Saturday, October 1, 2022

Brown Pelicans at Corpus Christi


Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

We made a one-day trip to Corpus Christi. It's not that far from my house, but when I get there I don't want to leave. I love watching the birds!

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The Brown Pelicans are spectacular divers. I love watching them circle around then suddenly drop into the water. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, " Brown Pelicans are found along the Texas coast from Chambers County on the upper coast to Cameron County on the lower coast. Most of the breed- ing birds nest on Pelican Island in Corpus Christi Bay and Sundown Island near Port O'Connor, both National Audubon Society Sanctuaries." I think my favorite spot is near Pelican Island. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was surprised to learn that only two species of pelicans plunge-dive for their food. The Brown Pelican is one of them. This is one of the diving poses. Their diving skill level is off the charts. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Brown Pelicans dive from great heights. Unlike other pelicans that scoop up the fish, Brown Pelicans trap the fish in their large pouches. They don't store the fish in their pouches, they tilt their heads back and swallow the fish as the water drains out. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.
These photos are actually of two different birds competing for fish in the same area. This one is winning the contest. Not this time, though. It's a hop, skip, and a jump. 
Another missed opportunity. It was close, though! 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This one is taking a short break from the fishing. They really are beautiful. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Goodnight sweet bird. Time to go home. 


Saturday, June 18, 2022


Rattlesnake photo by Darla Sue Dollman taken in Alice, Texas 2022. 

We had an interesting visitor at the new house in South Texas. We have a long gravel drive leading to our house and this beauty was slithering up the driveway mid-morning, which seemed a bit odd for a snake. Snakes generally move around when it is cooler. Not when it's cold, but when it's cooler, like early morning or dusk. They are generally crepuscular, appearing at twilight. This can be a confusing topic because I also read that rattlesnakes are thermoregulators, which means they are able to change their own body temperature to suit their surroundings. This one, however, was quite active when the temperature here in Texas was already 91 degrees. 

The rattlesnake's rattle. Photo taken by Darla Sue Dollman taken in Alice, Texas in 2022.

Do you recognize this snake? Can you identify this rattler? It's definitely a rattlesnake, as you can see in the picture. I'm still trying to come up with a definitive identification, but I suspect it is a Western Diamondback. All rattlesnakes are in the viper family, a type of venomous snake found almost worldwide, except in places like Hawaii and Australia, but they have their own venomous critters to deal with I suppose. If you can identify this snake please comment! 

Rattlesnake photo taken by Darla Sue Dollman in Alice, Texas 2022.

This particular critter was moving a bit slow. It may have just finished a meal. There does appear to be a slight bulge in its mid-section and it occurred to me that I may have interrupted the snake while it was digesting a recent meal. Rattlesnakes are predators that hunt birds and small mammals and we have plenty of both on this property. The snake looks large enough to swallow a small rabbit, too. 

 Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.  

 As you can see, this snake has a triangular-shaped head, which is typical of venomous snakes.


Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022. 

It is also a pit viper. I could tell by its eyes. Pit vipers have a "pit organ" between their eyes and nostrils to help them strike accurately at their target. They also have two movable fangs.

Photo taken by Darla Sue Dollman in Alice, Texas 2022.

The snake took one look at my husband then made a mad dash--or, mad slither--for a few chopped branches near where my husband was working at the time. Once beneath the branches he curled up and posed for the picture above. Of course that wasn't going to continue. Although it seems like the perfect place for a snake to hang out, we would be unable to safely work on the property with a huge rattlesnake by the front porch. It would be fascinating to watch at dusk as it moved around looking for food, but still, a bit too dangerous. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.

The snake finally decided to move out of the wood pile and my husband, who has done this many times before where he was raised in the California mountains, managed to lasso the snake and gently, gently, slowly and carefully, guide it to the back of his truck. I suspect the snake has done this before because he was surprisingly cooperative. (To be honest, I'm not sure if the snake was a male or female. Sexing a snake is a complicated process).  

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.

We drove out to a less-crowded area of our large property, stopped the truck, and my husband gently removed the lasso. The snake slowly slid down the side of the truck and onto the ground. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.

Once on the ground, the snake took a second to look around and figure out where it wanted to go. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.

It found a nice spot in a patch of grass near some trees and started moving across the road. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. Alice, Texas 2022.

And with a flick of its tail to say goodbye, it was gone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Northern Cardinals in Alice, Texas

Female northern cardinal. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am back in Texas. I just can't stay away. I love this place--the flowers, birds, wildlife, it's all so beautiful! After two years in the Arizona east valley dust bowl I sold my house, bought an adorable old farmhouse on two acres and moved to Alice, Texas. 

This is Fabio. It was a rough drive, but he loves Texas. I'd like to find a place that prints small dog t-shirts so I can order four of them that say, "I survived the move of 2022!

It was a stressful move with 16 animals in cages in the back of my truck, but we all survived the drive. The six male ducks were divided into two large cages where they were able to stand and walk around. My single female Muscovy, Squeaky, was in her own cage, but also able to walk around. Penny the Peahen was also caged separately in a cage fit for a queen. The four dogs were seat-belted into the two trucks. The cats were in cages (large enough to move around) on the back seat of my truck and the two rabbits were also in separate cages where they could move around. When we arrived in Texas we discovered the sale of my house in Arizona was delayed for six days so we slept in a hotel room with the dogs and cats then changed the hay, water, and feed for the caged animals twice a day. It was a great relief to finally move into the house! 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Last night, though, after only two weeks in Texas, we had a casualty. My lovely Mallard, Blackie, was killed by a weasel. We identified the killer by the tiny teeth marks in the neck and the fact that he somehow managed to squeeze through a small gap between boards. I am heartbroken. I love my ducks and was looking forward to another 18 years of quacking and waddling from him. He will be missed.

Male northern cardinal in Alice, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There are many other birds around the house to keep my ducks company, though. The birds I see and hear the most are the northern cardinals. They are quite vocal, and both male and females participate in the choir. According to Birds and Blooms the northern cardinals have 24 songs that they share. 

Female northern cardinal. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The male and female partners communicate to each other through songs, as well, and the females have a specific song they use as a mating call. They are generally monogamous and form lifelong bonds. I love listening to their conversations. They also make a frantic "chirp chirp chirp" sound to alert others to danger, such as roaming cats.

Juvenile male northern cardinal in Alice, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Prior to 1918 it was legal to own northern cardinals and other songbirds as pets, but the Migratory Bird Act forbids their sale as caged birds. They don't migrate, though. At my house they appear to be nesting in the trees that run alongside the house. I can hear them calling to each other when they come into the feeding area. They like the brush and low trees for the shelter and nesting materials they provide. They will have multiple rounds of hatchlings throughout the year, from two to four during their brooding season, which runs from March through August. They have 1 inch speckled eggs that take a couple weeks to hatch. 

One of my favorite photos of a male northern cardinal. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

So here's a few fun facts about northern cardinals. First, these are busy birds! Once the eggs hatch, dad will feed the hatchlings regurgitated bugs up to eight times a day while mom searches for the next nesting sight. Second, northern cardinals are called "northern" even though they live in the east, central, southwestern United States, and Mexico, because they are the northernmost bird in the cardinal species. And finally, the northern cardinal is believed to have been named after the Catholic Cardinals who wear red robes, and a flock of northern cardinals is called a Vatican! 

Train tracks and bluebonnets in Fredericksburg, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, 2010.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Hello Arizona!

"Sometimes I feel like somebody's watching me!"
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, 2020. 

I am in Arizona! Surprise! I didn't like the freezing temperatures in Wyoming; had limited access to wildlife. Between the wind and snow it was difficult to reach places where I could view the blessed little creatures! There are plenty here in Arizona, though. Not the big creatures I saw in Wyoming, like antelope and buffalo, but little creatures, like wasps, bees, beetles, scorpions...

Palo Verde beetle, Derobrachus geminatus. Photo from Wikimedia Common, Public Domain. 

So here I am, once again in triple-digit heat and a high-desert region where I am surrounded by creepy crawlies, like the 3 1/2 inch long Palo Verdes beetle, Derobrachus geminatus, that was hiding beneath my pool deck. My dog, Emma, found the creature and pestered it so much that it snapped at her back leg..oh yes they do bite, and hard! I did a catch and release with the beast and set it free in the alley behind my house. 

Bee on Sunflower. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And I have a swimming pool, complete with all the critters, such as bees, wasps, dragonflies, mosquitos, ants, and every other little creature you can imagine. They do need water. My pool often fills up with bees, and it's heartbreaking. We need bees! In Arizona, however, 90% of the honey bees are now Africanized, and they have nasty tempers. As I swim around the pool I try to fish out all of the drowning bees and they often buzz me and occasionally reward me with a sting. Not particularly grateful. The wasps ignore me. I swim around them, and they swim around me. Wasps land on the water with all four legs spread then dip their heads down for a drink. Apparently the chlorine doesn't bother them. Bees, on the other hand, often end up with wet wings, splashing and floundering around until they drown. In the mornings, I use the net to retrieve dozens of drowned bees from my pool. It's sad, but I haven't found a solution yet. 

Darla's ducks. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And I have ducks. Many, many ducks. This isn't the first time I've raised ducks. I had ducks when my children were young and although I am a vegetarian I do eat eggs. I love duck eggs. They are large and packed with protein. 

Cheesy, a Pekin duck. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was actually excited about having ducks and eggs, so I followed my neighbor's advice and stopped at the local farm supply store. I was told I should adopt at least twice as many as I needed in case some died because they were weak, or they were attacked by cats or dogs. Hmm. Doesn't sound fair to the ducks! I wanted four, so I adopted seven, and all seven are now happy and healthy and living in the duck run I built for them on the side of my house, or sleeping beside my swimming pool. 

Flippy duck tails. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, 2020. 

There's only one problem with my plan--six of the seven now have flippy feathers on their tails. According to my neighbor, that means I have at least six male ducks, possibly seven. I still don't have any eggs and stopped hoping for them, but I have many duck friends! 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Possible Black-crowned Night Heron and Cormorants at Cheyenne's Holliday Park

The Mystery Bird at Cheyenne, Wyoming's Holliday Park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was photographing Cormorants at Cheyenne, Wyoming's Holliday Park when a woman walking behind me called out, "Hey, look what's beside you!" I turned to my right and just a few feet away I spotted this bird. I have never seen one before.

The woman stopped walking and told me she thought it resembled a penguin, and I agreed. We both stood and watched the bird in awe for a few minutes as it slowly turned its head to look at us. I suspected it was preparing to leave. I carefully took a picture, trying not to disturb it. I wanted it to stay as long as possible I wanted to "see" it more than photograph it so I could try and identify it later, but I am still trying to identify this bird!

Although blurry, it is my hope that this photo of the bird in flight might help in its identification. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I believe it may be a Black-crowned Night Heron, but then again, this would be highly unlikely as according to Wyoming's wildlife resources and other bird pages the Black-crowned Night Heron is rarely seen in Wyoming. And yet, it does look very much like the photos online. These birds are found in many parts of the world, but some of the sources I found said they are rarely seen in Wyoming, while others said they are seen everywhere! 

A bit fuzzy due to distance, but this is a damselfly. The difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly is damselflies close their wings and dragonflies keep them spread open. They also have very different head shapes. Damselflies often resemble robots in my opinion. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

After it flew past me it circled the lake at Holliday Park then returned to perch on some rocks on the opposite side of the lake from me. It didn't seem to be in a big hurry to leave, so I suspect it may live there, or it may have been hunting. These birds sit very still at the edge of the water to search for prey and I did notice an unusual number of dragonflies and damselflies. I tried to photograph them, but couldn't get close enough because of the large rocks on the bank. 

Mute Swans at Veteran's Park in Greeley, Colorado. (Yes, they're real!) Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I've photographed birds that seemed "out of place" before and sometimes, when you ask for help online, you will receive strange replies. I photographed a pair of swans in Greeley, Colorado once and two women who live in Colorado wrote to accuse me of faking the photographs because "Swans are never seen in Greeley!" And yet, they were there in 2018, enjoyed for a brief time by nearby residents before they moved on. 

Perhaps this was a rare sighting of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Or maybe I have misidentified the bird and it is a more common and still spectacular local resident. Regardless, if you have any suggestions or identification information on the featured bird in the top photo, please leave a comment! I would love to hear from you! 

Cormorants at Cheyenne's Holliday Park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I wasn't at the park with camera in hand to photograph the mystery bird. In fact, I was taking photos for nearly half an hour before I was told it was there. I was actually driving past the park when I noticed a large group of Cormorants sitting on a floating device in the center of the lake. They were too far away for "perfect" photos with the camera I had with me, but close enough for identification. I recognized them immediately because I've only seen them once before, again in Greeley, Colorado, at the same park where I photographed the swans. 

Cormorant taking off at Holliday Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I first learned about Cormorants when I photographed them from the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. In the film, the doctor is constantly trying to find the opportunity to capture a rare, flightless Cormorant on the Gallapagos Islands. The birds I photographed in Cheyenne were skilled flyers! 

Cormorant at Holliday Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Believe it or not, there are 40 species of birds known as Cormorants. They have a wing span of three feet and range in size from 18 inches to 40 inches. They use their tails to prop themselves up, have hooked bills, and I've seen them perching on the very top branches of trees, so those webbed feet must be rather powerful! 

Cormorant in flight in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Cormorants are both freshwater and seawater birds and are found all the way up into Alaska and Quebec in North America. They are not monogamous. The male builds a nest then puts on quite a show to attract females. They do migrate and are considered endangered in the State of Wisconsin due to the use of DDT. 

I have no idea why I haven't seen them more often. They're hard to miss. They are a bit goofy-looking! Those who fish for their livelihood would notice their presence because they are considered a good luck charm. 

Sad as this sounds, many states allow people to shoot Cormorants if they are feeding on private lakes and ponds. You probably know what I have to say about that by now--if you don't want the wildlife, don't build the pond! Set out food and water and they will come. Shooting God's beautiful creatures for trying to stay alive is just wrong. If we limit our world to only allow the "pretty creatures" we will destroy that same world. 

A family of ducks at the park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was also a family of ducks at the park, which oddly included babies of two different age groups. Perhaps this is common in Wyoming where the weather changes rapidly, spring is skipped completely, and summer is just a few months (we had our last snow in June). 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

This one doesn't appear to be as young as its siblings, nor does it appear to be an adult. And the young ones seemed small considering the time of year. But I can never resist taking pictures of ducks! Interesting note: At Holliday Park they have signs all over (and all over the City of Cheyenne, Wyoming website) warning people not to feed the ducks or geese. Wise advice. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

New Places, New Blessed Little Animal Faces!

I think I see more doves than any other bird in Wyoming, but I really haven't had a chance to get out of the house and look--it's been snowing since I moved in around the end of February! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

I don't know how to say this anymore--it was a shocking, painful year. I lost family members, most of my animal pack (I still have all four bunnies) and was forced to sell my house and move after having to replace the roof three times due to freak hailstorms in Colorado. 

So, this blog has traveled from my house in Texas, to New Mexico, back to my home state of Colorado, and now I am in Cheyenne, Wyoming! 

Yep, I'm in Cheyenne! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There is plenty to see here, too. My yard is filled with squirrels--always popular on this blog--and doves, finches, there's a few hawks who have territories nearby (I keep my chihuahua, Emma, inside!) Canadian Geese, of course, and I'm just getting started here!

I photographed these two birds in my neighborhood. They gather in large flocks, but are a bit shy. I thought they were starlings, but now I'm not sure. If you know, please leave a comment! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

One of the first things I noticed about Wyoming is the amount of Pronghorn Antelope. My neighbors are fond of saying, "There's more antelope in Wyoming than people!" That could be true. Wyoming is among the largest states in the country (I checked five different websites and they all gave different answers. Sigh. I know it's big country here, though!) However, it also has the fourth lowest population...and plenty of antelope. 

Pronghorn Antelope near the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The first trip I made with my truck full of boxes I was stopped on the road near my home by two baby antelope meandering in front of my truck. The vehicles behind me couldn't see the little critters, it was rush hour traffic, and people were getting angry. I didn't know what to do, so I called the local police. The dispatcher told me not to do anything, just sit in my truck and wait because, if I wave my arms or try to coax them out of the road they will run into traffic. It's apparently the law--you call the police and they take care of the animals roaming down the middle of the street. Fine with me! 

This may be a pregnant female, but I'm not an expert. I photographed this Pronghorn Antelope near the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne around February. Apparently, the Air Force base is a popular hangout for Pronghorn Antelope. Photograph by Darla Sue Dollman.

The moving process--buying, selling, packing, etc.--took over a year, which is another reason this blog has been a bit quiet, in addition to the grieving process. I chose Wyoming because it's so close to my home state of Colorado--Cheyenne is, I think, five minutes from the Colorado border. 

I've noticed this buffalo silhouette outside Cheyenne for years and thought it was a symbol of our Great American West. It's actually hiding cell phone towers, lol! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Not surprisingly, the weather here is nearly the same as what I encountered at my former home in Greeley, Colorado--wild and crazy! The first week I was here my furnace broke down. Thankfully, I was forced to stay with a friend in Colorado because there was one blizzard after another. I had already moved my house plants and lost all but a few of them. My four foot rosemary is now a bonsai. I finally had a new furnace installed and what happens? A Bombocyclone! That's right--a snow cyclone on land. That was an experience! 

The Bombocyclone was insane! I'll write more on this on my Wild West Weather blog. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Just when we thought it was finally over, another storm hit. Ten inches of sloppy, heavy snow. It was so heavy that when I woke up at four in the morning to check on my trees I noticed one was bent over completely and touching the ground. I was certain it would snap in half before I could hit the snow off with a broom, and the snow kept coming. Like everyone else, I already had plants in the ground and covered them with clay pots when I heard about this last snow storm--five days ago--and surprisingly, all of the plants lived! 

Last week's snowstorm. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

So the snow started to slow down, the birds appeared, the trees were blooming, and I discovered I have a hummingbird living in a tree in my yard! I was prepared. I had a feeder. I filled it up and ran out to the covered porch, hung it on a hook, and she is a happy bird! 

Like squirrels, I seem to attract these little birds. This was our "house Hummingbird" when we lived at Carter Lake in Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The hummingbird feeder is still beneath the covered porch because now we are in hail/tornado season. 

I was shopping with my granddaughter in Greeley, Colorado, when we walked outside and realized the clouds were rotating madly! We made it to safety and I prepared to drive back to Cheyenne. I checked the weather, and it was fine in Cheyenne. It was NOT fine at the border between Wyoming and Colorado! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

We've had tornadoes, funnel clouds, watches, warnings, and massive amounts of hail for the past week. I hope that the next time I check in I'll be able to share more photos of little critters because right now, everyone is taking cover! I was writing these past few lines and the house shook with thunder! It's back!!!

Another snowstorm? No, this is HAIL!! This is actually my back porch, and there's so much hail that when I walked to the garage to check on the rabbits I left footprints on the porch! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.