I decided to make a quick trip to Burton yesterday to play Santa and deliver Christmas and birthday presents to my sister. As with most people at this time of the year, time is short and tasks to be done are many. But the visit also enabled me and my sister to take a quick drive to Lake Somerville to check out any birds that may have preceded the arriving winter blast. And as anticipated, we enjoyed a large pod of American White Pelicans. All the old regulars were present of course…Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, a plethora of Killdeer, the ever-present black vultures and American coots. A short time shared with my sister enjoying the beauty of hundreds of American White Pelicans as they rested on the shores of a choppy lake prior to the blast of arctic air that blew through late last night.
We left the lake and the 80 degree temperatures and returned to her home where Burton Ernie was strutting about keeping my nephew company as he covered tender plants to protect them from the arriving freeze. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant before settling in for a quiet evening of camaraderie. As we visited, her warm snug house was blasted by the arriving storm. Within minutes the temperature plunged and winter had finally arrived to our small part of the world.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and wishing everyone Happy Bird Searching!!!
This past weekend I traveled to Burton,Texas to visit my sister. We had a lovely weekend doing sisterly things together and as usual I superimposed on my loved one my birdwatching passion. And my passionate flame was fanned by the revelation from one of her neighbors that they had spotted a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away at a dead pecan tree in their back yard.
The only time I have seen one of these birds was courtesy of the Cornell Live Bird Cam in Ithaca New York. I keep one of the live bird cams open as my screen saver while I am working because it gives me a window to the outside world. The day he popped into view I almost fell out of my chair. He was one of the most beautiful birds I had ever seen and I found myself salivating with the desire to see one in person. Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker in North America. Approximately 17-20 inches in length and with a wingspan of almost 30 inches, they are quite impressive to behold.
Then more recently, a friend of mine who is wintering in Alabama emailed me the news that she had spotted one in their area. So I was encouraged to know that when I visit her this coming April, I might be able to catch a glimpse of her Pileated Woodpecker.
So I was delighted to know that there was one living in Burton. My sister told me she had seen him many times during the summer when he was visiting her pear tree to help himself to its bounty. She didn’t realize how special he was to me. So I spent a large portion of Saturday scouting for this bird. I was successful only because he flew to a telephone pole across the street and began his clattering again. The neighbor managed to capture him on a cell phone camera but I was too late with my camera to capitalize on his appearance. But in the birding world, a visual sighting or being able to recognize a bird by its call counts. Do I want my own photo of this beautiful bird? Most definitely, so the game is still afoot.
Walking a few blocks around town I spied other species. Starlings, white wing doves, cardinals, blue jays, mockingbirds, red bellied woodpeckers, a ladderback female woodpecker, black vultures perching on the town’s water tower and the cedar waxwings had arrived and descended to begin their strip-mining operation of any berries in the area. A Red Shouldered Hawk sat high in a tree just behind my sister’s house. We later spotted him sitting on a neighbor’s fence with a squirrel running around on the ground perilously close.
On Saturday morning we drove to Lake Somerville to see what birds we could find. I love the countryside during the winter months. The trees are stripped bare of their leaves and the tree branches are much like skeleton arms and fingers reaching for the sky. We were rewarded for our efforts when we came upon a large squadron of American White Pelicans, a Belted Kingfisher, Mallard Ducks, American Coots, Great Egrets, and a Black Crowned Night Heron lurking in a marshy area created by recent rains which caused the lake to move beyond its boundaries and invade surrounding forest.
So once again, I am reminded that birds are everywhere. And if you want more in your own backyard it is as easy as providing food and water for them and they in turn will reward you with much entertainment. So as the saying goes….”Build it and they will come!”