Sunday, September 28, 2003

KKK In Lumberton, Birds In My Backyard

Today the Klu Klux Klan came to Lumberton in a gray bus decorated with confederate flags (on their peace, love and understanding tour, I presume). I was stuck behind them in traffic and had to change lanes to get around them, because rascists apparently drive very slowly. I saw them pull into the Market Basket parking lot...I guess even militant white supremicists need to eat.

Tonight it was dinner, drinks, and trivia at Bennigan's, listening to Merle Haggard, and reading about the nature/nurture debate. Did some yardwork today, raking up and burning a fresh harvest of fallen leaves...that's how you spend your day off when you have a huge lawn and lots of trees...

Some bird species are always present here, like the Carolina Chickadees that daily visit my feeders, and others only appear at irregular intervals, like the Inca Doves and Brown-headed Nuthatches that I saw on Friday. So what's with the corvids? Blue Jays have been unusually numerous and much more conspicuous around here lately, and considering the increase in air traffic that I've observed there must be some major movement going on. Lately I've also been seeing (well, actually hearing) more American Crows in the neighborhood. Until recently this species was one that I seldom encountered here (Fish Crows have generally been much more common).

Now there's only two things in life, but I forget what they are - John Hiatt

Friday, September 26, 2003

Vireo Day

Thursday was Vireo Day here. Spent about an hour birding in and around my yard, and saw 1 Yellow-throated, 1 White-eyed, and at least 3 Red-eyed Vireos. Warblers remain oddly elusive, and winter residents and migratory species that breed far to the north have been conspicuously absent. Other birds seen here today included Chimney Swift, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Summer Tanager.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Who Needs Hawk Mountain?!

On Monday I discovered that there was some high-altitude hawk migration going on in the sky above my home. So today, at about noon, I took my scope into the backyard and started scanning the sky for raptors, hoping for a repeat performance. My search was soon rewarded. What started as a small stream of birds soon became a great swirling kettle, and within minutes I counted over 300 hawks! This estimate is on the conservative side - I couldn't keep an accurate tally because so many were passing so quickly. They definitely appeared to be moving in a southwesterly direction.

To the naked eye these birds would pass unnoticed, because they are almost impossible to see without the magnification provided by binoculars. Great distance, high altitude, and the quick arrival and departure of these kettles also makes identification of individuals difficult, but my impression was that they were mostly Broad-winged Hawks, with a few Black and Turkey Vultures in the mix. The day's best bird, however, was a bit of a surprise. One of the first soaring birds that I picked out was an Anhinga, circling raptor-like into the distant stratosphere. Score one more for the yard list!

Passerine migration was also evident, albeit somewhat less exciting. Highlights included an Eastern Wood-Pewee and a singing White-eyed Vireo at the far end of the pond.

Other events of the refrigerator has stopped working. All the food I had in it is wasted. And I might soon be transferred to another store, which could offer a more desirable work schedule, but nothing is certain yet...stay tuned...

Monday, September 22, 2003

Fun in Houston, Birdy Day

Sunday I awoke in the pre-dawn darkness to the sound of rain pounding on the roof. It was 7am but the sun called in sick and never bothered to show up for work. Not letting torrential rain and hazardous road conditions deter me, I drove to Houston to see Troy and Elizabeth. Speaking of road hazards, from their house in Spring we went up to The Woodlands to see a movie, and on the way we had an interesting encounter with a couple of young African-American women in a Nissan Pathfinder. It started when they cut us off on I-45. Troy honked at them. They flipped us off. We laughed at them. Then one of them leaned out the window and waved a gun at us.

Ironically, we were on our way to see "Once Upon A Time In Mexico," which turned out to be a cinematic celebration of extreme gun violence and brutal what we experienced on our way to the theater was sort of a preview...

I'm numb as a statue
I may have to beg, borrow or steal
Some feelings from you
So I can have some feelings too - Warren Zevon

Fall migration is in full swing, and today was a very birdy day in the swamp. While following a single Broad-winged Hawk with my binoculars I discovered a swirling kettle of hawks circling high in the stratosphere - scanning the sky I counted about 30 Broad-wings in 3 kettles. There were also a few Turkey Vultures among them, and I later saw a lone Black Vulture. Other smaller birds were also on the move; these included numerous Chimney Swifts, Barn Swallows, and a single Cliff Swallow (a first for my yard list). Blue Jays were constantly flying by on their way to somewhere else. A Warbling Vireo that briefly visited a tree in my backyard furnished yet another first sighting. Walking around the pond I saw Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers, Pine Warbler, and a singing Eastern Wood-Pewee. At least 4 Summer Tanagers (one an adult male) were coming to a fruiting bush in a neighbor's yard.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Lizard Invasion

Occasionally I find a cockroach inside the house, but tonight it was a tiny baby gecko instead of an insect that was wriggling across the bathroom floor. I ran to the kitchen to get something to put it in, and found a second one on the kitchen counter! These are the first reptiles to be found inside the house, and the discoveries were made within seconds of each other! This can't be a coincidence, and where there are two there are probably many more. That they are entering the house may be a response to the heavy rain of the last 24 hours. The pond is full again, with water flowing over the spillway!

Today I saw a Belted Kingfisher at the pond - the first one I've seen here in months. A foraging flock that passed through the trees in my yard this afternoon included White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, a Pine Warbler or two, and a couple of Summer Tanagers. Birds are definitely on the move and I'm starting to see the leaves turn to autumn colors.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


More rain, more bugs, more work, less sleep. Got a new windshield on my car today cuz a rock put a crack in the old one. Came home and found storm drainage backed up at my front door. I've been listening to the thunder all day, and the rain keeps falling. Evening came early. Now I'm going out for beer and a late dinner at Bennigan's. No work tomorrow, let it rain -

Beaumont to Biloxi
Sea breeze at your door
Gypsy rains, dang hurricanes
White silver sandy shores - Rodney Crowell

Monday, September 08, 2003

More Pests, Human & Otherwise

The pestilence at work continues unabated. Today it was bees. In the afternoon we had a veritable swarm around the garbage cans at the front of the store. Fortunately a can of Raid got rid of them. Of course we are still contending with the cricket/beetle/love bug plague, and when it isn't bugs, it's shoplifters. Today we caught a couple of misguided local youths trying to steal merchandise. We showed no mercy and turned them over to the police (stupid thieving punks...I guess they didn't notice the police station right across the street!). As entertaining as this little episode was, it wasn't the end of our fun. Later I got to call the police again when another shoplifter was seen leaving the store with unpurchased merchandise. This one escaped with his ill-gotten gains.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Love Bugs, Lawn Lobsters, Etc.

Southeast Texas is a buggy place. OK; but how to explain the unearthly bugginess of the place where I am now working? The infestation is almost biblical. There are so many crickets in the store that we could open a bait shop. And then there are these big black beetles crawling all over the place...dying all over the place...the floors are littered with crunchy black insect corpses. And it wouldn't be Lumberton if there weren't a few cockroaches too. Worst of all, we are now plagued with the flight of the love bugs, so called because they fly around in pairs, attached together, "doing it" in mid-air. Apparently they are attracted to light the outside walls of our store. It's a bug orgy, and messy, and a nuisance.

The wet weather of this past week has brought back the lawn lobsters...crayfish are again burrowing in my backyard, building mud chimneys in the grass. Fire ants are back too; I poisoned several ant mounds today. Very persistant pests. The only noteworthy bird seen today was a male Summer Tanager dining on fruit in a neighbor's yard.

Days are warm, but the nights have turned cool. Weather has been pleasant in recent days. The last round of storms filled the pond almost to its brim, and the fish and turtles are happy.

Monday, September 01, 2003


In the last 24 hours Tropical Storm Grace has deluged Southeast Texas with torrential rainfall. At my house it has been raining - with a few minor interruptions - since before dawn yesterday, and the ground is beyond saturated. Once again water is backed up to the edge of my front porch, and little streams flow along the sides of my yard.

I worked 60 hours this past week, mostly getting the store ready for its grand opening on Friday. I had to stay with a floor crew until 4:30am on Wednesday, and until 12am on Thursday. On Friday the Store Manager had me go out and clean up all the debris and garbage that the contractors had left in our parking lot. It was miserably hot and humid, the work was filthy and smelly, and by the time I was done my clothes were drenched in sweat. I think I hit a new low point in my Walgreens career that day.

I had Sunday off. Slept in until about noon, then went out and got sopping wet a couple of times. Sunday evening I found a small snake at my front door, the first one that I've seen here. I took pictures for later identification, but I've tentatively got it pegged as a Blotched Water Snake, Natrix erythrogaster transversa. The rising water may have pushed it out of its normal haunts. When I got too close it turned aggressive, raising up and striking at me.

I've been reading a book titled "Party Of One: The Loner's Manifesto," by Anneli Rufus (possibly a pen name?). It's well written, often funny, and I see myself in many passages. Well I'm basically a loner - most of my choices seem to point in that direction anyway. I live alone in a swamp. Like Yoda.

"Mostly I stare out my window these days, watching my dog chase her ball, I'll do my job here whatever it pays, I'm just happy to be here at all" - Todd Snider.