Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: seasons

The Backyard at Sunset

I pull a rake against dry oak leaves
the wind gusts and twirls

an invisible rope
coiling through the cooling air

sunset and shadows cover the ground
I can no longer tell leaves from grass

the purpling sky is a fading sea
tugging the live oaks against gravity

mockingbirds call and chirp
I don’t know what they’re saying

but I believe them

Return of the Chipping Sparrows

The return of the chipping sparrows is the first real sign that autumn is coming to central Texas. We know it’s here, has been for a month, and the occasional flirtatious cold front suggests that winter might make an appearance, but the chipping sparrows come about the time the leaves begin to fall from the cedar elm out back.

They’ll be regulars at the feeder the next few months, poking for the small seeds the white-winged doves and house sparrows aren’t interested in. They’re less skittish than those two year-round species as well. When I open the back door, the house sparrows and doves fly off immediately, but the chippers stay put as if to say, “Dude, what’s the deal? That’s the ape that brings the food.”

Through the winter I’ll usually see a dozen or so in the mornings and evenings, but come late March just before they fly north, I’ll see massive flocks in the backyard. Seventy or more birds poking around in the grass and to a colorblind guy like me who has trouble seeing brown birds in green grass, it seems the very lawn is writhing and wiggling awake after the winter. Then, one day, they will be gone and summer will be just around the corner.

I started my Project FeederWatch counts last weekend. Here’s who showed up for the first count. Mostly, the usual suspects:

  1. Chipping Sparrow: 4
  2. Black-crested Titmouse: 3
  3. Carolina Wren: 1
  4. Carolina Chickadee: 1
  5. House Sparrow: 8
  6. Blue Jay: 2
  7. White-winged Dove: 17

The only no-show was the Bewick’s wren, which I see pretty regularly, though I didn’t see one on my official count day.

Autumn Falling (Or So They Say)

Fall begins tonight, at least that’s what They say. We’ve got some summer days ahead (though not everyday), but I’m excited even if it is like Christmas without snow or cold. There are many reasons to love fall in central Texas even if the leaves don’t change colors like they do up north.

Maybe it’s the light and the way it changes in the fall as the sun follows those migrating birds south. There is too much light here five months of the year. Everything seems blasted, washed out and flat. Photographs with white skies. The autumn light throws things into sharper relief so everything around jumps out, though it was all there all along, hidden in the haze of light that melts everything it touches into flatness. There are discoveries to make this time of year now that the heat no longer blinds.

Maybe it’s the southbound migrants passing through and the winter residents arriving. The orange-crowned and yellow-rumped warblers, the chipping sparrows and kinglets coming back. Fall and winter are great times for birding here since as many species are coming as going. So long, scissor-tails, swallows and kingbirds. Hello, ducks.

Maybe it’s the simple fact that being outside is enjoyable again. Now that fall is upon us, the weather is finally beginning to change just ever so slightly. It’s still humid but the heat behind that humidity is down, and I can once again enjoy creeping out of my air-conditioned cave to enjoy the world.

Most days, I take a walk at lunch. It’s an even mile around the facility where I work and, and I like to walk that mile. It’s good to see the weather and hear the birds, to feel sun and wind in the middle of a day spent in a windowless classroom. It recharges me for the afternoon and lets me unwind as well. When the planet begins to skirt close to the sun as it does in late April, my walks stop and usually don’t resume until mid-September since I can’t stand returning to class sweaty and smelly. I took my first lunch walk of the new school year yesterday, enjoying the calls of the killdeer that live in the fields around the building.

Those walks are the source of many of the micro-poems I post at (the new and improveda gnarled oak so the micro-poems, like many of our plants, dry up a little in the summertime. So does a lot of my writing. I don’t know why, but it’s better to write when the world is cooler and darker. It seems there’s more to say, more of a need to say it. A fall bloom, if you will.

When I was in high school in New England, spring was such a joy. An annual awakening that seemed to lift everyone from the darkness. Here in Texas things are turned around. Here, it is autumn that awakens as I find myself celebrating the release from the blazing light and heat. Excited again by the opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors.

Or maybe it’s just football.

Whichever way, it’s fall. Time to get outside again.

This post was inspired by Lorianne and Heather whose posts about fall got me looking forward to fall here even though it doesn’t feel that fall-like most days.

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