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

A Study of Orange

She had a bright yellow pen and a fat hardcover book with a lime green dust jacket.

Her yoga pants were red like pomegranate, and her spa socks were slate. Her black and white cat played with a ribbon that was thick as Asian flat noodle. Her coffee was black and sat just so. It filled an espresso cup the color of steak bone.

Soon she would be eating a banana that matched her pen, but she was unsure she liked the color. The pens also came in a very citrusy orange that made her heart skip. Continue reading

Bird Man

The Bird Man is on the move. He’s wearing a sweat jacket and a ball cap because it’s cold. It’s 38 degrees this morning, and typically, such as during summer, the Bird Man will wear only an old white T-shirt that you and I might demote to rag status, as well as jeans that no longer can stay put around his pot belly.

Today the Bird Man looks more dressed up than usual due to his navy blue jacket. It seems to be in fine condition and looks warm.

The Bird Man is removing the rocks from the small plastic Tupperware lining his cement wall like battlements. He is emptying the backwash and refilling the vessels with a cheap plastic pitcher of water. 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

Cellphone zombies attack

I was at my favorite neighborhood park when suddenly a throng of zombies began advancing toward me, staring at their cellphones.

This was not your average distracted crowd. These were participants in a park-wide Pokemon Go event. Pokemon Go is a GPS-enabled augmented reality game you play with your mobile device.

Sometimes I pass judgement (see title of this post), but if games such as Pokemon Go is what it takes to get people out and around nature, then I guess it’s not such a bad thing.