(sometimes known as the "rick, don't touch that!" page.)
   LAST UPDATE: 07/12/2017          PREVIOUS UPDATE: 06/23/2017 
 -----                 --LET'S SEE WHAT THAT RASCAL RICKUBIS IS UP TO!  
------------------------------- -   
                                                DOES THE CAPTION  SAY "IT'S LIVE"?  IF IT DOESN'T, IT ISN'T.  

     Usually, the newest material on my pages appears here first. But sometimes, it doesn't.  I'll try this--here is a list of pages that have been recently updated (except this one--you can see that here).  Visit them directly to see what
 else is new. I'm still updating my pages--I'm just not always putting the newest material on
this page. Lately I've been spending my usual "web page" time expanding the images on my old pages, so updates here haven't been as common.
When I started this domain, the only way to connect was via dial up--and slow dial up at first. Everything I posted then was configured so dial up users could download and see the pages.
Now I'm upgrading what and when I can so the old
 media looks better.

                         Page name                                   Last Update
                     Texas Rat Snakes                       Newly added  3/25/17 New page where I will put my Rat Snake pics and videos from over the years.
                                                                     01/22/2017  1
                                                                     01/22/2017  2
                     Blue Gray Gnatcatchers foraging in the air filmed at 480 fps  01/08/2017 Newly added  1/20/17
                     White Pelicans group feeding filmed 30 fps and 480 fps  01/02/2017 Newly added  1/15/17
                     Cormorants taking off filmed 480 fps  12/26/2016 Newly added  

07/08/2017    Russ Pitman park is a small park in Bellaire, Texas. It covers 4 acres. I had just walked in, and  I saw a Cooper's hawk about 20 feet away, on a branch about
8 feet above the ground. It flew past me, and landed on the small waterfall near the new "wetland" area. This was only about 20 yards away, so I stopped moving, and watched
the hawk as it moved on the waterfall. After a few minutes, it was joined by another hawk. and they took turns bathing in the water. After about 10 minutes, one of the hawks
flew towards me, and landed on a branch. Then it took off and flew right past me (about 10 feet from me!). Meanwhile, the other hawk remained in the water. 5 minutes later,
if also flew towards me, and landed on the same branch. I stood and watched it for about 20 minutes-waiting for it to take off. It finally did, and I could move along the trail.
It was wonderful to be so close to the hawks for 30 minutes.
I thought it was great. The images below are photos that I took during this bath.


Not long after, I found two Cooper's hawks higher in a tree...along with 2 *more* hawks. So, I walked around the trails, to see how they've been improved and watched the
4 hawks from different angles. I also heard them calling to each other. I was able to enjoy the presence of the hawks for about about an hour and a half. I thought it was great.
The two images below are two more photos I took during this time. The image below right shows 3 of the hawks in a group. One of them had just flown down to the "pocket prairie" area. An intern at
the park told me that 2 of the immature Cooper's hawks had grown from a nest in the park: while 2 more immature hawks apparently came from somewhere else and settled in
the park.


The images below are framegrabs from the video clip that can be seen here. The video clip is about 5 minutes long and shows the Cooper's hawks bathing, and then
one flying out of the pool, the off a branch later. The last two events were recorded as high-speed video.



                                                                             CLICK ON THE IMAGE, OR CLICK HERE TO GO THERE. I'VE BEEN BUYING MUSIC FROM THEM SINCE 2003.
     To go back to my home page, click Welcome to Rickubis.com
A few comments about alligators.(2451kb)

Click this image  to see a flv video movie (625kb) of a series of eleven 11 x 14 posters I've made.

Click here to see pictures of some shirts I've designed advertising my website.

For the story of my new titanium/ceramic toy, click here  to see how I've been recovering. I've come to think that these
pages are less about me, than what I'm writing about, but some people were concerned. So, this page will show how it went.

.Click here for the RICKUBISCAM GALLERY! ----a chronicle of past rickubiscam images.
(doesn't that sound dramatic?)
Aside from the gallery, lower on this page,  there is a short list of previous "events" that I've  given special notice to with the RICKUBISCAM.
Subjects that I feel will fit the theme of one of my other pages  will eventually be moved off of this one.

DOES IT.  (Page refresh changed to 60  minutes (3600sec.) 05/06/2001)
  RICKUBISCAM on the RICKUBISCAM on the RICKUBISCAM on the....                  REPTILE GLASSES

Certain natural observations that first appeared on this page have been moved to my other pages. See the following links
for this information:

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages:
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction---------Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1-------------------------------------------Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3-Snakes-nonvenomous 4---------------Spiders
Birds-Grebes--Birds-Other Birds--Birds-Herons

06/10/2017 and 07/04/2010    While volunteering at Brazos Bend State Park, I've been asked about many things in the park. Sometimes visitors will ask about the "beautiful black birds with the iridescent feathers" that they've
seen.  The birds are usually male Grackles (Great-Tailed [Quiscalus mexicanus] or Boat-Tailed [Quiscalus major] (which I can't tell apart)). I've heard some people say "Oh, those are just Grackles (or "*only* Grackles).
 All birds can be amazing to someone. Many of our visitors at BBSP are not from around here, and may have never seen a  Grackle.  And, they *are* beautiful. Grackles also can be fascinating because of what they can do.
Here are some examples that I've seen.

In July of 2010, I watched Grackles catching crawfish at BBSP. When compared to the expert herons nearby, their technique was imprecise and comedic, but some of the Grackles did succeed.


As I watched, I was impressed by a few things. First, crawfish aren't likely to be "normal" prey for Grackles (though Grackles eat all kinds of things). So at some point the Grackles had to learn they were good to eat.
It's possible they could have stolen crawfish from other birds or eaten their leftovers to learn this.
Second, I figured that the Grackles had to learn--somehow--how to catch crawfish. To do that, there are issues like dealing with the distortion caused by refraction, or even recognizing prey in the water.
Third, even after a Grackle successfully snared a crawfish, it sometimes seemed at a loss on what to do next. Those claws can be intimidating.  So, I began to wonder how Grackles might have learned how to do this, and
I thought that they might have learned by watching other, more successful wading birds. But after time passed, I stopped thinking about Grackles foraging in water.
My video of the Grackles eating crawfish can be seen at this link.
(update 6/23/2017) I had more video shot the same day of a single Grackle as it works with a single crawfish. I've put that together
into a new, 17 minute video at this link.

Then, on June 10, 2017 (last weekend) I watched Grackles catching fish at Bishop Fiorenza park. Again, I noticed that the Grackles' technique was less efficient than the Egrets' near them. I thought that the Grackles
had to develop their *own* technique. It certainly involved more effort than the Herons and Egrets used.
High-speed Video of their efforts is here.



This time, I looked online for information about Grackle intelligence & I found studies by Corina Logan on Great-Tailed Grackles which showcase their "Behavioral flexibility". 
Here are 2 articles that describe her work.  article 1   article 2
Basically Grackles (in the family of Icterids) haven't proven to be the "innovators" (or tool-users) that Crows or Ravens ( in the family of birds called Corvids) are. But, they can adapt
their behavior to meet new challenges.
For more information, visit Corina Logan's page.

05/07/2017 Bullfrog calling...revisited
   Last year,  I discovered that male bullfrogs' ears are twice as large as the females' not to hear better than the females. Instead, the large ear helps increase the power
of the bullfrog's call. That is, the large ears don't help them hear better....the large ears help them sound better!  Since then, I've been trying to get better video of male bullfrogs calling. I have finally captured
some video at 480 frames per second (FPS).  The video clearly shows the movement of the ear membranes.

The two images below are frame grabs from one of the video clips. The images show one ear membrane distended, and then collapsed. The video is at this link.


   Easter Sunday is usually busy at Brazos Bend State Park. So, I usually bring my bicycle to allow me to cover more of the trails. Today I rode about 16 miles,
repeating loops over the Elm Lake, Spillway, Pilant Slough, Live Oak, and 40 Acre Lake trails. I was riding West on the Spillway Trail when a couple of park visitors called my
attention to a Barred Owl in a tree above the trail. There was an adult in one tree, and there was a juvenile owl in another tree. I stopped and watched for a while. The visitors
told me that the adult had had a crawfish and they thought it would try to feed the young owl. I didn't see the crawfish, and just got one picture of the adult. The young owl
hopped from branch to branch, and then took a short, risky flight to another tree (I caught this with video). The adult flew off, and the young owl-apparently exhausted-laid
forward and rested on the branch.

About 5 minutes later, I noticed some park visitors looking at something at the edge of the trail about 20 paces East. When I went there, I saw a beautiful Broadbanded Water Snake
in a high periscope position. I explained that the snake was raising its head above the ground cover to see what what around it, and that it probably intended to cross the trail. The snake
lowered itself into the cover, and appeared again next to the trail as a shorter periscope. And then...it crossed.  This video shows the snake moving across the trail. Notice how the markings
on the snakes face cross the jawline, and the orange, black, red and brown coloration. These markings clearly identify this snake and differentiate it from any of the 3 venomous snakes
that might be encountered at the park.

I returned about an hour later, and the young owl was still where I'd left it. But,tt stood up, and began grooming itself, then stood still. I rode on, and didn't see it again. This video shows the
owl's short flight, and then grooming itself an hour later. It appears to be removing the fluffy downy coverning to uncover the feathers underneath. According to the Audubon website
(http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barred-owl ) young Barred Owls take their first flight at about 6 weeks old. 


02/19/2017  Set up the spotting scope by the mom and babies again today, from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. I talked to 200 park visitors during that time, shared the view of the mom and babies through
the scope, and shared information with them. Today, an American Bittern foraged in the area during the entire time. Bitterns are interesting anyway (see them on my page here), but one has been
observed taking a baby alligator at the park in 2015. So, I could show this example of one of the many predators which eat baby alligators.  This one stayed away from the babies, and captured a number of crawfish.  
This one stayed away from the babies, and captured a number of crawfish.  And, below, another picture of the babies, this time on the mother's snout.

Here's some further information that can be shared while looking at this mom and babies. The pictures below are pictures from
February 12, of the same mother and babies.
As volunteers at BBSP, we are told that male alligators can be about 14 feet long, while female alligators rarely get longer than 9 feet. The "alligator fact sheet" found
on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website :  "http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_w7000_0488.pdf"
states "females seldom reach over 9 feet in length, while males may reach 14 feet These figures can also be found in many other places, in print or online.
I have also seen speculation that alligators continue growing throughout their lifetimes.  This is not true. The growth curves for male and female alligators do flatten out, starting
at about 40 years. For many years I've wondered *why* the difference in length between male and female alligators? After all, they live in the same environment; and have access to the same
There's a hint In this study: Growth Rate of American Alligators in Estuarine and Palustrine Wetland in Louisiana William L. Rootes, Robert H. Chabreck  (1991), they state:
"In our study, male alligators grew faster than females after they reached 1 meter Total Length; therefore, males became considerably larger than females. (P.491) " and
"The slower growth rate of adult female alligators as compared to adult males may be related to the greater energy expenditure by females during reproduction. (P.492)"
In another study (referred to me by Ph.D. Candidate, Biologist Abby Lawson): Determinate Growth and Reproductive Lifespan in the American Alligator
(Alligator mississippiensis): Evidence from Long-term Recaptures by Philip M. Wilkinson, Thomas R. Rainwater, Allan R. Woodward, Erin H. Leone,
and Cameron Carter  (published 2016) they gathered data over 40 years.
The greatest lengths were:  females:  213.4 to 293.6 cm  (7 - 9.6 ft) ; males: 325.1 to 380.4 cm    ( 10.6 - 12.4 ft) This study was done in  SC (South Carolina) and alligators grow slower
there than here in Texas.  But length of mature specimens was the same. It just takes longer to get there. This study also gives female reproductive efforts as a cause for the size difference
between male and female alligators. When stated in more detail, this makes sense. I got most of the following information from pages 849-850 of the study.
The growth of female crocodilians slows and finally stops when they reach the size which balances with the energy they expend. Males expend less energy during the reproductive process
than females do.  
Both sexes expend energy during courtship, competing for mates, and copulation. But after all that, female alligators construct the nest, produce the eggs, guard the nest, help with hatching and guard the young.
Both sexes grow quickly until they are big enough to prevent most predation upon them. Then, females' energy shifts toward reproduction. Even so, larger females would be able to take better nesting sites, so
some further growth would be useful to them. but they still stop growing at about 9 feet.  Male alligators grow quickly when they're young, but continue growing after maturity. This allows males to quickly
get big enough to compete with other males for territories and habitats.
uarding the nest requires 60 days, (and my guess is it's) during the season when prey and alligators are most active. Previous and newly-hatched young will be protected for a year or more.  So, that is why
a full-grown male alligator is about half again as large as a full-grown female.  

02/05/2017  I've been volunteering at Brazos Bend State Park for a little over 15 years.  Often, while I'm out there, I do what is called "trail interpretation". There are different ways that this can play out.
This time, I brought a spotting scope with me, and brought it near one of the alligators that had a pod of babies. Visitors who walked by would have seen and heard something like this:

  "Hi!! Can you see what I've been watching over there?"  

  "Yes! There's an alligator out there, about 20 yards away. But...can you see the other 15?"    

"That's a female alligator,and her babies are around her. In fact, some are on her back. I have the scope focused on her."  
"You're welcome to take a look through the scope. That's why I've set it up. I've set it low so that children can look through it, too."

  "Can you see the babies?. That "rock" they're on is, in fact, her back. At that size, they would have hatched last September."(Pic shot with my phone through the scope.)  

  I have spent many hours doing this, and on February 5, 2017 I spent more hours doing the same thing. Using the opening described, I could go to all sorts of information about
alligator behavior and biology...and even other subjects about the life in the park.  It's a wonderful way to spend time. Here is a larger picture of the mom and babies
that I took on this day. It's from a number of zoomed images that I was able to stitch together. There are at least 9 babies on her. 

01/08/2017  Today, I was able to capture some high-speed video (480 fps) of some Blue Gray Gnatcatchers (polioptila caerulea) as they foraged among the trees. According to The Sibley Guide of
Bird Behavior, these birds eat small insects and spiders. Sometimes, they open their tails to expose the white feathers, and flick the tail upwards--possibly to scare prey out
so they can catch it.  I don't see this behavior in these two clips.  In the first clip, the gnatcatcher appears to pick something off the underside of a branch. In the second clip, the gnatcatcher is
hovering in front of a bunch hanging dead leaves. Then it turns its head sideways to focus an eye inside the leaf, then takes off.
This bird *does* open its tail, but it appears to me to be using it to stabilize flight.  I'm impressed by the number of times the birds pull in their wings and are briefly suspended,
in a "free-fall" situation.  The edited video clip is here.  The three images below are frame-grabs from the video.


7/24/2016 Brazos Bend State Park reopened this week!  Even this long after the flood, the park shows signs of what the high water had done. In this long panorama shot, here are two interesting examples.
40 Acre lake is almost totally choked by Water Hyacinth. But....Pilant Lake is more open than I've ever seen it in 14 years! Take a look. Click the image to see a larger version--then scroll across.

And another wonderful thing!  The Golden Silk Spiders (Nephila clavipes) have come back. The numbers of these spiders had dwindled since the big drought of 2011, and on some trails where I'd previously
seen hundreds or thousands....I saw few. In fact, so few that I didn't feel comfortable disturbing any of them.  This year, there are many more, and I was able to gently borrow one from her web to show to
some park visitors. Afterwards, I placed her back into her web.  Here she is:


04/08/2012---Easter Sunday at BBSP gets very busy. This year, I had time to put a camera on my bicycle handlebars and do a quick ride on the Elm Lake Trail before it got busy. I was experimenting with doing "virtual" trail tours of the park.
I'm not sure if this works or not, but here is an edited version of the footage I filmed. A surprise unique to the park happens near the 6:47 mark. Links to the video are here (files are about 200mb):  Elm Lake trail mp4  
Elm Lake trail wmv.

11/06/2011---Piper the Pup
   now has her own page. For Piper-related news, you can go here.

         ------------------------------------      40 ACRE LAKE!!  11/19/2006
Here is a picture I shot 11/19/2006 from the top of the Observation Tower at 40 Acre Lake. What an improvement from the summer! Click on the image for one that's a little bigger.  

I have created all the content on *my* pages. That means that I have either shot the video, taken the pictures, or performed any demonstrations. That also means that I've edited every image on these pages, that is, I've cropped, enhanced, resized, labeled, and otherwise optimized
*every* single image on my pages. That means that I've also edited, enhanced, extracted images from, recoded (in two or three or four formats) every *video clip* on these pages. I've also, for better or worse, composed all the text and layout on these pages. I've had to learn to use the
various utilities for doing all of this, as well as finding and legally getting copies of them in the first place. I'm also responsible for all the hardware used to do this. I also pay for the server space used for all of this information as well as for my access to it. It costs a lot of money, time,
and effort to put these pages out here...hopefully to entertain and to inform. And this is *after* I spend time at my "day job".  People are welcome to the information here, but if it's used elsewhere, then I deserve credit for my effort. If it is used for someone else's profit, then I deserve
part of that profit. *That* is the purpose of my notices about copyright.

           This page was born 9/16/1999.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.)
           Go back to my home page, Welcome to Rickubis.com
How many come by to see the RICKUBISCAM ? Well, lets look at the counterprovided by: WEBCOUNTER.
           Counter started June 18, 2001. 1/10/2012 = 10473 3/25/2014 10904  
9/12/2014 = 10959  11/19/2015 = 11137 2/16/2017 = 11326
It's the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra!  Go buy it! This movie makes me laugh all the time. If you share my love of 50' B-movies, you'll probably like this movie.
Check these clips  01--02--03--04--05--06--07  (1 & 5 should interest my ranger friends).  They are in chronological order, but don't give away too much.
Clips copyright of the various owners. No ownership by me is implied and clips are only here to promote the film.