Saturday, March 31, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird

 "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

First of all, some sad news.  My father died earlier this month during a home invasion robbery at the house where he was staying up in Weed, CA.  His death, under such awful circumstances, has been hard to deal with.  He had not been in good health, and we were planning a trip to see him in June, which turned out to be too late.  Just shows you should never take time for granted.  A couple of people have been arrested - whether anyone else was involved we do not yet know.  I'll be going back to San Jose for the funeral in a few days.

The intervals between these blog postings are definitely widening. Missed the month of February completely, and here it is the final minutes of the last day of March. I guess some catching up is in order.

An unusually mild winter has led to an early spring here in Southeast Texas.  Our mulberry trees started to leaf out back in January, and are already producing ripe fruit.  That's a full month earlier than usual, and no doubt many of our neotropical migrants will arrive too late to enjoy them.  Bird migration seems to be proceeding more or less on schedule, and in some instances even a little behind.

Perhaps due to the drought and warm weather this winter was a banner season for hummingbirds.  Record numbers have been reported along the Gulf Coast, with as many as eight species found locally.  John and Jana Wittle had a male Allen's at their house, which I managed to miss twice.  My luck was a little better with this Calliope Hummingbird at Harlan Stewart's house (he had not one, but TWO Calliopes wintering in his yard!).  Not a great photo, but at least you can tell what it is.
At our house we've had several Rufous Hummingbirds present through the winter, with at least one male still present today.

Some of my FOS dates and locations:
Broad-winged Hawk - 3/31/12, Claiborne West Park.
Pectoral Sandpiper - 2/26/12, Pear Orchard Road (Chambers Co.).
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 3/17/12, Lumberton.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 3/25/12, FM 1985 (Chambers Co.).
Purple Martin - 2/21/12, Beaumont.
Barn Swallow - 3/22/12, Lumberton.
Hooded Warbler - 3/25/12, High Island.

Back in February I cleaned out the martin house in our backyard.  Most of the compartments were packed with old nesting material from last year - not from martins, but from House Sparrows.  If you've ever seen the show "Hoarders" you'll have some idea of what these pests do to a martin house.  They stuff the compartments from floor to ceiling with nesting material, which includes everything from pine needles to plastic garbage.  Due to the infestation of House Sparrows we've never had martins use our martin house.  This year I'm doing something about it.

I recently put up a sparrow trap below our martin house.  Results have been unimpressive.  So far I've only managed to catch and eliminate one sparrow.  On the other hand, I've caught one Tufted Titmouse, one Carolina Chickadee, and two Northern Mockingbirds.  I've released them all unharmed except for one of the mockingbirds, which died in the trap - I found it wedged under the trigger mechanism.  The weird thing is, mockingbirds never visit our seed feeders, so why are they being captured in a trap baited with  birdseed?  They are fairly intelligent birds, and maybe they are just curious about strange contraptions.  I feel bad about committing accidental avicide on our state bird, but the campaign against the sparrows continues.  I may try moving the trap to see if another location would be more effective.


At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John - So sorry to read about your Dad. There was an article in the SJ Mercury News by Scott Herhold, reporter, that spoke very well of your Dad. Ann
BTW - on the next generation, your kids are looking great!


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