Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This & That

We've been busy since April and the time has really flown! We took a few days to get Spearhead Ribeye Dude settled in at the farm once he arrived in late May. As far as we can tell, he likes his new harem and seems very content. We hope the spring will bring 10 new little "Black Baldies" as Angus-Hereford cross cattle are called.

Since leaving Rockport/Fulton, we have continued our birdwatching at the farm and in Austin. Here are two images of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that we have been watching as he/she matured and took flight. The first was taken on May 30 and the second on June 9.  You can see the difference between the "tennis ball head" in the first and the more mature look of the second.  This bird appears quite large, so we suspect it's a "she," since they are larger than the males.

We watched the parent birds build their nest high in a big hackberry tree at the farm, then later saw Mother Hawk peeping over the edge of the nest while she sat on her eggs. Normally our Red-tails raise two babies, but this time only one appeared. We don't know if only one hatched, or if perhaps this is a young pair and were only able to provide enough food for one chick. At any rate, we are thrilled that our youngster has now taken flight and can often be seen flying from tree to tree and calling peee...peee...peee (translate feeeed me, feeeeed me!).

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is the most abundant and wide-spread of the large buteo hawks. They have a wingspan of 4-4.5 feet and bulky bodies. They feed primarily on rodents, but I recently saw an adult bringing a 2-3 foot snake back to the nest for her young. Regardless, they do much more good than harm, and we are pleased to have them nesting at the farm.

The drought is severe not only at the farm in Hamilton County, but in Austin as well. Many plants that normally support our resident and migrant songbirds have produced few seeds to nourish them. Water is also scarce. We have tried to supplement their food sources with our backyard feeders and water sources, and have been rewarded with many visitors. Here is a  photo of a male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). 

He and his family are frequent visitors, as are several families of Lesser Goldfinch and various sparrow species. And, of course, we have an abundance of White-winged Dove and Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis).

I was thrilled a couple of weeks ago when I discovered this nest of baby cardinals on our front balcony. 

Unfortunately, within a couple of days they were discovered...most likely by Blue Jays, and disappeared.  Mother Nature can be harsh, but I will hope the Cardinals have better luck if they nest here again next year.

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