Last night a cold front settled down in central Texas. The high yesterday was 92 degrees. The temps today have dropped nearly 50 degrees. A rude awakening.
All but one of my hummingbirds have moved on. This one has spent the day under the eaves out of the rain, sheltered from the north wind, and with its personal supply of nectar. I named her Ellie. I hope she makes it.
A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.
The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦
I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡
This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.
I was working out in the yard today unloading wood scraps and trash from a box by the shop when I unknowingly disturbed a wasp nest. I was stung once, where the sun don’t shine (I’ll spare you a photo of that), but it could have been much worse.
Monte went out later and sprayed the nest with wasp killer. And uncovered it. It was huge! It’s burning in the drizzle out back as we speak.
While my butt-sting hurts terribly, I’ll take it. I’m glad I didn’t get swarmed.
We spent the morning working on the flower beds along the front of the house. This little guy hung around, feasting on bugs in the dirt – flirting less than a foot away most of the time – an adorable Eastern Phoebe.
Doray and I visited Warbler Woods and Crescent Bend Nature Park today. We saw many more species than I was able to capture on camera, but here are my only keepers. I love the variety of migrant birds we get to see here.
On my way to the coast on Friday, I made a side trip back to High Island, and was treated to another fun day of birding through their woods. I also made a stop at Bolivar Flats – a beach on the gulf coast. I am woefully lacking knowledge of shorebirds, but am trying to learn. Afterwards, I took the Bolivar-Galveston car ferry to Galveston Island and then drove on up to Kemah to meet the ladies. Some sights..
A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers have consistently made appearances at my feeders for at least two years. The male has chosen a tree in the front yard to make a hollow for their nest. I will be keeping an eye on them!
I finished our tax return today, with 2 days to spare!
Now I’m finally getting the opportunity to look back through the notebook that I took with me on a birding trip last weekend. I enjoyed two wonderful days on High Island on the Texas Gulf coast. A cold front was predicted to sweep through southeast Texas last Saturday morning, and I got up early so that I could get to the coast about the same time the Norther did. The hope was that the cold air and strong northerlies would persuade the wave of birds migrating north from Central and South America to land in the woods on High Island for cover, rest, and stay there for a day or so. I left Austin at 3:30AM, drove through the advancing cold front and made it to Boy Scout Woods bird sanctuary right after sunrise.
It was drizzly, not pouring rain, but because of that, I didn’t take my camera out all day on Saturday. But WOW was I treated to a diverse collection of birds. It turns out that the front stalled a bit and took its time getting to the coast. But it eventually did. And though it wasn’t a fallout of colossal proportions, the birds were happy to stop for a break and birding was fantastic, giving me the opportunity to see nearly 100 different species, many of them lifers for me.
We southeastern and central Texas residents are incredibly fortunate to live right on the superhighway that is the twice-a-year-traveled pan-American bird migration path. So, let me share with you a bit of my experience. High Island is a small coastal island on the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of Houston; and it is unique in that it sits on a salt dome foundation, rising over 30′ above sea level, providing a habitat in which shrubs and forests thrive where they are not usually encountered until well inland. The beach along Bolivar Peninsular and the trees in the sanctuaries on High Island are often the first thing migrating birds see after completing their 600 mile (and 15-24 hour) non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico.
My trip to High Island was quickly-planned, but I had an amazing experience. First of all, High Island is home to a number of lovely birding sanctuaries/locations that are beautifully owned and managed by the Houston Audubon Society and/or the Texas Ornithological Society. On my trip I visited Boy Scout Woods, Bolivar Flats, Smith Oaks woods & rookery, and Hooks Woods. And since I was in the neighborhood, I spent time at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on my northwest trek back to Austin.
The Houston Audubon Society charges admission of $8/daily visit to their sanctuaries. Or you can buy a (lovely) patch for $30 which is good for admission to all their High Island sanctuaries for the entire year. I opted for the patch. Because I WILL be back.
Around lunchtime on Saturday I got mighty hungry. So you can imagine how pleased I was to see a sign outside the Boy Scout Woods entrance advertising the local St. Matthews United Methodist church BBQ lunch. Every Saturday during Spring migration. $12 a plate. Delicious. Also, I simply must encourage you to make sure you take advantage of the FREE, 3-times a day each Saturday during Spring Migration guided walks hosted by the fantastic group Tropical Birding. Tropical Birding have been partners of Houston Audubon Society for many years. Three expert guides walked us around the island with sharp eyes, ears, and spotting scopes, making it easy to see the birds that are usually so invisible. I spent at least 8 hours with these guys and enjoyed every minute of it.
I didn’t have a plan to stay on the coast overnight, but I knew I would. It was very easy to find an inexpensive place to stay in Winnie, Texas, just 20 miles north of High Island, right off I-10.
I did eventually get my camera out on Sunday, which was quite chilly, but at least it wasn’t raining. I may post a picture or two from that set of photos in the future. But, for now, if you are even mildly interested in birding, you must get down there soon!
On February 20th, we noticed a pair of Carolina wrens making a nest in a planter we have on the patio out back. For the last week or two we have watched them bringing insects all day long, and could hear the babies’ chirps. Today they fledged! I saw the first one jump out. Then called Monte to the window. We watched the second one jump out, and then he reminded me I might want to get a picture or two. 🙂
The last three…
And then there were two…
And then there was one…
And then there were none! Such cuties.
Yay! Now I can finally trim that plant and water it.
With no commitments until Easter dinner with Julie later in the day, we headed out to visit Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It is a beautiful place to see in the spring, full of gardens teeming with wildflowers, and several miles of lovely trails to explore.
I don’t think the wildflowers have peaked yet in south Austin, based on what we saw here, so there’s still time to get out there and see them!
There is a great-horned owl family roosting in a wall ledge just inside the entrance. There are two owlets, but they are not sticking their heads up in this shot.