Y-c Night Herons and Painted Buntings
DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — Waders continue at the Joe Pool Dam. This morning, I found two Yellow-crowned Night Herons (one adult and one immature) in the northeast cove — the first time I’d had this species at the lake. I observed the immature bird holding its bill ajar and fluttering its throat skin rapidly in an exercise that resembled panting. The adult bird faced the sun, wings drooped and slightly spread.
Green Herons are the most numerous species. One bird had speared a mid-sized fish, and I watched it manipulate the fish around and swallow it headfirst. A couple of Great Egrets and one Snowy completed the list of feeding herons.
The two Willets that I observed two days ago were still present, to my surprise. I had assumed they would keep moving south. Today, they were feeding closer to shore on the hydrilla mat, so I had slightly better views.
A photograph from the shore cannot begin to portray the extent of the hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) mat growing in the cove. Again, this mat is so thick that willets and herons can walk on top of it. Hydrilla, a non-native noxious weed, was known to cover 116 acres of Joe Pool Reservoir in 2003. I’m wondering if this plant provided for the ducks and coots that wintered in this cove last year. Hydrilla dies back in the winter, so it would have been below the surface by the time I got back from PNG. Maybe that’s why there were always dozens of waterfowl in this location.
This is the reason all the herons are congregated in the cove — lots of fish! Anyone know which species this one is?
As I mentioned earlier in the week, cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Bewick’s Wrens, and Indigo Buntings are singing a little bit. Again, I did not hear Painted Buntings singing. I did, however, hear a racket in the bushes, and I looked up to see two fledgling Painted Buntings following their mother, begging insistently. She seemed to be ignoring them mostly. They looked about old enough to start fending for themselves.
What, grasses? This is the Blackland Prairies ecoregion, after all, and this is the time of year that many native grasses bloom. This attractive species is sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), the state grass of Texas.
It’s been awhile since I saw a wheel bug (Arilus cristatus). That powerful beak (which is used to kill and consume insect prey) can do serious damage to a human, so wheel bugs are best enjoyed with the eyes, not the fingers. There are plenty more photos in today’s gallery.