Those ducks looked oh so familiar, lurking under weeping willow trees by Knutsford’s Moor Pool. But something felt wrong. Then I realised. These were black bellied whistling ducks, very familiar from our visits to Houston, Texas. And this was Knutsford, Cheshire, far away from the homelands of these American sub/tropical birds (see Wikipedia entry).
How did they find their way to Knutsford? A mistaken migration across the Atlantic? Unlikely, as this is not a migratory species. More likely, they are escapees from somewhere like WWT Martin Mere? Anybody know?
Mission San José in San Antonio was founded in 1720, one of five mission communities formed along the San Antonio River at the northern frontier of New Spain, a territory of the Spanish Empire. These Spanish colonial missions aimed to transform local ways of life by introducing Christianity, farming, and settled communities.
Living quarters for indigenous people and the odd soldier were built within the mission, against the compound walls. The church was the focal point and the missionary lived next to it. Workshops and storerooms dotted the central grounds. Outside the walls were croplands and ranches.
The land became part of Mexico in 1821 after the Mexican war of independence, then part of Texas in 1836 after the Texan war of independence, and Texas was annexed to USA in 1845.
Today the mission is much restored and provides a historic and photogenic visitor attraction. Here’s a small selection from our visit. Click to see slideshow.
Apparently, they hop to propel themselves and fly away when threatened.
It is good to research and name these unknown (to me) species, although there is also a good argument to just be in, look and marvel at nature – rather than compulsively needing to name everything. Left and right brain – best to engage both!
A brownish moth was flying around at Garner State Park and suddenly went to ground, seemingly vanishing. Close inspection revealed this oak moth‘s excellent camouflage among the dead leaves of the park.
Red-winged blackbirds are pretty common in Texas, although it’s not that easy to get a good shot of the red patch on the wings. These were reasonably obliging at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas.
If you don’t see the red patch, they’re easily confused with grackles. If you look at the wikipedia entry, the females are rather different, with fairly dull marking. We saw some hiding in the trees, separate from the males.
The wide range of birdlife is usually the main attraction at Brazos Bend State Park, but this time we were welcomed by this rather large butterfly resting in the bushes. It turns out to be a giant swallowtail.
According to Wikipedia, this is the largest butterfly in North America (5-8 inch wingspan), and is abundant in parts of the Eastern states.
Just catching up with photos from our March visit to Houston. This butterfly at Brazos Bend State Park took a bit of identifying. It’s similar to some European fritillaries, but this one is called a phaon crescent.
The wing patterns are quite striking. Apparently these are quite common in the Houston area and much of Texas.
This white ibis at Brazos Bend Texas State Park was just asking to be photographed. In my experience this resting pose on one leg is less common that their habit of foraging in the vegetation in marshy areas.
We visited Garner State Park mid March. This Texas State Park lies on the Frio River, an hour or two’s drive from San Antonio. There are extensive camp grounds and many recreational opportunites afforded by the river and surrounding hills. On a very hot day we could just get a flavour of this picturesque area, see the following photos.
This impressive and popular park was built as a New Deal job creation project and is named after John Nance Garner, who served as Roosevelt’s vice-president from 1933-1941. This is a model for government action when times are hard for the people. Thousands benefit from this historic government investment every day.
The good old Texan attitude to covid-prevention is shown on the sign on the back of a camped pickup, see featured image.
The point where the outflow from Houston’s Barker reservoir runs into Buffalo Bayou is a great for a spot of fishing. Here a great blue heron waits patiently, intent on the running water. A snowy egret waits to the side, a good distance from the prime spot.
UK dragonflies tend to be so active that they are difficult to photograph. But these North American green darners at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, March 2019, were just basking on the footpath in the sun.
They are so-called because of the supposed resemblance to a darning needle. Any young readers will probably say ‘What the heck is that?’.