Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: scissor-tails


The wind blew gray and humid,
the Gulf thick over the prairie,
catching trash and leaves and pollen

and a lone scissor-tailed flycatcher,
the first to arrive this spring, suspended above
a crepe myrtle, his tail forked, balancing
on wind, navigating toward a perch.

It seemed those last few feet against the wind
became as significant a struggle as the journey
of thousands of miles flown between
Central America and this narrow limb.

Such it is to be in the moment
when attention is required:
the scale of the task
falls secondary to action.

In this way, we can reach the tree
no matter how far we’ve traveled,
and, like that bird,
we can leave if we want
without a second thought.

Weekend Birds and Snake

The birds are singing a bit more and thus calling to be found. This mockingbird on one of the neighborhood trails especially so. He let me get pretty close before he took off, leaving me with perhaps my best mocker photo.

On Sunday R and I went to Hornsby Bend. On the river trail, we got a good look (and lousy shot) of this Crested Caracara perched high above the Colorado. We could hear, but not see, Blue Jays screeching at him from the nearby trees.

On the drive out, we had to stop for this Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, taking its time crossing the road.

After 20 years in Texas, this is the very first rattlesnake I’ve actually seen (heard lots of them, though). Strangely enough, the previous weekend, my brother was telling me he had just seen his first ever rattlesnake.

Halfway across the road, it stopped and started rattling. Not wanting to run over it and thus deprive the caracara or one of the many hawks swooping around the area of a tasty meal, I eased the car around it, but not before taking a few pictures.

Hopefully, it will be another 20 years before I see another one.

On the way out, with hawks screeching overhead, I spotted this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, one of my favorite birds. I took his picture, figuring this might be the last one I would see until April.

Of course, I’ve seen quite a few on the way to work the past few days, but they’ll be heading south soon.

Scissor-tails Return

Soaring overhead,
scissor-tails returning
a long journey ends

I love the scissor-tailed flycatcher. So beautiful and elegant with tails forked wide or streaming long and thin behind like signs towed by toy airplanes. What would the sign say? Bugs beware, spring is here.

They’re the state bird of Oklahoma, and can be found on the Oklahoma statehood quarter, released earlier this year.

Fortunately, they can also be found all over central Texas this time of year, soaring over open fields, twisting and diving to come up with a delicious dragonfly. Watching their forked tailed displays is cause to stop the car and stare.

They migrate up from southern Mexico and central America, and then fan out across Texas and Oklahoma. Those journeys are especially amazing to me. What have those little black eyes seen? Seeing the first members of a returning migration is a sight to make one’s day. For a moment, at least, we can know that some things still work, still happen as they should. With their return, Nature’s clock chimes April.

They showed up on April 1st this year.

The return of the
scissor-tailed flycatcher
April has begun

Three Bird Lunch

My classroom has no exterior windows and if I get busy, it’s easy to go a whole day with no idea of what the weather is like outside. This time of year, however, it’s beautiful and so, I’ve taken to going for walks around the building. It’s good to get out for some exercise and even more fun to see what kinds of wildlife I can identify. Today, I brought my camera.

I’ve been especially fascinated by the killdeer around the building. Initially, it was its call that caught my attention, and so I stopped to discover these noisy shorebirds that live nowhere near shore. Apparently their natural habitats are parking lots near fields and golf courses.

When I go for my walks, I always look forward to getting around to the west side of the building where they like to congregate in the drainage ditch, which this one discovered helps make him especially photogenic.

I see mockingbirds all the time, and today, I actually managed to get a picture of this one.

I’d like to try to get one displaying the white flashes on its wings, but that will take a bit of patience.

Finally, I saw this scissor-tailed flycatcher hanging out waiting to be photographed.

I’ve seen these birds all over the place around here, but I never knew what they were until today. The tip-off, of course, was when I saw one catch a fly in midair, his scissor-like tail streaming behind him. Now that I know what he is, I get to add him to my list.

In addition to the three I photographed, I also regularly see barn swallows, turkey vultures, white-winged doves, and some kind of hawk that I haven’t been able to name yet, although, I didn’t see him today.

It’s a funny thing walking around the building. Looking outward, I see birds, wild and free, filling me up with enough of the outdoors to go back in for the rest of the day, and all of it surrounding a building full of juvenile offenders. I wonder what they think about when they see the birds outside, or if they even notice them at all.

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