Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Reflections on the World as it Turns
Here is my column from last Sunday:
Last Sunday we had our family dinner, and as I looked out at the bird feeders I saw many, many goldfinches. I turned to Raf and told him I wondered if they were tanking up for their trip back north for the spring and summer.
We went to Fort Worth Monday, and when we got back I noticed there were no goldfinches. By Tuesday I knew it was true, the goldfinches had left for their long flight to Canada, and along the way they will begin to change their dull tan feathered coat for their bright yellow one that we never see here in Texas.
However, over the past couple of weeks we have noticed a new lodger in our back garden. A couple of years ago we got an Eastern Screech-owl box from Jim Dillard. Yes, the same Jim Dillard who writes for the North Texas Star. He makes great bird boxes!
We had our yard man, Felix McLemore of Classic Lawn Care, place the box at the height prescribed by Jim, and it sat there. Then two weeks ago, we noticed what we thought was a squirrel putting its head out of the owl box hole, but, on closer examination with binoculars we discovered it was, indeed, an Eastern Screech-owl. We watched him for two days, and then we didn’t seen him for several. Then there he was again, and we watched for about forty-five minutes until he flew. Beautiful.
Now it’s been the better part of a week, but we feel sure he is still there. Jim tells us it’s mating season for Eastern Screech-owls, so, for all we know, his mate may be in there with him. I know it seems early, but this is when it begins. Also, I have read that these owls mate for life, although sometimes there are two females to one male.
When they are nesting, the male bring food to his mate and the babies. They eat insects. worms, rats, mice, squirrels, rabbits and small birds. Sometimes they are quick enough to catch bats. They often cache extra food in tree holes that will last up to four days.
They lay from two to six eggs with one brood a season. The incubation period is from 27 to 34 days, with the nesting period lasting another 30 days. When they hatch, the owlets are covered with white down and their eyes are closed.
This year, too, we have had an enormous number of cardinals, as well as our other usual birds. There were sometimes as many as 25 cardinals eating at one time. When our guests visited from California, it was amazing. They had never seen cardinals before!
Are you a bird watcher, or are you interested in birds in the back yard? There’s a new application for your cell phone or pad. It’s called Merlin and has been developed by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. You can find this free app called Merlin.
We did have a marvelous Valentine dinner on the 14th, too. I must tell you about it. We ordered steak and lobster from the Brazos Market and Bistro on Oak in Mineral Wells, Texas. If you hadn’t had their food, you are really missing out! Our meal included asparagus, potatoes, bread, and a special treat, cherry liqueur soaked fresh cherries dipped in chocolate. Yum!
Oh, and, by the way, if you haven’t eaten at the Hogg Pit on Highway 281 at Carter Road, you are truly missing out on the best barbecue in town, in my opinion!
See ya next time. It’s going to be warm and cold again this week, so watch out!