Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Life

         As Spring is in full bloom, I’m feeling heady and elated.  When God closes a door, somehow he manages to leave one window open.  Sure someone stole my Burr Oak, but my Flame Acanthus is alive!  It was a miracle when I discovered that it had survived winter.  Nature is full of surprises.  The Black-chinned hummingbirds are back in my area.  They are so fun to watch.  It’s difficult for me to imagine their flight to Mexico.  When a bird migrates, it requires 7 to 15 times more energy than usual.  If you think you can run a 4 minute mile nonstop for 80 hours, then you have what it takes to migrate.
     I probably overuse the word migrate.  It’s only because I like it so much.
         After clocking out at work, I will look at my coworkers, “I’m gonna migrate home.”
        Occasionally at Kroger, I’ll encounter a confused shopper. After a lengthy discussion I’ll make a recommendation, “You should really migrate to the salt aisle.”
        On a date, when I describe my history, “Yes, sometimes when I migrate I’m faking it.”
  Migrating aside, I’m loving how green it is.  The rain doesn’t even bother me.  This is the time of year to have a picnic or fly a kite.  I’m very fortunate to have a job that requires me to go outside and smell the honeysuckle or count the ants.  Today an adult wild Turkey came to the backdoor and tried to attack his reflection in the glass.  It was quite a sight to behold.  Turkeys are such odd looking birds.  This is their breeding season, so I’m sure he was out looking for the perfect female.  I wish him luck.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

the Great Horned Owl

       Do you remember in the Secret of Nimh when Mrs. Brisby had to visit the great owl?  The owl’s eyes were lit up as if they were on fire.  He appeared on screen, as a massive bone crunching creature.  I was talking to my friend the other day on the phone. 
           “I’m afraid of owls,” she reluctantly admitted.
 Over the course of the discussion, we determined that the repeated watching of the Secret of Nimh as kids had created in us a fear of owls.
As of late, I’ve been hearing a Great Horned Owl in my neighborhood.  His visits seem to be once a week.  Of course, he is probably hunting for rabbits.  I am surrounded by edge habitat which rabbits prefer.  
        I find him to be enchanting.  
  One night, I heard a Northern Mockingbird announce his arrival.  The alarm call sounded sharp, metallic and shattered the silence. I climbed out of bed, put on my house shoes and glasses.  Suddenly, I could hear the owl.  His low pitched ho-ho-hoo-hoo was coming from the building across from me.  It was about 1 am.  The street light made my polar bear Christmas pajamas visible, but luckily there wasn’t a human around.  As I got closer, I saw him.  He was perched on the chimney, which was low enough to make his face and ear tufts visible.  His body was smaller than I remember from the Secret of Nimh.  He watched me.  I reciprocated.  The staring contest lasted for about 5 minutes, then he flew off.  
According to David Sibley’s The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, “The acuity of avian eyesight is unparalleled among vertebrates.”  Try saying that sentence three times in quick succession.  It’s difficult.
        I learned over Christmas, to not talk about owls around my nephew. After mentioning the visits from the owl, he refused to go outside at night.  He was afraid.  DOH!
In conclusion, I really like the Great Horned Owl.  I think he is magnificent.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Burr Oak That Got Away

            I have never been a big plant gal.  Historically, if you gave me a plant and waited a couple of weeks, then you could depend on me killing it.  It wasn’t until October 24th, in 2013 when I finally met a baby plant that I could love.  I was on a tree retreat and we were gazing upon a massive Burr Oak in Benbrook.  I looked down and saw a ginormous acorn roughly the size of a doll’s head.  It was remarkable.  I picked it up and put it in my pocket.  It looked like I was carrying a tennis ball in my pants.  When I got home, I watered it and put it in a pot.  Like an expectant mother, I waited.  On the balcony, I watched it slowly grow inch by inch.  Then one day, it was raining quite a bit so I moved it outside.  I kept it there and would check on it.  I was so proud.
          I really believe that there is something sacred about a plant in a pot, because it takes human hands to get there.  You can infer that someone cares about that plant, which is why I was so shocked when someone stole my Burr Oak.  I came home from work on January 8th, at the beginning of this year and saw it was gone.  I froze.  When I got past the denial stage, then I started screaming.  It felt like someone was pushing a blunt butter knife into my heart.  I still am very angry.  I have decided that I will never love a plant again.
          If I thought that posting signs around the neighborhood would help, I would do it.  Sometimes I daydream about who took him.  Was he a tall adolescent from the inner city that likes to spend hours playing Minecraft?  Was she a short, bossy Girl Scout currently enrolled in middle school who saw my plant and mistakenly decided she could provide him a better home?  I can tell you this.  I will never ever steal someone’s plant because I know how it feels.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

                One of my grandfather’s favorite sayings is, “I’m gonna do something the Devil never does, leave you.”  Keep that in mind tonight as packs of sugar filled children in various stages of costume dress roam the streets.  It’s Halloween, a time of year when kids amass, hoard, then chow down on candy with the intensity of an Olympic athlete.  When presented with a fortune of candy, a smart child will suddenly become detail oriented like a good accountant.  I know this from personal experience.  My sisters and I were  normally mild mannered Anglo-Saxon Protestants, however, after Halloween, altercations would arise over candy ownership.  We would create a hierarchy or ranking system.  The upper candy class was pretty much anything produced by Mars, Inc. The middle class included any other brand name candy.  The working class included all the anonymous, banal candy.  For example, you could trade two or three working class candies for one upper class candy.  Understanding the hierarchy helped immensely when trading.  My parents tried to break into the market.  In a feeble attempt to decrease our individual candy fortunes, our parents offered to pay a quarter per pound of candy.  We refused to sell.  Duh!!  Happy Halloween.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


              I was driving home last night when I noticed a flock of Canada geese eating grass and sedges from the open field.  The sun was starting to set, but I could still clearly see them.  The unexpected presence of such a large number of geese was truly striking.  The flock consisted of at least twenty five strong adults.  I wondered if the flock plans to migrate next month or if they stay in this area year round.  It’s the end of summer and most birds are getting ready to migrate.  The Black chinned hummingbird that visits my feeder will leave.  The Mississippi Kite that frequently perches in the Oak tree near my parent’s house will depart too.  I like that birds are sentimental.  For example, they will return year after year to nest in a tree they like.  I like that different bird species send out scouts, because it makes them seem organized and methodical.  Recently, I learned more about the migratory routes of birds in North Texas at the Fort Worth Nature Center.   Do you have a favorite bird?  I recommend learning all you can about one particular species, then share the knowledge with as many people as you can.  If you haven’t been to the Fort Worth Nature Center, I recommend that too.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Full Moon Paddle

           Full Moon paddle is not just a clever name.  It’s also a regular activity at the Fort Worth Nature Center.  I called and reserved a spot a month in advance.  After having booked it, I had at least 30 days to imagine the luminous, opaque, full moon from the vantage point of a canoe.  This was an all inclusive activity.  The nature center provided the paddle, the canoe and the guide.  This was going to be a night tour of the Trinity River which only allowed twelve participants.  I was hoping to see a beaver, an alligator, and no snakes.  When the day finally arrived I was bubbling over with anticipation.  I set out on this short expedition with a friend from work, my BFF and her boyfriend.  After the initial introductions, we all rode to the nature center together.  The bonding process started.  I had not seen my friend for a while so I tried to catch up with her.  
She asked, “Do I look any different?”
I did not detect any obvious change in her appearance so I guessed. “Are you engaged?”
Her bright smile flashed as she nodded her head, “Yes!” She raised her arm so that her hand and ring could be easily admired.
“Wow!”  I said, “Congratulations, that is wonderful news!”
Her ring was a simple band.  When we arrived at the nature center, no one was at the gate.  I did not know where we should go.  Luckily, at that moment, two women in a white Toyota drove past us.  
I pointed and said, “Follow that car.”
Luckily, that car lead us directly to the place we needed to be.  After checking in with our guide, we parked.  Everyone formed a circle and one of the leaders went over the rules, then instructed us on how to use our paddles.  We put on life jackets and made sure they fit.  Grasping in one hand my paddle, I gazed at the canoes.  They were full size.  
Once we got situated inside the canoe, my partner said, “Wow, you are so far away.”  
I sat at the front of the canoe which allowed me the greatest view.  My friend sat at the back.  The temperature was steadily growing cooler.  I debated whether or not to take my jacket but ended up leaving it in the car.  I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and hiking pants.  
Our group of 8 canoes started out heading East.  Our guide had spotted an Osprey and an owl earlier and he wanted to see if they were still there.  As we rounded the corner, I saw the Osprey perched high in an old tree.  His wing span was magnificent.  He lifted off from the dying tree that he had been perched on.  As we turned our canoe around I finally saw the moon.  It was huge.  It beamed and reflected on the smooth surface of the water.  With each passing moment, it was growing darker.  Looking around I felt like the tiny moth attracted to the flame, I was perfectly spellbound by the natural beauty before me.  At the front of our canoes, there was a pole with one tiny light attached to the end.  We looked like floating candles from a distance.  The reeds along the river were at least six feet high.  One of the ladies in our party had expressed an interest in seeing an Alligator.  We stopped at a male beaver’s bachelor pad.  Our guide, Chad, told us the brief history of the 4 year old male beaver that made the den.  Then we paddled down to the family lodge where we learned more about the mated pair of beavers.  They had been together for ten years.  Wow.  As Chad explained the beaver’s life cycle, my eye’s scanned the shore for any sign of movement.  Once we moved downriver, we saw a couple of baby alligators, heard two beavers slap their tail, and we kept upsetting a Great Blue Heron who was trying to fish.  
The water was very shallow at a couple of points and we had to follow our guide in a single file line.  Three times I heard the Great Blue Heron give us a warning.  It sounded ominous and scary.  We paddled vigorously for two hours.  My partner in the canoe kept trying to keep up with our guide.  It took me a while to figure out how to direct the canoe.  All the movements were foreign to me.  Several times we bumped into other canoes because I could not figure out how to steer us to the right or left.  When one of the beavers slapped his tail against the surface of the water, I couldn’t help feeling like an awestruck teenager.  It was so dark.  Looking up, I could see stars.  The light from the moon seemed to grow brighter.  It allowed us to see the stumps that were dotted throughout the river.
We eventually made it back to the dock.  By this time, I was shivering.  It took 30 minutes to unload the canoes.  Soon my engaged friend, her fiance and my friend were back in the car headed home.  I recommend the Full Moon Paddle at the Fort Worth Nature Center to anyone and everyone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


          I was raised by an English teacher, so in my formative years vocabulary was a big deal.  Frequently I would hear Mom say, “Do you have a better word for that?”  Conversely, if I said, “During lunch, my conversation with Becky seemed aimless and trite.”  My mom would immediately cheer, “Good word!!”  
        Yesterday it was mid morning when I was driving through Hurst and witnessed one of my new vocabulary words in action.  My heart jumped with excitement.  The word is mobbing.  It is when a group of smaller birds gang up on a bird of prey.  They taunt and tease him until he leaves the area.  In the sky, the bird of prey looked like a White-tailed Hawk.  A group of at least eleven American Crow’s were charging, dive bombing him.  I have never been a huge fan of Crows, but in this moment I was completely enthralled.  Like Ice Cube, these small opportunistic birds were Steady Mobbin’.  It all happened quickly.  I was parked at the intersection waiting for the light to turn green when I saw them chase the unwelcome predatory bird away.
I thought of my mom and called to tell her about this teachable moment.  It’s true that I’m a city dweller, but I always enjoy being reminded of the natural world.  Whether it’s seeing a hummingbird, or a rabbit, regardless of the specifics, it makes me happy.