|Gayfeather on the dunes|
I spent the end of last week down in San Marcos giving a "Monarchs 101" talk to agency personnel. My monarch talk was something of an opportunistic afterthought, appended to an existing gathering of the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCP LCC). This organization was formed as a collaborative effort, driven by the Department of the Interior, to protect the Gulf Coast Prairie from threats including climate change and urbanization. Because Texas' geographic extent encompasses the funnel through which the majority of migratory monarchs pass every spring and fall, and because the Feds have been under a lot of pressure to develop a strategy to save the monarch butterfly migration, the GCP LCC and their partners are tackling this issue. I was brought in to provide an overview of monarch biology. I've discussed monarchs and other milkweed butterflies before in this blog.It's easy to forget about the coastal prairies up here in the Great Plains. After living in Nebraska, it's a stretch to imagine a tall grass prairie within earshot of the surf, but I've seen it. Last November I stopped off in Corpus Christi to visit Padre Island on my way to the Texas Butterfly Festival. There I found tall grass species commingling with yucca and hardy halophytes.
|A tallgrass dune system|
I didn't do much birding, but I saw a pair of crested caracaras gliding and diving in the dunes. These funky raptors are most closely related to falcons, but they live like vultures. They are inefficient hunters, and prefer carrion and thievery to catching their own dinner. They also look like they are wearing poorly fitted toupees. This 'bad wig' effect, combined with their pink faces, make them look rather non-threatening for a bird of prey. Their range barely extends into the US. The crested caracara heartland is Central America and northern South America.
|This bird doesn't mind the seaweed|
|Pelican and cormorants hanging out in the surf|