Tag Archives: Bird

Sparrow with Bluebell

The proper identification of this red-headed or rusty-headed bird continues to churn me, not only in my daylight hours, but also as I lie awake at night.  For the moment, the species identification includes: Rufous-winged Sparrow, Field Sparrow, immature White-crowned Sparrow.  (Probably another possibility looms in the Peterson’s.)  Factor analysis must wait, however, until I get some chores out of the way today. I will, however, cease all toil if I see these guys again so I can focus.  Thanks to Caralee, Rubia, Montucky and others that have further focused my attention on identification.

Here is a closeup of the Bluebell bell flower.  I discovered a patch thirty-by-twenty feet in size, east of the barn.  Walked right over the patch without noticing at first, saw this flower, bent down and looked around and there was the patch of bell flowers.  I wanted to get a closeup of the flower, so here it is.  I have seen field biologists on their hands and knees with a camera, snapping pictures.  Since I have this goal of taking pictures of every species of wildflower on the ranchito for one year, I best start kneeling with knee pads on?

Below is a wide shot of the Bluebell bell flower patch I discovered.  As you can see, the flowers are quite small, barely discernible in the photo as they are in the field.  You will have to click on the photograph to enlarge in order to see the flowers.  Looks like a lawn of sorts, but it is not.

I am off to the barn and field. I will be looking for the sparrow and flowers. The sun is shining and the temperatures are forecast in the upper 70s, lower 80s.  I shall pace myself.


Filed under Birds, Flowers of Flying Hat

Thoreau the philosopher: The hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove

The following quote of Henry David Thoreau reflects a symbolism, rather deep I suspect, of three sentient beings: dog, horse and dove (bird).  Historians and literary scholars speculate these lost animals never existed.  Like so many queries, further research is necessary.  My quick and dirty (fast, not slow or deep) study assumes that they did exist AND they represent Thoreau’s tangential thinking.  In part, the dog is companionship, friendship, association; the horse is the passion and energy of men and women; and the dove is the transcendental quality, possessed by all men, to break the bonds of family, religion, nation and materialism.

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854).

* * *

And, in association with such tracking and calling, I submit my own experiences with hound, horse and bird:

Come here, boy, come here. I hear the rustle of grass and juniper brush before I see my hound.

One long high whistle, followed by three low-toned whistles. The gallop towards me grows louder, the ground shakes and earth is a-flying.

The dove comes back to be with its own kind, a cooing ensues and a dance. I reach inside their loft — they are accustomed to me — and pick one gently up and as I stroke its breast, it sleeps, head tucked under its wing. I lay it gently down and in the morning’s light it disappears behind the clouds.

* * *

Not trying to be didactic or professorial (I hate that, even in my own classroom), what do you think about Thoreau’s quote?  Should this quote be taken literally?  Symbolically?  Or both?  I’ll expect your comments by September 1, or I will have to check the non-compliance box next to your name.  So, let’s get on with the punishment, shall we?


Notes, corrections and additions:

The original post contained only Thoreau’s quote and my three extrapolations about hound, horse and dove.  I added the first paragraph before the quote and added the questions at the end of the post.  The photographs have also been added — all additions occurred August 27, 2011.

I originally started re-reading Thoreau for a variety of reasons, especially searching for irony and wit in his writing, but I got side-tracked with this quote.


Filed under Life in Balance, Nature Quote of the Day, Quote of the Day

Swarming berry feast for Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse (Cornell University)

I wrote my dissertation in Fort Worth, Texas, from a second-floor office, looking out upon an enclosed patio. Adjacent to the large window that framed my view were White Fringetrees that bore dark blue berries.  I composed intently and turned frequently to the window, yearning to be in high country, viewing pinon, spruce and ponderosa, not the Fringetree in a hot Texas summer.

One afternoon as I churned out sentences I saw birds fly onto and into the White Fringetrees.  Not just a few, but hundreds of birds landed on tree branches, weighing them down, almost to a point of snapping the branches from the tree trunk.  I turned away from writing and gazed upon Tufted Titmice engorging fringetree berries (1).  The animated flock, chirping and calling loudly, ate for fifteen or twenty seconds and then abruptly flew away, out of sight, in a orchestrated arc of motion.

I was stunned at clasping claws, fluttering wings, pecking mouths and swarming birds within ten feet of my desk.  No sooner than I began to think about their behavior the titmice returned, engorging and hanging upside down, flying crazily away, drunk upon the nectar, happily filled.

They stripped the tree of berries after two more returns to the table and I never saw them again that summer.  I waited for a few to return in the remaining days, but they never flew back.

I revere that image.  I thought then, as I do now, that the berry feast of swarming titmice lifted my mood and helped propel me to finish my dissertation, for at my desk I saw nature churning, grasping, eating and flying.  High country, after all, in Texas.



1.  Please read my reply to Bill’s comment in this post about my confidence in typing a Tufted Titmouse.  I have a measure of doubt about the typing.  I wrote to Bill:

I’m not one-hundred percent confident it was a tufted titmouse. At the time, I had never seen any bird like it: tufted, grayish, small, energetic. Fort Worth is 65 miles from where I live now, 120 miles from where I was born and reared. I would say I am seventy-five percent confident about the typing. I’m not by any means a birder and I was hesitant in presenting this post. I remember at the time that I got my Peterson out a few days after the event. My first definition was some sort of junco, passing through like you say, but a junco was too large. With a little bit more definition, photographs and migrating patterns into Texas (no farther than Texas, I read), I hesitantly put it as a tufted titmouse. No one was with me at the time of the sighting to corroborate….If you read my reply to your comment, how do you go about your typing of birds up there? Today, I use the Peterson and Cornell University website. My Peterson is falling apart from use in the field and carrying around for, say, forty years?…Thanks, Bill, for commenting.  [Bill writes a nature blog and lives in New England.  His blog is Wildramblings.]

The White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chionanthus_virginicus.  See also Rutgers Landscape and Nursery Services, New Jersey.

Tufted Titmouse, Identification, All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Baeolophus bicolor).


Filed under Birds, Recollections 1990-