Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Royal Sunangel. Quail Count. Endangered Bird Quest. Grooming. Quakes.

Royal Sunangel

Royal Sunangel by John Paul Perret

"The iridescent, dark indigo, fork-tailed male Royal Sunangel is a striking hummingbird, only discovered in 1975 in northern Peru. The female looks very different from the male, with dark green upper parts, green-spotted, cinnamon under parts with a broad, pale breast-band, and a blue-black tail.

The Royal Sunangel is most often seen along brushy slopes and steep ravine banks bordering shrubby, moist forest edge, often in areas regularly disturbed by fire. Sadly, the bird is decreasing throughout its already-limited range because of ongoing habitat loss and alteration caused by human activities, mostly the ongoing clearing of land for agriculture.

The Royal Sunangel and other threatened birds are protected at Abra Patricia in the Peruvian Andes, where ABC and its partner ECOAN are protecting approximately 24,000 acres. This hummingbird is frequently seen near the head of the “Royal Sunangel Trail” close to the Owlet Lodge in the reserve."

Birdwatchers interested in visiting Abra Patricia can find out more information at ECOAN’s website and



AMARILLO – "Quail counts in nine major wildfire locations are being made this summer to determine the impact wildfires have had on the birds and their habitat, according to two Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialists."

Brooks Hodges, manager of the Pitchfork Ranch in Dickens County, and Becky Ruzicka, a technician with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, examine recently burned quail habitat on the Dickens County Wildfire Complex as a part of the Quail Decline Initiative. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dale Rollins)

"In what is being termed Operation Phoenix, after the mythological bird of fire reborn from the ashes, AgriLife Extension personnel will monitor three times in each location for three years, said Dale Rollins, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist in San Angelo.

Selected burn sites include the Wildcat Mountain fire in Tom Green and Coke counties, Cooper Mountain fire in Kent County, Matador fire in Motley and Cottle counties, Dickens County Complex fire, Swenson fire in Stonewall County, Andrews County fire, Possum Kingdom Complex fire in Stephens County and the 611 Gas Plant fire in Fisher County.

Call routes are 10 miles long and included burned and unburned areas, said Ken Cearley, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist in Amarillo. Counts are conducted for two hours following dawn, weather permitting.

Rollins and Cearley said they hope to continue the counts in these locations for three consecutive years to determine the initial impact and recovery of the quail at the different locations.

Becky Ruzicka, an AgriLife Extension technician from Dallas, coordinated this summer’s counts. The studies are funded by AgriLife Extension’s “Quail Decline Initiative.”

While a bane in almost every respect, this year’s spate of wildfires did provide some unique opportunities for quail research, Rollins said.

“We surveyed quail response following the 2006 wildfires in the Panhandle and have three years of data there,” he said. “Our goal is to follow the 2011 burns for three years also.”

In the 2006 wildfires, the specialists found that habitats dominated by sandy soils rebounded within the first year, but clay loam soils were much slower to rebound. 

“Sandy soils in the Panhandle are usually characterized by shinnery and it resprouts very quickly following fire, and thus offers better quail habitat more quickly than other sites,” said Rollins.

Cearley said after the 2006 fires, they monitored abundance of quail for three years on transects that started in burned country and extended into adjacent unburned country. Without pre-burn numbers for those areas, they could only test to see whether the burns enhanced quail habitat and resulted in more birds than the unburned areas.

He said that study showed population appeared to be affected more by soil-particle size, plant composition and its response to fire, pre-burn habitability for quail, topography and rainfall, rather than whether it was burned or unburned.

Sandier sites responded more quickly and likely supported higher densities pre-burn than sites with tighter soils, he said. In many cases, the fires burned on top of the caprock and stalled out before burning the rougher country off of the cap, which is often better quail habitat.

“So, in some cases, the lines were unable to give an unbiased picture of the impact of the fires on quail populations,” Cearley said.

A major difference between the 2006 fires and the 2011 fires is the tormenting heat and drought that spawned the 2011 fires and that has persisted unabated since the burns, Rollins said.

“Vegetation response has been much slower,” he said. “Many of the sites dominated by cedars still look like a moonscape four months after the burn.”

The specialists say the recent fires are unique in another regard—they had “pretreatment” counts on several of their study sites.

“Having pretreatment data for a wildfire study is pretty incredible. We had count lines in place on four of these burns, so we’ll have a unique opportunity to better gauge the fires’ impacts on quail, and how long it takes numbers to rebound,” Rollins said.

With a history of several years’ worth of density surveys on some transects, this study stands to be more instructive, Cearley said.

“With that information in hand we’ll have a much better chance of being able to measure the impact of these fires on quail populations.” "



Endangered Bird Quest at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge  TX.



"The late spring morning started cold and wet, temperature in the high 40s, with the threat of much-needed rain—very unusual for May inTexas.  A light mist hung in the air.  I was leading a small tour group visiting Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge during their four-day annual Songbird Festival.  Balcones Canyonlands is an ABC-designated Globally Important Bird Area and home to two Federally Endangered birds– the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo. Our main goal was to see both of these and then any other birds we could find."

Required reading for our bird walk


"To do this, we needed to travel from one end of the Refuge to the other to hit the right habitats in areas that are usually closed to visitors.  The 80,000-acre Refuge consists of 23,000 acres of habitat in patches of steep slopes and former grazing lands and ranches interspersed with older houses and new housing developments.  It is located in an area called the Texas Hill Country, about 20 miles northwest of Austin, as the crow flies. However, the drive is nearly 40 miles along winding roads."


Map of Balcones Canyonlands


"We moved as quickly as we could from headquarters to the far north-western edge of the Refuge.  We headed up a small winding road along Cow Creek, across a few cattle guards, barely stopping to see the strutting turkeys and the Osprey perched along the banks.  Arriving at the gate we were able to spot a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  Exiting the van, we made our way through the wet grass, trying to avoid the hidden prickly pear, listening for vireos in the small groups of trees and shrubs, locally known as oak motts.  We flushed a small covey of Northern Bobwhites and listened to a Rufous-crowned Sparrow close in a bush.  After passing a few motts, we heard a male Black-capped Vireo singing up ahead."

Black-capped Vireo Habitat at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge


"As we came around the oak mott trying to spot the singing bird, I noticed a metal rectangle on the ground that I first thought was scrap metal left from the previous ranching operations.  Then I noticed the wire running from the metal to a plastic case that I recognized as a battery housing.

By the time I figured out that this was part of the remote camera equipment set up by a Texas A&M student to monitor a vireo nests, I spotted the nest in question and tried to move everyone away.  We were about 20 feet back and the female sat low in the shin-high nest.  Everyone got a good view and we moved on as quickly as possible.  The female never flushed. One down, one to go.

On our way out we flushed another covey of Bobwhites and had a nice view of a male Painted Bunting.  We loaded back into the van for our almost hour-long drive past the headquarters to the other side of the Refuge.  During the drive, I revealed that the Black-capped Vireo we just saw was a life-bird for me.  That’s why I recruited Jake McCumber (a biologist for the Texas National Guard, local birding expert, and conservation partner) to co-lead the tour.  We stopped once to look at a Raven’s nest with four large babies before heading on to our final destination near the Lago Vista airport on top of one of the steep slopes.

The Golden-cheeked Warblers are found in very different habitat from the vireo – closed-canopy forest with a fairly open understory.  We headed along a fence marking the Refuge property line to the first potential Golden-cheeked site and looked down a steep hillside.  We heard a Hutton’s Vireo and eventually we heard the Golden-cheeked Warbler about 50 feet away, but didn’t get a good view.  We went back to the gate and followed the dirt roads into the forest.  As we headed back to the gate we heard another Golden-cheeked Warbler and tried to track it down.  One quick flash of yellow and it was already 100 feet away.  We saw at least three more, but the views were about the same every time.  They just would not sit still for a look."

Golden-cheeked Warbler Habitat at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge


"It never did rain very hard.  I saw my first Black-capped Vireo and we logged 65 species, including six vireos.  The tour participants, mostly from Texas, but some from California,Ohio, and Wisconsin, seemed happy with their trip, especially considering the weather.

The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge provides breeding habitat for 700 territorial male Golden-checked Warblers and 50 territorial male Black-capped Vireos.  With populations estimated between 4,000 to 16,000  breeding pairs each in the world, the Refuge provides critical habitat for these endangered birds, as well as several endangered cave dwelling invertebrates (Insects,  spiders, mussels…), very close to one of the fastest growing urban areas in the United States." 

For more information about the Songbird Festival, visit the Friends of Balcones National Wildlife Refuge, "



About 8.15 AM the son of a neighbor came over, and wanted to buy a duffle bag, or similar as he was leaving on a trip.  I told him that when Mindi or Ray arrived, I would go upstairs to my attic, and get some down.  I don't go upstairs when I am alone, and I didn't want him coming in the house, as I didn't know him that well, and also I believe he has a 'history'.


Ray was going to work on the front of the cargo trailer, but he got called away to do something important with his son.


A lady arrived to look at an apartment size 220v. dryer that I have advertized.  We carried it into the utility room to plug it in and check it.  Last time it was used, a neighbor had borrowed it, but they didn't tell me that the belt was now broken, and they had put it in the drum. I felt very embarrassed, but she made me an offer, so I let it go.


Mindi was supposed to be here with her poodles to be groomed at 9.30, later than I usually start grooming, but she had to drop her son off at Pre-K first. They live in the country the other side of another town, Montgomery, TX.    Also her husband had her doing another errand, so she finally arrived about 10.45.AM, but with one Miniature (middle size) Poodle, Suggy, Shuggy, (sp) and her husband's Yorkie, Puddin'.  While she was here, I went up to the attic and got some bags down.  By then it was too late and the young lad had already left, so the bags will have to go back upstairs again.

As Mindi was so late bringing the dogs, she asked me if I would keep the dogs overnight, as she had to be somewhere in the evening.  That was alright by me, I have known, groomed and boarded her dogs for years, and they are so well behaved.  It was too late to start grooming, as it was lunch time, so I didn't get their "roughing-in" done until the afternoon.

From a grooming site:  "The grooming process begins with the "roughing in", followed by a bath and blow dry.  Then comes the final "finishing", where the styles are perfected, pedicure, ears and tails are brushed and trimmed, and bows added when requested.  Amazingly, those pets who have undergone this gentle transformation leave with their heads high and tails wagging as if they KNOW they look great!!!"


Then the news flashed that there had been an earthquake in Virginia, of all places.  News with video:

It seems that this is their 16th earthquake:  and now Irene is bearing down on the East coast.


I know Houston is on a fault, but we have never had one of any significance.   From:

"The Houston area has over 150 active faults (estimated to be 300 active faults) with an aggregate length of up to 310 miles (500 km), including the Long Point–Eureka Heights fault system which runs through the center of the city.

There have been no significant historically recorded earthquakes in Houston, but researchers do not discount the possibility of such quakes occurring in the deeper past, nor in the future.

Land in some communities southeast of Houston is sinking because water has been pumped out from the ground for many years. It may be associated with slip along faults; however, the slippage is slow and not considered an earthquake, where stationary faults must slip suddenly enough to create seismic waves. These faults also tend to move at a smooth rate in what is termed "fault creep", which further reduces the risk of an earthquake."


At least we know when we are going to have a hurricane, and can be prepared!


Instead of my Wednesday shopping, now I will have to bathe and finish the dogs today.

1 comment:

Dizzy-Dick said...

When I first moved to the Houston area back in 1980, there was sub-division in Baytown that was sinking into the bay. Now it is all gone, things can happen pretty fast.