The Crown

Americans profess a certain pride in living without royalty.   We drool and gossip about entertainment favorites, whose only claim to fame is that they’re famous, but, gosh darn it, we don’t need royalty.

But here in North America, there are some who don crowns and in a few cases they live in, or visit, our gardens–like this fella:

Taking a bath, enjoying the great outdoors.

What’s that little smudge of rust on top of your head?  Maybe it needs cleaning?

It’s a crown–an Orange-crown!

The Orange-crowned WarblerOreothlypis celata, is a migrating bird who winters here in Central Texas.  Each winter, I enjoy the charm of a few of these busy, quiet but occasionally chirping, little warblers.  This winter, I’ve identified two regulars to my garden, though the female is the more frequent visitor.  How can I tell the difference?  It’s hard with this warbler, as both genders’ coloring is similar–a muted greenish-yellow.  According  to Cornell Lab and Audubon Society, there are four subspecies of Orange-crown, differing in color, size, and molting patterns.  In reading the descriptions of where each type of warbler lives, I’m guessing that it’s the western Orange-crowns, the lutescens, who winter here, as the other breeds either sport more grey, drab plumage or are found only in certain areas.  My Orange-crowns are yellow-green, all the time, except for the male and his unsparkly orange crown, which appears when he’s excited, irritated–or taking a bath.

Orange-crown Warblers rummage through trees and shrubs, and fluff plant detritus along the ground in search of variety of small insects, spiders, and any source of protein smaller than they are.  As Automatic Gardener demonstrates on a recent post, they’ll also visit a hummingbird feeder if given an opportunity.  Each fall, winter, and early spring, Orange-crowns visit at my suet feeder; this year, it’s been the female enjoying suet snacks.

We all like fat, I guess.

I see her almost daily at the suet, nipping at sunflower seeds fallen to the ground, or in the garden, working the shrubbery.

I haven’t seen the male in a while, perhaps he headed further south, or maybe he visits a different garden?  Was he offended at my catching him at his bath?

Stop looking at me, lady!

Orange-crowned Warblers are early arrivals during fall migration and hang out in my garden through May.  They breed in far north Canada, so they have a long way to go from my Central Texas garden to the neighborhoods where they raise their families.  In late summer, after the chicks have fledged, Orange-crowns embark on the big trip southward to their wintering spots.  Like other migrating birds, their seasonal treks amaze me:  tiny birds who travel thousands of miles, back and forth over continents and sometimes large bodies of water, and that’s normal life for them.  How can I not appreciate and admire that?

So it goes with birds.

Orange-crowned Warblers, crowned, or not, are royalty in my eyes.

 

Not Only Butterflies

Along with other contemporary perils, a remarkable habitat in South Texas is threatened by the irrational and incorrect belief that America is being invaded.  It’s not only that a uniquely diverse environment will be demolished, but that ecotourism, which is a huge economic driver of this region, will be seriously impacted.  The National Butterfly Center, as well as Native American gravesites, a historic church, the La Lomita Chapel, and a state park are in the direct pathway of the proposed–and funded–border wall along the Rio Grand River between the United States and Mexico. Sure, cute ‘lil butterflies and birds will lose their habitat and die, and yeah, the endangered Ocelot and Jaguarundi will have difficulty finding their former water source and die, but also private property will be seized and land benefitting many will be fragmented and obliterated for the foreseeable future.

Check out this sweet video of  a Rio Grande River tour with an accompanying explanation of this beautiful and rare area:

 

Our section of heaven on the banks of the Rio Grande River is on the line, threatened by the Border Wall. This once thriving, recreational area has become the center of a battle for a fully militarized zone between Texas and Mexico.  Please enjoy this tranquil and beautiful sunset cruise, as filmed just downriver from the National Butterfly Center, from aboard Captain Johnny’s Riverside Dreamer in Mission, Texas.

To join us in fighting the border wall, which will place the region’s only source of fresh water behind 30 feet of concrete and steel, please go to our GoFundMe page where you can make a donation to our cause. Here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/protect-the-national-butterfly-cen…

Help us preserve the Lower Rio Grande Wildlife Conservation Corridor and the incredibly rich biodiversity of threatened plants and animals that live here!

Did you know nearly 150 species of North American butterflies can be seen only in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas, or by traveling to Mexico?In fact, more than 300 species of butterflies may be found in the LRGV, and more than 200 species have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, including a number of rarities and U.S. Records! Incredibly, almost 40% of the 700+ butterflies that can be found in the United States can be seen in this three-county area at the southernmost tip of Texas, where the subtropical climate makes it possible to enjoy the outdoors year ’round.

Even if you choose not to donate to the GoFundMe campaign, click and read, as it explains well the travesty of this border wall nonsense.  If nothing else, the list of federal laws being waived for this horror is illuminating– and horrifying.

For more information about how the wall will affect the the environment, the residents, and the immigrants, please read these articles from San Antonio Express-News  , The Washington Post another from The Washington Post, penned by the videographer of the above video and an employee of The National Butterfly Center, and The Guardian.

A Mother’s Day: Wildlife Wednesday, May

As May opens, late spring wildlife breeding season is in fuzzy, feathery baby-oriented swing.  Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday and with a few shots, I’m celebrating mommies, daddies, and babies!

Athena and her two, bobble-headed babies.

Weeks ago, on a chilly, blustery day, I visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where photos of flowers proved nearly impossible because of the whoosh of winds.  However, the resident Great Horned owl, named Athena and her 2018 offspring, rested quietly in their nesting spot above the entry to the courtyard, providing a good show for  admiring wildlife fans.

Oh, mommy, you’re so nice and warm!

I gaggled and goggled at the beauties, but Athena was unimpressed with me and probably, a bit tired.  All the humans were agog at the owls; it’s not often that we are privileged to see such birds up-close.

I looked for Athena’s mate, who was probably perched in a nearby tree, but didn’t see him.  Those who visit the center near to closing time have witnessed him bringing Athena and the babies a snack.  Good daddy!

The babies are expected to fledge any day now–if they haven’t already.

Sleepy mama!

For the first time in nearly a decade, no Eastern Screech-OwlMegascops asio, set up a nursery in my garden.  I’ve missed hosting an owl family: mommy and daddy working together, raising fluffy chicks to fledge, and then observing the family for another couple of months as the parents feed–and teach hunting skills–to their raptor offspring.

I only heard and saw one owl, who trilled sadly for a mate, with no return calls from another.  He or she rested for one day in our nest box, but apparently never found his or her true love.  Several neighbors in my part of the neighborhood used rat bate during the spring and winter and I suspect that the poisons killed some of our neighborhood adult Screech owls; currently, there isn’t an adult population in our neighborhood.

Please don’t use poisons–of any sort.  The collateral damage to other creatures exists and has devastating consequences throughout the food-chain.  It’s never only the critters targeted who die.  Leave unwanted and unwelcome rodents to the raptors and  rat snakes–that’s their role in the ecosystem and they fulfill that role admirably–if we let them.

Wishing Athena and critters everywhere success and safety in raising their families.  Diversity is the key to a healthy environment and we’ll all pay a steep price if that diversity continues to decline.

Kudos to mommies and daddies who love and protect their babies!

What wildlife happenings did you share in or observe this past month?  Please post about your wild happenings and leave a link when you comment here–and happy wildlife gardening!