I have been hunting, with my camera of course, a pair of golden-fronted woodpeckers, for several weeks. These birds are about as ubiquitious as mesquite in Palo Duro Canyon and I even know where their nest cavity is located. Despite this, they continue to ellude me. Time in the field, however, almost always produces something of interest even if it isnt caught on camera. In this case, I found a female prairie lizard on the side of a soap berry and started to photograph her. Then I hit record and much to my delight, a male arrived and started to court her with push-up displays and some serious nudging. In the video, the male is much smaller and in some parts of the video you can see the bright blue on his sides. Get outdoors and take a child with you. There is so much to see and hear and like I said, who knows what you will discover.
This is another video from Palo Duro Canyon showing a white-tailed deer browsing on a hackberry tree. Deer are more browsers than grazers, meaning they feed more on shrubs and forbs than on grasses. The white-tailed deer is one of two species of deer found commonly in the canyon. Mule deer are common, especially on the uplands early in the morning and later in the evening and the white-tailed deer are more common in the bottom. However, there is a lot of overlap. I hope you enjoy the video!
The fact is that I tend to see the world differently than many others and here is a case where I seem to differ with many people, even my trusted Sibley’s guide to birds. This oft hated birds is the great-tailed grackle. I suspect its commonness has something to do with its perceived value. It seems that parking lots are great habitat for these birds and you can also find them in almost any fast food place, waiting to pick up anything that is dropped. Just last week I received a call from someone wanting to know if they could “get rid” of their grackles legally. In this case, they were nesting in their back yard in good numbers causing a mess. I would enjoy having them in my back yard and they are common visitors but do not nest.
The female of the species is a fairly drab brown but the male is an iridescent black-purple, depending on the light, with a long tail that they hold in an exaggerated V shape during flight. They put on a remarkable display, raising their head and neck straight up and sticking their fanned tail out behind them. Their displays also include holding their heads low and fluttering their partially outstretched wings. However, my favorite thing about great-tailed grackles is their song. To me it sound like a noise made by a toy laser weapon that you would never buy for your own children because it would be too loud and therefore, best given to grand children, nieces, nephews, etc. Sibley’s disappointingly describes their song as “a series of loud, rather unpleasant noises: mechanical rattles kikikiki or ke ke ke ke ke teep; sliding, tinny whistles whoit whoit….; harsh, rustling sounds like thrashing branches or flushing toilet [who ever wrote this really didn't like great-tailed grackles]; loud hard keek keek…or kidi kidi”. Disregard all the implied, heck, blatant disrespect for this bird. I love their displays and their calls! Again, they suffer the misfortune of being too common and therefore pedestrian. These birds are also smart. I have commonly observed them carrying dog or cat food to my bird bath, where they soak the hard food to make it easier to eat. This is a common behavior and can be observed where ever you have water and dog and cat food in close proximity. I have even seen a small group mess with a dog, distracting it while others raided its food bowl.
I predict that if great-tailed grackles were rare, isolated far from humans in some tropical area, birders (bird watchers) would consider it a great find and work hard to observe the bird and hear its song. I get to appreciate the bird every day!
So far my blog has been about wildlife and that will continue to be the primary focus. However, things often happen when you pursue wildlife that can range from comical to dangerous. In this video, I was given a tour of Bastrop State Park in preparation for a research project on the effects of a catastrophic fire on mammals in the Park. Mike Lloyd, State Fire Specialist for the Parks Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife and a friend of mine for 10 years was our tour guide. Well, we managed to get stuck in the middle of no where. I don’t worry about such things and Mike is a great person to get stuck with. Not only does he not get upset, but he carries great snacks! His truck was equipped with a winch so we expected to pull ourselves out in no time flat. Well, the winch wouldn’t work despite us trying everything we could electronically to get it to work. This certainly complicated matters but we gave it our best shot. Special thanks to Mike for a great tour and his friendship over the years and also to Tricia in WT’s IT department for editing this video and adding the great soundtrack.