November 18, 2015 Salineno, Texas

Kiskadee
Kiskadee

Settling in at Salineno

With all the grass pulling, brush clearing, and limb pruning done, I am now settling into the daily routine of filling feeding stations, greeting guests, and opening and closing the bird feeding station. Thankfully, the weather is beginning to turn more to my liking, fewer hot and humid days, a few more cool days and comfortably cool nights for sleeping.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle

The dogs are also settling in, Sam now feels she has a second home in Merle and Lois’s fifth wheel, that she visits several times a day to check on their cat. Sam also supervises Merle with the morning rounds of filling water features and feeding stations. She has also begun training sessions to become the official chachalaca escort dog, that is, escorting these destructive birds off the premises ( her training has a long way to go ). Jenny has been suffering a bit with the heat and her very advanced age is starting to really show, not much to her her day anymore but sleeping and eating, can’t even get a rise out of her anymore when a squirrel intrudes on the feeding station. Sad to see, but of course, inevitable.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

I “work” on a two days on, two days off schedule with Merle and Lois. This leaves me with plenty of opportunities to get in a little bird photography.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

When one has the opportunity to observe an area such as this over several days, you get to know where to look for certain birds and what time of day the light is best for each part of the feeding area. You also pick up on each species likes and dislikes and can gradually learn to anticipate what each bird is apt to do in any given situation. As I am picking up on this, the chances of getting better images increases and I am hoping that by the end of my five month stay here, I should be able to accumulate some nice images.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

The orioles are, of course, the stars of the show here, for obvious reasons. The Audubon is often a life bird for visitors here and the Altamira is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored of all the orioles. Both visit the feeders regularly every day. The Hooded Oriole is usually a regular here also, but the male has not yet appeared and the more subdued colored female makes a few daily appearences.

White-winged Doves
White-winged Doves

When the White-winged doves arrive, they tend to come in in droves. There is a three foot diameter metal disk that is used as a tray feeder in the back of the yard and I am told that as many as twenty-four doves have been counted occupying the disk at one time. I count fifteen in this image so I guess that means there is room for at least another nine.

Great-tailed Grackle on the March
Great-tailed Grackle on the March

Male Great-tailed grackles arrived on the scene this week, first just one or two, and then a dozen or more. By the end of the week, a few females arrived. These rather large birds are often very vocal.

Kiskadee
Kiskadee

Great Kiskadees are also increasing in number and they are very entertaining to watch. From their perches in the branches above the feeders, this largest of the flycatchers will spot a bit of food on the ground, and swoop down to pick it off … but without ever touching down.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

My fascination with the colorful male Golden-fronted Woodpecker continues.

Green Jay
Green Jay

The gorgeous Green Jay numbers continue to climb with more than a dozen in here feeding almost all day long. If these birds weren’t so beautiful and entertaining to watch, we probably would consider them pests, as we do with the hordes of House Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds that descend on the feeders and pick them clean in short order.

Punk Green Jay
Punk Green Jay

This Green Jay has clearly adopted a ” Punk ” look.

Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail

And this Green Jay must have had an encounter with a predator, and managed to escape .. but without a tail. Doesn’t seem to bother him though, as he flies in and out with the others and seems not to miss it.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

And he is not the only bird here who has had a near death experience as this little Inca Dove  has apparently also had a close encounter with someone that had him on their menu. In addition to losing his tail feathers, he also has lost some of his right wing.

Chachalaca
Chachalaca
Fox Squirrel
Fox Squirrel

One of the challenges of keeping the feeders full here are the two characters pictured above, the Plain Chachalaca and the Fox Squirrel. Both love the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal concoction we put out and of course don’t turn down the chance to steal cracked corn or sunflower seeds either. Both also steal the orange halves we put out on the branches to attract the orioles. Quite a balancing act to attempt to keep these guys at bay without disturbing the birds we are trying to attract.

A list of species seen here so far ( and we are only eighteen days in! )

( In years past the total number of sightings varies between 70 and 80. )

  1. Green jay
  2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  3. Northern cardinal
  4. Olive Sparrow
  5. Altamira Oriole
  6. Audubon Oriole
  7. Inca Dove
  8. White-tipped Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. House Sparrow
  11. Great Kiskadee
  12. Common Yellow-throat
  13. Osprey *
  14. Turkey Vulture *
  15. Crested Caracara *
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Long-billed Thrasher
  19. Plain Chachalaca
  20. Black-crested Titmouse
  21. Hooded Oriole
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Great-tailed Grackle
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. White Pelican *
  26. Bewick’s Wren
  27. Orange-crowned Warbler
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Lesser Goldfinch
  30. Ringed Kingfisher *
  31. Eastern Phoebe
  32. Verdin
  33. House Wren
  34. Blue-headed Vireo
  35. Pyrrhuloxia
  36. Gray Hawk *
  37. Couch’s Kingbird
  38. Black Phoebe
  39. Lincoln Sparrow
  40. Common Grackle
  41. Bronzed Cowbird
  42. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  43. White-crowned Sparrow
  44. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher *
  45. Snow Geese *
  46. White-fronted Geese *
  47. American Robin
  48. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  49. Eastern Screech Owl
  •  Denotes flyover

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November 11, 2015 Salineno, Texas

Finally Arrived at this Year’s New Winter Home

Green Jay
Green on Green

Well, I finally completed the long journey from Alaska to the Mexican border, having arrived here in Salineno, Texas on November 1st. This will be my first volunteer stint since retiring and hitting the road two and a half years ago, also the first time I will remain in one spot for five and a half months, almost like settling down again.

I must apologize for the lack of recent posts but I do have a bit of a dilemma here … a very weak to often non-existent Verizon internet signal. I am provided with a wonderful spot for my motorhome here, full hookups, lots of privacy in a nice setting, but no useable internet, one of the few places I have been where my Verizon Jet-Pac gets no signal, or only one bar of 3G. As a  result, where doing a blog post with a decent signal might take me half an hour, here this particular post, with only a few images, took about four hours, the uploads are pretty slow, to be kind. There have been promises made to look into exploring how an internet signal might be brought in here, so maybe the situation will improve sometime this winter. Until then, posts will be made on a weekly basis, I hope.

The Salineno Birding Station is a joint venture of the Valley Land Trust, owners of the property, and the United States Fish and Game Department, who manage the volunteers here. Having visited this spot in 2010 and again in 2013 for bird photography, I thought this might be a good place to sit still and recover a bit from this summers activities. The primary hosts here, Lois and Merle, who have volunteered at Salineno for six years previous to this winter, will show me the ropes, and, hopefully, I will be up to the task.

It took the three of us about a week of hard work pulling grass and weeds, trimming downed trees and limbs, to make the place presentable after a summer where the place is left on it’s own. Then the feeders go out and we start working on bringing the birds in. I was a little surprised how quickly they started showing up.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Green Jay
Green Jay

The absolutely gorgeous Green Jays were the first to come in. This is one of the few spots in the United States where you can see this brilliantly colored bird and there often are so many of them in and out of here that it is soon possible to think of them as just another bird, simply because of their numbers, certainly not their plumage. At this time we have probably a dozen or more of them, and that number increases as their natural foods start to disappear as the season progresses ( this will be true for most of the bird species here ).

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers also soon appeared. This is one of my favorite birds here. The male has a red spot on the top of his head and the female can be distinguished from the male by the lack of that red spot.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Also showing up regularly is a juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker …

Juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker

… still working on growing in all his colorful red head feathers.

Salineno is known for attracting three species of orioles, the Altamira, Audubon, and Hooded Orioles.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

And it didn’t take long for the first pair of Altamira Orioles to appear. This is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored of the orioles.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

A pair of Audubons also soon arrived. This oriole is one of the most sought after birds here at Salineno, one of the best spots to find one.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

We also have a single female Hooded Oriole coming in on a regular basis now and Merle and Lois say that the male usually shows up a week or two later. I will get a photograph of these guys later, I hope.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

Another bird birders come here for is the Olive Sparrow, certainly not as colorful as the orioles, but again, another species for which Salineno has proven to be be a good spot to encounter one. These little guys are a little more difficult to get a good shot of since they generally stay on the ground and around the edges, preferring to be very near some type of cover.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

The Long-billed Thrasher is another fairly common bird here and one of my favorites to photograph.

After ten days of feeding here, there have been forty different bird species that have visited, a number that normally increases to about twice that before the season ends.

Chachalaca
Chachalaca

One of the species that regularly shows up and tends to clean out all the food is the Plain Chachalaca, a chicken sized game bird that we tend to try and discourage, mostly unsuccessfully. This gluttonous bird makes off with the oranges, devours every kind of seed that we spread, breaks feeders and feeding platforms with it’s substantial weight, and simply proves to generally be an unwanted pest … but is not easily discouraged. We have what is most likely a family unit of seven birds coming in several times a day.

A list of species seen here so far ( and we are only ten days in! )

In years past the total number of sightings varies between 70 and 80.

  1. Green jay
  2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  3. Northern cardinal
  4. Olive Sparrow
  5. Altamira Oriole
  6. Audubon Oriole
  7. Inca Dove
  8. White-tipped Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. House Sparrow
  11. Great Kiskadee
  12. Common Yellow-throat
  13. Osprey *
  14. Turkey Vulture *
  15. Crested Caracara *
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Long-billed Thrasher
  19. Plain Chachalaca
  20. Black-crested Titmouse
  21. Hooded Oriole
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Great-tailed Grackle
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. White Pelican *
  26. Bewick’s Wren
  27. Orange-crowwned Warbler
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Lesser Goldfinch
  30. Ringed Kingfisher *
  31. Eastern Phoebe
  32. Verdin
  33. House Wren
  34. Blue-headed Vireo
  35. Pyrrhuloxia
  36. Gray Hawk *
  37. Couch’s Kingbird
  38. Black Phoebe
  39. Lincoln Sparrow
  40. Common Grackle
  • Denotes Flyover

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When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

December 9, 2013 Falcon Lake, Texas

Green jays in the feeder
Green jays in the feeder

( You can click on any image to get a larger, sharper version. )

Awaken from a sound sleep at 3 AM with the loud crash of my 5 gallon mud bucket of birdseed being rolled off the picnic table outside my bedroom window. Fortunately, I had secured the lid and thus a rather portly raccoon was more than a little upset that his efforts at thievery had failed. When I went out with the dogs at daybreak, I found that said raccoon had gotten his revenge by destroying my just purchased feeder, devouring all the orioles jam, and generally making a mess of my feeding operation. He also had somehow wheeled my 5 gallon bucket of seed all the way across the cleared area around the campsite until his attempt at theft was stopped by the thick brush surrounding the site. In all he moved this bucket almost 40 feet from the picnic table, but still was unable to get the lid off.

I repaired and refilled my feeder station and also placed my 5 gallon bucket of seed on the roof of the aluminum campsite shelter, 8 feet off the ground. The shelter has metal supports so I don’t think anyone should be able to get at it up there. I guess I will just have to take my feeders in at night.

Campsite feeder setup
Campsite feeder setup

Right after getting everything set back up, I had quite a bit of activity.

Collared peccaries
Campsite guests

 

First, some uninvited guests, collared peccaries, who pretty much cleaned up all the spilt seed the raccoon scattered around the ground last night.

 

 

 

Collared peccary zeroing in on lunch
Collared peccary zeroing in on lunch

 

 

I got a kick out of this one trying to figure a way to get to the feeder.

 

 

 

 

Female cardinal under the feeder
Female cardinal under the feeder
Northern cardinal
Northern cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

A pair of cardinals also chipped in on cleaning up the spilled seed.

Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

 

 

 

 

 

Green jays are a bird that doesn’t go much farther north than this part of Texas, like our northern blue jay, he is quite the feeder glutton, but makes the blue jay look rather dull in comparison.

Green jay
Green jay
Golden fronted woodpecker
Golden fronted woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

Then a really pleasant surprise, one of my all time favorite birds showed up for a brief second, a golden fronted woodpecker!

Golden fronted woodpecker
Golden fronted woodpecker