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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cliff Swallows are making homes here



Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow

These are the swallows that allegedly return to Capistrano Mission each spring (which hasn’t happened in several years since the area became “urbanized”). Cliff Swallows are highly social birds, building conical mud nests and living in large colonies of 1000 or more, often sharing parenting duties.

Cliff Swallows are found abundantly in north Texas. The mud for their nests comes from stream banks, private lakes, swamps, broken water pipes – any place that dependably creates mud. It doesn’t have to be in your yard. It could be up to half a mile away.

Their flying abilities are amazing!  They “hawk” insects in mid-air, flying at great speed, turning quickly and smoothly, all the while filling the evening sky with their pleasant chirps.
If you live in a semi-rural or rural part of north Texas, with a source of mud somewhere in the vicinity, you could probably attract a colony – if they’re not there already.

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Cliff Swallow

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Loggerhead Shrike has a unique way of saving its food for later




 
The Loggerhead Shrike is a small bird, found in much of north Texas.   then it can kill with one bite, probably skewering it on something like a thorn or barbed-wire fence for its later dining pleasure!  The Shrike is a mostly gray bird with a black “mask” and lives mainly in rural areas.
Loggerhead Shrike
Ounce-for-ounce it has the strongest beak (and most powerful bite) of any bird around here. It needs it, since its natural prey consists of things like lizards and large insects – maybe even small mice. It can spot something as small as an insect from 70 yards away;
Check thorny trees in the area for impaled bodies of lizards, insects etc. That means there's a Shrike around!




Hummers eat insects?!        Feeding clear nectar to hummingbirds is a given. It mimics the sugary nectar they'd naturally get from flowers. But diets of pure nectar lack much-needed protein, and most species regularly consume small insects in addition to nectar. So a yard with several nectar feeders, but no insects, might be avoided. It could lack the protein-rich insects that hummingbirds need to consume with nectar.

Usually, insects are feed to nestlings, which need the protein to grow.  Insects and nectar give them the long-lasting energy they need.

North Texas hummingbirds eat various insects, from tiny mites and gnats, to small spiders. They use many foraging techniques, including gleaning them from surfaces of the feeders themselves. Mostly, however, insects are plucked from the air, mid-flight by the agile, speedy birds.

 
 
 
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.