Birdy McBirdface

A week or so back we published a post on Trainy McTrainface and Boaty McBoatface. Well here’s the sad story of Birdy McBirdface.

While cleaning up at the Fire Department garage, we found a very young chick crawling around on the floor weakly chirping. Despite a thorough search in and around the building, no nest could be found. Not being able to put the little thing back in its nest, we took it home where Diane immediately named him Birdy McBirdface and put him in a shoe-box with shredded paper and a light bulb over for warmth.

She fed and nurtured little Birdy McBirdface for 5 or 6 days but to no avail. He died and we tearfully buried him in the yard.

We have no idea what kind of bird he was, but he touched our hearts and we were very sad to see him go.

 

Hackberries

The empty lot next to us is a natural South Texas overgrowth. In addition to the usual plethora of mesquite, cat’s claw and ebony, there is a 7 or 8 ft tall shrub with yellow berries that pokes through our fence. Our interest was piqued since we had no idea what it was and the berries looked a little like very tiny tomatoes – perhaps edible? Here’s the shrub:

spinyhackberry

We took the question to the internet and discovered that it is a Spiny Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana previously pallida) also known as the Desert Hackberry. It is native to and common in the RGV and the Chihuahuan desert.

Spiny Hackberry is an evergreen shrub with whitish gray zigzag shape branches that produces shiny orange pea sized fruit throughout the year, regardless of the season. The plentiful fruit provides food as well as acting as a water source for a wide variety of birds such as green jays, doves, and thrashers. A number of butterfly caterpillars rely on the Spiny Hackberry as a food source such as Emperors, American Snout, and Red-bordered Metalmark.

So, yes, the fruit is edible. We harvested a couple of handfuls and discovered they are sweet and well worth eating. The seed is large, so there is not much flesh on the berries. However the seeds are easy to crunch and apparently are a good source of calcium. According to some reports, the berries are 20% crude protein as well – healthy too!

It’s true that you can learn something new every day.

LNG plant in Brownsville

While there is a lot of opposition to the proposed LNG plant(s) along the Brownsville ship channel, at least one of the companies is showing some environmental conscience. Rio Grande LNG LLC, one of three liquefied natural gas companies proposing to build facilities, has pledged to help restore the Bahia Grande wetland across the road – if the company actually builds its LNG plant. It commits provisionally to paying for expansion of the Carl “Joe” Gayman pilot channel that connects the Bahia Grande to the Brownsville Ship Channel. The existing 50-foot channel was dug in 2005 to allow tidal flow in and out of the Bahia Grande as a step toward bringing back the wetland. The Bahia Grande used to be a thriving wetland and wildlife habitat. However, construction of the ship channel during the 1930s, and SH 48 during the 1950s, cut off the natural flow of water between it and the Laguna Madre, creating a dust bowl. Today the Bahia Grande, a unit of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, is undergoing a slow process of restoration. We applaud them for their promise and pray it will be kept since funding for the expansion from other sources has dried up.

These pictures show what the channel would look like before and after the expansion.

 

Bird of the week – 37

We have been blessed with a persistent little Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) attempting to build a nest in a steer skull hanging on the wall of our workshop. He is our bird of the week. These adaptable wrens are known to pick just about any spot for a nest – old plant pots, behind car radiators, in old boots, in fact pretty much any nook or cranny around the yard. While this shy bird can be hard to see, it delivers an amazing number of decibels for its size. Its teakettle-teakettle! and other piercing exclamations resound through the yard. The Carolina Wren is more colorful than most wrens, and is a treat to have around. He was difficult to photograph – kept hiding behind the post! I finally got a shot of him foraging on the ground.

Feathered friends

Over the last few days we’ve been enjoying the spectacular bird life on our doorstep. Our resident heron had his favorite perch on the neighbor’s fishing light usurped by a pelican. He was not happy and took over our deck roof all the while keeping an eye on the pelican.

heronnew

Back to the pelicans – they were out in numbers following the wake from one of the barges en route to Harlingen. Fish/shrimp must get churned up in the wake, it appears to be a pelican and seagull feast with all the diving and catching.

pelikansnew

Spring closer to home

Think of Texas and (if you don’t live here) it’s most likely you imagine cactus and rocky, red desert. However, each spring the hill country of central Texas is awash with a riot of color, as millions of wildflowers bloom. Washington may have its cherry blossoms and New England may have their fall colors, but we have our wildflowers – praise God!