Monday, September 06, 2004

In Paradise

This evening I ignited the burn pile by the pond. I've been adding fuel to it for weeks, so it had more or less reached critical mass, and when lit it became a magnificent roaring blaze. Wish I'd had someone to share my bonfire with, but it was spectacular enough, even if I was the only witness.

I spent this evening down by the pond enjoying the fire, drinking beer, listening to the pulsing symphony of the cicadas, and watching the setting sun paint the clouds. I stood there until the sky had turned a deep dark blue and the bats were flitting between the trees. Never mind the mosquitoes, I'd much rather do that than watch TV. Might be a sign of my age. Beer and bonfire, birds and bats, the cicadas buzzing overhead...paradise. Nice to experience real contentment once in a while.

A little earlier in the evening I saw a Yellow-throated Warbler creeping around up high in the pines that border my backyard. This is my favorite warbler species, and it's nice to be able to see one right where I live. Funny, but the best look I've had at one this year was not here in Texas, but in California (a vagrant I found in Lassen Volcanic National Park).

Middle of the afternoon in late summer - the worst possible time for birding in Southeast Texas, right? I killed some time poking around my yard this afternoon. Within less than an hour I saw the following birds: Inca Dove (3), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (2), Downy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker (2; an adult and juvenile that was starting to show some red spotting on it's head and neck), Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Red-eyed Vireo (1), a Yellow-throated Vireo (1), Carolina Chickadee (mobs at my feeder), Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Pine Warbler (1), Summer Tanager (1), and Northern Cardinal. Pretty good for the hottest hour of the day during the summer doldrums.

Talked with The Judge (one of my neighbors, who happens to be judge here in Hardin County) this afternoon. He has also noticed that there seem to be fewer squirrels around the neighborhood. I hate to draw a simple correlation between a decrease in the prey population and an increase in predators, but it seems mighty coincidental that squirrels have become less conspicuous at a time when hawks have become much more so. Lately I've been seeing Broad-winged Hawks frequently, and the other day I saw one drop on and carry off some hapless critter. The Judge is certain that they are resident (as opposed to passing migrants), and tells me that there are as many as three of them in the neighborhood. I wouldn't dispute that, especially since he IS a judge.

Lizards, lizards, everywhere! Seems like wherever I look around my yard I can count on finding a Green Anole or two - in bushes, in trees, on the lawn, clinging to the sides of my house, climbing on any object I've left outside...just about anywhere and everywhere. And then there are the skinks rustling through the leaf litter, and the Mediterranean Geckos that come out at night. I recently counted as many as eight geckos crawling around my porch at once. On rare occasions I even find one inside the house. The Judge tells me he's been seeing snakes down at the pond lately - gotta keep an eye out for them.


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