Sea Rim State Park: birds

My birds list is pretty haphazard so far, but I did want to note a few spotted in a southeast Texas coastal park. In a very brief visit, I saw: great blue heron, herring gull, willet, brown pelican, great egret, and, of course, plenty of vultures (I think all I saw were black vultures).

While still in the DFW area, among others, I saw a bunch of Canada geese.

Here I should plug my bird ID app, which I’m crazy about – they pay me nothing for this: check out Merlin Bird ID from the Cornell School of Ornithology. It rarely fails to help me feel confident in identifying the birds I see. Mine are almost always big birds: they’re easier to spot, especially when I’m not wearing my spectacles (which I rarely am). But I think I like the big birds the best, anyway. They feel easiest to identify with, have observable personalities. (Look out for a bird book review to come over at pagesofjulia any day now!)

addenda: wildlife and driving

My bad: I left some things out of the posts of the last few days.

I wanted to also tell you all that when Hops and I hiked up above the lodge in Davis Mountains, and back down via Montezuma Quail Trail, we saw a trio of mountain goats. Hops was so stimulated that he nearly pulled me off the mountain, at a steep and loose-rock part of the trail. I was thrilled, too, too thrilled to think of my camera til they were gone.

The next morning, stumbling out of the van so that we could both pee, we were startled by a pair of mule deer standing within a dozen feet. One of them retreated to a safe distance, but the other was so enamored of Hops that she did not leave. In fact she was approaching, head stretched to meet him, with such enthusiasm that it made me nervous. I didn’t quite want to break up the party, but every time she got close–mere feet!–I spoke to her, and she remembered me, and backed up a step or two. This went on for minutes, until another human happened along and she finally ran away. I still don’t understand what this deer wanted so much with my little dog. To snuggle him? To eat him? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Days later, I would stop the van on a state park road to admire wild turkeys: a dozen or so that ran off into the bushes, but a group of four who stuck around, pecking gravel and looking back at me. Big, fat, stately birds, they are. And such strange appendages, these “beards” hanging off their chests.

I am disappointed that while in the Big Bend region I saw no big predators living–coyotes, bobcats, black bear–though all are present. I did see several roadkilled coyotes, and a stuffed bear in the Museum of the Big Bend who was hit by a car and killed two miles from that site, in 2009. At the time (I was told by the museum man) he was the largest bear on record in the state of Texas. That wording implies that a larger one has turned up since.

I am reminded by all of this of my lifetime’s two bobcat sightings: one on the mountain in Bellingham, Washington where I used to mountain bike, and the other just weeks ago, in West Virginia, while driving in the mountains at night. I had my brights on and it dashed across the highway in front of me, and I got a good look.

I also wanted to remark on the drive north from Ft. Davis to Monahans. The first leg, from Ft. Davis to Balmorhea, was gloriously beautiful. Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic headed my way, so I took it as slow as I pleased, and looked around and enjoyed the multicolored mountains, a fresh vista around every turn. I stopped at Balmorhea State Park, where the famous pool is closed indefinitely for renovations, but I’d never seen it before and wanted to look around. Hops and I walked up to the chained-link to see the pool from a little ways off; it looks like a lot of fun. We spotted several black-and-white water birds enjoying it, which might have been bufflehead, but it’s hard to say from that distance and without my spectacles.

The drive from Balmorhea to Monahans, however, was a great change. From little-trafficked, rolling, multicolored, wild beauty, the transition was quick to oil pumps, flat expanses, and roaring traffic of big trucks (big pickups as well as big rigs), all of them in a great hurry and very suddenly none of them returning my steering-wheel-wave. High winds and the smell of oil towns (sulfuric and chemical) completed the experience: no fun. For that matter, Monahans on to Odessa and beyond continued in the same spirit; not until getting outside of Amarillo did things turn pretty again, but that’s a story for another blog post.

catching up with my time away from Foxy

I have neglected this site as I have neglected my van and my dog.

On Christmas morning, I was with three generations of old family friends; by Christmas night, I was with my friend Abby’s family, none of whom had met me before but who welcomed me nonetheless. Meanwhile a dear family of friends watched over Hops and Foxy for me. I feel lucky.

I left Foxy and Hops in the Texas Hill Country. I traveled to Houston, to fly to Atlanta, to join Abby there. We drove up into West Virginia together, to West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, where we are both in the MFA program. I graduated; she has a little time left still. We spent 10 days or so there, then backtracked (with a stop at a state park a little out of the way), through Charleston, WV, to Atlanta, on for me to Houston and back to the Texas Hill Country to rejoin dog and van. Whew.

Here are a few photos to tide us all over til I’m back in the van.

Not pictured: at Abby’s we saw three coyotes trotting down the dark road behind her house; when we got back, we saw a group of four or five eastern bluebirds (my first!) AND a blue jay, who kindly appeared to show us the contrast. On our trip home, we stopped at the lovely Taylor Books in Charleston, where we squealed over the books of our friends like Mesha Maren, Jessie van Eerden, Katie Fallon and Doug Van Gundy. I swore I would buy no books and then bought two books.

I’ll be back with regularly scheduled programming eventually, I promise. In the meantime, we follow the twisting road. Thanks for your patience.

for the birds

This one’s for my friend Katie Fallon, author of Cerulean Blues and Vulture.

On Goose Island, I saw spotted sandpiper, bufflehead, sanderling, turkey vulture, and black vulture – so many black vultures.

On Padre Island, brown pelican, great blue heron, long-billed curlew, laughing gull, grackle, and Wilson’s plover.

In Port Isabel, a field of snow geese – is that rare?? There is certainly no snow here! It’s T-shirt weather. In fact, I saw the most beautiful sunset, all pinks and purples behind palm trees over perfectly still water giving a pristine reflection of the same – sorry, no pictures, as I was driving. Views like this certainly make the Christmas decorations a little disconcerting.

On the road north of Brownsville, I saw a crested caracara and lots of red-tailed hawk, and a darker bird of prey of about the same size that I could not ID. And turkeys! A whole flock of turkeys, the first I’ve ever seen in the wild! What fun.

Here’s to more!