Red eyes and orange crowns
DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — While gnatcatchers whined, a hummingbird rested on a slender twig, fidgeting. From where I stood, he just looked black; whether he had a ruby throat or a purple band, I could not say. The clouds were heavy, and a chilly wind gusted through the trees. But at least it wasn’t snowing.
Along the creek, the trees grow tall and straight, not like the stunted, twisted dwarfs on the hillsides. The Red-eyed Vireos have returned to those big trees. I heard them singing today, for the first time this year.
Raptors passed overhead, only in ones or twos. One was a Broad-winged Hawk, and one was an Osprey with quite a large fish. Another bird, I believed, could have been a Swainson’s Hawk, but it stayed too distant to be sure.
When I stopped to admire a noisy White-eyed Vireo, I saw a flash of blue deep in the brush. Indigo Bunting! A fully plumaged male, the first I’d seen this year. Then there was a trilled song, coming from my right. The bird was low in the brush … yellowish … and, what was that? An Orange-crowned Warbler with an orange crown?
I’d always imagined that the alleged orange crown was a small, erectile patch, like that of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet or an Eastern Kingbird. But this little bird’s entire crown was washed with a rusty orange color — something I’d never seen before.
Brilliant downy paintbrushes (Castilleja purpurea) illuminated the gray, chilly morning. Their colors ranged from ivory through coral and pink to magenta.
Brian and I found these tiny cacti (Escobaria missouriensis) before he and his family returned to Papua New Guinea. After Brian left, Jim Varnum confirmed this as the first record of the species in the Cedar Ridge Preserve. I wonder if we’ll get to see it bloom?
What is this? I noticed it growing on some rocky patches of ground. It felt moist to the touch and looks a bit like tiny pieces of seaweed. Is it algae? Cyanobacteria? Does anyone have any guesses?
This — a stretch of Cedar Brake Trail — is the Red-eyed Vireos’ domain. There are plenty more photos in today’s gallery. Take a look!