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!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

After the Storm

I'll start out with the good news:  the storm is over and bird-watching along the river is good.   The storm surge made the river itself very full, especially at high tide.  With nowhere to stand,  wading birds flew by in a steady parade: Roseate Spoonbills, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, White and Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Reddish Egrets.  Black-crowned Night Herons perched in trees. Several kinds of terns cruised the river and sometimes swooped low to scoop up a fish:  Least, Caspian, Royal, Forster's, even a Black Tern or two. Brown Pelicans fished and Laughing Gulls stole their catch.    
But the Star of the day was a bird I had never seen from our yard--one I  see infrequently in the bay:  the magnificent Magnificent Frigate Bird. An adult female flew fairly low (for a frigate bird) over the river as I watched from the porch.  Strangely, I was expecting it.  I told myself I wanted to see one today, went out on the back porch, and twenty minutes later there it was!  (I've had these intuitions before:  see the post "No Sooner Said..." for one example.) 
The photo I managed was from far away (I was looking the other way when it first passed the yard and I had to run down the stairs for a clear shot), but it is clearly a magnificent bird, number 262 on our Yard List!

Hurricane Alex, after drawing a bull's-eye on us for a few hours Tuesday, moved its course to the south and went into Mexico instead of South Texas.  Outer bands of rain and wind hit us yesterday, but the wind never blew here stronger than 60 mph and the rain in our area was less than four inches.  I was relieved that there was no damage to our "nest"--but some of the birds were not so lucky.

The Brown-crested Flycatchers may have lost their chicks.  Early this morning I saw them near the nest site in the cottonwood stump, just sitting.  Not rushing in and out of the nest with bugs.  Not singing as they do when waiting for their mate to vacate the nest. Later I walked over to the old cottonwood and for the first time could see nest material hanging out of the stump as though they had pulled some of it out.  Though "hope is the thing with feathers," as Emily Dickinson says, I'm not too hopeful about the nestlings.

A neighbor told me that she found a Great-tailed Grackle's nest with two dead nestlings in her driveway.  This morning I looked at the retama tree where I had photographed a grackle nest a couple of weeks ago, but the nest was gone.  It was probably the one that blew into the driveway next door.

The Kiskadees were also unlucky. In the last post is a photo I took a few days ago of the nest in an ebony tree.  Today, it looks like this. The main part of the nest is half the size it was and the blown-away part is lodged in a fork of the tree a couple of feet below it.

The wind blew all day yesterday, first from the north as we were catching bands of the storm circling counterclockwise around the center of the hurricane, and then from the east as the outer bands north of the storm accompanied it to land.

The good news from the yard is that the little mockingbird I talked about in the last post apparently survived the gale.  I saw two juveniles near the nest today. I was so glad to see the survivors that  I snapped a picture though the light was not good enough to get a good photo.  Notice the speckled breast:  that's how I know this bird is a juvenile.

Watching the young mockingbird battle the storm as the hurricane's winds began on Tuesday, I kept thinking of Emily Dickinson's poem about hope and the storm.  (I didn't quote it in the last post because I suspected I might do too much of that, but now I'm thinking, why not?  I taught literature for over thirty years and old habits are hard to break!)

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

I keep disagreeing (at least in part) with Emily Dickinson even though I love her poetry.   She seems to say that hope doesn't ask anything of us.  If she means that hope exists in the world despite all the things we humans seem to do to defeat it, I guess she's got a point there.  But at the same time I think we need to sprinkle a few crumbs for that bird to eat!

I keep thinking of those birds in the eye of the man-made storm in the Gulf of Mexico.  We can't do anything about hurricanes but we can take care, as best we can, of the natural world. If hope is the thing with feathers what are we doing to deserve hope?


KaHolly said...

So glad you survived the hurricane, but am sad that some of the nestlings didn't make it. Sometimes nature can be cruel. ~karen

denapple said...

We often find that "wishing makes it so" when we are birding. Wouldn't it be nice if that worked for other things in life? Glad everyone is OK.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Glad you weren't affected too much by the storm, sorry for the birds who suffered though. We need to all take care of the natural world as well as we can, hope may always be there but will be extinguished if we don't care...

Jules and Ken said...

I'm glad to hear that the storm didn't hit TX directly, saddened to hear that some of little guys didn't make it. I worry about this winters migrating birds with the oil spill as well as my favorite the brown pelicans, oh, yes and those strange big sea turtles what is going to happen to them all.

Dave said...

Very nice write-up. I turn to your blog every once in a while. Always enjoy your words and pictures. Maybe someday I will be able to a trip down your way.