Tag Archives: Barn Swallows

The aire be stirred with wild things

Barn swallow in flight, north Erath County, Texas (2010).

They were storks!  When they circled lower, the long beaks and the legs that trailed in the slipstream showed red as sealing wax.  An old shepherd was leaning on the ramp close by and gazing up at them too.  When some of the great birds floated lower, the draught of their feathers brushed our upturned faces, and he said something in Magyar — “Net, gobyuk!” and smiled.

Patrick Leigh Fermor in Hungary, 1934, in A Time of Gifts, p. 309.

Around me, the air has been stirred with wild things, but not storks.  During winters in central Texas I walked to the pond on my step-father’s farm and sat on the lee side of the water, standing still about a natural juniper blind, not moving, and ducks would fly so fast you heard them before you saw them, and they stirred the air about my face and landed swiftly upon pond water, sending ripples to the ice-crusted edge.  The aire be stirred with wild things.  In all the years around the pond, I took but one duck out of the sky, regretting it to this day because there was roast beef and bacon back at home beneath the thin, protective dish towel mother used to cover the food she prepared.

Three fall seasons ago I sat on the back porch, wearing an old, broad-brimmed felt hat as I looked out in the pasture at the horses.  Not moving much in the chair, a familiar wren — I had seen it countless times — flew down from the support post and landed upon my hat.  The wren stayed there for thirty seconds, maybe a minute, darting about the top of the hat, checking out the intricate perforations of the hat band for food, its tiny feet moving staccato-like about like a ballerina.  I felt its motion, the draught of wings I felt upon my face.  The aire be stirred with wild things.

Barn swallows fly through the porch today and stir the air.  They hover, literally hover in the air, fanning the porch like tiny, childish whirl-a-gigs, seeking a perch or possible nook for a new nest.  There are six swallows and they perform their aerobatics twice a day, morning and evening.  Coming close, within three feet, they chirp at me as an intruder in their world.  The aire, I tell you, is stirred with wild things.  And, ’tis good wild things.

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Notes:

See also The New York Times obituary of Sir Patrick:  NYT obituary of Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Somewhere in my reading, I remember an Englishman that was on an African safari and in the evening ventured beyond the compound’s fire pit and was attacked by a lion.  In the attack, the lion grabbed him about the shoulder from behind and started dragging him away into the bush.  The Englishman — how I wish I could find this story again — thought he was done with and remembered the smell of the lion and that the lion purred as he took him away.  Interesting the purr.  The man reached for his bush knife and stabbed the lion who released him and ran off into the dark.  Not all wild things that stir the air are so gentle.

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Field Log 5/30/2010 (Coneflowers)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

General Log

Weather has been hot, 90 deg. F. plus, last few days.  Air is almost completely calm.  Some slight breeze from the south.

Grass is drying up, browning.  Seeds are become ripe and falling off.

This week, Shiney goes for sale at Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We leave on Thursday, come back on Sunday.  The most important objective is guarantee that Shiney will have a good home, regardless of the auction price.

F-250 in shop for air conditioner repair.  Have been looking at new and used F-250s to purchase.  The trucks have been repaired frequently in the last week, ranging from oil pumps to the F-150 bearings and now the air conditioner.

Barn Swallows and Feeding Wild Birds by Hand (A Method Observed)

In the evening, Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) encircle our ranch house on Poprock Hill and feed on mosquitoes and flies.  A nest of barn swallows have hatched fledglings on our back porch.  Notice the characteristic sharply-notched tail.  This photograph was taken in the morning.  If I sit quietly on the porch, the swallows will angle under the eve of the porch and fly within three or four feet of where I am sitting.  Last year, a resident wren that fed about the porch landed on my hat and pecked around on my hat for about a minute until it flew off.   I will set the camera up for remote operation and see if I can photograph the wren on my hat.  When I lived in Paris, I was always intrigued by the young man at Notre Dame that would sit in a chair about the sidewalk and hedge and have the sparrows feed out of his hand.  The method he used was to look away from the birds and extend his arm back from his body (like in handing off a baton) so that the birds did not see his eyes or mouth (specific threat areas for birds).  The young man was neither monk nor priest, but a lad that loved birds.

Barn Swallow in Flight, Photo by J. Matthews

Wildflower Photography and Hoe Downing with Bull Nettle (Not a Dance)

On May 23, 2010, Brenda and I drove the F-150 to Pecan Tree Pasture for her to photograph wild flowers and for me to hoe down Bull Nettle.

Wild Flowers alongside SH 108 at Gate 3 Entrance, Photo by B. Matthews

Lemon Horsemint, Photo by B. Matthews

This blossoming plant is the Lemon horsemint (Monarda citriodora Cerv. ex Lag.)  It is also known as the Lemon beebalm, Horsemint, Purple horsemint or Plains horsemint.  Several stands of this plant are about the place.  Over near the pecan tree, a few blossoms are present.  The biggest stand of Lemon horsemint is back up by the barn, about an old hearth location that goes back for several decades, perhaps prehistoric.  The Lemon horsemint is attractive to butterflies and bees.

Clasping Coneflower, Photo by B. Matthews

This yellow-leafed blossom is the Clasping Coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis).  It is also know as Clasping-leaf Coneflower.  It differs from the Black-eyed Susan and Mexican Hat.  This particular species has medicinal qualities: the Cherokee used the  juice of root for earache and a tea, made from the leaves, was used as a tonic and diuretic.

Unidentified Plant and Blossom (Now Identified)

Bush Vetchling or Manystem Pea, Photo by B. Matthews

Here we have an unidentified plant and blossom.  (See update for identification in next paragraph.)  I first thought it a Skull-cap (Scutellaria drummondii), but I am not sure.  Like my previous analysis regarding the Mariposa and Wine-cup, I must go back over to the pecan tree area and re-photograph and take a sample of the full plant, not merely the blossom.  One of the interesting aspects of posting this photograph and determining genus and species is that I look more closely at the photograph to make sure I get it right, and upon looking closer at the photograph, I see bean pods that I did not notice while I was in the field — see if you can spot the pods.

Update:  The unidentified plant and blossom is the Bush Vetchling or Manystem Pea from the Lathyrus genus, more than likely the species montanus or nissolia.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center lists several species including polymorphus and brachycalyx ssp. zionis. Thank you, Grethe Bachmann of Thrya Blog and Flora and Fauna Blog for the identification.  I never would have found it since it does not appear the two general sources of plants I use for identification.  You can go to Grethe’s blogs by linkage from my blogroll on my Homepage.

Texas Prickly Pear, Photo by B. Matthews

This is the blossom of the Texas Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri).  The blossoms are especially brilliant.

Indian Blankets with Shelton Rock Hills, Photo by B. Matthews

This is a stand of Indian Blankets with the Shelton Rock Hills (north and south) in the background.  The direction of the camera is west.  To the right (north) is The Grove and Salt Creek.

With this hot weather, the horses go back to the stables for shade and water.  I attend to them at about 6:00 p.m. everyday.

Jack Matthews with Hoe and Clasping Coneflower (2010), Photo by B. Matthews

I am actually in a much, much better mood than what this photograph belies.  In the pasture, I’ve been hoeing a few Bull Nettle down and it is rather hot, late in the morning.  Note the large stand of Big Bluestem grass to my left.  I’ve been careful to keep the Big Bluestem from getting shredded for several years and now it grows higher than me in the field.  Please also note the tool on my left side.  That is a hoe.  Not machinery, a manual tool.  Kinda Luddite-ish, don’t you think?

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Filed under Field Log, Plants and Shrubs

Field Log 3/14/2010

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

Four Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) soaring about house and Poprock Hill.  First sighting this spring.  (Note: clean off mud nest on front porch.  Verify type again.)

Resident hawk(s) is not a red-tail.  Unable to verify type.   Possible Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Conventional scream or call.  Same resident hawk with sibling I have seen in the grove.  Nest high.

Grasses emerging in Pecan Tree pasture.  Side-oats gramma is approx. three (3) inches high.  Dead grass has given cover for small untyped birds and gramma sprouts.

Three flocks of Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) seen in afternoon.  Tuk-tuk alert to look up.  Flocks flying 75-100 m.p.h. ground speed est.  Altitude est. 2,000 feet above ground level.  Wind south-southeast.  Three stragglers.  Again, only a few tuk-tuks, indicates leader or alpha call?  These flocks number 200-300, but only few calls.  Why?  Evangeline Chavez in at Bosque Apache in New Mexico sights Crane flights today.  She is 600+ miles away.

Shiney the colt has twenty (20) mane hair samples with roots sent to U. of C., Davis for DNA typing and registration with AQHA.  Brenda reached through corral fence for mane hair.  He’s a good boy.

Nephew of Kelly Dooley, the Dooley place, shoots .22 caliber pistol or rifle to the west of us.  Bullets whiz through corral near Hija and me.  Emergency call to Kelly.  She gets nephew to orient himself away from corrals.  Four (4) bullets pass through air while I am in corral.  Brenda on porch has one bullet pass by.  Bullets sound like big, fast mosquitoes:  low tones, not high tones, buzzing.  Nephew is from town, goes goofy in country.  Deeply apologetic.

Native brush sprouting buds and yellow blossoms in grove.  Gathered two (2) large stones from grove.  Filled Pecan Tree water trough that Olivia helped me fill at Christmas.

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