Greater Roadrunners at Oakridge Ranch

Greater Roadrunner, July 2017, Photo by B.LaVergne
Greater Roadrunner, July 2017, Photo by B.LaVergne

GreaterRoadrunner2_Aug2017_BLaVergne

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is native to the desert southwest portion of the U.S., also found in most states of the southwest.  These birds are year-round natives of Texas, including the Oak Prairie Region here at Oakridge Ranch.   Several birds have been seen for the last few years in our area and we have had a nesting pair for the last 4 years.

These birds are much more interesting than the one made famous in the Warner Brothers cartoon series.   Adult birds are 20-24 inches long with a large up-turned tail and long beak and mottled black/brown & white feathering throughout its body that appears to look like stripes.   These birds have long legs with 4 toes on each foot, two pointing forward & two pointing back.   You’ll rarely see a Roadrunner in flight for more than a few feet because it can’t get the lift it needs due to its size.   However, Roadrunners have been clocked at 12 to 17 miles per hour.

Roadrunners mate for life and have 2 or 3 clutches per year as habitat conditions and food availability allow.   A hen will usually lay 2 to 12 eggs in one clutch, but records show up to 20 eggs have been laid in rare clutches.   Their nest is built by the female 2 to 12 feet off the ground with materials supplied by both the male and female.   Interesting thing is the male sits on the nest at night since the female’s body temperature drops too low to keep the eggs warm enough.   Young birds hatch out at about 20 days and are taken care of by both parents.  The baby Roadrunners will leave the nest at 18 to 21 days, but will continue to be fed & cared for by the parents until day 30 to 40 when they go out on their own.  Greater Roadrunners’ life span is approximately 8 years.

Greater Roadrunners are omnivores.  Their diet is varied and includes insects, various plants & berries, lizards, small birds such as sparrows & hummingbirds.   And they are fast enough to take on rattlesnakes for dinner!   These beautiful birds do drop their activities by approximately 50% during the heat of the day.

Stay alert when you’re on the roads in and around Oakridge and you just might catch a glimpse of the amazing birds.

Below is a link for more information on breeding of Roadrunners in Texas:
http://txtbba.tamu.edu/species-accounts/greater-roadrunner/

Check out this next link for a map of their locations in the U.S.:
http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/greater-roadrunner

Click on any picture here to enlarge it!

Live life outdoors!

Spa Day for a Young Chick, Aug 2017
Spa Day for a Young Chick, Aug 2017
All Fluffed Up!   Photo by B.LaVergne
All Fluffed Up! Photo by B.LaVergne

2017 Winter Bird Census – Feb 4th

Eastern Bluebird at Oakridge Ranch, unknown photographer/date
Eastern Bluebird at Oakridge Ranch, unknown photographer/date

Since the first years of the millennium, folks at Oakridge have conducted winter and summer bird censuses.  In keeping with that tradition, we invite anyone interested in birds at the ranch to participate in this year’s winter census on the morning of Saturday February 4th from first chirp (around 7 am) to Noonish or whenever you think you’ve had enough!  We will meet later that afternoon (between 3 and 5 pm) at our house to turn in checklists, have some snacks and refreshments and discuss the birds we saw.

You are welcome to census your own place or join a team and maybe learn a few new birds with your neighbors.  We will try to cover as many habitats within the ranch as possible.  If you are interested in participating, please let me know so I can send you a checklist and so we can plan for how many people are coming that afternoon.

Birds are an essential ingredient in any wildlife habitat and censuses may qualify as an activity in a wildlife plan.  I hope you will participate and start down that path to becoming a bird nerd, if you’re not already!  It’s fun and easy.

Amy Hardy
Chairman-ORWMA Bird special interest group
amyhardytx@gmail.com

[Click on any picture to enlarge it.]

Cedar Waxwings; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
Cedar Waxwings; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.

Spring 2016 Whitetail Update

Young Fawn, Photo by D.Mason, May 2013.
Young Fawn, Photo by D.Mason, May 2013.

Well, here we are in April already – cool mornings, warm afternoons with plenty of sunshine and an adequate amount of rain. The grass is growing and the birds are nesting.  Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of a couple of things regarding our whitetail herd and turkey flock.

The early breeding does will begin fawning soon. Please be careful when you are mowing your tall grass.  The does hide their newborns in it and the fawns are instinctively not going to move when danger approaches.  This brings me to the next reminder.  If you find a fawn and you do not see the doe around, don’t worry.  Mom knows where she left her baby.  Take a moment to admire nature’s creation then leave the fawn(s) undisturbed.  Mom will take care of the rest.

Many of you have had the opportunity to observe the turkeys courting this spring. Our local flock has really grown over the years. They will be nesting soon in nests made on the ground, hiding their nests in tall grasses and scrub thickets.  That’s something else to watch for.

Rio Grande Turkeys - Toms showing off for the hen; Photo by B.LaVergne, March 2013
Rio Grande Turkeys – Toms showing off for the hen; Photo by B.LaVergne, March 2013

My last comment would be for those who feed supplemental protein. You might consider continuing feeding for another couple of months.  Right now, there is plenty of natural forage available for the deer but demands are high for a lactating doe.  A doe will pass on any protein she takes in to her fawn(s).  A little boost now could help them get thru the dry time of summer.

Enjoy your spring.

Jack Jetton
ORWMA Deer Group Committee Chairman

Whitetail Fawn still wet from birth; Photo by B.LaVergne, Spring 2007.
Whitetail Fawn still wet from birth; Photo by B.LaVergne, Spring 2007.

[click on any picture on this website to enlarge.]

Hummingbirds Headed Our Way

Reservations required. Photo by B.Olson, Sept 4, 2013.
Reservations required. Photo by B.Olson, Sept 4, 2013.

Well, it’s that time of year again to dust off your hummingbird feeders and fill them with that delectable sugar nectar.  I’m sure most of you know to use sugar and water, never use honey, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners or food coloring when making your homemade brew.  I put my feeders up about a week ago and so far I have a whooping 2 Ruby-Throated hummingbirds, but I know they will soon be joined by many more.  I normally put up at least 3 feeders in different locations so they can fly from one to the other, but all still in my line of vision so I can enjoy the show.

Here are some interesting facts about Hummingbirds:

  • Average weight 3 grams…a nickel weighs 4.5 grams.
  • They have 1000-1500 feathers, the fewest number of feathers of any bird.
  • The maximum speed they travel is 30 miles an hour, but can reach up to 60 miles an hour when they dive.  Hummers can also fly backwards, and are the only group of birds able to do so.
  • When migrating,  hummingbirds take very long flights – the Rufous makes the longest trip – more than 3000 miles from nesting grounds in Alaska & Canada to their winter habitat in Mexico.
  • The Ruby Throated hummingbird flies 500 miles non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico both in spring & fall migrations.  Wow I find that to be amazing.
  • Their life span on average is 3-12 years.
  • These birds use their forked-shaped tongue to drink nectar and they can lick 1-15 times per second.
  • Hummingbirds need to consume about 1/2 of its body weight in sugar everyday.  The average hummingbird will feed 5-8 times every hour.
  • Additionally, these birds need 8 times their body weight in water on a daily basis so they say a garden fountain with a small spray nozzle will help attract them.   So far I haven’t seen mine drink from the fountain…..have any of you?
  • Despite their small size, hummingbirds are one of the most aggressive bird species and will regularly attack jays, crows & hawks that infringe on their territory and backyard birders often have one dominant hummingbird that guards all the feeders.

In closing, I have to say these precious flying jewels are one of my favorites and I never tire of watching them.  So it’s off to the store to stock up on extra bags of sugar to make sure the feeders remain full until they head out leaving Oakridge on to their next journey.

Happy Birding,
Beverly Olson

[You’ll find a great recipe for homemade nectar for your feeders on the “Bird” tab of this website.]

Turkey Season 2016

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Regulations(Copied from TPWD Outdoor Annual Handbook 2015-2016)

Colorado County
TurkeyRio Grande Spring Season Only:

Apr 1-30, 2016 Only.

Bag limit: 1 (gobblers only).

Enjoy!

Rio Grande Turkeys; Photo by B.LaVergne, March 2013
Rio Grande Turkeys; Photo by B.LaVergne, March 2013

ORWMA Winter Bird Census 2016 Follow-up

 

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As many of you know this is my first time to chair the Birding Committee and our first time to be involved with the Birding Census.  We hosted the dinner the night before the actual Birding and in attendance where Amy & Jim Hardy, Brenda & Gary LaVergne, Terri & Mark Prasatik, Terri & Bret Dingley and Grady & Glenda Lambert.  We divided into groups giving each an area of the ranch to scout and record all the different birds we could see or hear.  The magic hour to meet the next day was 6:45am, yep you read that right 6:45am.  It was fairly foggy that morning but the birds didn’t seem to mind.  I have to say that we had a blast being in the woods so early and watching the wildlife awaken serenading us with their own music.  My husband, Fred, enjoyed it so much he talked about it for days…who knew Birding could be so much fun!  The total number of different birds spotted were 43 and the top 5 birds with a count of 100 or more were the American Robin, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing and the Chipping Sparrow.  There were many on the list I didn’t know, but now with my birding book in hand my knowledge is growing every day.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to participate in our Birding Census and hope you all can join us next year as we are truly blessed to live in an area that has so many birds & wildlife to see right out our front door.

Happy Birding,

Beverly Olson

The Pros and Cons of Barn Swallows

Squatters, Photo by A.Hardy, April 2013
Squatters, Photo by A.Hardy, April 2013

It won’t be long until our Barn Swallows return to their mud nests for spring and we are so thankful they remember how to get to our house each year.  The complaints I get about these birds are they’re so messy, they dive bomb me and my pets and their chirping is so loud.  But before you go so far as to knock down their nests, listen to the link below and see how many insects, including the dreadful mosquito, that each bird eats hourly, daily & monthly…it’s mind boggling.  To help with the mess we put a large piece of square tile under each nest that collects their calling cards & can easily be picked up, washed off and replaced as needed.  After listening to the voice-over below, I think you will agree that having Barn Swallows is a blessing and nature’s incredible insect/pest control that is TOTALLY ORGANIC!

(You may need to copy the links below into your browser to view.)

http://birdnote.org/show/barn-swallow-natural-pest-control

For more information on Barn Swallows see the link below.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/lifehistory

Winter Birding Event January 2015

ORWMA_BirdCensusTotals_Jan2015

Attached is the list of total birds counted during ORWMA’s 2015 Winter Birding Census.   We had 4 groups that birded the morning of January 24th and we had 13 present at the kick-off dinner the evening before.   We hope you become involved in our birding groups and make plans to  attend our next birding census later this year.   Watch the website for more news on birding.

Over the next few weeks, both Cedar Waxwings and American Robins will be visiting the Ranch to help clear our Yaupon Holly of the berries, making way for the spring.

Greater Yellowlegs; Photo by Brenda LaVergne_May2013
Greater Yellowlegs; Photo by Brenda LaVergne_May2013

Watch for Winter Visitors at Oakridge Ranch

The Lamberts saw Cedar Waxwings and American Robins this morning on their walk.  If you’ve never seen a Cedar Waxwing previously, check out these pictures, as well as others online.  Don’t forget to click on any picture you see here to enlarge it.   These are beautiful birds that come to our area each winter.  Before leaving in the spring, they will eat all the berries from your Yaupons.   These birds come to the Ranch in the hundreds!   Watch for them and enjoy!

Cedar Waxwings with a Northern Cardinal feeding on Youpon berries; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
Cedar Waxwings with a Northern Cardinal feeding on Yaupon berries; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
Cedar Waxwings; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
Cedar Waxwings; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.

The Northern Cardinal is an ever-present bird in our area.  But they really stand out during the winter months.   The American Robin is a fascinating bird, also.  They will eat everything from insects, to worms, to berries & fruit.   And like the Northern Cardinal, the American Robin has a beautiful song.   Live life outdoors!

American Robin: Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
American Robin: Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
American Robins early morning bath; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.
American Robins early morning bath; Photo by B.LaVergne, Feb 2014.