Thursday, November 29, 2007

Right in Our Own Backyard!

Living on one of Brownsville's beautiful resacas allows us to view many forms of wildlife, literally in our own backyard. Numerous species of insects, birds, mammals and even reptiles have taken time to visit us as they move along the natural corridors the resacas provide through the city. Our latest visitors are a large flock of Black-bellied whistling ducks.

The Black-bellied whistling duck is native to tropical Central and South America and has steadily moved northward in it's range to deep south Texas. Sightings seasonally in the desert southwest and in southeast Louisiana are a welcome sign that their range and numbers continue to expand.

This particular flock arrived on our resaca last week, just prior to our last cold front. What convenient timing considering I had just begun putting food in the bird feeders for our winter friends from the north. Now, without fail, they wait for me to put out food each morning. First comes the unmistakable noisy whistling that echos along the entire resaca. Then they congregate just outside the fence that separates the yard from the water (put up to keep BIG DOGS from tumbling into the resaca). They then take turns on the fence, almost jockeying for position. Finally, the procession begins into the yard, one after the other, until the entire flock is inside the fence.

Now it really gets interesting. How do they get the food from a small feeder you ask? They actually take turns flying up to the feeder to tip it, spilling seed onto the ground. And several times, including today, I've found the bottom of the feeder on the ground. How they've mastered this technique is beyond me but with one lucky hit, the bottom drops out and the entire contents of the feeder is on the ground for the morning feast.

I don't know how long this flock will stick around our yard but I hope they stay awhile. They're becoming braver day by day and have even come all the way around the pool to just outside the back patio where they watch me watch them. It's almost as if they're asking, "Can't you give us just a little more food?" Now that I think about it, it's a good thing Darlene works all day. She would probably already have them eating INSIDE the house, next to By-Tor!

Early morning light casts a perfect silhouette of Black-bellied whistling ducks waiting for their daily feeding.

Hey! I was here first!

The flock converges on the pool. Note the two on the bird bath and the one on top of the chair! The unmistakable yellow breast and black mask of a Greater Kiskadee can be seen on the fence in the left of the photo.

After emptying the feeder, part of the flock moves closer to the house, patiently waiting for a re-fill.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Those Mysterious Birthday Babies

As I mentioned in a previous post, November 16th was Darlene's birthday. After supper with Angela, her friend Michael and the grandkids at The Lonestar in Harlingen, I attended to my typical late night ritual of checking e-mail after we got home. As I walked into the snake room to access my computer, an unusual shape in one of the African bush viper cages caught my eye. There, to my surprise, was not one but two babies sitting on the branch next to mom (I found a third the next morning). I was excited about the uncommon babies but I was more excited because it was Darlene's birthday.

This is not the first time babies have been born on a family member's birthday. For several years, eyelash vipers were born on Darlene's dad's birthday, October 8th (it's also the birthday of a close friend and co-worker). That became my time-line in telling potential customers when they could expect eyelash babies. Then, in 2005, a litter of African bush vipers was born on my sister's birthday, August 7th. One baby in that litter happened to be the rarest color morph of that particular species, solid black.

Some will call me silly but I view these births as something mysterious, if not spiritual. Can it be just a coincidence that these births happen on family member's birthdays with no manipulation of the breeding dates on my part? In my Native American culture, snakes are regarded as "supernaturals" with special powers of intercession. And they are widely regarded as brothers.

So, is it just a coincidence that 11 more African bush vipers were born last night, on my BROTHER'S BIRTHDAY?

Red phase African bush viper (Atheris squamigera) born on Darlene's birthday

Multi-colored green African bush viper born on Darlene's birthday

Gold phase born on Darlene's birthday

Black phase male born on my sister's birthday

Several of the 11 African bush vipers born last night on my brother's birthday

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Darlene and I send our heartfelt wishes for a day of happiness, peace and ...


Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Woman on Her Birthday With Her Big SPOILED Lizard!

Yesterday was Darlene's birthday. One of the things she wanted was her picture taken with By-Tor, her pet Argentine black and white tegu. Believe me when I tell you, a lizard has never had it this good. Like in the above photo, he's cuddled like a child. He's fed chicken from a fork. His bananas are peeled and properly sliced. He drinks water from a glass. He sleeps on the futon. He literally has the run of her office. He is puppy tame and he loves her attention. Just this morning, while waiting to go to work, I heard a slight "honey" coming from the computer room. When I walked in, there was By-Tor, stretched across Darlene's shoulders, looking like the king he's become. In all of my reptile years, I've never seen a lizard seek human attention the way By-Tor does. It's not so much me. Oh, he'll come running across the room to me when he thinks he's about to receive a mouse for lunch. And, he's always the perfect gentleman tegu when I transfer him to the patio for his afternoon sunshine. But, he actively seeks Darlene's attention, even climbing into her lap where he sleeps peacefully while she goes about her business at her laptop. Oh, did I happen to mention that he's SPOILED?!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Do I Really Look That Tired?

The question is the same every day I work the early shift. "Are you gonna go home and take a nap?" It started as a simple question from one of my co-workers who, by the way, HAS to take a nap after this particular shift. Wimp!! Now, it's spread like a bad rash through most of the office. My response is always the same, "NO, I'm not gonna go home and take a NAP!" You'd have to hear my voice to fully understand but my pitch is probably somewhere between Olive Oyl and Lois (The Family Guy). Now I'll admit, since the time change, getting up at 3:15 AM makes a nap appealing. I even found out yesterday that if I sit down for just a minute, I quickly fall asleep. I nearly missed my afternoon cry with Oprah! But with 79 newborn eyelash vipers and all the other snakes to feed, I just can't rationalize taking the time to take a nap.

So now I have to wonder, do I really look that tired? Why, suddenly, am I being asked this question by most of the staff? If I didn't already have enough complexes about the way I look! Should I contemplate cosmetic surgery? Do my eyelids need work? Maybe a forehead lift? How about a complete facelift? The infamous nap question was even manipulated into a complex question this morning regarding the newspaper (another story in itself!). "Are you gonna pick up the paper after you take a nap?"

With the crew that's working tomorrow, I know I'll be asked "the question" again. Maybe I'll stop at HEB after work and pick up some Oil of Olay Eye Contour.

"Real Men Don't Take Naps!"