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!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Yesterday as  the late afternoon sun slanted across the sky and  turned the far bank of the Arroyo a golden color, I stepped onto the back porch and snapped a quick photo.  You can see it  in the background of the blog title above. That bank, clearly visible  from the  living room as well as the porch, is a scene I will never be tired of.

It changes slightly with the seasons (what seasons we have this far south):  in spring the green will be fresher and brighter; in summer the leaves will be thicker if we've had rain and thinner if we have drought,  and the heat will have dried the tall grasses to a brown-gold; after a rain the cenizo blooms pink and the ebonies put out a new growth of green leaves and creamy blooms; even in winter the  white stalks of the Spanish daggers make a showy display.

I keep binoculars on the window sill and a scope pointed to that river bank.  There is never a time that birds aren't visible.  If you look really close, even in a picture as small as the one behind the blog title at the top of the page, you can just make out the night herons that roost in the ebonies and mesquite growing down near the water.

Fallen trees, where the banks have caved in, form really good snags that water birds perch in to dry out or watch for fish.  Belted and Ringed Kingfishers fish from the branches and Black-crowned Night Herons nap during the day so that they can fish all night.  Some kind of heron (Great Blue,  Green, Little Blue, Tri-colored)--or egret (Great, Snowy, Cattle) is always wading there.  (To test myself on the truth of that statement I just went upstairs to look out the window.  It's almost midnight, but sure enough, a Great Blue Heron is fishing along the bank.) The amount of  shallow water at the edge varies with the tides.  Sometimes there's enough space for coyotes, raccoons, and deer to walk along the edge without getting their feet wet, and sometimes the water goes right to the bank.
I took this photo a few days ago.  In it you can see an Anhinga, a Black-crowned Night Heron, and a Double Crested Cormorant on the biggest snag across from us. Look closely at the water beneath the Anhinga.  Do you see the second Night Heron, submerged up to its chest? I'm not sure why it is so low in the water, but it is interesting--something I didn't notice except in the photograph!  I cropped it and made it larger so that I could get a better look.   Maybe it was just hopping in the water for a minute as it changed locations. 

I love the Black-crested Night Herons with their bright red eyes.  In breeding season they have long white plumes that trail down their black backs and their usually yellow legs turn pink. Immature night herons (both Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned) are brown with striped chests.  They fish mostly at night and roost in the trees (and snags) along the river during the day.  Or sit on the fishing lights or the rails of the dock.  They make a hoarse quark sound, usually when they fly and especially when they have been rousted from a favorite perching/roosting place. Besides fishing along the shallow edge of the far side of the river, they also fish from the fishing dock, kind of plopping into the water when they see a fish or flying over it to scoop it up.

I just went outside on the porch to listen to night sounds. The moon is full and beautiful, touching the tops of the palm trees with silver and washing the bankside with light.  I could hear a Common Pauraque calling across the Arroyo for the first time this year and see a Night Heron stalking its prey.  Day or night, I will never tire of this place.


KaHolly said...

Oh, yes, it sounds as though you've found a little piece of heaven there!! Lovely post today, so personal, yet full of interesting facts! Have you always lived there? ~karen

Kay said...

14 years this April--a perfect place for fishing and birding--what more could we ask for? (well, no hurricanes, a little less wind and humidity, fewer stray cats that sit under the bird feeder)