Rails and Tails

Hello everyone! Trying to get ahead of the posting curve as it looks like we might be heading back out for an extended period of time in the proverbial field. If plans work out it will be later this month – cautiously trying to not jinx us as we had some very difficult times trying to get to places towards the end of last year. Unexpected family situations and a bout with Covid threw those plans right into the dumpster. More on that as we electric slide closer to those dates. In the meantime I have some topics in my queue and there are several in Brad’s queue I want to get to before then. He will be traveling as well, so doing my best to get everything timed out correctly. To keep things rolling, here’s a series I took back in January 2022 (essentially yesterday for those of us here at Intrigued ha).

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

As you can hopefully make out from this distant shot, today’s feature has fur instead of feathers. Hit the jump to learn more about this rather big eared creature that showed up while I was hunting for Clapper Rails.

For a bit of background, Linda and I were making our annual visit to Galveston Island State Park. To be honest, the targets were starting to getting pretty slim there likely scared off by all the construction. The campground areas were being renovated after being damaged by the hurricane that passed through there a few years back. The shore side was completely closed down and they only had a few sites still available on the other side of the road – which is really the main part of the park. We opted to stay at a nearby RV resort instead and made our way over there to search for Average Year checks (link here).

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

Based on our numerous visits there, we’ve come to expect to tick off three key species. The Loggerhead Shrike (link here), consistently hangs out along the entry road. Not a rare bird down there by any means, but I like to get that checked off early as they can be a bit skittish and have a bad habit of taking flight whenever I jump out of the vehicle to get a snap. Another key get there is the White-Tailed Kite (link here). There always seems to be a pair hunting the open fields and unlike the Shrike, allow me to walk up and down the entry road getting good shots of their hunting prowess.

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

Then there is the Clapper Rail. I do have a relief valve when it comes this particular species as Ron and I can usually find one at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center – problem is, those shots are usually from a higher plane as we are limited by the boardwalks there. Just realized when looking for the link that I haven’t posted my Galveston encounters with the Clapper – need to take care of that, in the meantime, here is the link to an SPI encounter – link here). Getting a bit off track here, but to sum it up, I have found one of the best places to get ground level pictures of a Clapper Rail is on the Clapper Rail trail at this state park and that is exactly where I was when I spotted this Coyote staring at me from afar (see first shot).

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

I already had made plenty of clicks on the Rail that was once again hanging out on the banks of the inlet and decided to investigate why this unexpected visitor was eyeballing me. Slowly moved closer trying to let the tall grass conceal me as much as possible – it knew I was there, but no need to cause it any more concern than I already had. Eventually it lost interest in me and proceeded along the bar – think the water was lower than usual as I don’t recall this stone area being there in previous years.

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

Eventually made it to a point where I had a good view of the area. Did some quick scans expecting to see some unsuspecting duck or maybe a Snowy Egret too engrossed in splashing the water with its yellow galoshes to sense the oncoming danger. Nope, nada, nothing of the sorts. My piqued curiosity was quickly answered when the Coyote grabbed a fish carcass off the rocks. At the time I couldn’t tell how picked over the prize was until I saw all the bones in the digital darkroom. The Coyote didn’t look malnourished, but it was definitely pleased with the find regardless of the condition.

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

I continued watching and clicking from my partially concealed location for a few more minutes when things turned more aggressive. First thought was it realized I had cut the original distance and this change in temper was directed at me. It was going to have to get wet to cause harm – based on my lengthy experiences with these creatures (they are abundant in our surrounding woods), that tends to be a ways down the list of situational options. Apparently what I couldn’t see was a Cormorant or some other large bird below the field of vision on my side of the water.

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

The Coyote started getting mouthy which flushed the bird from its location. Not exactly sure what the bird was as I staying focused on the Coyote that was following the bird’s egress – this time with the deadly weapons on full display.

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

Smart bird, took a safe route out and never came back. Threat neutralized, the Coyote returned to its “Precious”, gathered it up. Now you can see how clean the bones were – on closer look, this may be a bird’s rib cage and not a fish spine – hard to tell for sure. If there had been any thought of getting a bit closer, that was now nixed witnessing the pearly white fangs. At this point my brain also decided it was time to remind me they are “pack” animals.

Coyote found at Galveston Island State Park, TX in January 2022

Glanced about, didn’t notice any den friends – not that they would likely risk confrontation outside of a mother protecting her cubs. It was time to say goodbye and check out the Belted Kingfisher that had been rattling back where the Rail was.

As an update, we didn’t see any Coyotes on our recent visit. I didn’t bother taking that trail this year as I already had the Rail checked a few days before while on South Padre Island (we reversed our usual travel direction).

Take care all, you will probably hear from Brad next, so stay tuned.

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