Sunday, July 19, 2009

Birds and Butterflies and Snakes Oh My

This was a fun filled nature week!
I was over at Bentsen State Park nearly ever day this week to see the birds and butterflies. Even though the Rio Grande Valley is in the middle of a severe drought there is still plenty of nature to see, though I’m sure it is not as abundant as it would be if we had some rain.
I got a peek at the Ani fledgings. They have left their nest and are mainly hiding in the bushes so they are difficult to spot.

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Mama keeping an eye on her babies

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We were disappointed when we realized that the Hooded Orioles had been raising cowbirds in their nest. Cow birds are actually known as brood parasites. Instead of building their own nests, incubating their own eggs and raising their own nestlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds have a different breeding strategy. Cowbird females use other bird species as hosts -- laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species and relying on these hosts to incubate and raise their chicks.

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Hooded oriole

cowbirds

Parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds is a major threat to North American songbird populations and cowbird parasitism may be responsible for the range-wide population declines currently shown in a number of songbird species.
The hooded Orioles we had been watching had worked themselves nearly to death trying to feed the cowbirds which are much larger than what their own babies would have been.
In some places they are actually trapping the cowbirds in order to reduce their numbers.
Cowbird Trapping Program
There is also a Kiskadee Nest that I’ve been keeping my eye on. I do love Kiskadees!

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Kiskadee

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The nest is so funny, it reminds me of an African hut.

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kiskadee babies

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We had a couple of days of Butterfly walks. The big Butterfly count was this weekend, so a couple of the naturalists from Bentsen SP were familiarizing themselves with different species. I just tagged along to see what I could learn.

A White Peacock

Whitepeacock

A Mexican Fritillary
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Mike got really excited when he spotted what he thinks may be a Liris Skipper, on the left, with this Whirlabout.

Liris Skipper and Whirlabout

Here is another Queen. They are everywhere.queen2

queen
Got to see a little butterfly porn, as my dear husband called it.

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Little snuggling afterwards.
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Looks like a fairy
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Now I thought this was really interesting, especially the name.
This is a Ringed Forceptail Dragonfly.
ringed foreceptail
I love dragonflies
I also got a photo of a live Cicada doing his thing. You would not believe how ear splitting they are when you are right next to them, and supposedly that noise is what attracts a mate. Glad I’m not a cicada! All my husband has to do is look at me with those bedroom eyes and I melt. Thank goodness he doesn’t have to emit an ear piercing shriek to get my attention!giant cicada
On Thursday, Bentsen SP had Dr. Zaidan come and give a lecture on snakes of the Rio Grande Valley. He brought some specimens with him, venomous and non-venomous. I went because I had heard he is a fun snake guy, and I wanted to see some of the snakes myself.
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Here he is with a Diamond Back water snake.
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Diamond Back Rattler
Diamond Back Rattler
A Coral snake

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A Copperhead
Copperhead
These are the only three venomous snakes found in the Rio Grande Valley.
After the talk he took us on a Snake walk.Snake Walk Dr Zaidan
Now I find myself in the dark, in the woods and brush, watching people turning over logs and poking at bushes hoping to see a snake, and I have to tell you I was really wondering when I had officially taken leave of my senses!
There was only one small Diamond Back Water Snake caught, and it was a baby.
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We did manage to see some spiders and a couple of armadillos playing, but they ran away before I could get a picture.
I have never seen an armadillo before, and I was tickled when I saw them standing on their hind legs like rabbits!

Saturday morning I went to the Edinburgh Wetlands to go on the Nature tour, which unfortunately was cancelled because of the Butterfly Count. I’ll be going back though. It is a
beautiful place!



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I made the most decadent desert this week.
Frozen Chocolate Mousse
chocolate mousse
An oreo cookie crust just makes this desert!
This comes from the Kraft Kitchen
What You Need
24 OREO Cookies, crushed
1 Stick butter melted
2 tubs (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Spread
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted
1 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
Make It
MIX cookie crumbs and butter in foil-lined 9-inch square pan; press onto bottom of pan.
BEAT cream cheese spread in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Blend in chocolate. Whisk in COOL WHIP. Spoon over crust; cover.
FREEZE 6 hours. Remove from freezer 15 min. before serving. Let stand at room temperature to soften slightly before cutting to serve.
I can’t wait to serve this at our next dinner party!


Books this week:
Last week I forgot to mention the books I had read, so this is a combination of last week’s and this week’s reading.
The Godfather Returns: Mark Winegardner
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I just picked it up not expecting much. I mean, how can anyone write about the characters in the Godfather, other than Mario Puzo?
But MR. Winegardener did a good job. It is basically what happens in the second Godfather movie, written in a novel.
I also read

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy :Thomas Buergenthal, Forward by Elie Wiesel

I collect Holocaust books, so I was looking forward to reading this one. Unlike some other Holocaust survivor stories, Mr. Buergenthal waited many years before sharing his story with the public. It doesn't make his story any less moving though.

Night Gardner
by George Pelecanos
I loved this book. A bit of past and present melded together in an unforgettable story.
When I started reading the book I immediately sensed something familiar about the author's writing style and when I googled him I read that George Pelecanos has written and produced for HBO's The Wire , a show that Phil and I both enjoyed. This book is very similar in style.
I definately want to read some more of his work.

Lost Light: Michael Connelly



Movies this week:
Gran Torino Starring Clint Eastwood
I have had a lot of friends recommend this movie and I can see why they liked it so much. I really cared about the characters and what happens to them during the movie and was surprised by the ending.
Ghost Writer starring David Boreanaz
The only reason I rented this movie was because David Boreanaz was in it. I loved him in Buffy and in Angel and in Bones. Why oh Why would he star in such a horrible movie? I couldn’t even finish this one.
Pride and Glory starring Colin Farrell and Edward Norton
Some movies you just know you are going to like. But what’s not to like? One great actor and one pretty boy actor! A familiar story of a family of cops and how one brother discovers murder and corruption involving his own brother and brother-in-law.
There's Something About Mary starring Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz
This is an older movie but one I somehow missed seeing. This was a juvenile movie but I did laugh out loud at some of the scenes. I wouldn't watch it again but I enjoyed seeing it once.