Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Probable Swallow-tailed Kite in Beaumont and a Couple of Herps

Sorry, I have no birds worth mentioning. Well maybe one. I was recently lunching in the parking lot by the Jack-in-the-Box on Eastex Freeway when an odd raptorish bird caught my attention. Sure looked like a Swallow-tailed Kite. It was a distant view without bins so I could have been wrong, but I probably wasn't. Swallow-tailed Kite is a hard bird to be mistaken about. Not that I couldn't be. So put that down as a confirmed maybe. Hey, Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have been identified with poorer views than I had. A good find, if that's what it was. And in the heart of Beaumont, of all places.

Aside from the almost-certain-but-not-quite-definite kite there's scant news. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is apparently extinct again, my job is as aggravating as ever, and the babies are doing fine. When I'm not working (which is half the time) and not sleeping (which is almost always) I'm busy helping Michelle with the twins. Or trying to help, anyway. How much help I actually render is debatable.

We've had some torrential storms in the last two weeks (fortunately we've been spared the kind of serious flooding suffered in other parts of the state). After one such deluge I was out cleaning up the cedar mulch that washed out of our garden beds - the kind that isn't supposed to wash away - when I found this little Texas Brown Snake, only about three inches long. Seems to be the most common snake species in our yard. Completely harmless. Found this large Red-eared Slider on a road in our neighborhood. Didn't want to see it splatted by a truck so I did my good Samaritan bit and released it down at the pond. One more turtle to keep the fish population down.


At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Patrick Coin said...

Regarding the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, your earlier comments about "thumbing through the field guide" were very perceptive. I raised a similar point with Cyberthrush about why, I feel, there are many false reports of IBWO but not of other, long extinct, North American birds (see my comments). I feel it is likely because the modern field guides, since Robbins' 1960's guide, do illustrate the Ivory-billed, but not the Great Auk, Carolina Parakeet, or Passenger Pigeon.

(I tried to leave this comment on your earlier post, but it would not stick--I'm not sure why. Apologies if this ends up being a duplicate.)

At 12:03 PM, Blogger John said...

I think you make valid points. The inclusion of IBWO in field guides has surely encouraged a belief in its persistence, and the lack of field guide illustrations has undoubtedly limited the number of erroneous reports of other extinct birds. I would just point out that the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet do not have large picturesque confusion species (as the IBWO does). The existence of an attention-catching bird like Pileated Woodpecker is enough to explain most claimed IBWO sightings. Suppose a few Passenger Pigeons had survived after the death of Martha - they would probably have gone unnoticed and ignored, as do most Mourning Doves. Carolina Parakeets - if any still existed - would probably be presumed to be escapees of some exotic species. There's also the power of suggestion - whenever species like Labrador Duck, Passenger Pigeon, or Carolina Parakeet are mentioned it is virtually always in reference to their extinction. But IBWO, Eskimo Curlew, and Bachman's Warbler are not consistently categorized as extinct, and sure enough, people still claim to see them from time to time.


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