Foam Lake Birding No. 81

No. 81
This is the last article from Texas for this winter as we should be home a week from the time of this writing. Then, it will be back to spring transients and early summer arrivals. I am looking forward to that.
This was a good winter for birding but not exceptional. Last week we went on a late evening nature hike to observe owls. We did not see any, but we did see our first scorpions and tarantulas. Scorpions climb trees at night looking for food. Here, a flashlight with an ultraviolet light filter causes the scorpion to glow a ghostly green against a purple background making it easy to observe them. Shades of CSI! The tarantulas (giant hairy spiders) were found on the dirt path warmed by the daytime heat. They could be and were picked up and handled. Even though they are gentle creatures by nature, they can bite if roughed up. My wife enjoyed carrying hers around.
Several days ago my wife and I were outside enjoying the late afternoon sun when the bushes about ten metres away exploded with hysterical squawking and screaming giving me quite a start. Suddenly, there were Chachalacas everywhere running in all directions but staying close to the bush. All became clear when a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk flew by and landed in a tree about two metres right above the Chachalacas. The noise persisted and then really got loud when the hawk flew down and started to chase the Chachalacas in the bush. One bird panicked and ran out of the bush right in front of us and then took off in flight. We could plainly see the terror in its eyes and hear the fear in its squawking. The hawk kept chasing the Chachalacas in the bush amidst a lot of frightful squawking but none were taken. The hawk returned to its perch, sat for awhile, then flew away. The Chachalacas were lucky in that the hawk was a juvenile and not that good at hunting. An adult would probably have gotten one, especially the one that ran out of cover toward us. Next day the Chachalacas were back as if nothing had happened. Humans with a scare like that would have needed counseling.
For my final bird of Texas for the season, I have chosen the Golden Fronted Woodpecker. It is very common here and seems to like people. Our trailer park is full of them. The name is appropriate as both males and females sport a golden yellow patch on their foreheads and napes (back of the heads). The male also has a red cap just above the golden forehead and another just above the golden nape. Unlike any other woodpeckers that I have run into, this is the only one that seems to like citrus fruit, especially grapefruit. Overall, they are grayish brown birds that look and behave a lot like our flickers except the flickers are larger.
This being the mating season, woodpeckers are drumming and staking out their territories. Before Europeans settled the Americas, woodpeckers liked to choose dead hollow trees to drum on because they would resonate and carry the sound a long ways. Today substitutes are utilized. One of the woodpeckers’ favourites seems to be metal clad buildings. When one starts drumming on our trailer the entire structure resonates. It is noisy but enjoyable. This spring, a pair of Golden Fronted Woodpeckers drilled out a nest hole in a tree in our backyard. It is too bad that we will not see the family being raised. So it is.