These are weird, unusual birds, but there are usually several hanging around near one of the artificially created ponds in Terry Hershey park in Houston. They are found across North America and we do have them in the UK too.
I watched a family of them, parents sitting down doing nothing much, while their smaller, younger offspring pottered around on a nearby bank of the bayou.
This one let me get close; they’re used to humans hanging around. Now why do I want to call him or her Warty McWartface?
In the UK, birders would travel miles – maybe to Rutland Water in the Midlands or maybe to Aviemore in Scotland – to see ospreys, amazingly powerful and graceful birds who fish from lakes, catching large fish in their powerful talons.
In Houston, Texas, it’s not unusual or remarkable at all to find an osprey flying low over a local reservoir which is part of a country park. This one was out in broad daylight, flying overhead and calling as it clutched its large catch. All this against the distant backdrop and roar of a busy tollway.
We watched it – no binoculars were needed as it was so close – as it sought and found a perch on a nearby telegraph pole and proceeded to tuck into it with that powerful beak.
What a treat for the eyes to see it. The photo’s not perfect as it was taken against the light, but it conveys the size of both bird and fish.
I could hear the distinctive sound of a Northern Cardinal’s “birdybirdybirdy” call but I couldn’t see it anywhere.
It was like playing hide and seek in the backyard/garden trying to locate it and spot it. It was nearby. I looked up. Not on the wires or telegraph pole. Not on the roof. Not on the still-bare branches of one of the trees.
Returning to the house, I noticed a rather alarming-looking long legged insect loitering around one of the evergreen bushes near the door. Spotting what looked like an orange ball caught deep in the branches, I saw it wasn’t a ball at all. I’d found my singing cardinal.
He was watching me intently, having gone quiet as I was nearby. We eyeballed each other, pausing in a shared moment of stillness. He was beautiful.
I seized the moment and took a few shots of him, then he hopped away, deeper into the bush and I went into the house. I’m hoping he was one half of a pair, as I’d seen the female fly across the garden when I first went out.
And as it’s spring, they may be nesting.
B is at our door, smiling and happy. A bullfinch was in a bush! Its front was bright pink.
For B, it’s a first sighting of this bird and it brings a buzz of drama to a humdrum Friday walk back from junior school.
It’s put on B’s list of unfamiliar birds caught sight of last month, joining a buzzard from six days ago. B is proud and glows with joy.
Writing a lipogram, as I’ve done here, is writing something but leaving out a letter. It’s a suggested exercise in a *creative writing book I have, and its purpose is to challenge the writer by extracting them from a rut.
I can guarantee that it certainly was a challenge and it took a lot longer than expected to write those first few lines without using a specific letter. Had I written it without this restraint/challenge, I’d have been able to dash it off far faster. As it was I had to choose my words carefully and aim to make sense. Even so, it’s stilted and doesn’t flow too well – but it is a true story as everything I’ve written about happened about an hour ago.
Have you spotted which letter it was?!
*Back to Creative Writing School by Bridget Whelan
Snow. Quietness reigns. Manchester airport is closed. Choir rehearsal is cancelled because of bad weather. A bit of a disappointment as it’s Queen week (“come along in moustaches and curly wigs for a bit of fun to rehearse Don’t Stop Me Now“). My Freddie Merury outfit lies dormant. Out come the binoculars and camera.
We don’t often get much snow here so it’s a bit of an event. I hear on the weather forecast that the Cheshire Gap and North Wales are affected. The garden, nearby woods and field look like fairyland. The dog – now one year old – explores his whitened environment and with snowy muzzle, eventually comes back into the house to find the nearest radiator.
Meanwhile I’m scanning higher levels, following the avian antics of a gang of goldfinches as they fly from treetops to garden feeders. A lone buzzard suddenly swoops down on to the field, scattering snow from the branch it’s perched on; I wonder what small mammal it’s spotted. A shy female bullfinch lurks in the hedge then takes off the very second I reach for my camera. Likewise the three siskins who pause together on the topmost branches of the bare apple tree. I wish for an extra pair of hands so I can hold binoculars and camera at the same time.
The same happens when I see a reed bunting perched on a snow-laden conifer in next door’s garden. But the pair of magpies on a distant treetop stay still, only coming to visit after some food has been put out by husband, clearing paths and making sure there’s fresh, unfrozen water in the bird bath.
The blackbirds are busy at ground level, pigeons descend from their treetop roosts to see what’s going on, the nuthatch commandeers one feeder and the blue, great and coal tits get active on the other. The robin, ever-present, puts in an appearance. The garden looks like a belated Christmas card.