One of my favorite things about Texas State University is the nature encompassing it. Texas State is filled with beautiful scenery and lively wildlife. Wherever you go, there’s plants and animals to be found. I especially love the area around Sewell Park that includes the artificial lakes and the San Marcos River.
Of course the most common animal found on campus is the Eastern fox squirrel, a squirrel that is commonly found in the United States. There’s squirrels just about everywhere you go around campus. I love most animals, especially if they’re fuzzy and fur-covered, so I am a fan of squirrels and whenever I see one on campus, I like to spend a little time with him, if I’ve got some to spare. I especially enjoy watching squirrels find food, nibble on it a bit, and then bury it in the ground for later. They always look so funny when they bury things.
The Eastern fox squirrel, found on campus, is a larger-sized squirrel with a long furry tail that’s 40% of their body length! They are often silver or grey with a light red-brown stomach. They like to sit in an upright position when eating. They are excellent tree climbers because of their sharp claws and masculine bodies. They most enjoy tree-filled areas where they can collect nuts and prefer oak, hickory, walnut, and pine trees.
Another common animal found on campus is the great-tailed grackle. These birds are commonly known as blackbirds because the males are completely black. In the sunlight, though, their feathers tend to glean a variety of colors including blue and purple. I actually think that these birds are quite pretty when their feathers show a multitude of colors, especially because these colors are some of my favorites.
Female grackles are more of a grey and brown color and their feathers are often more rough-looking than their male counterparts. While the males’ feathers are long and gracefully fit along the form of the bird, the females’ feathers are often patchy and messy-looking. It makes it appear as if the bird is losing feathers or didn’t really have many to begin with.
I really have a thing for birds, especially because I love feathers. Male great-tailed grackles are beautiful in my eyes because of their spectacular colors and their long feathers. They also have very long and beautiful tails, which is where their name comes from.
I also like birds for the many, interesting sounds that they make. The grackle has a variety of calls, some melodic, but most found annoying to people. I like to hear their calls and will often try to find the bird once I hear him singing. It’s entertaining to find a grackle when it’s making a wind-up toy-esque noise because the bird will puff up, ruffling its feathers out while it makes the cry, then exhale and return to its normal size.
Around the artificial ponds surrounding the theatre building, a large variety of animals can be found including turtles, fish, and birds. There’s usually some ducks around there when you walk by. I love stopping by this area to see the animals. If I’m ever having a really stressful day, I can count on the ducks to help me relax. We’re not allowed to feed them, so they really don’t get a lot of attention and don’t like to be approached, but if you’re calm around them, they’ll be calm around you.
I’m not particularly fond of the muscovy ducks because of the weird crusty appearance of their faces, but I’m still pretty happy spending time with just about any animal. The muscovy ducks come in a wide range of colors from light to dark. They can be black or white, grey or brown, green or blue. They often have spots or patches on their feathers and can sometimes sport a crest upon their head. They enjoy lounging around the base of the trees or wading about in the shallow ends of the ponds.
A rare duck that can be found on Texas State grounds is the Egyptian goose. I’m not sure exactly why the goose can be found here in San Marcos, Texas because it’s native to Africa and the Nile River. Somehow it’s made the San Marcos River its home.
Like the muscovy duck, it’s mostly terrestrial and likes to perch around the trees we have on campus. Unlike the muscovy duck, though, they don’t come in a variety of colors and patterns. All Egyptian geese generally look alike, even the males and females, with the males only slightly larger than their female partners. The males do, however, have a different voice than the females, a hourse, subdued quack. The females are much noisier in order to protect their young.
I do enjoy the company of the Egyptian geese more, though. They like to walk around the pond and even follow the sidewalks around the water. They’re usually more active than the muscovy ducks as they rest, drink water, swim in the shallows, walk along the paths, and explore the banks. I followed one, in particular, around for quite a while one day as he, (or she,) walked from pond to pond.
About seven or eight years ago, Texas State became home to another bird, the American black vulture. These birds are said to have been attracted to the campus as the amount of litter and dead animals increased, which they enjoy feeding upon. Finding this area as the perfect home full of shelter, water, and food, they began perching within the university’s trees and upon the JC Kellum building, the closest building to the university ponds. Because of this nuisance, Professor David Huffman has placed spikes along the building’s windowsills to prevent the large birds from perching along the sides of the building. Allthough the spikes keep them from the windows, nothing stops them from perching atop the roof.
I am quite intrigued by these large, hulking, black birds. They’re size is impressive, especially when they stretch out their full wingspans. I often see them within the trees and in large groups. I like seeing them on the ground, though, because they hop and skulk about.
Another bird that has made the San Marcos River its home is the great blue heron. The largest North American heron, the great blue heron likes wetland areas and shores of open water in which it can wade. I’ve seen this bird hanging around the river in Sewell Park, wading amongst the elephant ears and other green foliage, but only once. For some reason, this bird is the most elusive of them all, or at least when I’m around.
Great blue herons are actually quite adaptable and can be found throughout most of North America. Wherever there is a water, a heron can be found, whether it be freshwater or saltwater, a marsh or swamp, deep water or shallow water. As long as the waters provide the fish the heron needs to survive, the bird can be found wading about the shorelines. Although they spend much of their time in the water, they nest in the trees and bushes along the coast and will occasionally fly about. They’re favorite places to nest are on small islands, in order to protect their young from potential predators.
A lot of birds can be found on Texas State University grounds, but I’ve saved my favorite bird found on campus for last, the great egret, otherwise known as the great white egret, common egret, large egret, or great white heron. I love this egret because of its majestic and elegant appearance. This all-white bird likes to wade in the waters on campus and looks beautiful from all angles with it’s long, thin appearance. I just love the poses this bird makes with its flexible neck, especially when it creates a distinct “S” shape.
The great egret is slightly smaller than a great blue heron and can be distinguished from other egrets by its yellow beak and black legs. I can stand over 3 feet tall and have a wingspan that stretches over 5 feet long. Because this bird is migratory, it’s not always seen around San Marcos, but when it is spotted, it’s always a treat for me. I especially like seeing this bird in flight as it looks quite majestic. The egret is one of the few birds that flies with its neck retracted up against its shoulders rather than extended, like cranes. I really enjoy whenever I get to see a great egret here on campus.
Texas State University is a beautiful campus with a wonderful environment for animals. Because of the San Marcos River that flows through Sewell Park and the many artificial ponds that surround the theare building, the campus attracts a wide variety of wildlife, especially waterfowl and other birds. Of course, there are more animals than the ones listed in this post, but these are the only ones, so far, that I’ve been able to capture on film. I love the animals here on campus and hope to continue photographing their beauty.