Welcome to my world!

Backyard Birding in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas:
Surrounded by great birding destinations, our favorite patch is still the backyard (or the front), where we've seen more than 270 species of birds. Sit awhile, and watch the river and yard with us!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Night Windows and a Morning Feeder-Dance

Last night I sat down in the living room after dark to start writing a blog, but soon became distracted by the arroyo night framed in windows across the room. The fishing light was making a circle of green on the river. The far bank was gathering light and casting reflections of upside-down trees, bank, and fence onto the still water. The image of sky in the river was black (opposite of what it is now: silver gray against the deep green of daytime shadows). I could see both real trees, grass, and banks glowing in the light cast across the river and, just beneath them, inverted reflected ones. At the edges of the windows all was black.
Suddenly, great white forms began moving through the picture as dozens of American White Pelicans streamed by, their unseen but powerful feet moving them through the circle of light as they paddled upriver. We counted 93 in all. I moved closer to the window and watched until they were out of sight.

A few minutes later a Barn Owl flew over the river going in the opposite direction, its white breast and wings shining a ghostly white against the dark sky. (I've heard that many legends of ghosts in graveyards stem from the Barn Owls that could be seen flying at night out of the church steeples where they lived next to the graveyards.)

I used to see Barn Owls in holes along the banks a couple of miles up river where we fish for tarpon and snook. But last week when we looked for the Barn Owls, we saw that large portions of the bank had caved in, probably because of all the rain we've been getting, and the holes had collapsed. I took a picture of one hole that looked almost big enough for owls, but I could not see any owls peering out as I used to. I think the owls sometimes enlarge these old kingfisher nest holes for their nests and sometimes use cavities that emerge among roots of trees when the banks cave in. I'll keep looking this spring, and maybe I can get a photograph.

Here's what I had intended to write about last night. When the oriole/hummingbird feeders were covered with bees earlier in the week, I took them down for a day and then replaced them with a less bee-friendly kind. So far the bees haven't returned, but the feeders are "humming" with activity: hummingbirds (the little Ruby-throated/Black-chinned and the larger pugnacious Buff-bellieds), orioles (the Altamira pair and the single Baltimore that is still spending his winter vacation with us) and Orange-crowned Warblers seem to be even more active in the cold mornings. Yesterday I watched the Altamira Orioles, an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Buff-bellied hummer take turns at the nectar. If the orioles were on the feeder, the little warbler waited on the railing of the deck or perched atop an old wooden oar, while the hummer waited in the fiddlewood. All remained within two or three feet of the nectar feeder. They traded places by turns, it seemed, and so quickly I couldn't keep up with them with my camera. As I lifted the camera to snap the oriole, I'd look through the viewer and see a warbler! Even a Black-crested Titmouse took a turn. (The photo here is obviously not from today; you can see the Add Imagetitmouse is at the other feeder, before the bees laid siege to it a few days ago.) From my warm place inside the house, I enjoyed watching the feeder-dance for a good part of the morning while the birds switched places, bobbing and weaving, as though choreographed.

Update (February 18, 2010): This morning, in the rain, the dance of the nectar-eaters resumed. This female Yellow-fronted Woodpecker was not as polite in awaiting her turn. Though not as graceful as some of the other participants, and certainly not as patient, she was able to get her share of sugar water.

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