Thanks for bearing with my rant yesterday. Today I got some good perspective as soon as I parked my car on the top floor of the parking garage (so it could get washed).
I opened the door and immediately heard a loud screech. Right next to my car was the elevator tower, where a red-shouldered hawk was watching me and letting me know about it.
Hooray, I thought, our little work green area has enticed the hawks back! They seem to be checking out their old nest and getting ready to raise more babies.
Jen and I enjoyed watching the pair for a while this morning. I was just so happy to see the urban wildlife supported by our corporate buildings. It reminds me that Nature will find a way, given time and a bit of luck.
I’ll hold on to this as my friends and I do our best to promote love, peace, and harmony with the world around us.
I got a request for an update on the hawks at my workplace. You know I just love requests. Since the people in our office spend a LOT of of our break time looking at them, there’s no problem with coming up with a report! The raptor couple are the talk of the water cooler, which pleases me a lot. We have a lot of budding birders being developed!
Here are some of the behaviors we’ve observed:
Eating small animals. They like to do that at the parking garage.
Working on the nest. Every so often, a special new stick comes over.
Dealing with windows. There’s a report that one of them went BOOM into a window earlier this week. Both birds seem okay, now.
Dealing with ledges. While I’ve seen one of them successfully land on the narrow ledges on our building, they also miss frequently, and flap around awkwardly to regroup.
Screeching. Lots of screeching.
Engaging in synchronixed flying. It’s just beautiful watching then swerve and curve then land delicately on the roof or nest.
Being friendly. They groom each other and snuggle up, both before and after what we call their “special time.” We expect some EGGS out of all this! (I do believe Mrs. Hawk is looking, um, plumper.)
I chose to drive to Boerne, Texas today on the back roads. That rarely disappoints me! The hills and valleys to the west of Austin and San Antonio provide new surprises every time you take a corner or reach the top of a hill.
I passed many beautiful ranches, and saw many longhorns and exotic game. I even saw four axis deer NOT in a fenced area. I guess those guys are here to stay.
I also finally got to visit Kendall County, and Kendalia, where I fulfilled a dream of taking my picture by the sign.
Everything on the back roads went well until I went to find the Hampton Inn. The Maps app didn’t realize it was on the OTHER side of the Interstate. I called for help, and the poor young woman who answered had just moved to Boerne and had to get help of her own. She gave me an extra water bottle, because I was nice about it.
She was also impressed that I brought my own dozen roses with me, thanks to my annual gift from Freytag’s Florist.)
After all that, I needed fresh air. I checked out the really pretty pool area behind the hotel. There’s a fun waterfall, so I sat in a lounge chair behind it (hey, it was over 50 degrees F!).
Suddenly, a familiar blurry shape descended. A Cooper’s hawk landed in a small tree on the other side of the pool. It was a male or juvenile, quite petite. I watched him checking things out around him, paying no attention to me.
I guess this is my season to be reminded of the vigilance and protectiveness of hawks.
Last night Anita and I attended the neighborhood book club meeting. We eventually got around to discussing The Poisonwood Bible, which I actually read (yay me). The discussion ranged to many topics, and I apparently am the Nature Expert of the group. I also LOVED the house we visited, because the owner was very clever in displaying her many collections.
I’d been noticing a lot of tweeting birds in the mornings when I walk the dog, and my thoughts were confirmed when the attendees began to describe large flocks of robins all over the neighborhood. This morning, I was on the lookout, and saw dozens of them in one tree (where I got this not-so-great picture), and more in other trees. The sound was amazing! Just as lovely as when all the cedar waxwings show up.
Then I got to work!
Right as I walked into work, I saw one of our hawks swooping. She landed in a NEST! I’d thought it was a squirrel nest, but there she was, hanging around, while the other hawk (smaller, so I figured it was the male) hung around on the building or the parking garage.
Later we saw a squirrel in the nest, so we were wondering if the hawk was just messing with baby squirrels or what. Last year, as you may remember, the hawks built their nest on the other side of the office park, on some metal structures.
When we saw the hawk bringing food to the nest, though, we became certain that the squirrel was just curious (and should be careful!).
As you can imagine, my coworkers are quite psyched to watch the hawks raise some babies. Binoculars will be brought out, and a lot of oohing and aahing will occure, if today is any indication.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, and whenever that happens, I’m sure to take a walk or two during the workday. I use that time to make plans for meetings and figure out problems, like I said in my previous walking post. It helps me think.
Moments after I stepped out of the building, my spirits lifted, and I happily thought to myself, “Sweet Olives!” Once again I gave thanks that my sense of smell is very good and that some smart landscape designer put sweet olive hedges all around the building where I work.
These plants (Osmanthus fragrans) are among the earliest to bloom, and make January and February very pleasant throughout the southern USA. The sweet olive has beautiful green leaves, making it a nice hedge plant or small tree, depending on how you prune it.
But the best thing about the plant is its flowers. They are tiny and white, and grow in not-very-showy clusters. But who cares what they look like! They smell fantastic. They are sweet, but not overly so, like many white flowers. I took one tiny blossom back to my desk and enjoyed it all afternoon.
People aren’t the only ones to enjoy the sweet olives, too. I saw many honeybees pollinating away, and even some houseflies enjoying the nectar.
My nose continued to be happy as I walked around the building, because the roses are continuing to bloom, as they have all winter (they are that nonstop kind). The good news is that they do have a nice scent, though not as strong as a damask rose.
Then, as I continued my walk, I smelled something very, very sweet. I looked down, and there, smiling at me, were some beautiful sweet alyssum. They were planted with dianthus, so, if you lean over before walking in the neighborhing buildings, you get a sweet, spicy mix. (Aside: I always find the purple ones more strongly scented, which is also true of solid purple pansies and the purple variety of lantana, which smell fantastic if you get close to them.)
Luckily, most of my other senses also got to enjoy themselves, since all kinds of plants are budding out, and there are always songbirds trying to drown out the traffic noise from US 183. The last part of my walk was bad for the nose, though, since a guy got ahead of me and lit a cigarette. That gives me the wrong kind of sensual overeload. I always wonder if smokers realize how many other people their habit can affect? (I know some do!)
Speaking of birds, I have good news. The Swainson’s hawk pair that nested at the office appear to be back. And I was very surprised to see a caracara (Mexican Eagle) fly over outside my work window this morning. You don’t often see them in such an urban setting.
Just wanted to share that the owl seems to have literally flown the coop, and we haven’t lost a chicken in a couple of weeks.
As you can see, they are looking happy. Buckbeak is glowing! We have at least ten left.
And we are now getting ONE egg per day! 100% improvement over zero! Let’s hope things keep picking up from here. I’m still looking into coops, but it’s sorta complicated.
Other bird news
I saw a cool bird sight on my way back from feeding the chickens yesterday. I stopped to punch in the gate code and heard a lot of commotion. Much screeching and cawing. I saw half a dozen of our large crows yelling at a hawk, who was yelling back.
It looked like the hawk had robbed the crows of something. The crows took turns pecking until one of them got the hawk away from crow territory. That crow kept circling back and making it very clear that Crows Rule!
Look at this Austin sunset! We’re having a bumper crop this year!
A while back, I shared photos of a big hawk nest on the building next to my Austin work, and later I found another nest in a large oak tree in front of the building.
I thought you might like to see how those babies are doing. I guess at least one clutch of them hasn’t completely fledged yet, since I keep seeing small hawks flying around the building.
The resident birds are not happy, especially the mockingbirds, who, as we know, are busy raising their babes right now. There were actually two birds going after this poor youth.
I’ve seen at least two others flying around in the past week. I’m pretty sure these are the ones from the big tree, and the ones from the building have long since flown off to establish their own territories. (I do see birds by the nest still, but apparently they usually have just one clutch a year).
Nature sure helps when there’s chaos around you. I’m really glad to have birds and trees and random animals to enjoy wherever I am. We even have some wrens and tufted titmice coming to our bird bath at the Bobcat Lair house in Austin (I will try to get some photos). Remember, when times are tough, breathe, and notice what’s around you. It helps to see the big picture.
Tomorrow I’ll write about picking wild grapes. Adventures in foraging!
During the four days of the week when I’m in Austin, I do yoga three days at lunch. But on Wednesdays, I’m on my own. Sometimes I just work, but often I take a walk around the area, which has some interesting plantings and natural areas as well. The office is on land that used to be full of deer when my kids were little. Now there is a lot more office space and less deer land.
Anyway, I decided to give myself a challenge last Wednesday, which was to see how many new iNaturalist observations I could make during the lunch hour. I wanted to focus mainly on things that were blooming or bearing fruit, but if something else interesting showed up, I’d take advantage of that.
So, off I went with my trusty iPhone X, which takes reasonable pictures, sometimes. I took pictures of the native/nativized plants that had been planted around the buildings first. There were some really beautiful agaves that I just had to record, even though I know they are landscape plants. Look at this Queen Victoria Agave!