Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kites, Coyote and a Bounty of Rain

Remember those standardized tests we took as kids?  The ones where we had to discern which item did NOT belong with the group of items?  Well, I could ask that question with the three items in the title to this story.

My best recent days have been Sunday mornings with my “just over” two hour bicycle rides.  Sunday mornings have little neighborhood traffic (except a few cars speeding through neighborhoods at 9:20 a.m., apparently stressed over late arrival to some 9:30 a.m. church service).
I give great thanks that Sunday mornings are mostly a day of rest for the commercial lawn crews.  Six days they work neighborhood yards with their commercial-grade mowers and “leaf” blowers that blow the neatly-cut grass into the furthest corners away from the yard at hand.  I wonder about these hard working men.  I wonder if their labor provides income that respects their hard work; I wonder if their labor provides medical insurance and sick leave.  I wonder why their companies are allowed to expose them to noise with no hearing protection, and flying yard debris with no eye protection.  Where is OSHA for the laborers that labor the hardest? 

But oh how I love my peaceful, noiseless Sunday-morning bike rides.  “Biking with God” is my new form of worship.  But I still long for cooler Fall temperatures when Sunday mornings will find me “Birding with God” (or Mother Nature as I like to call Her).

This not-so-great photo shows the stark contrast of sun and shade.  Most of my bike ride wanders through heavily-shaded streets, with Live Oaks much older than these:

I see a good number of birds when biking these Upper Gulf Coast, heavily wooded neighborhoods:  Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Robins, Cooper’s Hawks, Jays and Mockers are the norm.  The Mockers screaming and chasing away the Cooper’s from their wee ones is definitely the norm. 

But  I’ve especially delighted by repeat sightings of Mississippi Kites.  In two adjacent neighborhoods I’ve witnessed low-overhead flights of  an adult Mississippi Kite, with their cleanly marked white head and white secondaries, and a juvenile Mississippi Kite, with their rufous-colored leading primaries, looking as if they’ve donned a Halloween costume to mimic the larger, uniquely-different Red-shouldered Hawks.

But my favorite surprise was two Sundays ago, riding through a heavily-wooded neighborhood that backs up to a bayou and green space.  I rode quietly along, with houses on one side and woods and green space on the other.  And out of wood and into the sunshine popped a beautiful coyote; so beautiful I’ll call her A Her.  As I rode past, I was certain she disappeared, but I couldn’t resist turning my bicycle in a slow circle, coming back to stop where I'd first sighted her, with a bit of hope as my quiet companion.

And there she stood—quietly staring at me with mirrored interest of my quietly staring at her, from stopped bicycle and underneath my birding hat.  I can only hope she thought that I was as lovely as her display of color and elegance and innocent wildness.  “Funny hat” I could almost hear her say.  “At least I’m not wearing spandex bike shorts” I wanted to reply.
With one foot on the ground, and the other resting on my bike’s pedal, the pedaled foot made the slightest squeak; the sound of plastic and metal parts moving against each other under the weight of my foot.  And with that smallest of noise, not native to Mother Nature’s creation, the coyote turned and wandered back among the wood.  But I’ll hold her memory as long as memory holds. 

And so which of the three items in this story’s title would now seem to NOT belong?  Well, that would be the bounty of rain that has eluded Texas during the ongoing multi-year drought.  But oh what a wonderfully rainy summer we’ve enjoyed!  Almost daily the rains have come:  good soaking rains with little flooding.  Evening thunder bumpers as I call them, bringing dark clouds and rolling thunder and flashes of firework-pedigree lightning.
I sit by an upstairs north-facing window each evening.  I turn out the lights as dusk approaches, and watch and listen to that day’s thunder-bumper display of sight and sound.  The rains come and pound the sidewalks; steam rises.  The Live Oak trees delight and stretch their limbs upward with their lime-green tops showing-off a wet season’s extravagant growth.

And this morning at 5 am I gave up on sleep, turned on the TV and watched the local weatherman’s weekly forecast.  Mr. Mario was beaming and grinning ear-to-ear as he shared his drought map for the entirety of Texas. 

All of East Texas, including the Upper Gulf Coast was OUT of drought conditions.  And much, much of Texas was in better shape than in a long time.  Austin, the RGV and west Texas, including the cattle-rich Pan Handle area are still hurting.  But not SO severely as a year ago.

Kites, Coyote and a Bounty of Rain—this summer, they all belong in my neck of the woods.

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