Sister Time

Have camera and binocs, will travel

I travel light. A few clothes thrown into a tote bag, my binocs, a camera and I am off for another weekend visit with my sisters.

My two sisters just celebrated birthdays. One in December and the other just last Saturday. Recently I heard a young aspiring contestant on a television program describing her age in terms of how many times she had been around the sun. For her it was 20 times. For me and my sisters it is a whole lot more. I find myself thinking about how fortunate I am to have had both of my sisters so close to me throughout my entire life. Each time I complete one more trip around the sun, my oldest sister always describes in minute detail my arrival into their world. I always love hearing her descriptions and never tire of it. I get to enjoy a moment in my life of which I was totally unaware. So we now have a new way of reporting our ages. It is not measured in “years of age” but as how many “trips around the sun” we have been fortunate enough to complete.

Red-Shouldered Hawk – Burton, Texas

So on Friday night we shared a home cooked meal, birthday cake and many memories.We laughed and enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with sisters knowing each other so well. On Saturday two of us checked out some of the birds in the Burton area and near-by Lake Somerville. We were making memories with every bird we spotted. And secretly I am always hoping that my passion for bird watching will transfer to them.

We spent some time at the Big Red Barn just outside of Round Top, Texas where antique dealers had gathered for a winter show. Walking up and down the aisles I am always entranced with the merchandising skill of the booth vendors. They hawk their wares by using them in new and different ways and displaying old and much-loved items in such ways that I am tempted to purchase even though I have no clue where to put them nor why I feel I must have them. They are sorcerers!

Sunset from my sister’s front porch

Exhausted, but filled with satisfaction of a day well spent, we visited a local cafe for dinner before returning to her home to watch a movie. Nothing fancy, just a day spent with someone I love and who loves me equally.

Every encounter builds memories and each is emblazoned in my mind forever. They are important and meaningful and I hope to share many, many more with my sisters.

Happy bird searching!!!

PS: Still searching for Mr. Pileated Woodpecker!



Birding in Burton

Peacock – Burton, Texas January 2016

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.

Pileated Woodpecker Photo captured from Cornell University Live Bird Cam on Sapsucker Pond

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.

Cedar Waxwing – Burton, Texas – January 2016

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.

Red-Shouldered Hawk – Personal Photo GKennedy

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.

American White Pelicans – Lake Somerville, Texas January 2, 2016
Belted Kingfisher – Lake Somerville, Texas – January 2, 2016

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.


Black Vulture
Male Cardinal – Burton, Texas – January 2, 2016
Starling – Burton, Texas – January, 2016
White Wing Dove
Female Ladderback Woodpecker – Burton, Texas January 2016

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!”

Happy bird searching!!!

My Stork Encounter – September 29, 2013


Wares at Warrenton

While visiting my sister at her ranch in Burton, Texas, I had a very special encounter with a clatter of storks. I was visiting her for a twice yearly antique event being held in Round Top, Texas.  Every April and October, thousands of vendors from all over the United States set up shop along Highway 237 to hawk (pun intended!) their wares to thousands of shoppers who are seeking special treasures. It is hard to imagine the scope of this event for it encompasses many miles and must be seen to be believed. But trust me…anything and everything can be found here. Think the best ever garage sale in your entire life multiplied one hundred thousand times plus antiques thrown in the mix. We already had two full days of canvasing most of our favorite sites and were in her kitchen just enjoying a lazy Sunday morning with a steaming cup of coffee. I was in my robe and not really focused on birding at that particular moment. My attention was drawn to the kitchen windows by some huge birds flying in to settle on a stock pond in the pasture behind their house. They were big! So big that I instinctively knew this was a special moment. I jumped up and grabbed the binoculars that were on the window sill and at first thought they must be Whooping Cranes. I flew to the door and started walking barefoot very slowly towards the pond which was approximately a football field distance away. No shoes but thankfully my brother-in-laws pastures are pristine and free of burrs and weeds.  In my flapping robe, I am sure this “swoop of storks” probably viewed me as some giant bird flapping in the pasture. So here I was barefoot in my robe stalking some very large birds and trying to get close enough to memorize identifying marks and to observe their behavior.  Many times the behavior of a bird can help you in the identification process. But I digress.


Santas Galore

These huge birds were wading on the edge of the stock pond with their beaks half submerged slowly opening and closing them. They had predominantly white bodies , a sliver of black along their wing edges and tail and their heads were dark grey, scaly looking and featherless. The bills were thick, long and curved downward. And did I mention they were HUGE!!!!! Wood Storks have the nickname of “Old Flinthead”, “Ironhead” and Preacherbird because of their featherless heads and tendency to stand around contemplating their environment after eating. And indeed when you look at them their heads look very prehistoric.

Another moment in my life that I was kicking myself since in my excitement I did not being a camera with me. So once again, I began the process of burning the image into my memory. I was able to get within 50 yards of them and I spent the next 30 minutes or so leaning against the post on a barbed wire fence just absorbing the sheer magic and beauty of that moment. It was a gift to watch them slowly move through the pond water seeking food and refreshment on their migratory journey. When they finally took off to resume their trip, I savored the beauty of their powerful wings lifting them upward into the sky. They were magnificent and I was blessed to have witnessed them up close and personal.

Wood Stork Journal Entry