Past middle age

I did not know: The Bird Man is a motorcyclist!

Each day in his yard, pouring out fresh water for his feathered visitors, he hobbles to complete this daily task. And now, here he is, in usual T-shirt and sagging, beat-up denim, perched on the seat of a Harley — its engine choking and rumbling on a cool September morning.

It all makes sense, too — his hobble and the Harley and everything else. It all dovetails seamlessly.

Fly, Bird Man, fly,! For the migration season is upon us!

A cypress’ second life (plus a fun finch fact)

There’s a dead cypress tree in our backyard — a diminished-looking thing that one might otherwise consider an eyesore if it were not for the fact that it attracts birds like a magnet.

A couple of months ago, I spotted a northern flicker perched on one of the parched branches — pretty exciting, considering this is a species I typically spot only when I am up in the higher elevations of nearby Mount Charleston.

Regardless, the primary visitor to the tree for the past few weeks has been the house finch. The males are more interesting to look at due to their auburn flourishes, while the females are drab with their washed-out white and brownish hues.

Still, one interesting aspect of the females I’ve noticed lately through observation is how they throw themselves at the males. It’s funny: Several will gather around a sole male on a branch and make a fuss over it, often ending in unrequited admiration, with the male abruptly fleeing the scene. Continue reading

Mini mockingbirds

Perch Report – Spring Valley, Nev.

It’s no biggie to see Northern mockingbirds since they’re so common in Southern Nevada, but over the past few days, I’ve had the pleasure of watching an adult feed its three fledglings in my yard.

It has been tirelessly zipping around each day in the hopes of finding insects to pluck from the soil or from flight and place into the beaks of its young. Meanwhile, as they await their food, the juveniles struggle to keep their balance while perching on palm fronds and twigs, often flapping their wings and shuffling their feet as if newbie skaters on an ice rink. Continue reading

Starlings make an appearance

European starlings have been harvesting the trove of black olives that grow in batches on nearly every branch of the tree out back.

Normally, the olives merely fall to the ground and rot, so it’s nice to see the birds using them for sustenance. They take them and fly to the ground, where they shake them violently in their beaks until they split into bite-sized chunks.

The starlings’ plumage is iridescent and more or less echoes the color of the olives. Their dark feathers are offset by a caramel trim along their outer wings, with their bodies speckled in earth tones as if by an artist’s brush. Continue reading

The goings on at the ponds

Photo by Cassandra Keenan

The great egrets shunned the other waterfowl.

The egrets were staying in Vegas as part of their winter migrational route. Like an ivy league clique, they stuck up their bills while congregating in a lush, green riparian grove, which made their white plumage all the more stunning — like fresh-fallen snow.

And they knew it.

Meanwhile, the gambel’s quail were skittish, despite being on their year-round turf. They ran from the paparazzi as per usual, head plumes bobbing as they made for the clearings, taking cover in the bramble. Continue reading

An uptick in butterflies

The butterfly was not a butterfly but two fallen leaves.

I had been seeing butterflies a lot lately, and so I thought this was yet another encounter.

Recently my local Cooperative Extension made an announcement on Facebook that there was an uptick in the insects’ numbers in the Las Vegas area. Now I wish I had read it.

I wondered if it had something to do with climate change, although the Extension had an optimistic tone in sharing the news. Continue reading

Notes on grackles

Grackles engrossed in nonstop quibbles like tweens in a schoolyard. Their predatory clamber across tree bark, clawing like cats on carpet. Grackles and the way that they crow and cackle! Torpedoing from bush to rock to tree to fountain, dumpster-diving, whizzing past your head like P-140 bombers. Fluttering low like bats in Victorian homes, perched on hilltops and awash in fog and sickly lamplight, their nefarious flight charged with purpose, bulging from their green button eyes.

A morning at the park

Passing the fragrant pines, they seem episodic today
I am intoning for the clouds to stick around
A flycatcher makes swooping casts from a branch like a fly fisherman’s line
A male robin is at rest on a low bough while its mate babysits the nest above
Man on camp chair w/ obedient mastiff, unleashed and lounging in the grass
Finches on trees like holiday ornaments, branches bobbing like rafts in a rapid
The smoke & scent of BBQ and the sound of the Wailers
Bob Marley chirping about his single bed
In the distance, a Harley like an aboriginal didgeridoo & chant