Oh the carnage, the humanity, the bio-economy of it all! The constant mating everywhere! The constant devouring everywhere! Does it ever end!?
It was a very mild winter. Many don’t remember winter being so non-existent. Then came the abnormal rainfall. Many Central Texas lakes and rivers had been well below normal water levels for several years due to drought. Not this Spring! Texas endured record flooding across much of the state. That’s the good news and the bad news. If you are an avid gardener or farmer, it’s bad news — the insects normally killed during cold hard freezes in winter, all survived. If you are a bird, a frog, a pond goldfish, a field-mouse, an armadillo, a rabbit, a skunk, a cat, a grey fox, a raccoon, a ring-tail cat, or a white-tailed deer, no winter means TONS of food everywhere! And if you are a birder or Naturalist (me), it is wildness galore and heaven on Earth for you and all creatures! So as it goes… “it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.“
Our mild winter, our Christmas, and a sign of things to come began with my daughter’s gift of Amaryllis Ferrari. For about two months it constantly flowered with a total of nine blooms throughout the 8-weeks. On a sidenote, my apologies for the substandard quality of my pictures and videos. It’s my LG camera-phone’s fault.
In late March I cranked down the Martin-house in back overlooking the Guadalupe River valley and Kerrville. I cleaned it out in the hope that Purple Martins would move-in before the common Sparrows, like they’ve so often done. For about a week the two bird-breeds fought fiercely over the 12-unit two-story house. As I watched the battling and wing-flapping, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the many times our neighbors complained about my high school rock-metal band practicing in our downstairs garage. It was so loud at times we shook the living room and kitchen floors above us. Upset and not at all proper fans of quality high-fidelity music, Mom and my sister sounded strangely similar to this yelling and screaming…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.“
By the end of April and several back-to-back fronts seemingly every 10-12 days bringing more rainfall, the entire property lit up with golds, pinks, yellows, indigos, crimsons, and every possible types of greens and textures imaginable. This year, instead of two sets of lantana camara, we have three sets. And surprisingly, the once strictly yellow-blooms have turned to a mix of pinks and yellows. How is it possible when we did no transplanting? Then it hits me.
This outdoor caretaker, this gardener, this beautification security guard (myself), has a few thoughtless nemeses roaming about at night. The most villianest of them all is Odocoileus virginianus and it knows no limit to its diet! If it’s colorful, green, and designed for human admiration and enjoyment, it’s on the menu! But their insatiable appetite is only half their evil doings. While lounging and munching during the moonlit darkness, as I slumber they leave their calling-card… EVERYWHERE! If you walk the lawn with your head up so as not to bang your head on bird feeders or Live Oak branches, then you will certainly step in Odocoileus virginianus evidence, or shit warmly left behind for a morning reminder of who is ultimately in-charge outside. Yet, there’s a silver-lining to these animal bowels: transplanted lantanas!
Our family’s 12-acre property and ranchita home has a surrounding lush St. Augustine lawn, a waterfall with pond, and many spectacular plants and native herbs carefully placed and landscaped. Because I have no desire to patrol at the godforsaken midnight, 2:00, or 4:00 a.m hours, I have brilliantly constructed protective cages around our plants or tasty menu items! There is another downside.
Thriving from nature’s touch and my superb care, our stunning plants quickly outgrow my short-sighted fixed protections, sticking through the wiring offering-up their appetizing blooms to my ever-present, always hungry 4-legged nemeses, who then ironically and quite unintentionally shit more flowers for us… sort of. The deer must loiter long enough for full lantana recycling, or mobile intestinal planting. There’s another thinly silver-lined benefit — thinly in the most invisible sense. Excited neighbors mention they now have “wild native” lantana growing in their yard. Hmm, nothing like sharing the bowels of beauty with everyone!
“It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times.“
They have 4-6 broods a year and are taking over the neighborhood. I speak of the bull-headed pigeon-offshoot, the white-winged doves. Even their newborn offspring begin nesting a few months after leaving their parent’s nest! Eat, nest, eat, shit, lay eggs, eat with bigger flock, mate like it’s going extinct, eat, shit more, lay more eggs, eat more, repeat. Essentially I’ve described the incredibly vigorous head-bobbing life of the white-winged doves. Their cooing sounds like a bunch of yawning bored unintelligent dinner clubbers. We had enough! Time to take action on the other nemeses.
Some wonderful person invented a deterrent called bird-shot for .22-caliber long rifles. The ammo isn’t too powerful — I used it to hit white-tailed deer in the ass when sneaking up to the St. Augustine grass and bird-feeders in daylight until they figured out I meant serious daytime business… until I was in bed in the middle of the night, when the All-You-Can-Eat buffet begins. The sting on their buttocks makes them scatter… far! Oh the pleasure I would receive watching them kick-up their hind legs when the pellets stung. Admittedly, I felt all-powerful, King of this hill and my Kingdom and all who dwelleth within. Hear me roar.
Then a magnificent natural event took place.
While shooting the bird-shot at the thousands of white-winged doves over running our baths and feeders, I wounded one of them. He or she tried to fly away, but could only hobble hop in the grass. Another ww-dove came out of the tree tops to be with it — its mate? And then as quickly as it came down it flew back up! I thought how odd. Before I could think of why, WOOOSH! From some nearby tree our familiar red-shoulder hawk in seconds swooped down and tackled the wounded ww-dove, pinning it to the ground within its sharp talons! As it sat on top of the dove, our Martins and Swallows dived-bombed the hawk three or four times, the hawk’s head ducking each time, but unrelenting of its catch. A minute or so passed and the gorgeous bird launched, carrying with it the meal for its family.
“It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.“
It wasn’t long before when that hawk took natural liberties upon our soothing well-designed and maintained waterfall and pond complete with leopard frogs and Goldfish. Two years prior we placed four goldfish in the empty pond. Two were male and fully vivid orange. One was a spotted female Koi, the other an all-white albino Koi. Today, we have some 40-50 fish living happily in our pond I maintain daily. See following video…
One early morning as I was sipping my coffee, out of the corner of my eye through our 11-windowed living room I glimpse a huge brown shadow fall from our rooftop into our pond. As I turned to see what it was the red-shouldered hawk flapped its 4-foot wingspan several times on the water surface, then once it snagged its prey it carried off our albino Koi which had grown to 6-inches in length. She was pregnant too because the all-orange males were both mating her with unending voracity the previous week sometimes wedging her against the rocks splashing water in all directions. In fact, all the fish were having orgies everywhere in the pond! When spring sprung, so did all the raging hormones it seems. But our pure-white albino Koi was no more; sushi for the red-shouldered. As the red Claret-cacti flowers in the header image above alludes…
“It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times” depending where in the food-chain you exist.
If it weren’t for my 6′ 0″ frame and build, I might be on the menu too. However, before I get to that, allow me to share a few images of how vivid spring has arrived or attacked, along with a cat (Foster) that when outside is constantly twitchy-jumpy from all the overstimulating wildlife 24-hours a day. When it becomes too much, well… you’ll see how he copes:
One of this spring’s entertainment packages enjoyed by Foster-the-cat is the neck bending flybys — looks like torture sometimes — from the new resident cliff swallows nesting in our back porch. They’re a bit anti-social. They do not welcome Foster hanging around. Some days when he wants to lie in stealth around the pond for incognizant leopard frogs sunbathing on the warm rocks, he rudely interrupts the cliff swallow couple! They are trying to make a risk-free mud home atop our music speakers. HAH! They seem to want what everything else is enjoying: LOVE. It seems to be the trend — to follow suit with all the other rampant mating orgies which proceed from sun up to sun down and beyond! The cat leaps into the air with delusions of grandeur that maybe, just maybe the gods of trajectory and velocity will smile upon him. Foiled! Foiled again! Why can’t I have wings! Perhaps this is the view from Foster’s perspective providing us evolved humans with endless springtime entertainment…
And so to borrow from Dickens with slight modification…
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times,
it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness,
it is clearly the age of birth, death, and near-death!
It is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity,
it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness,
it is the spring of hope, it is the orgy of feasting.
We have everything before us, we have nothing before us,
we are all going direct to Heaven,
we are all going direct the other way–
In short, the cycle was so far cycling,
that some of its noisiest authorities
insisted on its being received,
for good and evil when spring has FULLY sprung!
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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