Sunday, September 18, 2011

More Autumn Weather and Another New Bird

Yesterday I caught a quick glimpse at another bird I haven't yet seen around here before. Two of them were grabbing snack from my next door neighbor's feeder before they disappeared. I was only able to snap one quick photo.

That is a Western Scrub Jay. It's got to be because there are only so many blue colored birds around here, and it's too big to be an Indigo Bunting or Eastern Bluebird, and they didn't have crests like Blue Jays.

I tried to crop the photo to see it up close, but it came out blurry. Birds are really hard to photograph. They don't stay in one place for long, and don't let you get very close.

The Texas Hill Country is on the very eastern edge of this bird's geographic range. As you go east, they get replaced by blue jays. I see blue jays pretty much every day in my neighborhood, but never any other kind of jay, until now. I seem to remember hearing that scrub jays don't do as well as blue jays in more urban environments.

One thing I have been wondering during this drought is if Climate Change is going to make Texas drier, as well as warmer, and if so, will western species expand their ranges eastward. Scientists have already been observing southern species, such as Green Jays, much farther north than their previous ranges, and are attributing that to average temperatures becoming warmer, allowing these species to tolerate more northern latitudes.

Except Texas doesn't just have a temperature gradient going North to South, but also a moisture gradient going from East to West. East Texas is swamp and pine forest, while West Texas is grassland and desert. I'm in the middle of Texas, so there's an overlap here of a lot of typically eastern species (like Blue Jays) with a lot of typically western species (like Scrub Jays). I wonder if that's going to shift, and maybe some day Central Texas will end up looking like El Paso or something.

Well, after the Scrub Jays left, those dark clouds that had been teasing us all day finally gave us some rain! It will take a LOT of rain to undo this drought, but yesterday we did get an inch of rain, which ain't bad. It filled up the rain barrels and really cooled things down, and today we still have a 50% chance of getting more. Every little bit helps. I'm really itching to start planting my fall crops now that it's so nice and cool and wet out there.

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