Monday, May 26, 2008

Rural Birding & More!

This post is going backwards in time a few days to last Friday evening when Mr. Johnson offered to take me out for a birding drive after supper. We ended up driving around the area where we turkey and deer hunt, so I know this trip wasn't just for my benefit!

It's actually been pretty dry here for the last week, so many of the farmers have gotten their crops in the field and some of the corn and oats are already coming up. Here's what it looks like around here--lots of flat fields and and the clumps of trees you see are either farmsteads or sinkholes. The arrow is pointing to a tractor--but you can only see the cloud of dust from the planter or whatever he's pulling behind. The majority of these fields are probably planted in corn, so by the middle of summer it will be a "sea of green."

Here's what hungry deer can do to an arbor vitae hedge during a long snowy winter. I think it's a funny picture, but I'm sure the homeowner who lives here doesn't!
As we were trying to figure out what was planted in the field near our deer hunting area, I noticed a large dark shape in the middle of the field. Binocular review showed me that it was a juvenile bald eagle.
The crows weren't happy about this eagle sitting in their field......
.....and after a few fly-bys, the eagle finally got tired of the harassment and flew away.
Our drive continued up the road and as we came over a rise we saw all the huge, dark birds in a field ahead. "Look at all those turkeys!" said Mr. Johnson. I grabbed the binocs again for a better look.
"Drive closer," I said, "those aren't turkeys, they're turkey vultures!"
I have never seen this many vultures together and on the ground--there wasn't even anything dead there! Here's a close-up for my friend Lynne.
They're not the prettiest bird in the world, but you have to admit they're magnificent in flight.
Continuing on our journey, we turned down another back road that used to be a good "parking" road for us back in the 70's (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The road has been redone, so there aren't any isolated spots anymore, plus there are many more people who live out this way. One of the farms there had these magnificent animals in their field. Holy cow indeed!

I have never seen horns like these. I don't know my bovine species very well, does anyone else have any idea what kind of cattle these are? Those horns were massive.

UPDATE: After googling "texas longhorn cattle," I sent an e-mail to Mike Crawford at Red Peak Ranch in Mills County, TX asking if he could ID these cattle, since my pictures didn't look like the Texas Longhorns on Mike's website. I got a note back from Mike today and here's what he said, "It looks like they are a cross between a Watusi and Texas Longhorn. When their horns are thick and twist up they are Watusi which it appears 2 of the cows horns in your photos do this. The younger one where her horns are more lateral has some longhorn blood."
I'd heard of Watusi cattle (native to Africa), so I googled "watusi cattle" also. If you're interested, learn more about Watusi cattle at this
Wikipedia link.

It was starting to get closer to dark, so Mr. Johnson drove me past the old trout farm where he had seen an eagle nest earlier in the year. The eagle nest was obscured by leaves now, but we did see one of the adult eagles sitting nearby. There were lots of geese on the trout farm ponds and I spotted Mom & Pop Goose with some fuzzy young 'uns.

I asked Mr. Johnson to take one more detour on our way home to see if the Western Meadowlark I have seen previous years was still in the same area. We finally spotted this meadowlark in a small tree, but it never sang, so I can't confirm whether it was Eastern or Western. Any guesses from this picture?


Anonymous said...

Those are Texas Longhorn Cattle.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a nice drive. Turkey Vultures are ugly beasts but they are very interesting to me. They hang out together and always seem to be partying. I don't know about the meadowlark. I always have to hear them to tell them apart. They look too similar to me.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you 2 went PARKING!! What did you tie the horse and buggy to??? LOL!!! Great pics and I enjoyed the post on Dad's birthday. (have I always looked so much like Jane Russell??) I think it's time to consult my local plastic surgeon for a breast reduction before I get all stooped over ;)
Love, your sissy (tee hee)

Anonymous said...

I think those cattle are Texas long horn, but don't know the sub-species. I believe the meadowlark is eastern, maybe just cuz that is what we have around our house and they sing all day long. We don't have as many as before with the loss of fence rows for habitat. The colors look right. Nature rides are all fun especially when you don't have to drive. Never have seen that many turkey vultures in one place, WOW! That was a fun drive, thanks for taking us along.

Meggie said...

Turkey vultures are ughalee!! Those arborvitae look like the five in my driveway...eaten half way by the hungry whitetails. The deer have been eating them for a few winters now and I think it's time to chop them down. Gotta go cut some grass......

Lynne said...

UGLY!!!???!!! NO WAY! They're beautiful. You just have to love their gorgeous red heads and pearly white beaks. I love 'em! Thanks Ruthie!

mon@rch said...

I have found Rural birding has always been fun. Congrats on the eagle and I love the arrows you added with the photo! Great day and looks like some happy TV's!

Susan Gets Native said...

Only Lynne can describe TV's as having "pearly" beaks.
I'm no help on the meadowlark. They are virtually indistinguishable visually.
TV's will occasionally eat rotting fruit, etc. Was there any vegetable matter in that field? If not, they were probably just resting. OR, they had eaten all of the dead critter already and were digesting and pooping.

Mary C said...

Wide-open spaces, turkey vultures, long-horn cattle, and meadowlarks -- that sure looks and sounds like a rural drive. ;o) Those kinds of drives are so much more fun than having to drive in or around a city where you have to watch other drivers instead of looking around at more pleasing things.

Jayne said...

What a great drive even if you didn't get to "park." Tee hee hee! Love the photo of the young eagle! Man, those ARE some horns!

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Anonymous.

Hi Lisa,
TV's aren't the prettiest bird, but I'm still fascinated by them.
I checked my field guide when I got home, but still couldn't decide on the meadowlark either

Ha-Ha Sissy. I don't think you were too many months behind me for those parking spots!!
Jane Russell - LOL! That's what I hate about getting my picture taken--what I see in the mirror is totally different than what the camera sees!

Hi Mom,
Glad you enjoyed the ride. The only reason I questioned the Meadowlark is that this one is in an area where I've seen/heard the Western singing in the past.
Someday this summer, I'll drive you over to see these Longhorn Cattle too--they're probably <5 miles from your house (by the gravel roads).

Hi Meggie,
So those arbor vitae never recover? I wondered about that. I can't imagine they would taste very good, but I guess hungry deer aren't too fussy.

Hi Lynne,
I'm glad you enjoyed those TV pics. I was so excited that close-up of the two together turned out because I knew you'd appreciate it.

Hi Mon@rch,
Glad you enjoyed the trip too.
I added the arrows because the background on that picture was kind of busy. I knew what was on the picture, but sometimes I know it's not always clear to everyone else.

Hi Susan,
I don't think any of us look at TVs anymore without thinking of Lynne, right?
This field appeared to be freshly plowed & planted--maybe some fresh manure? I was too busy watching the birds to notice what was on the ground.

Hi Mary C,
It's fun to drive slow once in a while and see all the sights, but even on these back roads there always seems to be one guy that comes up behind and wants to pass, so we always have to watch out and make sure we get out of the way.

Hi Jayne,
I'm glad you were able to "come along" on our drive.

Mary said...

I thought they were a reindeer/cow mix.

In Delaware, TVs traveled in packs of a dozen or more and socialized on rooftops. Mine, once!

RuthieJ said...

I would love to have TVs on my roof! I've seen them flying around my neighborhood, but usually only 1 or 2.

Marsha said...

I love nature rides! I can remember how rare turkey vultures in MN were and now they are everywhere!

Larry said...

That's a nice shot of the eagle on the ground.-I'm fascinated by your little arrows too-I've never used this bit of technology.-Maybe the vultures are having a premonition of carnage to come.

Julie Zickefoose said...

I looove turkey vultures. Count me in with Lynne.
And I am doin' the watusi on your cattle. I thought at first they were longhorns but the horns are too erect, too big around and too wacky. Was glad to find a true cow chimp chiming in on your blog.

On the meadowlark, I tried to blow up the shot but couldn't. Blow yours up and see if the yellow spills over the malar (jawbone) area and onto the cheek. If so, it's a Western. If the yellow is confined to the malar area and throat, it's an Eastern. It "feels" like a western to me; they tend to be paler above than eastern meadowlarks. But the yellow would be the clincher. Lemme know!


Julie said...

I had to chuckle when I saw the trees. They are funny, but I'm sure the homeowners don't appreciate it. I'd be terrible if I lived in the country, planting corn and such just for wildlife.
I really like turkey vultures and we have large families of them here in town. On the way home from SW MO last weekend, I saw something that looked like a turkey vulture, but had a gray/silver head. I looked it up and its a black vulture. Not native to our area, but has been spotted here before. It was raining so I didn't stop to take a picture.
Longhorns would have been my guess, thanks for the additional info and links.
Oh and must share that my parents now have a floor flat feeder like yours. They purchased it and a feeder for the cardinals after following your blog. I'm trying to get my mom to blog, maybe some day.