Category Archives: Nature

Cheep thrills

When it comes to building a home, some say location is everything.

house finch nest

house finch pair

Just ask Mom (right) and Dad (left). Can you guess what birds they are?

house finch nest

Look at their finch-astic creation and its “pebbled” rim.

house finch nest

Tucked in a carport nook

My apartment community has 3 banks of carports with a total of 70 nooks (possible nest sites). Fourteen of those nooks have nests in them. Carports closer to the tree-lined property edge and adjoining field have four times as many nests (12 of 42 nooks) as those near the interior (2 of 28). Makes me wonder if easy access to twigs and leaves (building materials) drove nook selection.

house finch nest

Short on neatness, big on warmth

house finch nest

The other nests are mansions compared to this one, but its Birdie B&B listing reads, “Cozy nook offers eggs-cellent shelter and total privacy.”

house finch nest

Talk about green building!

I walked over to the two adjoining sister properties to check their carports.

house finch nest

That “pebbled” rim again

house finch nest

house finch nest

Active recyclers with a zero carbon footprint

By building nests in carports, house finches enjoy protection from raptors and tree-climbing kitties, as well as shelter from the elements. I’m in awe of the little fliers for their design skills, building prowess, resourcefulness and strategic thinking. And they sing! Their chirpy tweets help me greet each day with a smile.

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What’s that bird?
I turned to this most awesome field guide to narrow it down.American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide: All the Birds of North America

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The range maps for redpolls, bramblings and Cassin’s finches don’t include Texas, so those birds are out. Besides, the male redpoll has a small red cap, but Dad has a lot more red on his head. So it comes down to purple finch or house finch. Given Dad’s red head and chest (but no red on his back), it’s a house finch pair.

house finch pair

This photogenic pair made identification a snap.

20170620_052236I have an older edition of All the Birds of North America, the American Bird Conservancy’s Field Guide. One of my most loved books. It was prescribed for an Intro to Birding continuing ed class I took at UT Arlington several years ago. I love the guide for ease of identification, water-resistant pages (in case you drop it in a pond), and small check boxes in the index (think life list). Amazon has a newer edition.

All About Birds by the Cornell Lab or Ornithology is an amazing online resource. I learned that house finches “nest in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges. They also nest in or on buildings, using sites like vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy, and hanging planters.”

The print and online guides were my ID mainstay for the longest time.

But now there’s an app for it!
The magical Merlin Bird ID app (North America) suggests a location-based “bird pack” upon download. Five easy questions on location, date of sighting, bird size, main colors, behavior — and shazam! — house finch.

Do I like the precision, speed, and convenience of the app? Absolutely. But I have a soft corner for the print guide. Using range maps and matching coloration/markings on birds I see to beautiful illustrations works the brain and brings a different kind of thrill. Call it finding as much joy in the journey as in reaching the destination (that’s my bird!).

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P.S. I made sure to take nest photos when the parents were out foraging so as not to startle or alarm them. As an extra precaution, I took the pics sans flash, and all from below.

Crowley Park, Richardson

On a post-dawn walk through Crowley Park, I noticed it has something for everyone.

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Whether you picnic with friends in the pavilion,

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flop down for some “me” time,

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or hit the trail that circles the park

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for a flower-flecked walk or run,

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you’ll find views that thrill

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and views that soothe.

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Have tots with energy to burn? The park has two play areas, this one ringed with trees.

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Takin’ a breather without robin the bank

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means you sit on a deck

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watching ducks and turtles gather.

At ~58 acres, Crowley Park is the second largest of Richardson’s neighborhood parks. What strikes me is the city’s meticulous care in keeping the place pristine. Add me to Yelpers who love Crowley Park.

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Correction: In the original post, I stated that Crowley Park is Richardson’s largest. But it isn’t. Breckinridge Park (~417 acres) is. I love Breck, too!
– Gita, 13 May 2017

Bob Woodruff Park, Plano – South Pavilion

No sun, but still a Sunday!

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Parking lot panorama

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Peaceful pavilion

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Feeling grove-y

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How old is the tree at left? Hint: At least as old as the U.S. constitution

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225+ years. Wow!

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Bob Woodruff Park, Plano – North Pavilion

Bob Woodruff Park, Plano – North Pavilion

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It’s a Sun-day!

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Wakey, wakey

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Behold a bunch of Bob Ross do’s.

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Plan a party.

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Enjoy the pier and now.

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Jog the 0.9-mile trail around the lake.

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Have a beautiful day!

These shots are all from the North Pavilion side of Bob Woodruff Park. Here’s a location map. As I was driving home, a gorgeous grove by the South Pavilion called to me, but my to-do list was louder. Stay tuned for a separate post with photos.

Added 27 November 2016: Bob Woodruff Park, Plano – South Pavilion

Lovely La Villita

One of my favorite places in DFW is La Villita in Irving. A lake glistens at its center, and the Trinity River flows less than a quarter mile to the east. You’ll see migratory Canada geese form giant Vs in the sky in the fall and again in the spring.

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Check out the townhouses west of the lake …

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and the houses east of it.

I lived in an apartment complex on the south side of the lake. Nature was very much a part of La Villita. Dozens of cedar waxwings chose the trees I could see from my balcony to sun themselves one spring morning. Another time, heavy rain brought an enormous number of egrets to the river nearby. I go back now and then to take in the calming effect of the lake and the Tuscan colors around it.

Then a short walk to Campion Trail to sit by the river under this grand, cooling, grounding tree (leftmost in pic below) after last month’s lunch appointment in Irving.

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Walk by La Villita’s play/picnic area to Campion Trail, which flanks the Trinity River.

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Strength, grace, infinite intelligence

Mathemagical bridge

The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge takes my breath away. Think I’m being hyperbolic about this parabolic wonder? Let’s pack a picnic and check it out. There’s plenty of parking a short walk from the bridge.

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Downtown Dallas peeks through the bridge’s cabled composition in this east-facing view.

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Green canopies in the making dot the walking bridge nearby.

Let’s plonk on chairs, unwrap sandwiches, dive into potato chips.

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Explore trails under the bridge and see the other bridges nearby.

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Solid and orderly, this rail bridge holds its own next to the new kid on the block.

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Enjoy the changing patterns that the graceful arch and cabled stays provide.