The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The eastern phoebe is an early winter resident
by Ro Wauer

Already some of our wintering birds are beginning to arrive in South Texas, and one of my favorites is the eastern phoebe. Almost every yard and field is claimed by one of these perky flycatchers. It spends it winter days capturing insects that it finds from low perches. One will suddenly dart out and snap up a passing fly or pounce on an insect on the ground or on a tree trunk or branch. Then it will return to a favorite perch, swallow its catch, jerk its tail, and wait for the next passing tidbit.

Eastern phoebes are one of our hardiest flycatchers; all the other members of this rather extensive family fly south for the winter, but this bird migrates only short distances, remaining just south of the really cold winter weather. It is able to survive the extreme cold conditions that we experience once or a few times each winter. At such times, it is actually able to feed on a non-insect diet, consuming seeds, fruit, and even an occasional small vertebrate. Its ability to change from insects to fruit to eat vertebrates attests to its amazing adaptability and physical characteristics, especially a bill wide enough to capture insects in flight yet strong enough to, capture, hold and swallow small vertebrates.

The eastern phoebe is resident throughout the eastern half of North America, nesting just north of our area, usually on structures such as porches, bridges, and cliffs. Nests are constructed primarily of mud and moss. One New England bridge site was utilized for thirty consecutive years. John James Audubon placed thin wires of the legs of one family, said to have been the first time birds were ever banded.

Its name comes from its rather distinctive “fee-bee” calls, that it may utter singly or many in an extremely very short time. It also has a clear and sweet chip note. These vocalizations can usually be heard all winter.

The phoebe, one of three in North America (including black and Say’s phoebes), is readily identified by its size (about 7 inches), brownish back, darker head, no wing bars or eye rings, whitish throat, and whitish to faint yellowish underparts. It also has the typical flycatcher habitat or jerking its tail when perched, but unlike most other flycatchers, this phoebe will sweep its tail widely, down and up and often toward the side, giving it a swaggering appearance.

The eastern phoebe is a marvelous wintertime neighbor!

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is cross-posted from my personal blog milkriverblog about one of our own . . .

i am updating this to keep it current with new materials . . . Gary and Kathy Clark are arranging a memorial tribute in houston on october 29th . . . info is below . . .

Gary Clark, Dave Dauphin, Greg Lasley, Fred Collins, Mim Eisenberg, LeeAnn Sharp, The Montgomery County Courier, The Baytown Sun, The Houston Chronicle, Texas A&M Press and Houston Audubon Society posted these beautiful tributes to John on the TexBirds listserv, in comments, or on their own spaces . . .
i hope i'll be forgiven my collecting & reposting of them here (or please message me . . .)

i am continuing to collect remembrances and so this will continue to update at least through the memorial . . .

The original report from Gary Clark (and thanks to Kelly Bryan, dear friend of mine and the Tvetens, for alerting me to his ill health that morning)

I am sad to report that John Tveten passed away this afternoon of cancer. He died peacefully while surrounded by friends and family. Our love goes out to his wife, Gloria, and his son, Michael.

John was among the greatest of naturalists ever to trod the earth. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity in sharing that knowledge was without equal. Through his newspaper columns, his many books, and his informative and engaging presentations, we all learned an immeasurable amount about birds, butterflies, moths, wildflowers, and countless other wonders of the natural world. Moreover, we were always inspired by his endless curiosity and enthusiasm.

My wife, Kathy, and I are working with the family to arrange a celebration of John’s life and work and will give you details within a week or so about when and where that celebration will be.

Gary Clark
The Woodlands, Texas


The passing of John Tveten leaves all of us who knew him with a heavy heart.

John's books, field guides, newspaper articles, field trips and programs filled us with knowledge, the desire to see more, and the need savor nature slowly. John always used 35mm slides in his programs, and I don't think anyone else could go through as many slides during a given time period, as John could. Jan once told John that watching any of his programs was like sitting beside him on a comfortable couch while he read you a story and explained all the pictures in a book. Gloria was always by his side at every program, and John never forgot to mention that they were partners in every venture they took.

I met John in the late 60's when we both went to work for a major petrochemical research company. I stayed forever; John left shortly to fulfill his dream with a camera. John was an animal rehabilitator and a bird bander. Although we lived just a few miles from each other, we never netted each other's birds. John was an artist, also, and his drawings could rival anyone's.

He was one of the very few naturalists I have ever met. I will never forget when myself and three other young birders invited John on a Big Day run--worst mistake we could make. When we were always wanting to go for the next birding location, we always had to go find John and take him away from watching a praying mantis or watching a snake eating a frog.

John got Jan and I to appreciate all aspects of nature. I jokingly blamed him for exposing Jan to butterflies to such an extent that we moved all the way to the Valley so she could chase bugs.

John was a good friend, a kind man, a gentle man, a loving husband and father; I don't ever remember a frown on his face. Jan and I loved him, and will miss him. We send good thoughts and lots of prayers to Gloria, Michael, and Michael's family.

David Dauphin
Mission, Texas

I just must say a few words about John Tveten's passing. Dave Dauphin, Martin Hagne, Fred Collins, Gary Clark, and others have spoken eloquently of this man and my words cannot covey my own personal sense of loss. I met John at Bolivar Flats in the late 1970's. He and Gloria and I became friends and I'm proud to have called John a good friend for more than 30 years. We both shared a passion for birds, for nature in general , and for photography and I remember many discussions about our natural world with John. He enlightened others with his depth of knowledge of the natural world and was always ready to help with anything he was asked to do. John was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and I do not use that term casually. He was one of the finest persons it has been my privilege to know and I will miss him greatly. The writings about birds, butterflies, moths and other natural history subjects that John and Gloria produced over the years have enriched us all and leave a legacy for us to cherish. My thoughts and prayers are with Gloria and the family.

Greg Lasley
Austin, Texas

I am a native born and bred Texan, I have wandered the fields, bayous, bays and woods of southeast Texas for all of my sixty years. Early on I ask my father about the green lizards around the house and could not understand why he didn't know every aspect of their lives. I ask my grandfather what that white foam was on the dewberry vines in spring and he told me it was snake spit. I was just a kid, I knew I didn't know anything, but couldn't figure out why my talented and wise fathers did not know the answers to my questions about things all around them.

I didn't know it then, but I was already a naturalist. I have spent the rest of my life learning answers to these and other questions I conjure up each time I take a moment to notice nature whether at my back door or in the remote wilds of the Big Thicket, Galveston Bay, or far flung Big Bend. During my life I have learned much about nature, but there still seems to be more that I don't know, than I know. I met John Tveten in 1969 and as I came to know him as a friend during the next forty years I found John to be the person I could ask questions about any subject in nature and get a straight and full answer. If by occasion he would not know the answer, he would invariably put me on the right track to find the answer. When we resumed a conversation weeks or months later, he would often remind me of my question and was as interested as I in the answer. He never lost his passion for discovering any secret of nature.

I cannot see a moth (which I see daily) without anxiously wanting to know "When will the moth book be out, John?" John was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. He was conversant in any topic of natural history or ecology. He was interested in everything. He loved all of nature. No plant or animal was too small, dull, or non-descript for John. He knew they all had a role to play, and without knowing the players, how can we know the play?

John and all of us were cheated out of the best years of a great naturalist's life. He gave us so much. So many books that are my constant companions. He wrote a nature column for 24 years. But his reflections of a life watching nature was still in his future. One of his last works was the final compilation of his columns; it is titled "Nature at Your Doorstep." That was John's life message, nature is at your doorstep if you will only open your senses and minds to observe and appreciate it.

That is a passion I share with John. I will miss him. Every naturalist in Texas will miss him.

Texas has lost one of its greatest treasures.

Fred Collins
Katy, Texas

I met John in 1980, when he led a Smithsonian Institution tour of Bryce, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I had the good fortune to go on several other trips he led, and we became good friends. He was the one who inspired me to study natural history and become a photographer. My thoughts are with Gloria and Mike as they, like we, adjust to a world without him. He was a consummate teacher and changed the lives of thousands of people in whom his legacy will live on.

This is my tribute to John:

Mim Eisenberg

I heard the report Tuesday about the passing of a birder, naturalist, author, photographer, and great friend. John Tveten wrote a weekly column called "Nature Trails" for the Houston Chronicle for over 25 years. We worked together at Nature Quest for 10 years. I've known John & Gloria since the first Nature Quest in 1999. He came to my mother's place searching for butterflies that first year. And I had the pleasure of introducing him for many of his NQ Programs. We were blessed to have gone butterflying & birding with him many times.
We only saw John once a year during Nature Quest, but always felt very close to him & Gloria. I am honored that they took the time to come visit our Nature Center this year. I am so proud to have several of his signed books. When they came for Nature Quest, they stayed at the Yaklins cabins. I know the Yaklins, as well as many others in our area, will miss him. We will truly miss John, his warmth & gift of sharing with others. And our hearts go out to his wife, Gloria.

LeAnn Sharp
Utopia, Texas

In memory of John L. Tveten: enjoy your nature trails

Updated: 10.20.09

This article will be the hardest one to write in my 10-year tenure of writing articles for the Conroe/Montgomery County Courier.

A dear friend and wonderful naturalist, John Tveten, passed away on October 12, 2009, from a rapidly developing cancer. For all of us interested in nature, a void now exists that will never be filled.

I first met John in 1990. Met him at a now closed nature store called The Chickadee in Houston. Within minutes of meeting John I knew he was special. I just didn’t realize how special John was until years later.

A friendship and mentor-student relationship evolved over the years. It was very special. John was a very interesting, intelligent and well-rounded person. He was a walking encyclopedia regarding nature. He and his lovely wife, Gloria, authored numerous wonderful books about nature in Texas. Books about birds, butterflies, wildflowers, mammals, journeys to places near and far.

John was a great photographer and talented artist. John and Gloria wrote “Nature Trails,” a column about nature that ran weekly in the Houston Chronicle. For over 20 years their fascinating article ran. As a kid I used to quickly rifle through the local paper for three things. The sports page including the fishing report and the comics section. As an older kid (over 40) I couldn’t wait to read what John and Gloria wrote about in Nature Trails each week!

In addition to John’s wealth of knowledge and generous attitude of sharing nature with others of all ages, he loved football. We would talk football every fall and winter season. John played high school football. I bet he was just as tenacious on the playing field as he was stalking a once in a lifetime photo opportunity from a photography blind in the Valley of South Texas.

John and Gloria always were there when you needed them. For a book signing, presentation, to lead a nature walk and more. To be your friends. They were always there when asked. Something unfortunately rare these days. You could always count on John and Gloria Tveten.

To me, John was the older brother I never had. Not old enough to be my father, I often was caught in the middle thinking of John as somewhere between an older brother and “Dad.” John and I often laughed about this. I can still hear his precious laugh.

John is gone now. There will be no more presentations, field trips, books, book signings, nature festivals, photographs or drawings. We that share John’s love of the natural world have suffered an irreplaceable loss. Also, the wild creatures that John so often studied have lost a wonderful friend and advocate.

And selfishly speaking, I have lost the only brother I ever really had. My love goes out to John, Gloria and Michael, their son.

The Tveten family requests that in memory of John, donations be made to any organization that works towards protecting nature and all its natural wonders.

This was published in the Montgomery County Courier, written either by Gary or Kathy Clark, i am uncertain which as it was unsigned . . .

Tveten, famed nature photographer, dies
From staff reports, Baytown Sun, Published October 15, 2009

A longtime Baytown resident and former Exxon research chemist who turned a love for photography and nature into an illustrious second career died Monday.

Dr. John L. Tveten, 75, was originally from Minnesota but came to Baytown in the 1960s to take a job as with Exxon. After 13 years with the petrochemical giant, he left the company to attempt a career as a freelance outdoor and nature photographer.

That move led to a successful new career and lifestyle. Tveten became a noted author, along with wife Gloria penning a nature column for a Houston newspaper for 24 years and writing and photographing for innumerable magazine articles, eight books and field guides that shared his and Gloria’s knowledge and love of nature with others in the field and with the public. He became a noted authority in his field.

Tveten’s photographs were seen in the pages of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, National Wildlife magazine, Audubon, the children’s magazine of the National Wildlife Federation; Birder’s World, Bird Watcher’s Digest, the Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia Britannica and many other publications.

Tveten presented uncountable slide shows and programs at numerous colleges and universities and to gatherings held by a variety of organizations, such as birding, gardening and social clubs and at hundreds of nature festivals. He led photo tours to many of America’s national parks in association with the Smithsonian, as well as other organizations.

Tveten will be cremated.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Armand Bayou Nature Center on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Tveten is survived by his wife Gloria, a son and daughter-in-law Michael and Lisa; granddaughter Amanda; and step-grandson Brett. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Armand Bayou Nature Center or the conservation organization of choice.

Services are under the direction of Navarre Funeral Home.

John L. Tveten, longtime Chronicle columnist

By Kathy Huber, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 17, 2009, 9:06PM

John L. Tveten, a naturalist, author, photographer and longtime Houston Chronicle columnist, died of cancer Monday. He was 74.

For more than 30 years, Tveten wrote about and photographed creatures of nature and wildflowers. He wrote numerous books and co-authored five with his wife of 51 years, Gloria. The Baytown couple traveled widely in pursuit of nature and shared their adventures in Wildflowers of Houston and Southeast Texas and Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas, both published by University of Texas Press. He also wrote The Birds of Texas (Shearer Publishing, $24.95).

Nature Trails column
The couple's weekly Nature Trails column ran in the Chronicle for nearly 25 years. The last of a three-volume anthology of those columns, Nature at Your Doorstep (Texas A&M University Press, $24.95), was published last year. A frequent speaker and field guide, Tveten presented four programs with his wife at the Rockport hummingbird festival in September.

“John was among the greatest of naturalists,” said friend Gary Clark. “His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity in sharing that knowledge was without equal. Through his newspaper columns, his many books and his informative and engaging presentations, we all learned an immeasurable amount about wonders of the natural world. Moreover, we were always inspired by his endless curiosity and enthusiasm.”

When the Tvetens decided to end their weekly column in 1999 for more book projects, Clark took over.

His Nature column appears in the Chronicle's Saturday Star section with photographs by his wife, Kathy Adams Clark.

“I would not be the nature photographer I am without John's advice,” Kathy Clark said. “His photographs taught me how to shoot, and he taught me how to be a naturalist.”

In their final column for the Chronicle, the Tvetens wrote that “the hobby that began as ‘birdwatching' is now called ‘birding' by most of its participants. Those birders are more skilled and more informed than ever before, and most will travel great distances to add new species to their lists.

“We share that enthusiasm, but we still consider ourselves birdwatchers. We enjoy seeing rare birds, but we also enjoy seeing common birds doing uncommon things. And then, we just enjoy seeing birds being birds uncommonly well.”
Originally a chemist

A Minnesota native, Tveten moved to Texas in 1960 after graduate school at the University of Illinois. He was a research organic chemist with Exxon before retiring in 1973 to become a full-time nature photographer and writer. In addition to his books and columns, his work appeared in national publications, calendars, film strips and educational material.

He also was a naturalist and tour leader for the Smithsonian Institution, National Audubon Society, Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Spring Branch Nature Center.

Tveten is survived by his wife; a son, Michael Tveten, of Tucson, Ariz.; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Armand Bayou Nature Center, 8500 Bay Area Blvd., Pasadena.

Texas A&M University Press mourns the recent loss of John Tveten

avid naturalist, renowned photographer, freelance writer, and author of many books with his wife, Gloria

For nearly a quarter of a century, John and Gloria wrote a weekly column, called "Nature Trails," for the Houston Chronicle. Their writings, which ranged both in subject matter and geography, reflected a rewarding life of travel, study, and observation in nature, including many memorable encounters with birds.

Also, John's photographs have graced the pages of National Wildlife, Audubon, Ranger Rick, Birder's World, Bird Watcher's Digest, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and Texas Highways since 1973.

He's written and photographed eight books ─ many with Gloria ─ including his nature trails books, Adventures Afar (2006), Our Life with Birds (2004), and Nature at Your Doorstep (2008) with Texas A&M Press.

Shannon Davies, Louise Lindsey Merrick Editor for the Natural Environment for Texas A&M Press, worked closely with John for many years.

"The first time I walked through a vacant lot with John, he taught me that there is no such thing. Perhaps the last of Texas's great naturalists, he taught all of us about plants, birds, mammals, snakes, lizards, frogs, butterflies, moths, and insects of all kinds with unmatched facility and generosity. He was a generalist in the truest, best possible meaning of the word--he loved nature wherever he found it, and he found it everywhere. A writer, an artist, and a photographer, John knew so much, and gave so much, never losing his sense of wonder and of fun."

". . . Each person who met him will remember John's perfect presentations and exquisite photos. All of us who called him friend will remember his
strong love of this planet and optimistic spirit. I cherish every moment I spent with him and will always remember him,"─Kathy Adams Clark, photographer, Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone (2009)

". . . my words cannot convey my own personal sense of loss. . . We both shared a passion for birds, for nature in general , and for photography and I remember many discussions about our natural world with John. He enlightened others with his depth of knowledge of the natural world and was always ready to help with anything he was asked to do. John was a true gentleman in every sense of the word and I do not use that term casually. He was one of the finest persons it has been my privilege to know and I will miss him greatly. The writings about birds, butterflies, moths and other natural history subjects that John and Gloria produced over the years have enriched us all and leave a legacy for us to cherish. My thoughts and prayers are with Gloria and the family."─Greg Lasley, author of Greg Lasley's Texas Wildlife Portraits (2008)

Houston Audubon Society
Texas birders and conservationists say goodbye to long-time friend and naturalist, John Tveten, who passed away peacefully while surrounded by family and friends.

John was among the greatest of naturalists ever to trod the earth. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and his generosity in sharing that knowledge was without equal. Through his newspaper columns, his many books, and his informative and engaging presentations, we all learned an immeasurable amount about birds, butterflies, moths, wildflowers, and countless other wonders of the natural world. Moreover, we were always inspired by his endless curiosity and enthusiasm.

Kathy and Gary Clark have worked with the Tveten family to arrange a celebration of John’s life and work. The celebration will be held on October 29, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at Armand Bayou Nature Center.

Our love and support goes out to John’s wife, Gloria, and son, Michael.

The Service

We hope you can attend a celebration of John’s extraordinary life on October 29 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Armand Bayou Nature Center, 8500 Bay Area Blvd, Pasadena, TX. If you would like to bring cookies, snacks, or beverages, please do. We obviously do not want John’s family to provide refreshments. This will be an informal but important occasion for all of us to share our memories of John. Please inform anyone you know who may not be on Texbirds of the celebration.

Gary Clark
The Woodlands, TX

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Unusual Number of White Peacocks
by Ro Wauer

What an increase in butterfly numbers in recent weeks! After months of low butterfly numbers – for both species and individuals – populations have suddenly rebounded. At least in our garden at Mission Oaks, butterflies are commonplace. As many as two dozen species can now be found nectaring on the crucitas, mistflowers, and lantana blooms. And of all the butterflies utilizing our yard, the most surprising is the number of white peacocks. Fifteen to twenty of these semi-tropical species are present at any one time.

White peacocks are lovely creatures. They are slightly smaller in size than queens, usually land with out-stretched wings, and are easily identified because they are so different than any of the other butterflies. They are mostly white above and below, but fresh individuals possess orange to orange-brown margins, a large black spot on each forewing, and two smaller black spots on each slightly scalloped hindwing. Very fresh individuals may even have a bluish tinge.

Although a few white peacocks appear in the Golden Crescent every fall, I have never before found the numbers of individuals that are currently present. White peacocks are commonplace in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and individuals have been recorded throughout Texas. But this may be a banner year. Their larval foodplants include frog fruit, water hyssop, and green shrimp plant, all species that do occur in much of South Texas. Although my yard includes lots of frog fruits, it seems that the white peacocks in my garden are those that mostly are passer-bys, stopping for a short time or a few days to feed on the available nectar plants.

In previous years in the Golden Crescent numbers of white peacocks have been recorded only in a few select locations. The eastern portion of Saxet Lake Recreation Area, an area with an abundance of frog fruit, has been one choice site. I have assumed that that one location has supported what might be considered a “temporary colony,” an out-of-range breeding population likely to persist for a few to several years only. Such a colony can occur when a gravid female happens by and, finding adequate foodplants, lays eggs that then lead to a viable population. That population may persist until it is lost due to freezing, drought, or other natural causes. This scenario is not too unusual for butterflies, and it may help to explain the gradual shift of some southern species northward.

I suppose that one reason for my surprise at the number of white peacocks in my yard this year is because of the recent drought throughout most of its range in Texas. All during the period of drought the butterfly numbers have been extremely low. Their essential foodplants had been severely limited to inadequate moisture. But now, after several weeks of normal rainfall the vegetation has responded and the butterfly numbers have also increased. All the butterflies, especially white peacocks, one of our favorites, are more than welcome.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall is Mistflower Time
by Ro Wauer

Our crucitas are starting to flower, Wright’s bonesets are budding, and Gregg’s mistflowers have been blooming for the last several weeks. All of these Eupatorium species (or Conoclinium, according to some botanists) are some of the best butterfly magnets in all of Texas. All can be lumped into one to three common names: mistflowers, bonesets or thoroughworts. They all are much-branched and non-twining with a woody base and with opposite, toothed leaves that are deltoid or triangular or ovate in shape. The compact clusters of flowers vary from blue-violet to purplish-blue to lilac to whitish in color.

Almost two dozen species of Eupatorium are known in Texas, but I have found that the truly butterfly-friendly species are limited. The best of these is the crucita, scientifically known as Eupatorium odoratum. Although it is native in Texas only from Deep South Texas, where it grows on the coastal plain and Rio Grande floodplain, transplanted plants do very well throughout the Golden Crescent and even north to Austin and Houston. Crucitas are extremely hardy and can take over an area if not trimmed back. But when this plant is in bloom, from early October until December, no other flowers can compete in attracting butterflies. And the flowers possess a pleasant fragrance.

Another favorite is Gregg’s mistflower or Eupatorium greggii, sometimes called palm-leaf eupatorium. This shorter, bluish flowering plant occurs from the Trans-Pecos to the Hill Country to South Texas. Those that I have planted in my yard are currently in bloom and until crucitas come into full bloom are the most popular of all my butterfly plants. Queen butterflies in particular seem to prefer the nectar of Gregg’s mistflowers.

Over the years I have also introduced two additional Eupatoriums to our yard:
blue and Wright’s bonesets. Blue boneset, scientifically known as Eupatorium azureum, produces a blue-lavender flower. And unlike our other yard Eupatoriums, this species flowers in spring, from February to May. As one of the springtime bloomers, along with agaritos and a few citrus trees, it is utilized by Henry’s elfins, gray hairstreaks, red admirals and white-striped longtails.

Wright’s bonesets, Eupatorium wrightii, produces whitish flowers. This shrub is another of the fall butterfly magnets in our yard. It flowers only from October to early December. Although its importance for butterflies can hardly be compared with that of the crucitas, it also does a good job in attracting butterflies. This species is another Eupatorium that occurs natively in the United States only in South Texas from the Trans-Pecos through the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Where can these shrubs be purchased? I believe that some of the larger area nurseries are carrying crucitas and Gregg’s bonesets, but I have not found blue or Wright’s bonesets in our nurseries. We purchased our plants in the Valley, in Weslaco at the Valley Nature Center. They sell an amazing variety of South Texas natives. And it also can be a good location to see a variety of Valley butterflies. Good luck!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Birds are Creeping Northward
by Ro Wauer

During the last ten to twenty years we have seen increasing numbers of tropical bird species in the Golden Crescent. Species such as green jays, buff-bellied hummingbirds, green and ringed kingfishers, golden-fronted woodpeckers, white-tipped doves, great kiskadees, Couch’s kingbirds, cave swallows, and bronzed cowbirds have all been found on a regular basis. Most of these were considered only Mexican or at least Lower Rio Grande Valley birds until recent years. I remember visiting the Valley in the late 1960s to see many of these because they were not known any elsewhere in the United States. My first ever buff-bellied hummingbird was found at the home of a Valley fruit-grower. It could be expected nowhere else in the U.S.; now it is a full-time resident in the oaks growing around my home in Mission Oaks.

This northward movement of the breeding grounds of many birds is well documented, although this shift also is likely for many other groups of wildlife. Butterflies also are experiencing the same kind of movement, but their northward shift is far less understood than it is for birds. Although individual species of southern butterflies have been recorded in our area in recent years, proving population shifts is more difficult because they are subject to accidental dispersions from various weather patterns.

In a recent article in the newsletter of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, author John Rappole states that “at least 80 species of birds native to tropical, subtropical, or warm desert habitats have shown evidence of northward or eastward extension of the breeding distribution into, within, or beyond the borders of South Texas. These changes range from a few to several hundred kilometers and occurred over a relatively brief time period (decades)!” Rappole continues: “These changes are in line with regional climatic warming and possible drying…If predictions are correct, over the next century climate change will have an ecological effect roughly similar to moving the region 100 miles to the southwest.”

From an optimists’ point of view, assuming that the northward movement continues, the Golden Crescent could possible add a substantial number of bird species to our list of full-time residents. What are some of the species that we might expect in the near future? How about some parrots? A couple kinds of parrots have already resided in the Golden Crescent – probably escapees - but were unable to maintain a viable population for more than a few years. And Harris’ hawks; groove-billed anis; ferruginous pygmy-owls; lesser nighthawks; beardless flycatchers; verdins; black-crested titmice; black-tailed gnatcatchers; tropical parulas; long-billed thrashers; black-throated, Botteri’s and olive sparrows; hooded and Aububon’s orioles; and lesser goldfinches already occur in nearby counties to the south and/or southwest. It would not surprise me at all to find these birds nesting in the Golden Crescent; some already may.

The obvious follow-up question might be: with the climatic changes in our area that are likely to increase our list of breeding birds, what species that are currently nesting here might we loose? Probably not many or none at all. The waterbirds, including waterfowl, waders and shorebirds, should remain the same. We do need to worry about the changes in the blue crab populations along the coast; it is possible that we could loose the already endangered whooping cranes. And maybe our small population of Mississippi kites that currently are at the southern edge of their range might decline. This also may be the case for red-bellied woodpeckers, Swainson’s warblers, orchard orioles and a few other species.

Mother Nature is one fickle lady!