Crow Drama! And Bluebirds

As I was leaving to go to my Cameron office this morning, I heard a strange bird call. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard, so I looked up to see what new bird was on the property. All I could see was a crow.

And that crow was acting mighty strange. It was making this weird noise, that was not the usual “caw” at all, and flying round and round the large black willow tree in our arroyo. I noticed another crow, doing the same thing.

I don’t see anything a crow would want here.

So, I drove down the driveway to the gate. While I waited for the gate to open, I realized there were THREE rather upset crows, and they were circling because a red-tailed hawk was sitting on a branch of the tree, all huddled down. She was huddled down, because the crows were dive-bombing her over and over.

Of course, just as I got my camera out, she had enough of the torture and flew off. I inspected the tree as I drove off, and for the life of me I didn’t see any reason why the crows would have been so pissed off at the hawk. I know what a crow’s nest looks like, and there was not one on top of that tree (poor choice for a nest, the way willow branches fall off so easily). Maybe there was some other bird nest up there that the crows wanted to steal eggs from? I’ll look more closely when I get home.

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Flowers Have Power

Peace, y’all

For some reason I was thinking about “flower power,” which those of us who were young a long dang time ago used to embroider on our jeans. If we had VW Beetles, we’d put happy flower stickers all over them, too. I was really into peace symbols, but I was always cheered up when I saw those happy little stylized flowers. I seem drawn to flowers when I’m feeling down or struggling with something going on in my life.

These guys always look like they are opening their mouths to sing.

Since I actually HAVE been struggling with some annoying personal crap, and since we are losing chickens again, I was very much drawn to all the flowers when Anita and I went shopping for some spring plants yesterday. I kept taking extreme closeups of them, probably because I know the sun on my deck would bake them to crisps and I would not get to enjoy them live. (What a Negative Nellie I am!)

I always had to say “perky and pink” when I said petunia.

I have to say that I felt a LOT better when we got home (it may also have been due to excessive smelling of lilacs and chocolate mint, too). So, well, do flowers actually affect mood; I mean, is there scientific evidence?

How do these cheer me up? They are my mother’s favorite colors.

Apparently the answer is yes. A team of “smart doctors” are cited in this recent article from the UK, appropriately subtitled “Does Flower Power Boost Your Mood?” Sure enough, they help with anxiety, even for hospital patients, so be sure to send your friends flowers.

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Let’s Look at Phlox

Ah, Phlox drummondii. Here’s a Texas native I have lifelong memories about.

When I was young, in the good old 1960s, these grew in great abundance in north central Florida, along the roadsides. There would be miles and miles of phlox blurring into a riot of pinks and purples.

Lucky for me, my mother loved to look at these wildflowers as much as I did. She’d ask my dad to please take us for a ride so she could get herself some phlox.

She’d take pitchers full of water in the car, and when she spotted the ideal field of phlox, she’d shout out for Dad to stop NOW!

We’d all pile out and brave the bees and ants (at least this was pre-fire ant) to pick huge bunches of these flowers. We had to be careful not to pull up the roots.

Back in the car, I’d marvel at all the colors and patterns in the blossoms. So much variety! I don’t think they lasted long in Mom’s vases, but they made her happy.

While the area where I live doesn’t have phlox, I’m happy that you only have to drive a few miles east to see some. It’s not like the old days in Florida, but they are pretty.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these flowers from the field next to Milano Methodist Church. They sure sent me down memory lane.

It rained again much of today, which messed up our internet access, so not much of substance here. Maybe tomorrow!

Native Beauty

Once the weather settled down a bit yesterday, the local insect-eating birds had a feast (including my chickens). There were a couple of phoebes sitting on our fence wires and zipping down to pluck tasty morsels, but the most excited birds had to be our barn swallows, who view our home as a very nice barn to live on.

When will that human LEAVE?

We discovered a new nest right above the door the dogs use to go in and out. They are a poly family, I guess, with an extra member to help feed the little ones once they hatch. Here are two of them looking displeased at me while the third one was in the nest thinking about pooping on me, no doubt. Because they are so close to the dog door, their chattering and chirping is very easy to hear in the family room. Luckily we like our noisy neighbors.

Getting back to Austin

This morning I drove back to Austin later than usual, so I’d be sure to be able to see any flooded spots along the road. I saw a lot of places that obviously were road closure spots over the weekend, judging by the debris patterns.

Just to the left is the main road, with soda machines. Apparently a church got all messed up, too.

The saddest thing, though, was driving by the old building in San Gabriel that held the hamlet’s only “business,” two soda machines. It was surrounded by red tape declaring it a danger. The darned tornadoes got it. Here’s an article.

Today is another day

Happily, today turned out to be beautiful. Anita and I enjoyed looking at some of the native plants and insects we pass by on our walks. Two were right outside our house, next to a steep rocky slope.

Cedar sage outside the Bobcat Lair (our Austin house)

No matter how hard the landscapers try, they can’t get rid of all the beautiful plants that were here before the development was here. Case in point is the cedar sage you see here. It’s native habitat is cedar brakes on caliche, where the ashe junipers are located. They like the rocky hillsides. Yep, these beautiful flowers cover the rocks our house sits on, right under the native trees that got to stay when the neighborhood was built (now they qualify as “heritage” cedars, so allergic people can’t cut them down).

Slender false pennyroyal

Nearby were these lovely little plants with tiny pink blossoms. There are many tiny plants with pink blossoms this time of year, but these looked different from all the others I’ve been finding. Sure enough, they are slender hedeoma (Hedeoma acinoides). There is not much about them in iNaturalist, but a quick check of their habitat shows it’s mainly the middle of Texas. It’s a local! Further checks found that their common name is slender false pennyroyal. I learned something new!

At the mailbox, my housemate, Anita, started jumping around, and I saw that there was a large winged insect flying and landing, which caused that reaction. I got everything nice and calm so I could photograph it.

Extreme crane fly closeup.

It appears to be a crane fly, but I’m not sure which one it is. It could be Tipula tricolor or Tipula furca, juding by the wings. I assume someone on iNaturalist will set me straight. I thought it was nice of the crane fly to hold still so I could get such a good picture!

What have you been seeing? Care to share?

Hike on Bull Creek

Our Austin house is minutes away from Bull Creek District Park and Greenbelt, a popular recreation destination and one of Austin’s most charming assets. It’s sad that Anita and I haven’t made our way over there after living in the Bobcat Lair for over a year. Today I was working from home and needed a break, so we grabbed my son and his partner, had some delicious barbecue at the County Line. There we enjoyed all the turtles and the massive carp hanging around wanting to be fed.

Check out those BIG fish.

Then headed over to check out the greenbelt. This was sort of a reconnaissance visit, since we knew we would not have time to go on a long walk or explore much, but we had plenty of fun.

big trees.
I skillfully hid a car and a trash can to get this view looking toward the road.

There are beautiful oaks here that you know were here all along, not planted by someone.

Ah, peace and quiet in Austin.

What a joy it was to explore the quiet creek and riparian area in peace and quiet. This place can be quite busy, but we shared it only with a mother and her two sons, who reminded me of myself twenty-something years ago. The littlest one was buck naked and running around with a stick, poking it into chunks of algae and laughing in the way only a little kid with all the time in the world, cold water, and a stick can laugh.

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We Had a Little Spring. Now Chilly.

My friends the blue-eyed grass have returned.

Well, shoot, just when I was really getting into long walks and frolicking amid the wildflowers, a late cold front has driven me indoors. Yesterday, we hosted an event at 11 am at our office. The front showed up right as all the attendees were coming in or trying to find us. A big wind and brief rain surprised everyone, and blew away my meeting signs. March decided not to go out like a lamb after all!

We have a patch of pink evening primrose that is nearly white. It’s striking against the green grass.

But, I did get a lot of flower-viewing, pet walking, and iNaturalist uploading done before the front! It’s a great year for flowers, thanks to the winter rains, so I know I’ll be out finding more to share soon.

Yellow Flowers

The wild and crazy collard green in bloom.

Here’s something I’ve been grappling with lately. Many of the flowers that are blooming right now are yellow. They’re just beautiful, but when I try to photograph them, they are all washed out, making it hard to see details. Luckily, the collard greens I let go to seed (I ate off this ONE plant all winter) look pretty good. Perhaps the blue sky helped.

Poor little glowing flower.

But this ragwort, like many other yellow ones I’ve photographed, looks like a bright blur. I have tried adjusting the color on my phone, but no luck. Suggestions? Get a real camera! Yes, I know.

Just a giant dog, making ripples in the pond!

I’m looking forward to warmer weather soon. I know the dogs are, too. Alfred had a fine time yachting around in the pond on Friday, but I don’t think he’ll try today!

Take care, friends, and don’t forget to like, share, and comment!

Bluebonnets! Maybe They’re Interesting!

My last few posts have been duds. Nothing has died or anything, so I understand. But it’s wildflower season!

Anita matches the flowers.

I’ve been driving by some really pretty patches of pink flowers on my way down the big Far West hill lately. I wanted to know what they were.

Pink onions!

So, with the pretext of taking dog photos among the bluebonnets, I got Anita to go with me to check them out. They are Drummond’s onion, which is a pink version the wild onions that are blooming everywhere in this area.

Noble canine among the lupine.

I love alliums, so I was happy to identify a new one.

Selfie fail. I even made the dog laugh.

And yes, we did frolic among the sweet-smelling bluebonnets with Pickle and Vlassic. I failed pretty well at doing a floral selfie, but we had fun.

I’ll try to get some traditional bluebonnet pictures of the other doggies back at the ranch.