May 2 – 5, 2014
Mount Vernon Birding Festival – The Prairies and Pineywoods BirdFest.
This last weekend the ETNHC participated in the 1st Prairies and Pineywoods BirdFest. This festival which focused on birdlife in Northeast Texas was extremely well attended and well-organized. We were fortunate enough to be invited to conduct 2 nights of lighting events at the beautiful Selah Ranch facility. The night lighting occurred after desk on Friday, May 2 and Saturday May 3rd. Both evening events were extremely well attended. At the same time as our lighting events there were separate owl prowls going on which were highly successful in attracting local barred owls.
On Saturday, we were fortunate enough to attend the banquet and here the keynote speech given by the special invited guest Noppadol Paothong, author and photographer for Missouri conservationist magazine. Nop gave a wonderful presentation on North American grassland grouse, a topic that he has been studying and photographing for the last 11 years. He had copies of his book Save the Last Dance: a Story of North American Grassland Grouse available. I took the time to look through one and it is very clear that all of his efforts for the last 11 years have paid off richly. This is a magnificent book filled with the kind of photographs that give you real insight into the life of one of the most unique and unusual group of birds in North America. It was wonderful to sit next to Nop at dinner. Dr, Godwin and I had the pleasure to meet his wife and young daughter. They later joined us at the lights and continued to delight and amaze us with the way that they embraced the nighttime denizens of Northeast Texas.
We lit near a predominantly hardwood forest dominated by Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and the occasional honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos). The initial visitors to the sheets on both nights were swarms of caddis flies from a nearby creek but after it truly got dark the moths and beetles began to show up. On Friday night, we were visited by 2 male Luna moths (Actias luna) and a large variety of Noctuid and other common northeastern Texas moth species. We were quite pleased at the abundance on both nights, but on Saturday the warm day lead to increased eclosions of moths and greater diversity at the lights. We had 2 species of giant silkworm moth, the Luna Moth (Actias luna) and the Honey Locust moth (Sphingicampa bicolor). We had several sphinx moths come in including the White Lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata), Abbott’s Sphinx (Sphecodina abbottii) and a brief visit from one of the large Manduca Sphinx moths which are so common in this area. The sheets contained some really wonderful beetles. Dr. Godwin shared information about the Bombardier beetle (Brachinus species), the Caterpillar Hunter beetle (Calosoma scrutator) and the various June bugs (Phyllophaga sp.) that were commonly found throughout the night. One of the highlights was the arrival of a very primitive dung beetle (Bolbocerosoma speciosa) that buries balls of vegetation instead of dung for its larva to feed on. Dr. Godwin indicated that he had only seen this beetle one other time in the wild.
Many micro moths were collected for the Associates collection at the ETNHC. All in all we more than likely set between 30 and 50 new County records for Franklin County over the course of the 2 evenings. The results of the collecting will be included in our ongoing study of the moths of northeastern Texas.
We would like to thank the organizers of the Prairies and Pineywoods Bird Fest for including us in their event. A special thanks to Donna McFarland the Bird Fest chairman and the members of the Franklin County Historical Association for their hospitality. The staff at Selah Ranch, were gracious and the food that they served was simply wonderful. I hope that we are invited back next year, as this event truly highlighted the unique biodiversity, environment, and habitats that are available in this part of Texas. If you’re reading this and you’ve never been to this part of Texas I urge you to make your way and set up a tour of the Daphne Prairie, the Selah Ranch, and the other amazing habitats. If you need assistance you can contact Donna McFarland at the Franklin County historical Association or email Dr. Godwin who is well-connected and a long-time resident of this magnificent area in Texas.
We’re fortunate to have some photography by Daphne Hatcher, a well-known artist in residence at the Pine Mills studio near Quitman. These photos will give you a little idea of how wonderful the festival and the nighttime lighting events were. Thank you Daphne for permission to use these pictures.
The East Texas Natural History Collection is proud to be the first North American Host and partner with the International Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies. The Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies is a peer reviewed international Open Access Journal which is abstracted in various reputed databases. The Journal provides a platform with the aim of motivating students and personnel in all fields of Zoology.
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