Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: Nature (page 2 of 24)


silent nestbox
one chickadee didn’t fledge
I bury him in his nest


the chickadee sits
on her nestlings, each breath
a feather’s tremble

I think I’ll be posting my small stones here for NaPoWriMo and maybe past that. I’m not sure I want to keep maintaining two blogs. We’ll see.

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets

Last weekend we went down to a nearby park to take the requisite child-in-a-field-of-bluebonnet photos that every every kid raised in central Texas has. This was S’s first time sitting in a field of flowers and he was quite suspicious of the whole procedure what with its overload of colors, sensations and fluttering butterflies, but we did get some good ones.

Last spring, with the drought underway, there were very few wildflowers and almost none of the Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) for which central Texas is particularly famous, but with the surprising amount of rain we’ve had through winter and early spring, the wildflowers are putting on quite a show. Where it’s not blue, it’s bright yellow, so deep it seems as if the green of the grass beneath is an afterthought. Wildflowers own the prairie and lick like benign flame against the trunks of live oaks and mountain juniper.

Soon the bluebonnets will fade and we’ll see the reds: Mexican hat and firewheel and the bright yellows of the prickly pear as spring’s flowers give way to summer’s and heat and light drive us indoors or to oak-shaded patios and margaritas and iced tea. But for now, spring in Texas is about a good as it gets.

Mourning Doves Move In

Mourning Dove

Last night I noticed a mourning dove sitting in one of the planters hanging from the back porch. I could just see her head poking above the woven fabric of the basket, which has been empty since last summer’s drought killed the plants that were there. Now it’s just a small shelf of dirt and, it seems, a nice place for a dove to roost.

This morning, the dove was gone but I wanted to see if there was any kind of nest in it and so I got up on tiptoes, looked in and was surprised to see a single white egg. By the time I left for work, she was back, hunkered low, feathers fluffed against the early chill.

According to Birds of Texas, mourning doves lay two eggs that incubate for 12-14 days. The fledglings leave the nest 12-14 days after that. Assuming of course they make it. Since I haven’t been putting out seed, the squirrels, blue jays and grackles aren’t coming around as much so hopefully this dove will have a chance.

As soon as I saw the egg, I found myself thinking about how to protect it from nest predators, but then I remembered that dove knows what she’s doing better than I do. Still, I really hope we get to see some young doves fledge into the world rather than the redder side of nature.

When I got home, there was a second egg, and I got the above picture (click to see higher-res) of the male. I was amazed by his coloring (the blue patch on his crown marks him as the male). I had no idea they were so colorful. I’ve seen so many mourning doves that I guess over the years I’ve stopped really seeing them. Usually they’re farther away too and so while I’ve watched them, I realize that this is the first time I’ve gotten a really good look at one. Stunning. Once again, I’m reminded that the most astonishing things in the world are often the things we see every day and thus stop noticing.

“You just have to pay attention,” my wife says as she’s watching me type this.

The Backyard in Spring

Common grackle

The grackles returned as is their wont around the first of the month. They spread out this time of year thus I only have five or six come around so the mockingbirds and blue jays still get their shot at the suet feeders.

I haven’t been filling the platform feeder as regularly as in the past. Too many mammals coming around and with a little boy, I’m inclined to keep it that way for a while. So it’s just suet and finch feeders for the most part, which the mammals don’t go for. And, with fewer doves hogging the yard, I’m seeing more mockingbirds and cardinals come around.

There’s also a nest in the nest box by the porch. I saw a chickadee hanging around the other morning and the nest doesn’t look like a wren’s nest, which is what I usually find in the nest box, so I’m hoping we’ll see some chickadees unless I scared them away when I opened the box to check it unaware that there would actually be anything in it (it hasn’t been used since 2009).

I didn’t do Project FeederWatch this year, but the usual winter suspects came around: ruby-crowned kinglet, yellow-rumped warbler, chipping sparrow and orange-crowned warbler. No American goldfinches this year, but the lesser goldfinches are here as always.

So spring is springing and the birds are coming around singing and each day there seems to be something new to show my son as we stand out on the porch listening to birds, though his favorite activities are waving at the dogs and laughing at the wind chimes. Through him, I’m seeing new wonders everywhere. The world is chock full of them.

Great Egrets

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Texas Thistle

Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum), where the goldfinches go.

Prairie Verbena


Prairie Verbena aka Dakota Vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida)

Yes, I’m still taking time off to investigate and learn the flowers that are able to withstand this drought.

(click images to enlarge)

Plains Coreopsis (Golden Tickseed)



Plains Coreopsis aka Golden Tickseed or Goldenwave (Coreopsis tinctoria)

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