Ubiquitous plastic

P1070199Ubiquitous: present everywhere or in several places simultaneously

Plastic: any of a number of synthetic polymeric substances that can be given any required shape

(The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

This lone plastic water bottle floating in a sea of green gunge in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas caught my eye. The park is pristine, tidy and well-kept. Staff and volunteers do a great job keeping it clean so visitors can enjoy the wildlife. So this lone bottle jarred.

It definitely should not have been there and I wondered which unthinking clown had thrown it into the lake rather then into one of the bins (there are plenty of them).

It jarred especially because of the context it was in. I was watching a Great Egret at the time. It was still and peering into the water at the edge of the green and gunky lake. Here it is peering – it let me get quite close but not too close. What a beauty.

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And here it is in context with the discarded plastic bottle

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It just doesn’t go. It shouldn’t be there and it’s a reminder of the vast amounts of discarded plastic we humans are allowing to overtake our planet. Recycling helps of course, but do we need SO MUCH plastic I have to ask.

You’re probably already aware of the plastic problem so I won’t bang on about it. While I was in the US I refused plastic straws given with any drinks ordered in cafes and restaurants. One place didn’t offer them – a small start but it was encouraging to see it nonetheless.

 

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Roseate Spoonbill

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That flash of pink in the treetops…..what was it?

We’d just embarked on the walk along by Forty Acre Lake at Brazos Bend State Park, when a ruffling kerfuffle of pink erupted in the mid-distance treetops.

My brain said “Flamingoes? Here?” My binoculars said “Roseate Spoonbills – 4 of them!”

This was a first ever sighting of these rather weird large waders, with their prehistoric-looking spoon-shaped bills. What a treat! A trip to Brazos Bend is always rewarding, but the spoonbills made this trip even more so.

These birds were heavily persecuted in the late 1800s when feathered hats were in vogue and they all but died out, thanks to vain fashion and plume hunters. Thankfully they have made a recovery but the message is clear: persecute and destruction and/or extinction will follow.

What a treat it was to see these birds. The photo isn’t great – I was lucky to get it – but you’ll get the overall impact of this stunning, peculiar, wonderful bird.

A strange gurgling in the night

P1060986There it was again –  a loud, odd gurgling sound – a bit like the warble of a bird but far more urgent. I was suddenly wide awake. Confused too, as I briefly wondered if I was at home and hearing the dawn chorus. But no, I was definitely not at home because I was sleeping in a cabin-style house in the desert, surrounded by mountians. And it was dark.

Something was definitely going on outside. Scuffles? That gurgling noise again, like an alarm call. It stopped and I went back to sleep.

Next morning there was excited talk amongst our family party about the noise which I’d heard, husband had heard, son and daughter-in-law had heard. The grandchildren slept through it all.

Our cabin’s location was just outside Big Bend National Park in the far south of Texas. Wildlife in that area includes deer, road runners, javelina and mountain lions. The conclusion was that what we’d heard was a mountain lion in pursuit of prey. The gurgling sound could have been the prey, or the alarm call of a bird aroused by the lion.

Our son, sleeping at the front of the house, had got up and looked out, shining a torch into the blackness of the night. He’d seen the lion attacking something else; the light from his torch had startled the lion and it (and preseumably the prey) hadP1070004 (2) run off.

We went to look at the loose sand and soil outside the cabin where he’d seen the activity and found the evidence – paw prints and what looked like deer hoof prints. No blood.

Just another night in the desert maybe – but a real bit of colourful excitement for us.

Osprey

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In the UK, birders would travel miles – maybe to Rutland Water in the Midlands or maybe to Aviemore in Scotland –  to see ospreys, amazingly powerful and graceful birds who fish from lakes, catching large fish in their powerful talons.

In Houston, Texas, it’s not unusual or remarkable at all to find  an osprey flying low over a local reservoir which is part of a country park. This one was out in broad daylight, flying overhead and calling as it clutched its large catch. All this against the distant backdrop and roar of a busy tollway.

We watched it – no binoculars were needed as it was so close – as it sought and found a perch on a nearby telegraph pole and proceeded to tuck into it with that powerful beak.

What a treat for the eyes to see it. The photo’s not perfect as it was taken against the light, but it conveys the size of both bird and fish.

Lemon tree, very pretty

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Visiting family in Houston last year we saw, with some dismay, that the lemon tree we’d bought and planted in their garden was in a very sad and sorry state. An unexpected and uncharacteristic very cold snap one night had got to it and most of its leaves had frozen and shrivelled.

This winter it had been coddled in advance of any cold weather and covered in a protective blanket. When we arrived, the blanket was off, warmer weather had prevailed and the tree was looking very healthy.

Bursting with blossom, it smelled delicious. A bee was visiting the flowers and pollinating, and there is already an as yet unripened lemon hanging on one of the lower branches.

Seeing the tree in bloom reminds me of the words of a song:

Lemon tree very pretty

And the lemon flower sweet,

But the fruit of the poor lemon

Is impossible to eat.

I challenge that – the previous year there were enough lemons to make a couple of lemon meringue pies!

 

Northern Cardinal

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I could hear the distinctive sound of a Northern Cardinal’s “birdybirdybirdy” call but I couldn’t see it anywhere.

It was like playing hide and seek in the backyard/garden trying to locate it and spot it. It was nearby. I looked up. Not on the wires or telegraph pole. Not on the roof. Not on the still-bare branches of one of the trees.

Returning to the house, I noticed a rather alarming-looking long legged insect loitering around one of the evergreen bushes near the door. Spotting what looked like an orange ball caught deep in the branches, I saw it wasn’t a ball at all. I’d found my singing cardinal.

He was watching me intently, having gone quiet as I was nearby. We eyeballed each other, pausing in a shared moment of stillness. He was beautiful.

I seized the moment and took a few shots of him, then he hopped away, deeper into the bush and I went into the house. I’m hoping he was one half of a pair, as I’d seen the female fly across the garden when I first went out.

And as it’s spring, they may be nesting.