Late Autumn – A Swainson’s Thrush and Changing Color

Thursday, December 16, 2020

            It is the middle of December.  Autumn is slipping away; the days shorten, second by second; and by 6 p.m. it is pitch dark. 

            A Swainson’s thrush has been visiting our backyard.  These birds typically migrate through in September and October on their way to South America and are seen more often in eastern Texas, so we are lucky to see him.  He’s been here a few weeks and seems to like our pond.  Our other residents are still here, visiting the feeders, the bird bath, and the pond – chickadees, titmice, cardinals and more and more often the eastern phoebe.  The screech owl pokes his head out of the box each night around 5:30.  It is too dark to see him take off by the time he flies off toward the greenbelt, but with the camera we can watch him in his box, tucked in a corner or staring into the sunbeam that streams through the entrance.  He must be happier in this cold weather. 

            The bucks are beginning to return to our yard, showing up at dusk for a drink or to nibble the corn and grass.  Our bushes are slowly recovering from the bucks scraping the velvet off their antlers.  One night a large buck was bedded in the front yard, content beside the little red oak.  It looks like a Charlie Brown tree with its two red Christmas ornaments. 

            We saw a white squirrel last Thursday as we rode our bikes on Chelsea Moor.  He was perched at the edge of a roof, his white coat standing out against the dark shingles.  When we stopped to stare, he leapt from the roof to the fork of a nearby tree like a flying squirrel. 

            Some of the trees have turned brilliant colors -Bradford pears, sumac and poplars.  I love to look at their leaves, perfectly shaped hearts, pointed ovals.  They look like Christmas ornaments, shimmering in the sunlight.  I’ve picked up a few that have been blown to the ground.  They litter fading lawns with their gold and red.  Like a special treasure, they are reminders of true autumns where leaves change color. 

Christine Baleshta