Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tedium at Riverfront Park, Christmas Mountains Update

Rain rain rain. This is no fun. We're in the middle of Blackest Saturday, the not-so-famous shopping day after Black Friday. It's cold (by local standards) and wet (by any standard). Getting wetter too. Going birding? Gimme a break. I have kids. I'm lucky if I occasionally get to see the light of day. Not that the babies aren't wonderful little bundles of joy, because they are. But they aren't quite ready to go slogging through field and fen with me. And what happened to all the birds in our yard? I've been watching, and we don't even have a drenched hummingbird to grace our deserted feeders. This is getting depressing.

Here's another story about the impending sale of the Christmas Mountains. The latest news is that the Texas School Land Board has voted to delay the sale for 90 days to allow the National Park Service time to make an offer on the property. This is what happens when enough of us make ourselves heard - sometimes the wheels of government can be turned back. Anyway it isn't over yet. Maybe the State of Texas can still emerge from this fiasco with some integrity.

In other news, a hung jury recently ended the prosecution of Jim Stevenson, Galveston's unofficial animal control officer. Cat lovers will be saddened to know that he will NOT be burned at the stake. In answer to a reporter who asked if he would be killing any more cats, he replied "get real."

As part of my wonderful new job I get hour lunches. That's right, an actual lunch - and an hour to have it in! Next to the building where I work there are some very busy train tracks, on the other side of which is Beaumont's Riverfront Park, a narrow strip of green along the (apparently birdless) Neches River. It would be a pleasant place for a noon walk if it had any birds, which it mostly doesn't. My initial investigation only produced Northern Mockingbirds (blah!), a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and a rather lonely House Wren. But I'm not giving up on the park completely. On another day, as I walked to my car, I noticed a Peregrine Falcon flying over. True, it was on its way to somewhere else, and was in a hurry to get there, but at least for a moment it made the park damn near interesting.

So in future blog postings expect more reports and complaints about Riverfront Park. Maybe the winter birds just haven't arrived yet. Maybe at Riverfront Park they never do. Time will tell. I just hope I can handle the suspense.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Back to Work

Started a new job today with the City of Beaumont - no more days spent in the recliner with a bowl of ice cream balanced on my belly and the TV tuned to The Maury Show (love those paternity tests).

Yesterday a Red-breasted Nuthatch visited our yard, and I also had my first Chipping Sparrows of the season. At least one Ruby-throated Hummingbird was still coming to our feeders - otherwise just the usual winter birds.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy (Celtic) New Year!

The air is full of smoke this evening from multiple bonfires. Either all the neighborhood leaf piles reached critical mass simultaneously, or our neighborhood is celebrating the Celtic New Year, which starts today. Traditionally the ancient Celts would gather and set bonfires on this day to usher in the new year. Not that we have any ancient Celts here. Probably just a coincidence.Look real hard at the flames in the photo and you can see the face of Satan. Or it could be Bugs Bunny. Haven't decided yet.

Earlier today I flushed a male Wood Duck from the pond, and as I was lighting my bonfire this evening I saw two male woodies there. Other birds I noticed while wandering around our yard today included Inca Doves, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, our first Selasphorus-type hummingbird of the season, a House Wren, and a heard-only Red-breasted Nuthatch. Most of the neotropical migrants are gone and most of the wintry birds are in - except sparrows. No sparrows here yet.

Heard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet singing from the big live oak by our house. They often start singing in spring before they migrate north, but for fall it seems a bit unusual.