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      Nature Report: Memorable Encounters of 2009

      The year 2009 was an extraordinary year in the South Texas Wildlands, and as the seasons progressed there were many memorable wildlife encounters.

      Sometimes, you did not even have to travel far to find an interesting story as early in the spring a pair of Carolina wrens decided to raise their brood in my mailbox.

      Another spring treat were the parrots that visited the old backyard feeder throughout the day.

      Red-crowned, yellow-headed and red-lored parrots made themselves at home.

      The spring migration of songbirds thru South Padre Island was spectacular, and proved to be a banner year for painted buntings as they arrived in bountiful numbers on the Island.

      Following the spring migration, nesting season in the ranch country began in earnest.

      The vermillion flycatchers were busy feeding a threesome of youngsters in their tiny cup of a nest concealed in the crook of an ebony branch.

      Nearby, the brown crested flycatchers took up residence in a weathered fence post.

      The record for nestlings went to the loggerheaded shrikes, who somehow managed to feed and care for a brood of six rambunctious youngsters.

      Abundant rainfall helped produce myriad butterflies, including shimmering malachites and Mexican blue wings.

      By late fall and early winter it was time to turn one's attention to whitetail deer, and this was an exceptional year for antler development in the South Texas Wildlands.

      2009 was an exciting time in the Valley outdoors, and I am already looking forward to next year.