Monday, January 11, 2010

Home Again!

We returned from The Woodlands, Texas late last night where we were visiting my son and daughter-in-law. I was sitting in their living room yesterday when I noticed a black and white bird on the tree just outside their window. The bird was tapping at the tree as it hopped up the bark. I looked it up on the internet and sure enough, it was a woodpecker. I don't think I've ever seen a woodpecker up close before. It was a female because it had no red on its neck. Most of the trees in The Woodlands are towering pines that seem to reach to the sky, so it didn't take long for the bird to disappear from my view. My son's backyard is filled with shrubs and trees that have a wide variety of berries. Even though they don't put out seed, their yard attracts a wide variety of birds, as well.

Last year, I was dog-sitting while they were out of town and noticed twin baby squirrels chasing each other along the top of the fence every afternoon. I didn't see them this visit, but I'm sure they're around. There are plenty of trees in the area where they can make homes. Driving through The Woodlands at night is like driving through a corn maze--the trees are tall and very close together.

There is a problem with the trees in The Woodlands, though. Last year's drought attracted a large number of pine bark beetles that are slowly eating away at this beautiful forest. There is approximately 12 million acres of forestland including four national forests and five state forests in East Texas. It's called the East Texas Pine Belt, or Piney Woods, and it has plenty of food for pine beetles, unfortunately. I do hope conservation efforts can keep the problem under control.

Early this morning, the little one-eyed squirrel was on the back table digging through the sunflower seed shells. We arrived so late last night that I didn't put fresh seed out, so I grabbed my bathrobe and ran outside to fill the animal dishes. All of the water dishes were frozen solid and the garden hose was frozen, as well, so I had to fill their dishes in the den. It has been so cold that many people in central and east Texas are struggling with frozen and broken pipes--not a common problem for this area! I am hoping that the ground didn't freeze deep enough to harm the lizards, frogs and toads that bury themselves during winter to keep warm. Our pond was frozen over again, too, but just on the surface. It has already cracked and is working on melting.

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