Big Country Audubon Society

Stories from August, 2006

Bobcats Behaving Badly

bobkitten

Three little bobcat kittens were discovered in a tree next to the Dyess AFB Hospital in mid-August (one of them is pictured above). This story has its beginnings in the spring of 2005 when a bobcat who apparently had no natural fear of humans gave birth to two kittens in the hospital’s courtyard, out in the open, on the sidewalk. The mother was sedated and she and her kittens were relocated about three miles away in a secluded area on base. When the kittens were old enough to travel the mother brought them back to live in a hollow area under the foundation of the entrance to the pharmacy. Mothballs were used to discourage the cats; they left; and the entrance was plugged. They did not return.

This year, 2006, this same female gave birth to three kittens under a storage shed at the Outdoor Recreation Compound. When the kittens were old enough to leave the den, she took them to her old familiar den near the hospital. Apparently the kittens got spooked having never been that close to humans and went up the tree. The mother was not disturbed by the people but when a crowd gathered, she withdrew. Not wanting the kittens to loose their natural fear of humans, the decision was made to capture the young, put them in a cage to entice their mother’s return, capture her and then relocate all to the wild far from base.

Pictures of the kittens, those involved in their capture, and how the rest of the story unfolds can be viewed here
. While this story is exciting, it also didn’t have to happen. Because someone had probably fed the mother at some point in her life, she lost her natural fear of humans and her unnatural behavior put her kittens and herself at risk of loosing their lives. Now, who behaved badly?

August Doldrums

sunrise

Gone is the predawn chorus. No longer do birds defend territories by singing. Most of the neotropical breeders have moved south and migration has started. There’s a quiet stillness in the air. So what’s there to find when birding these days? Plenty! John and I bring you pictures of mid August birding, completed before the sun’s oppressive heat forced us inside. The Swainson’s Hawk parents are still hanging around on Dyess AFB (see how a summer of tending young wear the feathers away), Mississippi Kite young are still demanding food from parents, and shorebirds are showing up at the edges of our lakes and ponds. Lake Kirby produced Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, Willet, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, in basic (winter) plumage, and Common Moorhen this past week. There were a few Black Terns and Forster’s Terns also. And the Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds (since they’ve finished defending territories) are gathering in large flocks.

Enjoy the end of August and keep birding! You’ll never know what will fly by.

Field Trip to Waste Water

Come join us on our field trip to the Waste Water Treatment Plant Saturday, August 26, 2006. We’ll meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Skillets Restaurant on East I-20. If you want breakfast, come early (most of us will show up about 6:45 or 7:00 for breakfast). Bring hats, water, sunscreen, bugspray, and optical equipment. We’ll look for migrants and shorebirds. If Waste Water does not contain water in their holding ponds, we will decide where to bird, either Lake Kirby or Lake Ft. Phantom. If you have any questions, please call our Hotline, 691-8981

August Lessons

It’s been hot, folks. Duh! But the juvenile Swainson’s at Dyess are learning their lessons well. After all, it’s a matter of life or death.

SWHA-flight

The adults initiate hunting lessons by calling to the young. Once the parents are satisfied the young will follow, they both rise into the air to soar overhead and look for prey. One of the young hawks came back with a rodent and John captured the dining experience. At other times the young hawks will run on the ground and catch their prey. After feasting on birds and mammals during the summer, Swainson’s Hawks will switch to eating insects as they migrate south. Yeah, road food never does taste as good as home cookin’.

August also signals migration and molt in birds. Dowitchers and Lesser Yellowlegs were seen in breeding plumage this past week. As the days grow shorter more shorebirds will stop over and refuel before heading south. Some birds molt before they migrate; others molt after reaching their wintering grounds. Painted Buntings are leaving now and they will molt when they reach Mexico.

LEGO-molt

A Lesser Goldfinch (above) was photographed molting all at once. It better stay in the shade or risk a bad sunburn. The flycatchers (also fondly known as Empids: short ornithological word for can’t-the-heck-figure-out-what-the-bird is) are beginning to show up along with a few warblers. The best place to see fall migration is around water, either riparian habitat, ponds, or lakes. Check on your favorite spot from time to time and you may catch a glimpse of migration. It’ll only get better as the days get shorter and the wind shifts out of the north. In no time at all we’ll be wondering when it’s going to warm up. In the meantime, August Lessons are in session. Take a look!

BASH Those Rattlesnakes

rattlesnakes-in-box

At the beginning of 2006 when we started this web site I thought I would have to scramble to find something to post on a weekly basis. I’ve been holding some stories back for a “rainy” day. Hmmm…that rainy day is nowhere on the horizon. So here’s an article created in April about how one of our members manages rattlesnakes and raptors on the job. Read the rest of this entry »

What Are All These Butterflies…

…all over the place?

snout butterfly

They are known as snout butterflies (photo: Bruce Marlin) because they have a prominent elongated mouthpart (labial palpi) which give the appearance of the petiole (stem) of a dead leaf.

Snout_Butterfly_Img_3123.jpg

Wings are patterned on black-brown with white and orange markings. The fore wings have a distinctive squared off, hook-like (falcate) tip. Caterpillars appear humpbacked, having a small head, swollen first and second abdominal segments, and a last abdominal segment that is tapered and rounded. They are dark green with yellow stripes along the top and sides of the body, and have two black tubercles on the top of the thorax. Snout butterflies are known for their mass migrations which occur at irregular intervals when populations explode in the south and southwest. They may become so numerous as to darken the sky. One of these migrations was reported south of San Antonio in mid-September, 1996, where countless butterflies were observed flying northward.

Closeup_Snout_Img_3123.jpg

Now that’s a snout! And the scales look pretty cool, too.