm.jpg    Lichen_close2.JPG


    A cold and unhappy Texas Spiny Lizard (courtesy of David Maple)(...that is, David was responsible for making the lizard unhappy, not for bringing the cold weather):

    Rusty_close.jpg


    Oh, yeah.  The pic of Old Glory up at the top of this blog was a test of the camera's ability to stop the action of a flag flapping in a 15-knot North wind...at 50 yards away, zoomed in just a little.

    * * * * *
    "Below the line":

         * I assert my right to high-ended-ness when it comes to choices of breakfast cereals, brands of peanut butter and jelly, and TP....the important things in life.

    CWS                                        

  • Sunday, November 15, 2009 9:26 AM | Anonymous
    DSC08864_sm.jpg     Regardless of the outdoor task at hand or the purported focus of a given field trip, any jazzy insect will quickly catch my eye.  Near the end of a long hike up Post Oak Creek in the backcountry of the Refuge on Friday afternoon (Nov. 13), I was bedazzled by a couple of very large longhorn beetles which were hanging out on the flowers of shrubby boneset.  I had stopped to admire the numerous butterflies on the flowers when this jeweled critter caught my attention.  It was new to me.

         This turns out to be the "Texas Stenaspis" or, as Mike Quinn terms it, the "Red-headed Beauty", an apt common name.  Mike's webpage for this species indicates that Travis County is at the northern limit of the known range of this species of south Texas and Mexico.  The scientific name is Stenaspis verticalis ssp. insignis.  It is a member of the longhorn beetle family, known as the Cerambycidae, which includes some of the larger beetles of North America.  This Red-headed Beauty is about 1.5" long with antennae that are even longer than the body.  I plucked one of the critters off the flowers--more on that later--and transported it to the office to take better pictures and get a solid identification.  (I released it on some of the shrubby boneset flowers at the office; the beetle was happily feeding a few minutes later.)

         If you are having some trouble identifying an insect, the BugGuide Bugguide logo.gifwebsite has become a major online resource.  This is at the top of everyone's list for useful insect identification sites.  It was created in 2003 by Troy Bartlett and is presently hosted by Iowa State University's Department of Entomology.  Innumerable professional entomologists (bug people*) and insect enthusiasts have posted thousands of useful photos and are there to offer ID help.  You have to register and sign-in to post images but you don't get bombarded by pop-ups or solicitations on this site.  As an example, here is a link to BugGuide's page on the Texas Stenaspis.

    Further Information
         The proliferation of information on the Internet puts any compilation of insect links beyond the scope of what I might offer here.  A Google search for "insect identification websites" yielded 112,000 hits.  Below are some links to a few useful insect identification resources on the internet.  In future blogs, I'll include my favorite sites to specific groups such as butterflies, moths, etc.

    Texas Entomology:
    http://www.texasento.net/index.html
         An absolute "must" for anyone searching for information on Texas "bugs".  Mike's web pages are well researched, well organized, and very informative.  He has links to many other useful sites related to Texas invertebrates.  Mike has roots in the Lower Rio Grande Valley but is presently based out of the Austin area.  He did his graduate research on the invertebrate foods available to the Golden-cheeked Warbler.  He is co-owner of the TX-Butterfly and TX-Ento discussion lists.  Mike is also a premier insect photographer, as you'll see when you visit his pages.

    Texas A&M University's portal to Insect Identification Methods:
    http://insects.tamu.edu/extension/insctans/identification/
     
    Insect Identification on Backyard Nature:
    http://www.backyardnature.net/insectid.htm
         This site has a good list of further links at the bottom of the page.

    InsectIdentification.org:
    http://www.insectidentification.org/
         A lot of good basic info and quite a few pics, but I found their "Bug Finder" identification section to be of very little help.

    What's That Bug?
    http://www.whatsthatbug.com/about/
         A collection of blogs and user-submitted ID requests with responses and comments; world-wide in scope.


    * * * * *
    "Below The Line"

      * I realize that the ambiguity of the phrase "bug people" might...well, bug some people.  I meant it as an adjective-noun phrase, not as a verb-object....although professional entomologists may be annoying to some of us at times.  And by "insect enthusiasts", I don't mean to imply that insects have hobbies...well, maybe they do, I don't know.

         English has become my second language.  I have no first.
    CWS                                                                                      

  • Wednesday, November 04, 2009 4:57 PM | Anonymous
    Monarch_Cowpen_sm.jpg     The main mass of the Monarch migration missed us this year--and I promise to go lightly with the alliteration in the future, but it's hard to write about this amazing wildlife phenomenon without such accidents of grammar.  Where do these Monarchs end up?  In the mountains of Mexico.  I rest my case.

         Over the past weekend, Oct. 29-31, Greg Lasley reported that Monarchs were literally hard to miss as he drove Texas 87 from High Island to Bolivar Flats along the Upper Texas Coast.  Just in the past few days, on the TX-Butterfly discussion list, Harlen Aschen reported a huge movement of Monarchs near Port Lavaca.  These observations represent the last phase of the orchestrated Monarch march through Texas which began in August and September as the butterflies began making their way south of the Red River from all over the Midwest.

    Monarch Fall Migration.jpg     The Monarch migration has captured the imagination of scientists and wildlife researchers for ages (see references, below).  Can you think of any other insect that has spawned such an enthusiastic suite of focal groups?  Perhaps the best known is Monarch Watch based out of the University of Kansas.  They have an active discussion list (Dplex-L) and a blog.  Also be sure to check out Journey North who, despite their name, follow Monarchs both north and south and also other migrating critters.  The Library of Congress has even set up a Science Reference Guide to offer students and researchers more information on Monarchs.  Several books have been written about this migration and it has been the subject of no small number of in-depth scientific symposia.







         In this year's Autumn movement, regional weather and wind patterns caused the major push of butterflies to circle around us to the west.  Compare the two maps below of the Fall migration for 2008 (left) and 2009 (right), downloaded and cropped from the Journey North maps page:

    Fall 2008 Roosts_sm.gif              Fall 2009 Roosts_sm.gif
    Sizeable Fall Monarch Roosts in 2008 (L) vs. 2009 (R).

    To study these maps in detail, go to Journey North's website for Fall 2009 (or previous years), scroll down and click on the map for "Roosts" or "Peak sightings".  Be sure to click on the "Animated Map" link at the bottom of each map there to really get a feel for the flow of the migration.  Watch the pattern in 2009 as concentrations were detected unusually far to the west in Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle, with the highest densities perhaps moving through San Angelo, Sonora, and even in far West Texas at Balmorhea--deftly skirting the Texas Hill Country this year.  The vagaries of weather patterns always leave me scratching my head when the Monarchs or the major hawk movements bypass us at this Refuge.  We can't take it personally--all these critters are just masters at "going with the flow", quite literally.  Some years we are the beneficiaries of these patterns (as we were with Swainson's Hawks in early October) and sometimes not; that's the fun and frustration of migration watching.

         The topic of how Monarchs accomplish the navigational feat of moving from the eastern and central U.S. to arrive at a small set of over-wintering targets in Mexico is worthy of greater essays than I have space for here.  This aspect has garnered much attention from inventive field and laboratory researchers.  I include a few of the more notable and recent titles in my reference list below.  But consider some of the major questions:  Even with some pretty good genetically-inherited skills, how would you figure out how to navigate to one tiny area in central Mexico that you've never visited before?  Landscape clues?  Magnetic compass?  Body clocks?  Wind/weather clues and cues?  The sun/moon/stars?  Head out to your garage and invent for yourself a "time-compensated sun compass" and you'll get a sense of what researchers have focused on in recent years.  The newest news on this topic involves the finding that the GPS system for Monarchs is apparently located in the antennae of the butterflies!

         At the Refuge, we have tagged about 50 Monarchs thus far this season on their southbound pathway.  The number we tag gyrates wildly from year to year (high: 234 tagged in 2001) based primarily on the aforesaid migration vagaries, but also on the available volunteer and staff time devoted to the task, and the grace and forehand skills of our would-be Monarch netters.  I believe Outdoor Recreation Specialist Rob Iski and new SCA volunteer Elizabeth Lesley are about tied for the lead in this season's tagging rodeo.

    Refs and Further Reading

    Websites:

    Journey North, Monarch migration maps of Fall migration at:
        http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/
         Click on the "Here's the latest news" link in the center of the page for great animated maps.

    Library of Congress, Scientific Reference Services.  Science Reference Guides: The Migration of the Monarch Butterfly, online at:
         http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/butterfly.html
         This site has a good introductory bibliography of Monarch research.

    Monarch Watch, Home page at:   http://monarchwatch.org/

    University of Arizona, Honors Biology class page on Monarch migration:
         http://student.biology.arizona.edu/honors2002/group10/Monarchmigration.htm

    Research Articles:

    Lincoln P. Brower.  1995.  Understanding and misunderstanding the migration of the monarch butterfly (Nymphalidae) in North America.  J. Lepid. Soc. 49(4):304-385.

    Lincoln P. Brower.  1996.  Monarch butterfly orientation: missing pieces of a magnificent puzzle.  J. Exper. Biol. 199:93-103.

    William H. Calvert.  2001.  Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L., Nymphalidae) Fall migration flight behavior and direction in relation to celestial and physiographic cues.  J. Lepid. Soc. 55(4):162-168.

    Jason A. Etheredge, Sandra M. Perez, Orley R. Taylor, and Rudolf Jander.  1999.  Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus L.) use a magnetic compass for navigation.  Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 96(24):13845-13846.

    Oren Froy, Anthony L. Gotter, Amy L. Casselman, and Steven M. Reppert.  2003.  Illuminating the circadian clock in Monarch butterfly migration.  Science 300:1303-1305.  Abstract at:
         http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/300/5623/1303

    Christine Merlin, Robert J. Gregear, and Steven M. Reppert.  September 25, 2009.  Antennal circadian clocks coordinate sun compass orientation in migratory Monarch butterflies.  Science 325:1700-1704.

    Steven Reppert, H. Zhu, and R. White.  2009.  Polarized light helps Monarch butterflies navigate.  Current Biology 14(2):155-158.

    * * * * *
    "Below The Line":

     
           In one migration narrative many years ago for the seasonal Texas column in American Birds, I elicited groans from my editors and readers when I penned the phrase, "Willets wandered widely..."  Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em!


    "A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but sometimes it's a scary thing to use."

    CWS                                

    CWS_Street_sm.jpg
    (Photo credit: Annie Sexton.
    Wardrobe consultant: Mary Kay Sexton.
    Luggage provided by Texas Dept. of Transportation.)

  • Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:22 PM | Anonymous
    GCWA_food_GWL_sm.jpg      I rather suspect that no songbird has ever been the subject of a Sesquicentennial Celebration, but it seems very appropriate to celebrate the discovery of one of our cornerstone species at the Refuge, and to offer as my first substantive contribution to these "Notes from the Canyonlands" a review of that discovery.
    (Golden-cheeked Warbler photos by Greg W. Lasley; used by permission.)





         Who first encountered a Golden-cheeked Warbler?  I have to believe that some curious, observant Tonkawan youth[1], encamped near a headwater spring in a rugged canyon of the Edwards Plateau, would have noticed by sight or sound the bright little black and yellow bird singing from the top of a nearby juniper some March or April morning.  GCWA_singing_GWL_sm.jpgHe or she probably realized the tiny creature wouldn't make much of a meal, nor could they fashion much of a headdress or other ornamentation out of its feathers.  But we do presume that native Americans were well-tuned to details of their surroundings.  Did the Tonkawa, analogous to my musings in Ro Wauer's book on the "Heralds of Spring"[2], recognize the Golden-cheek as a signal of the changing seasons?  Despite what we have learned to date about the haunts and habits of those early inhabitants of what would later become Texas, it is a tragedy of history that we have no record of such detections.

         The first Golden-cheeked Warblers in recorded history were encountered by an English naturalist in Central America, on the species' winter range.  On November 4, 1859, Osbert Salvin was riding on Tactic_Fanjul_thumb.jpghorseback over a wooded tropical ridge en route to the village of Tactic, in the Guatemalan province of Alta Vera Paz, where he intended to spend the evening.  He mentions that "two birds attracted my attention, and I secured both.  They, on examination at home, proved to belong to an undescribed species."[3]  He and his colleague Philip Sclater described the species new to science the next year in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London[4].

         Osbert Salvin (1835-1898) had received his education at Cambridge University.  Soon after graduation, he made several exploratory journeys to collect biological specimens, including trips to North Africa and Central America.  The 1859 expedition was his first visit to Guatemala.  Salvin is not well-known in North America except to a small handful of researchers who may have studied the 19th Century history of biological exploration in Middle America.  Nonetheless, his explorations, collections, and publications were very substantial, including his editorial role in the encyclopedic Biologia Centrali-Americana, with Frederick D. Godman.  They were sufficiently appreciated in Great Britain to garner for him membership in the prestigious Royal Society of London.  A nomination to the Royal Society needed to be accompanied by a write-up of the nominee's accomplishments and a collection of signatures of existing members who would provide witness to the worthiness of the candidate.  Among others, signatories on the nomination of Osbert Salvin included:

         Thomas H. Huxley - known as "Darwin's Bulldog" and a staunch defender of evolution.
         John Gould - a collaborator with Charles Darwin and the namesake for perhaps the gaudiest bird in the world, the Gouldian Finch.
         Richard Owen - eminent paleontologist; described Archaeopteryx and many dinosaur species.
         Charles Darwin - This might be the equivalent of me, in my application to join the Texas Ornithological Society, gaining the endoresement of perhaps Roger Tory Peterson or Carl Sagan.

         Even as Osbert Salvin was exploring Guatemala, major rumblings were afoot back in London.  On November 24, 1859, just three weeks after Salvin collected those Guatemalan Golden-cheeks, Charles Darwin published the first edition of The Origin of Species [5], another sesquicentennial being celebrated this year.  To be sure, the short note by Sclater and Salvin in 1860 was not earth-shaking news and they may be forgiven if their brief three-page note was over-shadowed in the scientific literature of the time!  Nonetheless, among the other interesting neotropical species described new to science in their article were the Ruddy Crake, Brown-hooded Parrot, Russet Antshrike, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, White-lored Gnatcatcher and Brown Schiffornis.  I have had the opportunity to see some of these species in Central America, but I can't say that I'd recognize a Brown Schiffornis if it bit me in the binocs! (see below)

         New to science and collected far across "The Pond", the Golden-cheeked Warbler remained poorly known for several years after its discovery.  There was considerable confusion in those early years since the plumages of the various ages and sexes of the related Black-throated Green, Townsend's and Hermit Warblers were still being sorted out.  The mis-identifications and re-identifications of these Dendroica warblers in some of that earliest literature at times reads like an ornithological version of the comedy routine "Who's On First?" by Abbott and Costello.

         In a future entry, I'll talk about the discovery of the Golden-cheeked Warbler closer to home--here in Texas!

    Footnotes and Further Reading:

         Note 1:  I include external links from a variety of sources, with no particular rhyme or reason--just whatever strikes me as particularly useful for a given tidbit.  I gravitate towards .org, .edu, and .gov sites where available.  No endorsement of any particular website, organization, company, product, etc., is intended.  They are included here for educational purposes only.
         Note 2:  This blog entry is based in part on my presentation of "The Origin and Discovery of the Golden-cheeked Warbler", delivered to the Highland Lakes Birding & Wildflower Society, at Marble Falls, Texas, September 3, 2009.
         Note 3:  A collection of much of the early literature on the Golden-cheeked Warbler is maintained in a couple of repositories in the Austin area including at the HQ of Balcones Canyonlands NWR and at the offices of the City of Austin's Balcones Canyonland Preserves.


    [1]  See this map for the home ranges of early Native Americans in Texas and the possible candidate tribes for the earliest warbler-watchers!

    [2]  Ro Wauer, Heralds of Spring in Texas, Texas A&M Univ. Press, College Station (1999), pp. 164-169.

    [3]  Osbert Salvin.  1876.  Dendroica chrysoparia (The Yellow-cheeked Warbler).  Pp. 181-184, In: George D. Rowley (ed.).  Ornithological Miscellany, Vol. I, part III.  Trubner and Co., Ludgate Hill, E.C., London.

    [4]  Philip L. Sclater and Osbert Salvin.  1860.  Character of eleven new species of birds discovered by Osbert Salvin in Guatemala.  Proc. Zool. Soc. London 28:298-301.

    [5]  See an excellent discussion of the publication of The Origin of Species on Wikipedia at:
         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publication_of_Darwin's_theory.

    * * * * *

         Speaking of old dudes...If anyone was curious, that picture at the bottom of my first blog page (Oct. 28) is my handsome great-great grandfather Sexton, illustrating two things: (a) what I look like on a bad hair day, and (b) what my wife has to look forward to in another 25 years or so.  Here's a more recent picture of me, in typical habitat, flanked by a Brown Schiffornis, a.k.a. Thrush-like Mourner or Manakin.

    Chuck_Kindred_Barr_sm.jpg   thruman2.jpg
    (My thanks to Kelly Barr (L) and Greg W. Lasley (R) for these pics.)


 


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