I began keeping a nature journal decades ago. Below are excerpts from those journals sharing my experiences with dogs, cats and horses, and observing the natural world in Austin, Texas.
The owlets are getting ready to fledge.
The owlets are now about 21 days old. They look like tiny ostriches when they stretch their necks and heads up and rotate their faces. Staring straight into the camera, they do not know they are being watched. The owl box is the only world they know, with its cedar shavings and scattered feathers.
I filled the bird feeder this morning and it is half full now. I should slip out and pour more seed in the back feeder. House finches, cardinals, bluejays, and a chickadee all feast on sunflower seeds. They must have nests nearby.
It is a noisy morning in the backyard this first day of April, this Easter Sunday - doves cooing, grackles whistling and bluejays squawking. Wednesday’s rain has left the ground soft and revived the grass. A grackle perches on the sunflower seed feeder; he shimmies down the cage and pokes his long black beak in between the grate squares, black feathers shiny in morning light.
I look at the empty entrance of the owl box and feel only sadness, mostly for the male owl. There is still time for him to find another mate, but disappointment weights on me right now. I have not heard him during the night and can’t find him roosting in the wax leaf ligustrums.
Somehow I sensed it when I looked at the owl box this morning and the owl was not peeking out as he has done every morning since September. Somehow I knew he was not there.
The last morning of February feels like the first day of spring. The redbud is finally beginning to bloom, surrounded by a circle of elegant white irises. A squirrel perches on the walnut tree stump, teasing Daisy who watches from the deck. The owl looks outside his box, catching the morning light.
The moment I walked into Willis’ paddock the cold front blew in.
Yesterday morning there was a dove stuffed in the entrance of Tim’s box, hanging upside down, beheaded.
The sky was a blanket of clouds as I pulled out of the driveway, the temperature dropping with each mile on Hwy. 290. By the time Daisy and I reached Scattered Oaks it was 36 degrees; icy moisture sprayed our faces.
Time began for light and life, for splendor and grandeur. Time began for seas and mountains, for flowers and birds. Time began for the valleys to ring with the songs of life, And for the wilderness to echo with the wailing of wind
December is an in-between time here, not fall and not winter. Autumn lingers, its golden mornings stretching through December. Here and there, a sudden cold front snaps us all to attention, freezing plants forgotten outside and reminding us to dig out warm coats and boots.
Each morning I walk the arroyo with Daisy and watch the Spanish oaks transform themselves, their leaves deepening to maroon.
Daisy waits patiently while our new foster dog, Rose, chews diligently on her rawhide bone. Daisy has her own bone, but what she really wants is Rose’s bone.
October just slipped by. When we came back from Yellowstone, it was still warm in Austin. Days drifted into the 80s, but the shift to cooler temperatures began as some mornings sank to 47 degrees. The first thing I see each morning is my neighbor’s cottonwood tree, now a glorious gold shining in the morning sunlight. It is the first color change of autumn in the neighborhood.
While Harvey swept Houston and south Texas with flood waters, carrying away homes, lifetimes, Central Texas – or at least Austin – bursts open with new life. Cooler temperatures and soaking rain have almost made us forget it’s still summer. The redbud tree has never looked so full and green. The sage is in bloom, delicate white flowers covering dusty green leaves and the salvia is a shower of red blossoms.
Last weekend the rain began and didn’t stop until Monday morning. Austin and the Austin area – Manor, Elgin – soaked up at least 12 inches. Houston got 52.
My eyes widened when I saw him. 55 pounds? Maybe. But tall, lanky, skinny. Where have I seen those markings before? My neighbor's Anatolian shepherd. He licked my hands and wiggled around. Yes, he was sweet. My eyebrows raised again. He was intact. They didn’t tell me that! Well . . . I said I would do this. Can’t back down now.
After months, I heard the owls one night this week, trilling loudly as I walked Daisy through the neighborhood. Searching dark shadows of tree branches for small oval shapes, I couldn’t find them. They are molting now, scattering gray and white feathers across Tim’s yard. The owls that visit my yard are gone; neither seen nor heard. This spring Daisy and I would often return from an evening walk and find an owl perched on a shepherd’s hook, head bent, searching the ground for bugs. Now the yard is empty and silent.