Nature Feed

Tornadoes and taxes ... too soon!

I hate writing today's blog item. I knew I would have to eventually, but it's way too soon. I'm talking about the tornadoes that tore through the South on Tuesday. It was the worst twister outbreak in more than 20 years. There's nothing any of us can do to console those who lost family and friends. And there's very little we can do for those whose losses were confined to property. But we try anyway. The quickest way to reach out is to give to a charitable group that provides assistance to storm victims. These organizations, such as the American... Read more →


Free Tom!

Actually, it was May (pictured there at right with Dubya) and Flower who were pardoned, if not actually freed, this year in the annual pre-Thanksgiving event at the White House. Every year, representatives of the National Turkey Federation and the farmer who donates the turkey (or, this year, turkeys) join the President in the White House Rose Garden. The prez gives his "happy holiday" talk and pardons the birds for the assembled photographers and TV cameramen. You can read about this year's ceremony here. That page has more pictures, as well as audio and video links if you're already that... Read more →


Sand dollars

The U.S. was spared the worst of Hurricane Noel, but the system did inflict a lot of damage on East Coast beaches. First those in South Florida got whacked for days as Noel sat over Cuba and then the Bahamas. Now that he's finally moved, some of the high surf he'll produce could cause problems for North and South Carolina and New England shorelines. And that means problems for beachfront property owners. A story in today's New York Times examines beaches and erosion solutions, all of which are shrinking. According to the article: "Over the last decade or more, federal... Read more →


Hello … hello … hello
from Santa Elena Canyon

That headline is my admittedly weak attempt to textually relate an echo. Why? Because when we were in the canyon below yesterday, the echo effect was great. That's Santa Elena Canyon, in the far southwest section of Big Bend National Park. The wall to the right is Texas; to the left, Mexico. The terrain here along the Rio Grande River is nice and flat, unlike the place up-river where we stopped on Thursday when were driving to the park. There the bank fell off about 10 inches, but I was determined to put my toes into the waters dividing Mexico... Read more →


I and the Bird #60

David at Search and Serendipity is the host for the 60th I and the Bird. This particular birding carnival is notable not just because David is a fellow Texan, but also because he's produced the first birding blog carnival to be hosted by video. Amid the more than 30 postings from birders worldwide, David gives up four videos. Be sure to view each, including the outtake reel. But the core of every I and the Bird is, of course, the collection of fantastic reports from birding bloggers, or blogging birders. Among my favorites this time are: The photo blog from... Read more →


Who hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo is there?

Backyard birding continues to be spectacular of late, or in this latest instance, of early. Around 5 a.m. I woke up and decided I needed a snack. Trying not to wake the hubby, I kept the lights off as I crept downstairs and made my way carefully into the kitchen. Just as I was about to head to the fridge, I head the owl. It was a great-horned owl, probably male judging from our Peterson Field Guide's description of the call pattern. The lights were still off, so I eased my way to the back door and stepped out on... Read more →


Happy wren, happy me

I love birding because seeing any bird, exotic interloper or every day neighbor, makes me smile. So does hearing them. I'm not the best when it comes to identifying birds by their songs or calls. But one I do know is the Carolina Wren. Part of that familiarity is because the species has been a regular visitor to our backyard shrubs since we moved to our Austin home. And this afternoon, one of those wrens was in full, fine voice. The exuberant little singer even popped out of the foliage just long enough to give the hubby and me a... Read more →


Tax help for fire's aftermath

It seems like the whole world is burning. I typed "wildfire" into Google and was stunned. I fully expected to see something about the tragedy in Greece and the Idaho situation here in the U.S. But I had no idea that a stubborn blaze in Southern California has burned more than 375 square miles since July 4. Or that forests in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are ablaze. And a portion of Crimea might be evacuated because of wildfires. In Montana, the governor has called a special legislative session for next week so that lawmakers can come up with more firefighting money.... Read more →


Congratulations to I and the Bird

I and the Bird, the wonderful biweekly collection of the best that the many birding blogs have to offer, is celebrating its second anniversary. Congratulations to Mike and my fellow avian aficionados who've made this birding carnival such a success. Unfortunately, the hubby and I have been too busy, and it's getting a bit too hot here in Central Texas, to do much birding. Plus, we had that horrible rainy spell. So I don't have an entry in this momentous edition. But I am very thankful that through it, I can cyberbird. The hubby and I also are grateful that... Read more →


Thank you and goodbye,
Lady Bird Johnson

Another fine Texas woman is no longer with us. But her legacy -- a love of and dedication to protecting our natural resources and beauty -- remains. Thank you Mrs. Johnson. Every bluebonnet in Texas and wildflower across the rest of the country will forever remind us of how much you meant to us. Austin's local NBC affiliate, KXAN, has a nice tribute to Mrs. Johnson. If you want to help continue the First Lady's environmental efforts, donate to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Read more →


Marble Falls mess

A special Flood Edition of the Lower Colorado River Authority's newsletter just showed up in my e-mail box, so I wanted to share some of its information as an update to Friday's flood posting. The LCRA e-publication has these stunning aerial photos of some Central Texas dam floodgates. Click on the photos, and you'll get video. There's also a list of the more than 80 flood events that have hit the lower Colorado River basin since the 1800s, as well as information on the recreational activity ban at most area lakes through the July 4th holiday. Major mess: Folks in... Read more →


Sleepy in Seattle

That's me, since I got up at 4:30 a.m. Central time Monday to head to the Pacific Northwest for three days of Taxpayer Advisory Panel (TAP) meetings. As it turned out, I could have slept a bit later, since traffic to the Austin airport was no problem. But I didn't know that, so I got up at o-dark-thirty. Once at the airport, however, travel to the actual plane was not so smooth. First, at the self-check-in kiosk, I couldn't find my reservation. I was using the first confirmation sheet the TAP office sent me; apparently, they canceled it and rebooked.... Read more →


The monument to the Texians who won the Battle of San Jacinto, securing Texas' independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836. Sure we became the Republic of Texas on March 2, 1836, when the fledging government declared independence from Mexico. Then came the hard part. None of the new Texas patriots survived the siege of the Alamo four days later. It was just as grim on March 27, when more than 350 Texas Republic soldiers, who had surrendered at Goliad, were massacred. That did it. Enough is enough. You just can't do things like that. And we proved it at... Read more →


Bluebonnet break

March here in Central Texas was unusually wet, but few folks are complaining. We've had enough of the drought. Thankfully, the 6-plus inches of rain we got last month have refilled area lakes and, just as important, made this a blooming good early spring. Wildflowers, especially the Lone Star State's official bluebonnets, are popping up like crazy everywhere. When the hubby and I take our neighborhood walks, we spot them in dozens of yards, including our own. I took the shots you see sprinkled in this posting this weekend. They are of some of the bluebonnets in our front yard.... Read more →


Snake in the yard!

The recent rains we've had (yay! The lakes finally got some water) kick-started all sorts of growth. Mainly weeds, but also some of our shrubs. So the hubby went out today to do some pruning. His backyard effort was interrrupted, however, by a snake that crawled from a bush to sun. Still relatively new to the region and not being herpetologically up to speed, the hubby wisely moved on to another patch of greenery ... in the front yard. But later we both went out back and the reptile was still there. I was only able to get this one... Read more →


Greenbelt means good birding

Greenbelt: An undeveloped swath of land designed to keep a bit of the country in otherwise urban, or quickly becoming urban, settings. Greenbelt: Our home in Maryland for almost two decades, one of three "green towns" built as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Greenbelt: As in The Greenbelt, the blog from The Ridger. This week, she's the host of I and the Bird #44. I'll let her tell you about the collection: "Below, grouped (albeit roughly) into these four categories you will find posts of all sorts, having in common a love of birds and the desire to... Read more →


Serendipitous sighting

"Kay, can you come down here right now?" That was the hubby about noon today. Being the good wife, I immediately headed down the stairs, to be greeted with, "Do you have on shoes?" I did. "Come out here." "Here" was our front yard and the reason for the urgency was a flock of at least two dozen Cedar Waxwings. The lovely birds were bouncing back and forth from our next door neighbors' shrubs to the big old oak tree across the street. A couple landed, briefly, in a smaller oak right at the edge of our yard. One looked... Read more →


'Tax Policy Decreed by Merry Men in Tights'

I cannot tell you just how much I wish I had come up with that headline. But I must confess. It's the creation of a copy editor at the New York Times. Now that you've had a few minutes to conjure up all sorts of interesting, and perhaps disturbing, IRS dress code images, here's what it refers to: the new BBC America series Robin Hood. The Times' reviewer likes the show. That's good to know, but I was going to watch it regardless. I've always loved the tales of Sherwood Forest (and yes, it's a real place). And, as the... Read more →


Beating the cold by birding online

Mary Ann at Five Wells is the host this week of I and the Bird #37. Her Thanksgiving-themed presentation is quite fitting. I have additional thanks today. Since an Arctic front blew into the Austin area earlier today, our temperature never got out of the 30s and the biting winds (gusts also in the 30s, miles per hour, that is) made even going out to pick up the paper or collect the mail miserable. I immediately flashed back to this posting about our Austin home and winter weather; it's still applicable almost nine months later. But today seems colder than... Read more →


Mulling Migrations

Fall is in full force, so it's only fitting that we take a break to enjoy the beauty of the season and its natural wonders. Yes, birds and butterflies are heading south, but the Migrations we focus on today is Dan Rhoads' blog, which is host of the 35th I and the Bird. IatB is one of my favorite blog carnivals, not just because I love reading about other birders' experiences. But the weekly offering also allows me to vicariously travel -- and observe -- birds and their habitats that I haven't seen in a while or, in most cases,... Read more →