December 31, 2019 – Happy New Year!

            When I step outside the cold air brushes my face.  38º.  Winter.  This is how the last day of the year should feel:  cold.  The owl is tucked into his box.  He is the best gift to us this year.  To be able to watch him guard the place we have made for him and raise a family will be the best gift of 2020. 

            Other birds – chickadees, titmice, cardinals, sparrows, wrens, a warbler or two – come to the feeders early in the morning.  The titmice and chickadees dart in, grab a sunflower seed and quickly fly away.  Cardinals inspect the ground for seeds and bugs or forage in the feeder tray.  There is every sort of feeder in the yard:  thistle, sunflower seed, millet, as well as suet; yet the feeders empty slowly.  Where are the birds?  I hear them in the trees as we walk through the neighborhood, especially chickadees.  Saturday, we heard a woodpecker.  I though it would be better here, away from our old neighborhood closer to downtown.  There are plenty of birds at Scattered Oaks:  killdeer, Brewer’s blackbirds, crows, roadrunners, sparrows. 

            On Thursday, Boxing Day, we drove to Pedernales State Park, stopping first at the bird blinds.  There are two there now with nice water features made of towering rocks, dripping water gently down.  Cardinals seem to dominate the area, but there are sparrows, too, a Bewicks wren and a ladderback woodpecker.  The male cardinals are a bright red, a sharp contrast to the leafless acacia bushes and tree stumps strategically placed.  The birds peck at holes in the tree stumps, grabbing insects. 

            The trail we take to the river is mostly level and wide.  It curves through cedar trees and more acacia and yaupon holly.  Heavy gray clouds block the sun and threaten rain, at the same time sheltering us from the heat.  There is a sudden rustle in the brush and some snorting sounds.  Suddenly a drove of young wild pigs runs across the trail.  There are about ten, some all black and some a deep cinnamon color.  They are cute!  I have never seen a wild pig before and these little piglets are so cute it’s difficult to imagine how dangerous they are as adults.  Daisy is excited.  She lunges forward, barking and growling, the white fur on her back raised.  She pulls at the leash, sniffing and searching the grass and ruts dug in the dirt by the pigs. 

            The trail descends to Pedernales River in a steep, rocky path.  The shore of the river is a layer of rocks, flat boulder upon flat boulder, meeting the green-blue water.  The river drifts quietly past rocky cliffs studded with cactus and bushes.  The trail almost disappears here, changing to a narrow, winding line obscured by rocks and branches.  Following a bend in the river, it finally climbs up to meet the grassy path marked as the “Horse Trail.”

            The whole hike was quiet, almost eerie with the gray sky.  We didn’t meet any other hikers until we were almost at the trail’s end.  Surprising, considering it was the day after Christmas.  We stopped again at the bird blind to enjoy the setting and give Daisy some water and then drove off to Johnson City. 

Christine Baleshta


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