Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cold day for bird watching

Yaaaaa! There are a few specks of ice on the streets, so the city of Austin has shut down. We were told at work to come in at 10:00, but when I got there I found that the whole place is going to be shut down all day.

I came home and sat on the couch with my cat Egypt, smoked a bowl, and watched the birds at the feeder that's hanging by my window.

At first there were mostly house sparrows. I looked them up and learned that they are not native to the US but were introduced here in 1850 in an attempt to combat canker-worms. Now they are the feathered equivalent of mice in every US city. Here's what my Texas bird book says about them:

"House sparrows seldom venture far from human habitation, earning the name domesticus. They have developed into the street urchins of the bird world, brawling in the gutters and depending largely on human activities for food and shelter."

That's exactly what they were doing at the feeder, brawling like street urchins. Among them were a few of the ubiquitous white wing doves, also.

After the sparrows and doves scrapped for awhile, a gang of grackles showed up, Common Grackles and the Great-tailed Grackles were running together. The book says about them, "In popular vote, grackles would probably win the election as the bullies of the neighborhood. They swagger brazenly across the lawn, posing and posturing haughtily, and then descend on backyard bird feeders to dominate the smaller, more timid patrons."

This is a pretty accurate description of what they did, except that I wouldn't call those sparrows timid. They joined in the fray and at times we witnessed a huge free-for-all right outside the window. It only broke up when Egypt couldn't contain herself any more and pounced at them.

Such a nice day, but cold, down in the 20s last night, it was a record low for this date. When I learned that we had a free day off, I had hoped to get something useful done, like some shopping, reading, or maybe addressing Christmas cards (or holiday cards, I should say), but I have a bit of an earache, so I think I'll just go curl up in the bed and read and doze.


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