Painting With a New Brush

Texas Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Of the three Indian paintbrush I found blooming at the Brazoria refuge on January 6, this was the most vibrant and fully developed, with its small, greenish flowers easily visible among the glowing red bracts.

Like other beloved spring wildflowers, particularly bluebonnets and pink evening primrose, Indian paintbrush won’t begin spreading across the land for another two or three months. Still, it’s not uncommon to find isolated blooms as early as January, and this isn’t the earliest I’ve found. Although somewhat stunted and less colorful, another paintbrush had contributed to nature’s artistry on January 5 in 2018.

Comments always are welcome.

One Last Neighbor ~ The Night Shift Worker

My black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

In apartment complexes without assigned parking, finding an empty spot isn’t always easy. I thought it odd that two spaces convenient to my new apartment never were occupied, but I was pleased.

Then, I took a better look at the concrete in those spaces. Lying beneath a large live oak planted at the edge of the parking lot, they were spattered with what appeared to be white paint. Clearly, a bird was parking just above those spaces, and given the size of the splotches of excreted waste, it probably was a heron.

I began parking elsewhere, and spent a few days scanning the tree to see if I could find the bird. Eventually, I spotted it: an adult black-crowned night heron so well-hidden that a casual observer never would find it. Two days later, it had chosen a different branch, and I was able to snap a few photos.

These short, stocky birds usually are seen in profile, at the edge of the marshes and waterways where they hunt. Shooting up at the bird provided a new and utterly charming way of seeing it. In particular, its face seemed rotund, and a little chubby; I couldn’t help laughing, even as I admired its decorative white head plumes.

Eventually, the bird allowed a bit of a profile shot, showing off its thick, ready-for-serious hunting bill and a hint of the solid black back that matches its crown.

Although it watched me as I moved around, searching for better vantage points, it never left its branch, and never showed any sign of feeling threatened. Eventually it turned away slightly, gave me one last, coy glance, and then tucked its head into its feathers, ready for a nap before the evening’s hunt.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Meeting the Neighbors ~ The Comedians

A new friend, perched on a cypress knee and eating a cypress seed

Although I’ve seen both fox squirrels and eastern gray squirrels in my neighborhood, these are part of a trio I suspect to be gray squirrel siblings; their white bellies, smaller size, and white-fringed tail distinguish them from the larger, cinnamon-colored fox squirrels.

While they’re nesting in either a nearby palm or live oak, they play and lounge on a pair of cypress trees visible from my desk. One seems to have a favorite branch, where it grooms itself and naps every afternoon.

A friendly family tussle

Like most squirrels, they’re friendly, amusing, and predictably clever. It’s a good thing I don’t mind them at the feeders, since they found them after only three days.

Recently, I’ve noticed the mat outside my front door lying askew from time to time. When I stepped on it yesterday, I felt something lumpy underfoot. Lifting the mat, I found four acorns tucked beneath it.  Having lived with a pet squirrel who enjoyed storing pecans in my shoes, I have my suspicions about the source of those those acorns.

 

Comments always are welcome.