Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweeping Out 2011

I recently noticed that the frequency of my blog postings has decreased to exactly one per month.  Well, it's the last hour of the last day of December, so in keeping with tradition...

Hm.  Maybe I should make a new year's resolution to blog more often.  Maybe, but my record of fulfilling resolutions makes that more than a bit doubtful.  As far as my 2011 resolutions go, the less said the better.  About 2011, the less said the better.  If one has at least a modicum of modesty (and from online experience I understand that this is not a general rule), there are some things too personal to put in a blog for public consumption.  Suffice to say that this has been a difficult year for us.  We were tested by crises, and I know I sometimes came up short.  I haven't always been the person I want to be or should be.  On a positive note, I have become more keenly aware of my own failings and faults, and when I look to 2012 that gives me reason for both trepidation and hope.  Of course the kids are doing fine, which is what really matters.  Thanks again to everyone who helped us through the hard times. 

The old year is rapidly slipping away into the waste bin of history where it belongs. Like some idiotic stinking occupy protester it's overstayed its welcome, and is being given the bum rush out of the park.  Move along, move along.  Here comes a barrage of fireworks to hurry it on its way.  Apparently all of our neighbors are up to greet the midnight hour with a hail of exploding things.  How the kids manage to sleep through this racket is a mystery to me.

So what's new?  On December 21st I took part in the fiftieth annual Bolivar Peninsula Christmas Bird Count.  Highlights in our sector of the count area included 4 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, 2-3 Bald Eagles, a couple or more of Crested Caracaras, 2 Merlins, some heard-only Sandhill Cranes (hey, they're still countable), 2 Great Horned Owls, a pair of Common Ground-Doves (in lieu of the traditional partridge in a pear tree), and a Say's Phoebe.  Back in California a Say's Phoebe would be no big deal, but here it was our "bird of the day."  Just goes to show it's all about location, location, location.  Altogether our little party tallied about 80 species. Here's a photo of an obliging Wilson's Snipe (nee Common Snipe) that we found in a roadside ditch:
Yes Virginia, there really is such as thing as a snipe.

Christmas came and went.  We spent the holiday at Michelle's mother's house in Mandeville, LA.  A good time was had by all, and the kids were absolutely spoiled with gifts.  Small plastic items galore.  I also scored big.  Michelle got me a birdcam!  It's motion activated, and I can set it up by a hummingbird feeder or birdbath.  So even if I don't have time for actual birding, now I can at least see what I've been missing.  I do foresee the possibility of a future dilemma involving my yard list, however.  Up until now it's been based solely on personal observation.  The question is, can you count a bird that you know to have been present, but that you didn't actually observe in person and in the moment?  As a birder, I would say the answer is no.  As the compiler of an area list on the tiniest scale (aproximately an acre),  I would say the answer is yes.  See the potential crisis I'm facing?  Maybe the birdcam needs to keep it's own list.    

In other news, we still have at least two Selasphorus hummingbirds fighting for control of our feeders.  Presence of reddish splotches on their upper backs would indicate that they are both immature male Rufous Hummingbirds.  We've also had a couple of other brief visitors, including an Anna's that came and went on December 10th.  Weather has been mild with a few cold fronts but no hard freezes.  The mercury is constantly going up and down.  Today was muggy and warm.  Watched hummingbirds at our feeders, a green anole climbing the screen on the kitchen window, and a monarch butterfly sail over our backyard - just a typical winter day in Southeast Texas.  Some of our flowers are still blooming.  The hardiest have been the abutilon, Mexican heather, and shrimp plant.  Carolina jessamine normally flowers in late winter, and we already have some yellow blossoms on ours. 

Haven't seen much action at our seed feeders, but then it probably hasn't been cold enough.

Here's one final 2011 photo: an adult Red-shouldered Hawk perched above our backyard on a November morning:
I'm sure you've heard this one by Semisonic:
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time
You don't have to go home but you can't stay here

...and the song ends with:
Closing time
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

Happy 2012, y'all!