Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Return of Mr. Thrasher

I visit with the birds on the side of the house three or four times a day. It is my peace. I speak with them, toss them some seed, listen to their songs. Mrs. Thrasher and I have similar interests. She likes to sit on the side of the wall and watch the sparrows while Mr. Thrasher flies about the neighborhood.

To be honest, I'm not sure if it's Mr. or Mrs., but I'm assuming it is Mrs. Thrasher sitting on the wall. The curve-billed thrasher is 10 to 12 inches long, generally slender though they puff up a bit when it's cold and breezy, with a long tail and a long, curved, sickle-shaped bill. It is grayish-brown on the wings with a lighter, slightly streaked body. Its tail is streaked with white and the sides of the tail are darker than its back. It has a deep orange or reddish-orange eye, as you may have noticed from the pictures I post to the right.

The curve-billed thrasher mates for life and both male and female work together to care for the nest and young. Thrashers lay two to four blue eggs, generally in spiny brush--which is where they live on the side of my house--or in cactus. They eat bugs and seeds, and we have plenty of both in my yard, but this time of year, it's mostly seeds that I provide.

One of the thrashers has been missing for a bit. It's possible I simply did not see him as I generally count the birds at the same time every day. Today, however, I counted in the morning, and he was there, which made me very happy!

However, I noticed something interesting during my minor panic over Mr. Thrasher's possible disappearance. I went back through my photographs and noticed another bird, a bird that appears to be a curve-billed thrasher. There is something different about this bird, though. It's eyes are yellow, and its breast seems lighter. I think it's beak might also be straighter, which would mean it is either a juvenile curve-billed thrasher or a Bendire's thrasher, which is vulnerable to extinction. Either way, I need to do further documentation of the thrashers who live on the side of my house. My count is clearly off. I have three, not two. What I need is a better picture of the yellow-eyed bird!

As a special treat, I also had a visit from two great-tailed grackles--lovely!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wild Burro Protection League to Deliver Petition to Texas Governor Rick Perry

On January 18, 2012, Marjorie Farabee will begin the Wild Burro Protection League Ride For Life in an effort to save the last remaining herd of wild burros in Texas. The Ride for Life will take place in Austin, Texas where Farabee will deliver the 103,000 signatures and comments to Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst at 1:00 PM.

Farabee will begin the ride at noon on the back of a small buckboard wagon pulled by a donkey named Miss Abby who has her own website, Donkeys Can Do. The staging area will be at Rosewood Oaks, 1507 Lavaca Street in Austin, next to the Capitol Grounds Complex. She will then travel up Lavaca Street, turn left on 16th and right on Congress, and to the South side of the Capitol building. At that time, Marjorie Farabee will disembark from the buckboard, and walk to the north entrance to deliver the petition.

In the meantime, other supporters of the cause to save the wild burros will speak to those interested about what is happening to the last herd of wild burros in Texas, as well as other wildlife located in Big Bend Ranch State Park. For more information, visit Miss Abby's Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little Bird with Deformed Beak

There is a little sparrow that lives in the shrub with the thrashers. The rest of the sparrows sleep in the evergreens in the arroyo at night, but this blessed little creature lives in the shrub that tumbles over the wall around our property.

I suspected something was wrong with her when I realized she would not leave the shrub. When the cat follows me outside, the little bird hops deeper into the shrub. I was watching her this evening and when she turned her head, it appeared as if she was missing an eye. I took some pictures--she actually has a misformed beak, which makes her eye set in a bit. I'm not sure if she can see out of it properly. I'm also not sure if she was born this way, or if it's an injury, but I believe she needs some prayer, and perhaps a little more protection from the cat--no more cat following me outside!

Sun Pillars and Thrashers

I was photographing the sunset last night and a sun pillar appeared. A sun pillar is vertical streaks of light above a low sun shining through ice crystal clouds, similar to glitter paths on the surface of a lake or ocean. It is brightest when the sun is just below the horizon. When a sun pillar occurs at night, it is called...a moon pillar, of course!

It was still light outside, so I walked over to the wall on the side of the house to talk to the thrashers. There is a mated pair of thrashers living in the shrub that creeps over the wall and divides our property from the property next door. The thrasher couple mixes amicably with the finches, sparrows and doves that flutter around our yard, but at night, when the smaller birds fly into the thick evergreens in the arroyo for extra protection from predators, the thrashers sit on the wall, waiting to talk to me.

This time, however, the dogs were with me. Mrs. Thrasher did not like this at all. She looked at me, then down at the dogs, then back at me, then down at the dogs. At one point, I thought she might attack them, so I told the dogs to go back inside.

The days are growing warmer and the little birds seem to be hovering around interesting places, like the garden shed, and my grandchildren's playhouse. I suspect they are looking for nesting sites. They like the smiling sun that hangs on the playhouse. The sun's mouths is open and the space is perfect for a small nest.

I love nesting season, listening to the birds call to their mates, watching them dart back and forth from the plants to their nests, capturing bugs, feeding their young. God has blessed our home with these little creatures, and they are marvelous.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fun at the Albuquerque BioPark

It's been a busy month. My grandchildren were visiting and we spent some time at the Albuquerque BioPark. The BioPark, located next to the Rio Grande River, was founded in 1927 and includes the Rio Grande Zoo, Tingley Beach, the Botanic Garden and the aquarium.

We spent the day at the BioPark, which is easy to do as there is so much to see! We started at the zoo, then moved to the aquarium and ended the evening with the River of Lights display--400 light displays on the river. The River of Lights is visited by 90,000 people each year. I think they were all there the night we went, too--it was packed!

Although I prefer to see animals flying free, I am always reminded of the importance of zoos when I read the life expectancy information on the cards in front of the animal displays. Most of the time, the life expectancy of animals is doubled in captivity due to a lack of predators. Unfortunately, humans are almost always the number one predator of wild animals.

One of my favorite displays at the zoo was the golden eagle. He reminded me of the pair of golden eagles that used to fly over our house when we lived in Wellington, Colorado. We had 35 acres and they returned to the hills each year to raise their fledgling. When they fly between you and the sun, you can see the sunlight through their wings and their wings glow like flourescent gold.

I also enjoyed the polar bears. They were awake, rolling around, being playful and noisy. One of the bears kept making strange noises. I had the impression he was bored.

When we went to the lion enclosure, we heard a loud, rhythmis roaring, but we didn't see any lions. A woman standing nearby jokingly said it sounded like a tape recording--and it did! Then the roaring stopped. "They're rewinding the tape," she said, and we laughed and started to walk away. A minute later she called out to me. "He's out!" She said. "It really is a lion! He's walking around, roaring!" Sure enough, the lion walked around the enclosure, scratched his head on a post, went back inside and started to roar again!