Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Diamantina Tapaculo. Harlingen Rio Grande Birding Festival. King Ranch Breakfast. Monarch Butterflies. Columbus. Cargo Trailer.


It's 'Winged Wednesday' again:

Diamantina Tapaculo

Diamantino Tapaculo by Sidney Sampaio, ABCRN

"The Diamantina Tapaculo was first described in 2007. Like other tapaculos, this species skulks low in dense vegetation, making it very difficult to locate. It is most easily found and identified by its song and calls.

This tapaculo’s habitat is threatened by clearance for agriculture, primarily for the cultivation of coffee and bananas, as well as cutting for both subsistence and industrial-scale charcoal production, and frequent wildfires set to improve pasture or clear vegetation.

ABC has partnered with Associação Baiana para Conservação dos Recursos Naturais to study the distribution of endemic birds in and around Chapada Diamantina National Park. Encouragingly, a recent field survey found the Diamantina Tapaculo at 11 sites, nine of which are new locations for the species. The species seems to have some ability to inhabit dense secondary growth in disturbed areas and logged forests, which may indicate some tolerance of habitat degradation. Additional surveys for the tapaculo and other birds are scheduled for 2012."

Help support ABC's efforts to conserve this and other international birds!



Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival Nov. 9-13

"Each year millions of winged creatures return to the sunny clime of the Texas Rio Grande Valley, their annual wintering grounds.

Over 500 varieties of birds can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, a virtual birding paradise. As the birds come, so come the birders, many having traveled from the other side of the world, each armed with binoculars, cameras, tripods and field books, visiting such birding hot spots as the World Birding Center’s many RGV outlets, the Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, and other natural areas up and down the Valley including the Rio Grande Valley Bosque.

Each fall the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival treats the most dedicated of birdwatchers to a five day birding feast - perhaps we should call it a fest.

You're invited to join in the 18th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival to be headquartered in Harlingen at the Municipal Auditorium. This year's Festival promises to be as rewarding and memorable as ever! With a combination of field trips, workshops, seminars, keynote lectures, children's programs, and a trade show, there is no doubt that there is something for everyone.

The event includes a a series of lectures by some of the top birding experts in the world, and combines plenty of opportunities to visit the birding hot spots of the region. Remember to bring plenty of film/batteries.

One of the highlights of the festival are the many guided birding trips to locations across the Valley, and even into Mexico. Not only can birders visit the real hot spots of the region, but be led by some of the most renowned guides in the birding world.

You're invited to join in the 18th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival to be headquartered in Harlingen Nov. 9-13 at the Municipal Auditorium." 

More at: 




The Rio Grande Valley area is a major bird migration corridor:

Flyway map
"The Rio Grande Valley area is home to many tropical bird species found nowhere else in the United States. It is a major bird migration corridor; the convergence of two major flyways (the Central and Mississippi) affords the birder an abundance of Northern species migrating to avoid the winter cold and to take advantage of northern breeding habitats.

Not just one, but nine unique locations in the Rio Grande Valley. Each site of the World Birding Center has its own attractions for both the first time visitor and expert birder."    


More at:




And while you are near there, 100 miles isn't much in TX, visit the King Ranch Breakfast on Saturday Nov. 19th:


"Deep in South Texas lies a legendary over 150 year old ranch, the history of which has been immortalized in films and books down through the years. In fact, this ranch is considered the birthplace of the American ranching industry and remains one of the largest working ranches in existence in modern times. We are talking about none other than the famous King Ranch  near Kingsville, where the spirit and history of ranching are celebrated each year at the annual Ranch Hand Breakfast.   Held in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

If you have never visited this magnificent ranch you are in for a real treat. And this real "cowboy breakfast" celebration is the perfect opportunity to check it out and experience the roots of western heritage.

The Annual Ranch Hand Breakfast takes place Nov. 19th from 7:00 am to 11:00 am. Yes, it's early....they're cowboys and work starts before dawn, so give 'em a break!  But it will be the best breakfast you can get this side of the Rio Grande. For instance, where else can you find homemade gravy cooked by the pot fulls, thick ranch-style bacon, eggs. refried frijoles and hot tortillas, and spicy salsa. Hungry yet?

And to keep you entertained and informed there will be cowboy story-telling events, team roping demonstrations, exhibits from the King Ranch museum, and a chance to tour the ranch (separate fee for ranch tour). The cost for all this glorious food and entertainment: ages 4 and up $6.00 – ages 3 and under FREE!  Held in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving – 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Advance tickets may be purchased starting in November at:
• King Ranch Saddle Shop
• Kingsville Convention and Visitor's Bureau
• King Ranch Visitor's Center
• or at the Breakfast
For more information call: 1-800-333-5032 or 361-221-0116
King Ranch, Highway 141, Kingsville, Texas"

More at:



At Assateague, MD, it’s monarch madness

"I’m camping at Assateague again and what do you know: Monarchs everywhere. The butterflies that head to Texas come across Cape May and onto the Delmarva peninsula and down along the beaches. I’ve got great photos but don’t think I can manage to run the Methode gantlet on what little battery I’ve got left. (Mental note: Learn the technology before the bosses tap me on the shoulder and hand me the big envelope.)

A group of monarchs is called a flutter. I would have used the term in my story but couldn’t see how to do it unconfusingly, if that’s a word. (And if it’s not, whatever, I’m at the beach!)   

They don’t seem in a hurry to get to Texas, but who would be? They flit and flap and feast on goldenrod. My sources say they can do 25 miles a day, or more, and ride thermals to 1,000 feet above the ground and travel like the wind.  

A monarch tagged in Virginia turned up in Austin, Texas, so quickly that when they did the math they realized the butterfly had averaged 61 miles a day. That’s bookin’ it.

(Photos by Joel Achenbach)

(Photos by Joel Achenbach)

By Joel Achenbach  |  12:42 PM ET, 10/09/2011



Monarch butterflies face plight of flight in hot Texas

"For the monarch butterflies, life is complicated enough even in a good year. Now, though, they’ve got to deal with Texas.

The monarchs in recent weeks have been beating their way south and west across eastern North America, riding winds a thousand feet above the ground, covering 25 miles or more every day. Now they’ve reached a vast area in Texas stricken by drought and charred by wildfires.


The butterflies are on their way to Mexico. They come from as far north as Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as far east as the islands of Maine. Many take a well-flapped route down the Eastern Seaboard before veering across the Gulf Coast. If they can make it through the gantlet of Texas, they will cross the Rio Grande and converge on a few acres of forest in mountains about 60 miles west of Mexico City. There, they spend the winter roosting, thick as quilts, on the branches of oyamel fir trees. In spring, they’ll head back north.

But it’s not clear how many will make it this year to their Mexican retreat, or what kind of condition they’ll be in when they get there.

They need water. They need flowers. They need nectar. The monarch butterfly is a hardy and vigorous insect, but whatever compels it to migrate south does not tolerate much flexibility in the itinerary. Going through Texas on the way to Mexico is what they’re hard-wired to do. And Texas is scorched.

“They’re going to be encountering a thousand miles of hell as they go through a nearly waterless, flowerless, nectarless landscape,” said Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and the director of the nonprofit organization Monarch Watch.

The migrating monarchs must overcome a host of challenges to their way of life, and their numbers have dropped in recent years. A critical problem is the widespread adoption throughout North America of herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans, said Lincoln Brower, a professor of biology at Sweet Brier College who has been studying monarchs for decades.

These genetically modified crops enable farmers to spray herbicides on their fields and wipe out weeds without hurting the corn or soybeans.  But the milkweeds that are eradicated are crucial to the life cycle of the butterflies. Scorned by farmers, milkweeds are a diverse genus of plants, with more than 120 species identified, that co-evolved over the millennia with the butterflies. "

(Quote: "Losey and co-workers sprinkled Bt pollen on milkweed leaves and allowed monarch larvae to feed on them. Within four days, 44 percent were dead. The rest were small and lethargic. Larvae that were fed conventional pollen did fine.)  From:

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of acres of land that are virtually sterilized except for human food crops,” Brower said.

Conservation groups have encouraged people to plant milkweeds to help the monarchs. And in Mexico, where illegal logging has damaged some of the butterfly’s winter habitat, the Washington-based conservation organization American Forests has teamed with other groups to plant more than 900,000 trees in the past five years, said American Forests spokeswoman Lea Sloan.

They’ll improvise. They’ll visit gardens and the flowers along drainage ditches. Texas residents typically see thousands of monarchs in clusters. The Journey North Web site reports that in Fort Stockton, Tex., trees are “dripping with monarchs.” From Midland, Tex., a resident reports, “Every flower patch has hordes hovering.”

This year’s migration through Texas seems to have shifted west by up to 300 miles, Taylor said, and many monarchs are heading toward a border crossing near Big Bend National Park. Beyond is a baked desert.

But nothing is constant in any ecosystem. Climate change is driving wetter winters that leave soggy butterflies exposed to cold snaps, Taylor said. The butterfly population that migrated north this year was smaller than normal, he said, as is the number heading south. As they fly through southern Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and into northern Mexico, they are encountering areas hit by what the U.S. government rates as “exceptional drought.”

Taylor predicted a record-low number of monarchs roosting in Mexico. From 1994 to 2003, the butterflies covered an average of 23 acres of forest, but since then the average has dropped to less than 11 acres. The lowest number came in the winter of 2009-10, when the insects covered less than 5 acres.

The butterflies typically arrive fat and happy, having gorged on nectar for thousands of miles. If they arrive thin and bedraggled, they could be more vulnerable to winter storms and below-freezing temperatures.

By the time they get to Mexico, they’re butterballs. They use that fat to get them through the winter and back to Texas,” Brower said. But this year might be different, he said. “We’re really concerned about how much energy the butterflies have to sustain them through the course of the winter.”

The monarch butterfly — Danaus plexippus — has been making this trek in eastern North America for thousands of years, at least since the North American ice sheets retreated at the end of the Pleistocene era (a separate population west of the Rockies migrates to coastal California). Only in recent years has the migratory adventure of the monarch been carefully studied and mapped. The overwintering site in Mexico was not discovered by researchers until 1975.

Monarch butterflies have a life cycle that beggars belief. The butterflies that roost in Mexico fly north in the spring, mate in Texas or thereabouts, lay eggs on the leaves of milkweeds and die by the end of April. The larvae that emerge from the eggs are tiny. The caterpillars molt a number of times, growing dramatically, then enter a pupa stage. Inside the shell of the chrysalis, the butterfly forms. It emerges, lingers for a few days and then starts flying — north, in many cases, with butterflies following the milkweeds up to the Great Lakes and far into Canada.

Depending on the latitude, these butterflies can spawn two or three generations. Come early August, emerging butterflies will begin the great migration south. The waves from Canada will overlap with butterflies emerging farther south. The speed of the migration picks up steadily, and by this time of the year the creatures are motoring toward Mexico as if turbo-charged.

They are guided by navigational clues — celestial, magnetic — that scientists haven’t decoded. No single butterfly makes the entire round-trip journey. How a butterfly finds the same set of mountains in Mexico visited by a grandparent or great-grandparent is a mystery.

The butterfly isn’t endangered, but this migratory pattern could be, Brower said.

“The migratory biology of the monarch is a phenomenon. It’s an endangered biological phenomenon,” Brower said." By Joel Achenbach, October 7.  From:


What does that say about GMO crops!!  Why should we pay extra to buy organic, non GMO food, when they (Monsanto) shouldn't have messed with Mother Nature anyway.


Death of the Bees. Genetically Modified Crops and the Decline of Bee Colonies in North America.   

"Commercial beehives pollinate over a third of North America’s crops and that web of nourishment encompasses everything from fruits like peaches, apples, cherries, strawberries and more, to nuts like California almonds, 90 percent of which are helped along by the honeybees.

Without this pollination, you could kiss those crops goodbye, to say nothing of the honey bees produce or the flowers they also fertilize."    Article at:



Columbus reaches the New World, Oct 12, 1492:

"On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina. On October 12, the expedition reached land, probably Watling Island in the Bahamas.

Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba, which he thought was mainland China, and in December the expedition landed on Hispaniola, which Columbus thought might be Japan. He established a small colony there with 39 of his men. The explorer returned to Spain with gold, spices, and "Indian" captives in March 1493 and was received with the highest honors by the Spanish court. He was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century."



Jay and I did some more measuring and fitting on the last shelf to go above the left side kitchen window in the cargo trailer.  We wanted to have all the parts ready for Ray to patch, sand, prime and paint the next time he will be here.

There are two unused water meter boxes sunk in the ground here, and the lids had broken. Our 170 acre subdivision is on it's own well, and our water company doesn't like to do anything but rake in the bucks.  I knew they didn't care about those broken lids being dangerous, so Jay and I looked in my scrap plywood dept. and found two pieces of 3/4" treated that Jay cut to fit perfectly.  After Ray has painted the plywood black, they will look like the originals.


It was nice working outside this morning.  September always seemed to be our most muggy, humid month, but this year it is October.   It isn't so hot, but even though the house can be open some of the day, the humidity rolls in and the AC has to be turned colder than it was during this hot summer, just to get the humidity out.


The upholstering lady, Kathy, came and looked at the dinette in the trailer, the foam that I had, and the cushions that Sam had given me.  She determined that it would be easier to do a couple of alterations on the ones from Sam, and quoted me a pretty good price.   An hour or so after she left with the cushions, she called and said that her husband wouldn't let her do it for that price. 

I asked her to let me know what he thought was fair and to call me back, so that is on hold for another day.


Dizzy-Dick said...

If someone does not want to stick to a quoted price, find someone else, even if it costs more.

Gypsy said...

I agree with Diz. A person's word should be their bond.