So privileged to be guiding an enthusiastic group of friends and birders from the Wimberley Birding Society in this #1 birding hotspot in Texas. This is THE place to be during Spring migration, in my opinion, in the country. I have been here scouting since April 18 and the birding has been fantastic! I think we will easily see all of the target birds, and more, on this trip. Phone and internet service here are sparse, if available at all. Surrounding towns nearby, like Winnie and Galveston, have service but I am staying in the heart of High Island at the sole motel in town, the Gulf Way hotel, so will not have internet at my days end. I have been staying here every year for at least the past 12 years, and it has become my High Island home! I will try to post trip details as often as possible, but most likely this will be done at the end of trip on May 26. Stay tuned! Click here for the story on High Island.
Talk about an amazing venue! I had the privilege of speaking on the topic of All Things Eggs/Chickens! at the AgriLife Extension Backyard Basics Program today. There was a tremendous turnout of participants in spite of the thunderstorms that sprinkled the day.... the organizers did an excellent job of pulling together a most memorable day. It was held at the historical Don Strange Ranch in Boerne, TX. In addition to being an extraordinary place by it's own right, one of it's claims to fame is as the chosen location for Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton's wedding. The lunch they served was fantastic....every bite of it. The large group that elected to attend my session were lots of fun and very patient.... I was scheduled to speak outside but due to the incoming storm I was moved inside at the last minute, causing a bit of a delay in getting started. Then we had some technical problems causing more delay but everyone kept things lively with their questions while we worked to get up & running! I HIGHLY recommend this event to everyone for next year....ALL of the sessions offered were exceptional. I'd like to thank Martha Joyce, Comal AgriLife Extension Agent, for inviting me to come and participate.... hope to do it again next year!
Here is a link to the presentation file I used for anyone who would like to review the information.
So what's the best thing for one to do on Tax Day? Look for birds in the WBS Birding Classic, of course! A group of 17 intrepid birders, of all stages of expertise, met at the Patsy Glenn Refuge at 7:45am eager to canvass the birding hotspots of Wimberley. Under the guidance of David Glenn for the past 16 years, we started our day by dividing up into four teams. My team (Linda, Tom, Fran and myself) called ourselves team "I Don't Give a Hoot". Each team headed out to three designated spots to search for and count species. We birded until 11:00 then met at Milagro's restaurant for lunch and to compare numbers... in the end, team "I Don't Give a Hoot" tracked down the largest number of species at 88.... our best bird of the day was the Golden-Cheeked Warbler. We are the proud holders of the coveted WBS Champoin Trophy until next years Classic when we pass it on to the new winners.... Yes, it is a "Champoin" trophy..... it was accidentally mis-spelled and the decision was made at the first Classic in 1999 to just keep it that way because this is a "competition" for fun only..... well, in addition to serving as a compilation of data by David! I was super honored when David gave me a tshirt from the very first Classic dated March 17, 1999. (More details and photos to be added soon....)
This past TH I got to attend a presentation on NASA's New Horizons Mission. The New Horizons spacecraft is currently speeding to a rendezvous with Pluto on July 14th. Dr. Randy Gladstone, Atmospheres Team Lead for the New Horizons project accepted an invitation by the Canyon Lake Rotary Club to speak about this historic project. I thoroughly enjoyed the one hour presentation on this 9.5 year journey across our planetary system to Pluto. Dr. Gladstone is Atmospheres Team Lead for the mission and represents the Southwest Research Institute, "SwRI", whose headquarters is here in San Antonio. SwRI is the project manager for the New Horizons mission. New Horizons left earth January 19, 2006 on it's 9.5 year journey across our planetary system. In a few short months on July 14, New Horizons will reach Pluto for a historic flyby. After the presentation, I was able to meet and chat with Dr. Gladstone, who was most cordial. Terrific day! Follow the mission at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/
Wow! Interesting evening! I was invited by some friends to join them at a Q&A meeting of their Property Owners Assoc, who had on their agenda a discussion of "allowing chicken hens to be raised for eggs, even if not a part of a 4H or school program." I was to be there to help address concerns by those who are not sure this is what they'd like to see. It seems that a "lot" of the association members would like to be allowed to have a small, clean backyard flock of hens. I specifically asked those present who were against the idea to voice their reasons for the reluctance.... the only reasons were 1. "....chickens are not pets, they are farm animals"..... 2. "...chickens are smelly"..... 3. "....chickens will attract coyotes". So I looked up the legal definition of 1.pets..... According to 24 CFR 5.306 (Title 24 - Housing And Urban Development; Subtitle A - Office Of The Secretary, Department Of Housing And Urban Development; Part 5 -General HUD Program Requirements; Waivers; Subpart C - Pet Ownership For The Elderly Or Persons With Disabilities; General Requirements), common household pet means:
(1) “For purposes of Housing programs: A domesticated animal, such as a dog, cat, bird, rodent (including a rabbit), fish, or turtle, that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes. Common household pet does not include reptiles (except turtles). If this definition conflicts with any applicable State or local law or regulation defining the pets that may be owned or kept in dwelling accommodations, the State or local law or regulation shall apply. This definition shall not include animals that are used to assist persons with disabilities.
As for 2. smelly, I think everyone would agree that my mom's pet (see photo below) is more smelly than my pet chicken!
The issue of 3. coyotes, has much research already done... there is no statistic available that shows chickens attract more coyotes to an area than any other attractant, for example http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2008-05-02/618822/
Neither are there any statistics to show that a small flock will lower property values.... famous chicken owners such as the Duchess of Devonshire, Martha Stewart, Tori Spelling, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Barbara Streisand, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Helen Hunt and many others are quick to argue that point. One can always RAISE property values with this $100,000 coop sold by Neiman Marcus http://www.urbangardensweb.com/2013/10/24/100000-chicken-coop-what-the-cluck/
A quick Google search will readily reveal that chickens are no longer the lowly farm animal of the past, but are now a highly recognized urban pet and the fastest growing trend in the US!
All in all, I was really happy to be able to attend this session in the BEAUTIFUL New Braunfels River Chase community.... I found the residents who were present last night to be very open minded, reasonable people with very few exception!
All I can say is, this is an event I'll gladly return to next year...... the Brazos Valley Amateur Radio Club Greater Houston Hamfest! http://www.houstonhamfest.org/
As a fairly new Ham Radio operator, it was great to meet so many experienced operators. It was especially great to meet so many who were long-time members of the club that got me started... W5AC, the oldest club at Texas A&M University.
I was able to pick up a TS520S transceiver and a Carolina Windom 80m to 10m antenna, a tuner and other random gizmos..... can't wait to get "playing" with them! KF5ZHD
BOOM...BOOM...BOOOM! The trip that I guided to the Refuge was a success.... participants were lucky enough to be treated to the sights and sounds of the Attwaters Prairie Chickens. This was a Wimberley Birding Society trip, organized by the very capable Linda Gawkoski..... she arranged for an overnight stay in comfortable hotel rooms and Happy Hour (Margaritas!) and dinner at Cavadores Mexican Restaurant.... tasty food! Early Fri morning, Park Ranger John Magerra led 12 lucky birders out into the field and shared info about the elusive Prairie Chickens. They were spotted up close, not in the far distance, so it was a real treat! After the tour, we birded the grounds and were able to list about 46 species of birds, including many good looks at White Tailed and Swainson's hawks. We then had a very satisfying lunch at Tony's Family Restaurant in Sealy, TX and then got more of our birding fix by returning to the fields of the refuge before heading home. The members of the WBS are a knowledgeable and fun group of real troopers.... I highly recommend membership to anyone interested in Birds, Food & Fellowship!
As in my past years at this show, it was a finely executed show. I had the privilege of judging the Broiler, Breeder and Showmanship classes.... all impressive. The winners in the Broiler class were standouts.... very plump and meaty and had great uniformity. The top bird in Breeders was once again a stellar Phoenix cock.... I would love to see this exhibitor bring this line of Phoenix to the Fancy Feathers Show or the State Fair Show! The Showmanship classes had very knowledgeable entrants and are improving each year in their showmanship skills. Following the judging, we had a little session on the importance of Biosecurity.... that is a very important part of raising poultry and must be practiced by all who raise poultry. I'll miss the show for the next two years because their policy is to use a judge for only two consecutive years, which is a good policy. Thank you to thewickedchicken.net for sharing photos!
Tomorrow I have the honor of judging the Poultry Show at the Cherokee County Livestock Show in Jacksonville, Tx... Breeders, Broilers and Showmanship... I love this show; they always have phenomenal entries!
Then on Friday I am leading the Wimberley Birding Society on a trip to the Attwater's Prairie Chicken Nat'l Wildlife Refuge in Eagle Lake, TX... hope to hear some "booming" from the leks! From there I'll head to the Houston Hamfest on Saturday, to join a great crowd of ham radio operators and do some learning and equipment acquiring!
I had a great time judging the Backyard Chickens and the ever-entertaining CluckOff this past Saturday at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park. It's always great to see the people who continue to support the show over the past eight years, and also to meet new folks who will hopefully return in the future years. There is so much to do at this show, including a small horse show this year in the arena. We had over 500 birds entered, so there was plenty for all to see, the food was great and the raffles kept excitement high.... Claudia Choate is still the reigning queen of the Match the Judge contest.... she sets the bar high! See ya next year!
Here I am judging a bird with the help of Jimmy Kimmel's "Flat Guillermo"!
I'm looking forward to a fun evening with the Hays County Master Naturalists class of 2015. They have a very broad spectrum of interesting classes ahead of them on this year's Training Calendar. Tonight they will learn about Texas Weather, along with my presentation on "Hill Country Birds By Sight & Ear".... they will be birding experts by the time we are done! Watch for them to be doing all kinds of great things for nature in the Hill Country!
Feb 15 Having said goodbye to my companions from the Wimberley Birding Society, I now headed off for a week of India on my own. First task was to find and check-in to the Hostel Zostel-Delhi. It was clean, quiet and home for the next six nights. (Bird list and pictures to come soon)
Feb 16 - I had posted on Birding Pal and today got a reply from Anand Arya. He "lives in NOIDA, just near to Okhla Bird Sanctuary and it takes about an hour or so to reach the wetland....not sure where you are staying and whether you can manage to reach NOIDA. But, if you can - may be take the Metro - then you can travel in my jalopy with me. Please call me if interested and then we can fix a day during the week preferably in the afternoon... Probably Wednesday, 18th afternoon." Oh yeah!
Feb 17 - heard from Mr Arya that it is likely bad weather tomorrow. Thursday looks better and will plan accordingly. Okhla should be okay and try it out there tomorrow. We'll do the wetland together on 19th.
Feb 19 - Yep, got a few more lifers today. Up to 828 total, and 314 for the trip! Bringing home lots of tea.
Feb 20 PM - Leaving for airport.... Leave Delhi, Sat Feb 21 at 3:30am
Leave Amsterdam, Sat Feb21 at 10:05am
Arrive Houston, Sat Feb 21 at 1:35pm
Feb 13 Nat'l Chambal Sanctuary - Agra - Bharatpur
After early breakfast we took a 10km bus drive to the Chambal River, and saw lots of working camels along the way. We enjoyed a five hour river safari... there are 8 species of turtle and Fish-eating crocodiles here, as well as the Gangetic Dolphin. After lunch, a 2.5 hr drive to Bharatpur where we stayed at the comfortable Kadam Kunj.
Feb 14 birded the heronries and Keoladeo Nat'l Park by rickshaw because motorized vehicles are not allowed in the Park. We had a box lunch from the hotel.
Feb 15 More morning birding in Keoladeo and then after lunch a 6 hr drive back to Delhi where I'll say goodbye to members of my group who are heading back to Texas. Jim Rodgers did a great job of putting together this trip!
Yep, everyone else is waiting at the airport now. Got a cab and found the hostel with no problems (besides all the crazy drivers...mine included). The room is great, there is hot water, the wifi works, and it is surprisingly quiet. So far I'm up to 814 lifers, and 299 total species seen on the trip! I've seen wild tigers, crocodiles, elephants, monkeys, and a ton more!
Oh monkeys... rhesus macaques and gray langurs EVERYWHERE.
I'm in the middle of chaos, no idea how anyone finds anything in this city.
Feb 12 Morning drive to Agra (4 hrs) along a 6-lane highway to visit Taj Mahal and Red Fort with guide. A monkey even got into the Taj and caused a ruckus. After lunch a drive to Nat't Chambal Sanctuary... a great destination for birding! Afternoon and evening birding brought ( list birds) and spent night at Chambal Safari Lodge. Went out and found a little civet cat. This is a Riverine eco-system and Chambal is supposedly one of the cleanest rivers in India.
So far I've seen over 200 new birds, 2 tigers, the Himalayas, and the trip is only halfway over. India is a pretty cool place!
Only about 7000 pics so far thanks to my "machine gun camera" as my guide calls it. Awful internet here, so they won't be up til I get back.
Two more days, Feb 4-5 at Pangot, Baggar, Timla Pani, Cheena Peak & Nainital. Birding walks produced (birds to be listed), bringing my India species number to (add).
It was really, really cold in Pangot, no hot water and very primitive lodging, but the food was really good!
Feb 6, 6:30AM headed by bus to Sat Tal, and dropped about 3,000 feet lower, so it's warmer here. Lots of rugged hiking. Then a 3 hr bus ride to Tiger Camp, where we walked to the waterfall. The birds here were fantastic. Saw my first in-the-wild elephants as we came back into camp. The rooms here are great and we have hot water!
Feb 7 Tiger Camp - Went out today in open jeeps and saw lots of elephants. Went into the town of Ramnagar and saw an Indian wedding, goats, motorcycles....chaos! No tigers....
Feb 8 Tiger Camp - Lots of strange foods: began achari, halwa, kheer.... and for me, everything masala or spicy! No tigers.... Saw my 700th lifer - happy to say it's a Red Jungle Fowl!
Feb 9 Tiger Camp - 6:15 AM, out in open jeeps to a Hindu Temple....saw lots of evidence of tigers, but no tigers. Back out after lunch... YES! Saw two tigers! Cool.....
Feb 10 Tiger Camp - Back to the Temple... sad to have last day in Tiger Camp.
Feb 11 In the morning we birded along a stream, then packed to leave for Delhi. After lunch, another a 6-7 hour drive back to Delhi... it was very slow driving because of all the people, monkeys, elephants, etc. Saw smoke in a few places and learned that they were funerals. Arrived Delhi around 7:30PM and the Hotel Vikram overnight.
Flew from Houston to Amsterdam to New Delhi via Dutch KLM airlines, checked into the hotel Vikram on Feb 1 for some post-flight rest. Woke up to the blaring sounds of the street... nothing like the quiet of the Texas Hill Country! Had a great Indian breakfast buffet then birded around the hotel...got 11 lifers. Then walked to the market w/the others in my group from the Wimberley Birding Society . Tuk tuks and people every where!
Feb 2 Mr. Singh, our guide, took us to see Humayan's Tomb and then the Qutub Complex, Lotus Temple, India Gate and Cottage Industry. Internet too slow to post pictures...will add them once home.
Feb 3 6AM, we took a road drive on one of the world's more spectacular mountain roads up into the Kumaon Hills to the "lake city" of Pangot. Afternoon birding provided (bird list to be added) and then an overnight stay at the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge. Had unbelievable views of the Himalayas, but relatively no Internet or hot water.
With Spring right around the corner.... I have to think that way in the midst of freezing temps outside right now!.... it is time to start thinking about scheduling bird surveys. I will do these as a requirement for your Wildlife Tax valuations or just to satisfy your curiosity as to what bird species are on your property. I do surveys within Hays County, Tx or in close proximity. Additional fees apply if location is farther than 20 miles from Wimberley. First come, first served!
Mama Hen's Blog
The rooster may crow, but the Hen rules the roost!