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 ringtail shows up nightly and now there are two! Tim’s sharp eye spotted the difference between two ringtails in photos, but it wasn’t until the trail cam caught two together that we were sure.
A ringtail visits the backyard almost every night, traveling back and forth along the fence from our neighbors’ yard to ours. We keep a small feeder tray filled with orange peels and dried fruit to entice him and birds, but the menu also appeals to a local possum. One night the trail cam caught both possum and ringtail at a standoff as they chased each other down the fence and out of the yard.
February 24, 2019 February 24, 2019 As February fades into March, I am jolted by signs of spring: paperwhites, irises, a stray black-eyed [...]
Winter comes and goes. The first week of February began with warm mornings in the low 50s, creeping up to high 60s. While the rest of the country faced below freezing temperatures and snowstorms, Central Texas basked in moderate winter weather under cloudy skies.
The owl box is up. It is a fine structure made of cedar and mounted on a high pole to keep squirrels out. Tim painted it a light tan to blend in among the oak trees and the rest of the backyard; it even fits in with the color of the house. So now we wait. A camera inside the box illuminates the inside, but so far the fresh sawdust has not been tamped down, though a titmouse did sit on the perch and peek in.
We stood in the grass arena, six of us and our horses. Mallory and Romi, Amy and Zeke, Suzi and Stuart, Betty and Sophie, Kate and Drake, and me and Willis. Cal Middleton was in the middle of us working with Romi as we all watched carefully, trying to take in every slightest move he made.
Winter is almost here. Daisy and I walk the neighborhood, taking in tiny twinkling lights, statues of deer and snowmen. In the darkness, I almost miss the doe walking past us.
She is like a black fox; everything from her confirmation to the way she trots instead of walks.
A river of life has passed under me. I feel like I’m standing on a bridge watching the past months rush by. Here I am looking toward the end of summer, trying to grasp all that has happened and take in and appreciate this new place.
Summer has unofficially begun. The cool mornings of April have warmed to 70º at 7 a.m. and the temperature gradually rises to the high 80s at mid-day, sometimes even 90º. Sunday’s rain cooled us for a while; the evening breezes sooth Daisy and I as we walk through the school yard in the evenings.
Around 8:30 p.m. on May 13, Owlet number 1 has stuffed his fluffy body in the box entrance as his siblings peck at his tail and pull on his feathers, wanting to be where he is, see what he sees.
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.