Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 Wrap-Up, Western Tanager, Hummingbirds, Etc.

Ah, glorious winter. A time of snow and funny hats. We've had both at our home. Yes, we've actually had some snow - four inches fell on December 11th. Made the yard look sort of like this for a day.So much for life in the tropics. Lingering snow is unusual in Southeast Texas, but then the weather has been wildly inconsistent. Lately it's been alternating between cold/damp and warm/muggy. Presently we are in a cold phase, but it changes constantly. Incidentally, when I say it's cold I mean by local rather than Minnesota standards. Around here temps in the 40s are considered cruel and unusual. That's still T-shirt weather for me.

About 2008, it sucked ass. My minimalist big year became more and more minimalist before fizzling out completely. How many species did I end with? Don't ask. Worst year of nonbirding EVER. After Hurricane Ike the binoculars stayed in the closet, and this winter I didn't even participate in any Christmas counts. The demands of babies and maintaining a household took precedence, as did what I call the crisis du jour, an almost daily parade of new disasters that became de rigueur (I'm trying to put more French into my blog) as the year slid toward its miserable conclusion.

There are some exciting birds being seen in Texas these days (Pine Flycatcher!), but Texas is a big place and as luck would have it (or not) none of them are anywhere near here. All the popular birding sites on the Upper Texas Coast were trashed by Ike, and Cattail Marsh is still closed to the public, so it's not a bad time to stay close to home. On Sunday afternoon (1/4/09) that's were I was, and that's where I was surprised to find a Western Tanager (#130 for our yard list). Looked like a first winter male. Same day I also had a flock of 5 White-winged Doves (#131) flying south, followed by a second flock of about 70, also southbound. The unprecedented appearance of so many, all headed in the same direction, makes me think these may not be isolated incidents.

Other birds of note have been few and far between. A flock of Snow Geese (#129) passed over our yard on December 21. Of course we have the "usual" unpredictable goodies - a female Black-chinned Hummingbird has been at our feeders all winter, and on Sunday we saw it briefly sparring with an unidentified Selasphorus type. That's all for now. C'est la vie. C'est la guerre.


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