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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!




Sunday, August 7, 2011

Home and Family

I feel as if I, like this Green Jay, have been more or less hiding out for the last month or two.  She is nesting less than twenty feet from my front deck but so stealthily I didn't even notice the nest until a few days ago--and by then  at least two hungry nestlings were stretching their necks out of a nest of intertwined thorny twigs. 
The nest is much more flimsy than I would have expected.  When looking at it against the late afternoon sun, you can see all the way through it, but it supports at least two chicks and the mother is in it part of the time.  I'm not worried that it will fall apart, though, because it is constructed of twigs from native thornscrub that can't be easily dislodged.   I've read that Green Jays make rather bulky nests, but this one certainly isn't.  I wonder if the thin construction has anything to do with the heat.

The morning before I discovered the nest, these two jays were bobbing up and down on a nearby branch, behaving as young Green Jays often do (though adults do, too--it's just sort of their dance of joy).  Two other Green Jays  were also flying around in the yard, probably juveniles from an earlier brood. I'm pretty sure the new nest is the summer's second.  It was May when I observed nest-building activity with birds carrying twigs toward the neighbor's yard.

Green Jays never seem to do anything quietly, which is why I was surprised to see them nesting undetected so close to the house.  I am reminded of the last stanza of an Emily Dickinson poem about robins that sing so insistently in March and April and then seem to disappear on the nest:

The Robin is the One
That interrupt the Morn
With hurried -- few -- express Reports
When March is scarcely on --

The Robin is the One
That overflow the Noon
With her cherubic quantity --
An April but begun --

The Robin is the One
That speechless from her Nest
Submit that Home -- and Certainty
And Sanctity, are best


I took a break from blogging for the last month or so while we were busy with family.  We've had a great time with children and grandchildren. The whole family was together at our son's in Missouri in late June and early July, which seems to me kind of like the extended Green Jay family hanging out together. After that about half the family came here for some fishing and trips to the beach.  Finally, we headed north again to do a little babysitting with the Texas portion of the clan. Though we weren't watching the arroyo during the time we were away from home, watching our flock was not so different from our usual pursuits.
To stay cool in the summer heat, for example, these two families of grandchildren were  as attracted to our son's pool
as this summer's Black-crested Titmice are to the front yard bird bath at home.
A  grassy lawn welcomed children playing badminton

and juvenile American Robins,
 and a young Cottontail Rabbit.




 Watching the antics of the youngest chick was fun for us all.  Jacey Joy, with her red hair and bright bathing suit,  is at least as colorful as a young Green Jay--and a plastic starfish on her head makes a pretty good  crest.

 When she tired of badminton,
she could always look through  grammy's binoculars.

American Robin

Gray Catbird
(She's not quite able to find a bird through binocs but she's close.)

I especially liked watching Gray Catbirds and American Robins in Missouri when I wasn't watching kids on the lawn or in the pool -- a special treat since those are winter birds for us in South Texas.  

Right behind the house we stay in (a hundred-year-old former dairy barn that's been renovated for a guest house) is a lovely patch of native dogwoods and redbuds,  a perfect nursery  for the just-fledged birds.


It takes a lot to lure us away from home and birds in south Texas, but you can see from these pictures that our grandchildren are an effective lure.  We are lucky to have five of them only about six hours away in south central Texas.  (They have interesting birds, too.  We babysat there for a few days and watched Mississippi Kites soar over the house.  I tried to photograph them but never got more than a gray blur.)

Returning home, having to leave children and grandchildren behind in their own nests, is hard on a grandparent.  But returning to find a thorny bowl of new Green Jays in our own yard is a treat. I'll watch those little chicks grow each day and think of a great summer visit with my own chicks.

7 comments:

Wanda..... said...

The pool, yard and fountain looked very welcoming for all, including the birds. Great photos of the little one in her Winnie the Pooh outfit and tossing aside the badminton items. Her pretty hair is nearly the same shade as the Robin redbreast.

My summer blogging has been on slow mode due to 'grandchildren time' also.

KaHolly said...

Best excuse in the world for taking a blogging break, but your posts were missed.

Kay said...

hi,Wanda--
Yes, it's a good thing the birds are quieter in the summer because as much as I love watching them it's even better to watch our own little ones!You're much better at keeping up with your blog than I am--and I love to read it!

Karen,
thank you! I've been following your two blogs (love the quilts, the book reviews, and of course Cape Breton) but mostly on my iphone as I travel--so no comments from a while as I'v terrible at typing with my thumbs!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Thanks for the peek into your summertime activities. Jacey Joy is adorable,with that red hair.

john said...

Those Green Jays and all the other birds must really appreciate the oasis of your yard in the withering Texas heat. I feel so bad for the farmers, and ranchers, and especially the wildlife during the drought that I've been hearing about. Does your property draw in much other wildlife like mammals and reptiles? I guess you have had more rain than areas further north?

Kay said...

John, We have been lucky enough to get some rain this summer (once, 7 inches) with a tropical storm in late June. Other parts of Texas are not so lucky. Our native plants are well adapted to low rainfall since our yearly average is about 25 inches.
Most of the mammals we see are across the river: bobcats, coyotes, javelinas, feral pigs, white-tailed deer. Once we saw an ocelot across the river and once a mountain lion crossing the road. Across the river is ranch land with a few imported mammals such as red stags and nilgai which I've posted photos of. I'd prefer to see the native animals, of course. Dolphins are in the river and once we saw a nutria. We have raccoons, squirrels, rodents of various kinds, once or twice a ferrett. None of these are seen too often as the houses along the river are pretty close together and some of them unfortunately have yards less wild than ours. My favorite snake is the Texas Indigo which I've posted photos of. It's quite beautiful and we see it fairly often. We see rattlesnakes very seldom. We have green anoles and this year a few non-native Cuban anoles, fence lizards and probably others I don't recognize. Turtles are in the river and occasionally a Texas tortoise is in the yard, though not for a few years. I've seen an alligator only once, thank goodness. It's always interesting to see what shows up!

eileeninmd said...

You have a wonderful family and it is nice to spend some quality time together. I love the green jays, lucky you to have them nesting in your yard. Great shots.