Emperor Dragonfly

P1070126

Arriving at Brazos Bend State Park near Houston, the first creature I saw was this dragonfly sunning itself, sitting obligingly still for this photo.

Trying to ID it using my book of insects, with illustrations, makes me pretty certain it’s an Emperor Dragonfly, even though the book only covers European insects. The description given fits though, “male, easily identified by deep blue abdomen with black line…”

There are birds and butterflies in the US which have different names in Europe, so I’m happy that it’s an Emperor and will go with that. But what about this one? It was sunning itself nearby and I can’t see anything like it in my insect book….

P1070125

I suspect this one is a native of the southern US States. Any suggestions?

Advertisements

Dog helps Blue Tits build nest

P1070254

There’s a bit of tabloid headline poetic licence in the title as there was some human intervention here. Mine.

We have a young Norfolk Terrier, a hairy beast, not unlike a teddy bear in appearance and very friendly and cuddly with it. His coat has to be hand stripped, and I’m gradually learning how to do this. My L-plates are still on but I’m slowly getting the hang of it and I regularly “roll” his coat to keep it tidy and in good shape.

P1070250Clearing up the tufts and clumps of loose hair I’d removed I wedged them into the bird feeder in the garden. There is a pair Blue Tits in a nesting box and there’s currently a lot of coming and going through the entrance – a bird arrives with moss and loose foliage in its beak, pops inside, disappears for a bit them emerges to search for more nesting material.

It didn’t take long for them to find the recently removed dog hair and flit off back to the nesting box with it. Grabbing my camera I managed to get a couple of shots of the tits at work.

Now that’s what I call recycling – from dog to birds to nest in a matter of minutes!

Ubiquitous plastic

P1070199Ubiquitous: present everywhere or in several places simultaneously

Plastic: any of a number of synthetic polymeric substances that can be given any required shape

(The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

This lone plastic water bottle floating in a sea of green gunge in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas caught my eye. The park is pristine, tidy and well-kept. Staff and volunteers do a great job keeping it clean so visitors can enjoy the wildlife. So this lone bottle jarred.

It definitely should not have been there and I wondered which unthinking clown had thrown it into the lake rather then into one of the bins (there are plenty of them).

It jarred especially because of the context it was in. I was watching a Great Egret at the time. It was still and peering into the water at the edge of the green and gunky lake. Here it is peering – it let me get quite close but not too close. What a beauty.

P1070201

And here it is in context with the discarded plastic bottle

P1070202

It just doesn’t go. It shouldn’t be there and it’s a reminder of the vast amounts of discarded plastic we humans are allowing to overtake our planet. Recycling helps of course, but do we need SO MUCH plastic I have to ask.

You’re probably already aware of the plastic problem so I won’t bang on about it. While I was in the US I refused plastic straws given with any drinks ordered in cafes and restaurants. One place didn’t offer them – a small start but it was encouraging to see it nonetheless.

 

Roseate Spoonbill

P1070141

That flash of pink in the treetops…..what was it?

We’d just embarked on the walk along by Forty Acre Lake at Brazos Bend State Park, when a ruffling kerfuffle of pink erupted in the mid-distance treetops.

My brain said “Flamingoes? Here?” My binoculars said “Roseate Spoonbills – 4 of them!”

This was a first ever sighting of these rather weird large waders, with their prehistoric-looking spoon-shaped bills. What a treat! A trip to Brazos Bend is always rewarding, but the spoonbills made this trip even more so.

These birds were heavily persecuted in the late 1800s when feathered hats were in vogue and they all but died out, thanks to vain fashion and plume hunters. Thankfully they have made a recovery but the message is clear: persecute and destruction and/or extinction will follow.

What a treat it was to see these birds. The photo isn’t great – I was lucky to get it – but you’ll get the overall impact of this stunning, peculiar, wonderful bird.

Osprey

P1060733

In the UK, birders would travel miles – maybe to Rutland Water in the Midlands or maybe to Aviemore in Scotland –¬† to see ospreys, amazingly powerful and graceful birds who fish from lakes, catching large fish in their powerful talons.

In Houston, Texas, it’s not unusual or remarkable at all to find¬† an osprey flying low over a local reservoir which is part of a country park. This one was out in broad daylight, flying overhead and calling as it clutched its large catch. All this against the distant backdrop and roar of a busy tollway.

We watched it – no binoculars were needed as it was so close – as it sought and found a perch on a nearby telegraph pole and proceeded to tuck into it with that powerful beak.

What a treat for the eyes to see it. The photo’s not perfect as it was taken against the light, but it conveys the size of both bird and fish.

Lemon tree, very pretty

P1060739

Visiting family in Houston last year we saw, with some dismay, that the lemon tree we’d bought and planted in their garden was in a very sad and sorry state. An unexpected and uncharacteristic very cold snap one night had got to it and most of its leaves had frozen and shrivelled.

This winter it had been coddled in advance of any cold weather and covered in a protective blanket. When we arrived, the blanket was off, warmer weather had prevailed and the tree was looking very healthy.

Bursting with blossom, it smelled delicious. A bee was visiting the flowers and pollinating, and there is already an as yet unripened lemon hanging on one of the lower branches.

Seeing the tree in bloom reminds me of the words of a song:

Lemon tree very pretty

And the lemon flower sweet,

But the fruit of the poor lemon

Is impossible to eat.

I challenge that – the previous year there were enough lemons to make a couple of lemon meringue pies!