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.