Saturday, July 26, 2003

Night in the Swamp

Since midnight I've been listening to a pair of Barred Owls performing a frenzied duet across the road. These owls have to be the most talkative I've ever heard, vocalizing constantly. Their cacophony might have involved more than two birds, I couldn't be sure how many I was hearing over the traffic noise. In addition to the typical Barred Owl call (usually described in the form of a question, as who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all?) I heard some rising shrieks and deranged kookaburra-like cackling. Very cool!

Not much other news to tell.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Thursday, July 24th

Went to Bennigan's on Thursday night, played NTN in the bar, and reached #9 in the network rankings! Birds seen around the yard that afternoon included a juvenile White-eyed Vireo, a Gray Catbird, and a Summer Tanager.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Barbeque & Birding Weekend

In Texas the Sky is bigger. It really is. When I lived in California the horizon was dominated and defined by mountains. Here the Earth is flat and the sky seems boundless. I notice clouds more than I ever used to. Texas is a good state for cloud watching.

I had the weekend off, and I took the opportunity to check out a couple of local restaurants. For months now I've been driving by Luther's Bar-B-Q, which is on the Eastex Freeway in Beaumont, but Saturday I actually stopped and had lunch there. It was OK, about the same as Willie Ray's Bar-B-Q on I-10 (most of these barbeque places seem to be about the same). The cole slaw was particularly good. Sunday I drove to Port Neches and ate at Billy Joe's Bar-B-Q. I had sliced beef and links. The food was tasty, and the prices were unusually low; for the quality and quantity of food I got it was a real bargain. I think we have a winner.

Saturday I planted three more shrimp plants to attract hummingbirds. They love the stuff. My yard is already a hummingbird magnet, but at this point I'm going for total overkill with the flowers. Sunday was hot, I mean really hot, but a good day for backyard birding. Saw both adult and juvenile Red-headed Woodpeckers, so I guess they must have nested somewhere in the neighborhood. Other birds in and around my yard on Sunday included Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher, Summer Tanager, Orchard Oriole, Gray Catbird, Wood Thrush, and House Finch.

Incidentally, the mosquitoes have arrived.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

A Barred Owl & My First Texas Hurricane!

Howdy y'all! I just got back from a late dinner at Bennigan's. It was a little before midnight, the storm clouds had cleared, the night air was calm, and a full moon was shining brightly. As I walked from the car to the house I heard a distant hooting. Barred Owl! I tried performing a bad immitation of its call, to which it responded with a much more believable imitation of its own. We called back and forth for a while, and then it moved closer and I got a brief glimpse of it in flight. Then it started again from a new perch, but I was unable to locate it with my flashlight. One more for the yard list!

Hurricane Claudette ravaged parts of Texas on Tuesday, making landfall farther down the coast. My little piece of heaven was spared its destructive fury, but we did get gusty winds and rain off and on. I did a little birding while picking up storm debris in the yard. The only noteworthy sighting in the wake of the storm was a fly-by Great Crested Flycatcher.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Saturday in the Swamp

Spent most of Saturday at home, enjoying the first nice sunny day in a long while. Saw a House Finch at the feeders, a Five-lined Skink (with bright blue tail) behind the house, and bats flying at dusk.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Another Rainy Day

More thunder, more rain. Some of my gardening efforts have been TOO successful, and I'm going to have to prune back or move some of my plants, they're beginning to crowd each other in places. A couple of weeks ago I accidentally stomped on one of my firebushes, breaking its stem. I just stuck the severed stem back into the ground, and now its flowering! I can't believe it survived. Mushrooms are sprouting everywhere. Every day I find more of them dotting the lawns. Being from California, I've always associated mushrooms with fall and winter, but here an abundance of fungi appears to be a summer phenomenon.

Lots of chickadees are at the feeders, and I heard a Pileated Woodpecker again a short while ago.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, etc.

After it stopped raining (temporarily) I went outside to photograph an Eastern Box Turtle that was resting under the Mexican honeysuckle in the front yard. Box turtles are very cooperative photography subjects, especially compared to small fast-moving tweety birds.

Then I visited Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, which is about an hour away from home. I drove the loop around Shoveler Pond, stopping here and there to take pictures. Saw the usual wading birds, a Least Bittern, several Purple Gallinules, 3 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, and a few alligators. Driving back along FM 1985 I stopped to check the small flocks of swallows perched near a couple of culverts, and found a few Cave Swallows among them.

Later, back in the swamp...

I had expected the summer heat and humidity to be intolerable, but here it is July and I'm not feeling the least discomfort. Either I've completely acclimatized or the really harsh heat waves haven't arrived yet. I had also expected summer birding to be a real drag, but there are still plenty of birds around, and even a few surprises. This afternoon I found 3 Gray Catbirds down by the pond. I saw one there back in April, but at the time I assumed it was just a migrant. No catbird sightings since then...could they have been here unnoticed by me the whole time? Summer Tanagers and Orchard Orioles are still present, and there is still at least one Red-headed Woodpecker in the neighborhood. Today I watched it fly into a tall pine carrying a BIG cicada (still alive & buzzing!) in its bill. Very cool.

Orange Birds

I work in the town of Orange, which is on I-10 just before it crosses the Sabine River into Louisiana. Apparently Orange's one noteworthy bird is the Fish Crow. About the Fish Crows of Orange, Edward Kutac, in his Birder's Guide to Texas, writes "they are regularly seen on shopping center parking lots." So much for birding in Orange.

Yes, there are Fish Crows in the parking lot where I work, but they aren't the only birds in town. There is often a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron standing in the median along I-10 near the 16th Street exit. Wading birds are constantly commuting over the store where I work. Great Egrets account for most of the air traffic, but I've also seen the occasional Roseate Spoonbill. Like anywhere else in East Texas there are Chimney Swifts and Great-tailed Grackles too. Yesterday I saw a Eurasian Collared Dove near the Taco Bell.

BOOM!!! I hear thunder again. Looking out the window I just saw a Swamp Rabbit near the road, Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the feeder, and a Brown Thrasher on the lawn. Pileated Woodpecker just called. Looks like it's gonna rain...again.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Weed Whacker Woes

I am not very adept when it comes to newfangled mechanical devices. Spent two hours this morning struggling with my new gas-powered weed whacker. First it wouldn't start. Then the line wouldn't feed. Then I changed spools and the line still wouldn't feed. Then I think I figured it out, but by then I was done cutting weeds. Next time I'll just buy a big pair of shears.

Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse are busy at the feeder as I type this, a Northern Cardinal is hopping around near the birdbath, and it just might rain again.