It’s spring!

2005 March 25
by David J. Ringer

NORTHEAST TEXAS — There’s no school today. Even though I was up editing until almost 3 a.m., I got up at 9 because I won’t sleep in. I had thought I might get some work done (like my already-late editorial), but I was inspired by the beauty of the day and in half an hour was on my way to the Sabine mining land near Hallsville.

East Texas is lush and vibrant in the spring. Everything is green and growing fast. Most trees are leafing out already; some have made significant progress. My car was coated thickly with pine pollen. The roadsides sparkled with coreopsis, crimson clover, vetch, spring beauties, and other gem-like blooms. Even though I make fun of Texas, I think I’m going to miss it very much.

I pulled off the road at one point and was rewarded with pretty good looks at a House Wren, who was hopping around in a fencerow and scolding occasionally.

When I arrived at the church at the end of Hut Horton Road, I heard several birds singing and calling at once. I tallied cardinals, mockingbirds, Carolina Wrens, Field Sparrows, Barn Swallows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a White-eyed Vireo, yellow-rumps, juncos, and gnatcatchers in the space of a few minutes. After staring up into the pines for awhile, I finally got a brief look at the bright yellow male Pine Warbler. Kinglets bounced around all the while, and I never could see the gnatcatchers.

Barn Swallows and both vultures kept the skies alive. I watched two harriers harass a vulture. They were both flying quite high, which is always a surprising sight. They would tuck in their wings and execute spectacular dives. A male scissor-tail flew by, causing me to exhale sharply. His tail stretched far behind him, and his underwings flashed pink in the sunlight.

Walking around the cemetery yielded a handful of red-wings, phoebes, doves, and Song Sparrows and nice looks at a Field Sparrow and a White-eyed Vireo. Spring is like a reunion; I’m so excited to see all the newly returned summer birds again. It felt like 80 degrees, and sometimes I just had to stop walking and rejoice in the beauty of the sun and sky and breeze.

As I walked along Hut Horton Road, I began hearing the dry, jittery little songs of Sedge Wrens. The sound came from far afield, and I had very little hope of seeing the birds. I waited around, however, and before long, some slight movements much closer to me caught my eye. On the second or third try, I got my glasses on a tiny wren half hidden in the grasses. I saw its stubby bill and traces of its intricately patterned body, and I saw its throat vibrate as it sang. Then it was gone. A Sedge Wren! Always a pleasure, little friends. I don’t think I’d seen one for almost a year.

On the drive out, I saw and heard meadowlarks, and I saw a very light young red-tail. His head was streaked with white.

I wandered down Quail Lane on the way back and then on down into Talley Bottom — or at least to the gate. There, the forest is swampy. Palmettos grow, and pools of dark water harbor fish and snakes and frogs. I heard a parula on the way in, and when I got out of the car, I heard a Black-and-white Warbler. I could not locate it, but I did see a Yellow-throated Warbler skulking in a pine tree. Then, the bird glided down to the dirt road (not flew, glided) and hopped around there for several seconds. I was very surprised, but I relished the opportunity to observe a bird that’s normally rather difficult to see. Its bold pattern and almost-luminescent throat are magnificent.

Several other yellow-throats sang their sweet, descending songs from the treetops. I heard more gnatcatchers, but I never did see one, which was a bit surprising given their general ubiquity. A flock of goldfinches was noisy overhead, and a Red-shouldered Hawk circled low over the trees, wailing occasionally. Some Black Vultures soared high, high above like little specks; others still flopped about among the trees like black traces of a fading nightmare.

Various creatures plopped and splashed in the water, and a bright green anole caught my eye on a tree trunk. As I watched him, he inched away, spreading his bright pink throat patch as he disappeared around the trunk.

I heard some towhees calling in the brush, but they never showed themselves. As I headed back to my car, a white van passed me at an extraordinary rate of speed. I was glad I’d locked my car, and I hoped the van’s occupants were good, law-abiding citizens. One never knows.

I saw mockingbirds and bluebirds on my slow drive back, but grosbeaks, tanagers, kingbirds, and buntings are apparently not back yet. They can’t be far away now.

Related posts:

  1. Spring comes softly
  2. Happy first day of spring!
  3. Coy mistress Spring
  4. First warbler of spring
  5. The curtain call
2 Responses
  1. Sunoose permalink
    April 2, 2005

    You go to school? Whoh. . .from the way you talk, I’d think you were an adult! Or are you a teacher?

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