Never Seen One of Those Before . . .

The Texas Panhandle lies on part of the North American flyway for migratory waterfowl. In fact, we have such a long birds-passing-through season that one day, the air traffic controller at Amarillo International Airport recorded the hourly weather and hazards update as “Caution, watertory migrafowl in the Amarillo vicinity.” No, we didn’t give said controller any grief about the slip, noooooone at all. So cranes (whooping and sandhill) assorted ducks, too many geese, hummingbirds, Monarch butterflies, and fancy travel trailers with Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Province of Ontario license tags are pretty common in the late fall. But this wet year has provided a bounty of newcomers.

For the first time in several years, hummingbirds nested at Redquarters. I’m starting to think that pound-for-pound, a hummingbird is more ferocious than a mockingbird. I say this because one morning when I was house sitting back in July, a hummingbird drove two doves off the bird bath, then chased a sparrow around the yard until the sparrow fled. Even the mockingbirds don’t do that.

The formerly dry lakebed on the way to the school where I teach is now full. OK, not quite as full as it was a few weeks ago, but it still has a lot more water than grass. In addition to the Canada Geese hanging around in the fields, and mallard ducks, I’ve seen buffelhead ducks, bitterns, another wader I still have not identified 100%, ibis, and a few other ducks that are not-mallards. I keep meaning to stop and watch and make a list, but traffic, and work, and forgetfulness combine on a regular basis. And migration season has not started yet. I suspect we’ll get a few more good rains (the so-called equinoctial storms,) then a massive arctic cold front, and it will be new-birds all over the place, with the cranes not far behind.

I have not seen any shrikes yet, but we may be too close to town, and not enough small reptiles for the birds to eat. And a lack of things upon which to impale the shrikes’ prey. If you see lizards jammed onto the spikes of a barbed wire fence, you’ve got shrikes. We have had flycatchers for the first time in, oh, since the drought crept in.

I hope the new-bird season lasts. The weather guessers are calling for a wet fall and winter (mixed emotions there, since my back and shoveling no longer play well together), so we may have a magnificent spring flower bloom and bug eruption. And then we’ll start worrying about wildfires if the grass gets dry . . . But for now, I’m watching the new-to-me birds and smiling all the way.

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