An article in the prestigious journal Science recently revealed that the bird population in this country has dropped 29% since 1970. The reasons given for this loss include reduced habitat and increased use of pesticides that diminish the food sources. This loss was pretty much across the board and included such common birds as Robins and Starlings. But why should any of this matter to us?
The other day I was feeding our lone survivor duck at the stock tank near our house. The morning was clear and the temperature had not yet risen to an uncomfortable range. The lone male Rouen duck (looks like a Mallard duck but larger breasted see example below) waddled up to me, awaiting my throwing of his food.
There standing before me within my own shadow stood this survivor bird. He is the last of a group of twelve we raised and put on the tank, the others having become food for local predators (fox and raccoon we think). He is a wily little duck that greets me each morning. I’ve wondered many times what sets this duck up for survival whereas the others made early exits.
I lifted my eyes toward the opposite side of the tank and noticed among the catails a beautiful Snowy Egret. This long legged white heron has been residing with us for the last several weeks. Also nearby on the top limb of the tallest tree sat our resident Great Blue Heron. I’ve written several blog pieces about this marvelous Great Blue heron, its beauty and its mythology.
A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative
I must admit to a moment of profound awe. There in front of me were three beautiful birds. Each has its story and its own beauty. Later on I blithered on about this magical moment to friends; the profound impact it had on me, and the beauty of the birds. Admittedly my friends did not fully understand the magic of my bird sighting. Perhaps you had to be there to appreciate the moment.
Moments of wonderment like this are a major reason why we must reverse the loss of our bird population. The thrumming of their calls first thing in the morning, the beauty of their synchronized flight, and their contributions to thinning out noxious insects are practical and important reasons to protect them. Think how sad it would be if our skies were cleared of birds and our ears failed to hear their melodious calls.
Animals and animal behaviors fascinate me. Even though on the back porch of my years, I’m so glad to still experience awe and wonderment of nature. Yes, Trudy and I will continue to spend countless dollars filling our multiple bird feeders and enjoying their beauty, song, and flight. We hope you will too.
I recently viewed a dozen or so cattle egrets within and perched upon our cow herd. These white, long necked, and long legged birds have been absent from our ranch for about a year. Our cattle tolerate them well. I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture of them but have some images taken from the internet.
The relationship between the egrets and cattle is a symbiotic one, as the egrets eat flies and ticks off the cattle. Both egret and cow have mutual benefit from their relationship.
What I discovered yesterday was that the egrets also provide entertainment for our friskier Spring calves. The calves playfully run at them, scattering the birds for a short fly around. The egrets soon after land in the herd and the chase is on again. The calves appeared to be enjoying themselves, but I can’t speak for the egrets.
Several times recently I’ve spotted a Great Blue Heron hanging out in the pool below the waterfall at Hidden Falls Ranch (our ranch across the county road). I can’t say for sure that it’s the same one about which I wrote the blog series last winter, but it looks the same. It’s dramatic to view it taking off from the pool, gaining altitude, and flying by me at eye level and not more than 20 feet away. According to Native American legend Great Blue Herons bring good luck. Bring it on!
Bulletin: Just viewed a Great Blue Heron in our stock tank below the house. It’s back! What wonderful news. Life is good in the Texas Hill Country.
I’ve written several blog pieces lately on a Great Blue Heron that has daily visited our stock tank. The heron and I have developed a predictable morning routine. Initially I find it perched atop a tree on the opposite bank. Then I throw fish food into the pond. I backtrack to my pickup from where I watch the heron glide gracefully across the stock tank (what a sight with its immense six foot wing span), land, and creep to its protected spot alongside the water. There it stealthily awaits a fish meal to swim by. When this occurs and with lightning like reflexes, it dives into the water to retrieve a fish. Our routine has become part of my morning ritual and, frankly, I’ve come to enjoy and expect it.
This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.
Imagine my disappointment the past two weeks when the heron has failed to show up. Initially I shrugged it off as happenstance, as the heron had at times missed a single day. Now it seems all too clear that the heron has left our ranch for another lofty perch.
Spring has sprung in the Texas Hill Country. The Red Bud trees have blossomed and the Bluebonnets are up. The Live Oak trees are changing over their leaves. Perhaps with the changing of the season, the heron has taken on new territory to fish. Alternatively, my heron may have fallen for a mate and been lured away by surging hormones- Spring is known to do that after all. I can only hope my heron has not befallen some worse fate, a consideration I’m loathe to even consider.
I’ll keep my eyes peeled each morning for the Great Blue Heron but fear it has departed the area or at least left my stock tank. If so,it leaves behind both good memories and hopefully good luck. To be sure, I shall miss its gorgeous flight, its prowess at fishing, its gorgeous appearance, its curious waddling gait, and the way it folds itself into a small package just at the edge of the water.
Come to think of it, The Great Blue Heron may just have tired of my bluegill! Why not for a change dine on Guadalupe bass or fat head minnows?
Farewell Great Blue Heron. You will be missed.