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 10, 2010

the north wind doth blow...

We've had several days of first rain and then cold. Not freezing cold, but uncomfortable cold (highs only in the 50's), with wind and misty dampness. I do my birding and photographing from the window on these days. The pictures of the soggy Northern Mockingbird and the Northern Cardinal were taken Saturday when we received almost three inches of rain. It was still warm then, but gray and wet and windy.

Monday night the clouds had cleared and the night was warm and still, finally quiet enough to hear the Hoo-Hoo-huh-Hoo of our Great-horned Owls and the trilling of Eastern Screech-owls. Tree frogs peeped and coyotes called each other across the river. I stood on the porch and enjoyed South Texas night sounds.By midnight, however, a "norther" had blown in.We woke to hear the wind howling outside in the trees and whistling at the windows. If a norther comes in during the day, you can see it coming with blue-black clouds building quickly from the north. (That's why some people call it a "blue norther.") But at night it can seem to slam into the house without warning.

The birds in the yard and on the river act differently and look different in this kind of weather. They look fat on cold days as they sit in the trees or on the dock, their feathers puffed up to trap warmer air next to their bodies, kind of like we do when we wear down coats I guess.
(The Great Blue Heron in the picture is having a bad hair day as the north wind blows and ruffles its feathers into unusual forms.)

When a front blows in and the wind is so cold from the north, American White Pelicans come further upriver and we see them on the river especially at night. Though it's dark now outside the windows, I just saw at least fifty of the large white birds stream by , their wings beating slowly but powerfully over the river. (With wingspans of 100+ inches, American White Pelicans are noticeably larger than Brown Pelicans, the smallest of pelicans.) In this picture, taken on Christmas eve, hundreds of White Pelicans were overhead as we fished on the dock. They "kettle" on warm currents of air just as migrating hawks do.

I wish I knew how to take photographs of the pelicans under the fishing lights or swimming on a moonlit night. They remind me of wax candles glowing against the black water, their rippled reflections inverted in the water. I keep trying to capture that image in poetry since I can't with my camera.
Pelicans at Night

As the moon spilled
into dark water,
shimmering candles
gleamed on the river.
White birds,
carved of wax,
flamed up
from black water
and vanished
into the night.

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