Sunday, April 27, 2014

Birding medium rare

Ah, Central Texas......you are an odd mistress. You are one hot mama with a cool spirit. Despite the ridiculous change in temperature in the last two weeks which probably heralds another hot year,  I have begun to throw myself head over heals into birding; and now much more close to where I live......on a lovely stretch of riparian forest south of Blanco. Throw a rock south, you hit San Antonio where this week Fiesta has left a rain of confetti on the sidewalks like Walt Disney's dandruff. Chunk a rock north and you hit snotty Austin, home of all those out-of-towners that are taking over Texas. It does have wonderful hiking trails though, and my favorite Indian restaurant out of a Wind Stream trailer called, aptly, The Garage Mahal. Yesterday I saw a t-shirt in San Antonio by someone who knows....it said...." Keep Austin..." instead of "Keep Austin Weird".

Back to birding in Central Texas. The blush of spring is full-on; I am shocked that the flowers and trees have the nerve to bloom and put on leaves knowing what is around the corner. If you listen carefully, perhaps you can hear an anticipatory groan from deep in Mother Earth as she prepares for another gosh-darn hot Summer. Those warm spring breezes at night just sigh in the tops of my trees.....like they know what is coming.

It reminds me of when my babies had a fever. They would fall asleep as normal, but wake me up in the middle of the night with curls stuck by sweat on the napes of their necks and a desperately hot breath....the true sign of a fever. That is a Texas Summer....... and the birds suffer most of all.

 Last summer I said "To hell" with my well. If Tom Benson can water his golf course all day, I can  water my birds; so I put a garden hose in a bush and let it slow-drip water into my ground bird bath. Fresh, cold, clean, sweet Texas water....all day long. It was about as much as a leaky fawcett, or a runny nose. Just enough to spoil all those exhausted warblers passing through from South America to Canada. they would come to my bath and roll around and splash like fools.....what a sight. Smuggly, I like to think of myself as the USO for migratory birds. I am Bing Crosby crooning and passing out Schlitz. Then on some days, I turned my fountain sprinkleron, way up under my huge octopus live oak that shades a third of my yard. I made sure the water hit the understory bushes,  where the birds came flocking to sit on tiny branches and fully soak themselves. No care for me nearby, or the fat green-eyed stray cat tucked up under the shade of the deck....they just sat and soaked. It was so indulgent, so sexy. One those days I was Joey Heatherton to my birds. Breathy and indulgent. I was handing out candy bars and wet kisses.

So this year, I have lots more birds than usual. Is it because word got around? Is it because I had the proper frame of mind when I mentally call them? Maybe it is the peanut butter suet and oranges I nail to my trees. Last night I saw a lovey female rose-breasted grosbeak, and my painted bunting pair that like to come every summer. I also had about 5 black-throated hummers jousting with their beaks in mid air all around the feeder. I have canada warblers, vireos, summer tanagers, little bushtits and of course cedar wax wings who come in full uniform. 

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