Posts Tagged ‘mockingbird’


Hundreds of cedar waxwings swooped from the sky and landed in the tree tops as Maggie and I walked past them this morning. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Happiness isn’t getting what you want, it is wanting what you got.” Garth Brooks

 Travels With Maggie It’s cool, damp and overcast here in Central Texas this morning. No sliver of golden sun, or even a rose-tinted cloud to brighten the day.

 The birds, however, seem to love it.

 I watched a pair of northern cardinals, a scarlet male and a yellow and red female, chase each other around a row of cedar trees outside my RV. A chatty mockingbird watched the courtship from a utility line above the trees, then flew off, perhaps in search of its own soul-mate.

The cardinals’ splash of color helped make up for the missing sunrise. But it wasn’t until later, after my dog, Maggie, finally woke and demanded her morning walk, that the day truly seemed cheery. Hundreds of cedar waxwings swooped down and settled in the tops of several trees our walk took us past.  Immediately they began calling back and forth among themselves, filling the air with bird twitter.

Cedar Waxwing -- Photo by Ken Thomas ( http://kenthomas.us/ )

 The light was such that the birds seemed little more than dark blobs against a gray sky. A look at them through my binoculars added a bit of their color, but my knowledge and imagination had to add the rest.

Cedar waxwings are striking birds with fancy crests, rosy-brown heads and yellow bellies. Red splotches on their wings, yellow on their tail tips and a black mask across their eyes make them look as if they’ve dressed in their best feathers for a masquerade ball.

 They’re actually the partying kind. I can’t recall ever seeing just one cedar waxwing.

 These birds only visit Texas in the winter. They migrate north for the summer. Smart birds. Come warmer weather, Texans will be yearning for a cool, damp, overcast morning like today.

Read Full Post »


A northern mockingbird was my first bird of the new year. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” — Henry Van Dyke

Travels With Maggie

I’m a passionate birdwatcher, who keeps a list of birds I’ve seen. My life list now totals 696 bird species. It’s a respectable number for this late-blooming birder, but far from spectacular.

If you want to know more about the birding numbers game you should read “The Big Year” by Mark Obmascik. It’s a great read even if you aren’t a birder. It’s about three guys who spend a year chasing birds all across North America. At the whisper of a rare bird alert, they would fly thousands of miles on a minute’s notice.

Although I did once drive 400 miles to see one particular bird, these days I usually just bird where my travels take me. I check out bird festivals going on while I’m in the vicinity, and hook up with local Audubon chapters for birding field trips. This past year these efforts, including one day when I hired a guide to help me find the golden-cheeked warbler that I had been trying to find for three years, earned me 12 new life birds. And yes, the warbler was one of them.

I spotted this yellow-crowned night heron at the Sea Center in Lake Jackson, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This year’s birding efforts, meanwhile, have begun slower than normal. I’ve been parked in my son’s driveway here in Harker Heights all this week and a cold front moving through the area seems to have kept the birds tucked away.

At least they’re not falling out of the sky dead, as red-winged blackbirds and starlings have been doing in Arkansas the past couple of days. That’s a scary thing because birds, like the canaries coal miners carried into the tunnels with them as their bad air detectors, are indicators of an environment’s health.

My first bird of this new year was a northern mockingbird, appropriate since it’s Texas’ state bird. It was a brilliant gray and white fellow with yellow eyes that landed on a fence about eight feet from my RV window. As I watched, it flashed its long tail in the air – then pooped.

Read Full Post »