It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

It is a July morning, the only good time to sit outside when we are experiencing 100 and 100 plus temperatures. We sit out in our backyard sipping coffee. The breeze is pleasant, rustling the leaves in the burr oak above us. There is a bright, blue sky with fluffy, white clouds, drifting and shifting shape.

I have my binoculars close by, and my eyes scan the sky above our roof. My husband’s eyes are glued to the news on his Ipad.

Two people. Alike and not alike.

“Look! A Mississippi Kite!” I point at the soaring grey bird, it’s white head helping me identify it. My husband looks up briefly.

We both hear a far off engine noise. He taps and scrolls and says, “That is a Gulf Stream 4 private jet flying from Cabo San Lucas to Austin.” We look up and see the plane heading east. My husband has an app on his Ipad that shows a photo of the plane, the name of the plane, and the route it is taking.

“A White Egret…it is flying east too,” I declare, as I follow it with my binoculars.

“DC-9-15 (F) USA Jet Airlines heading from San Antonio to Detroit at 29,000 feet.” We watch it head north until the tree obscures our view.

Flying things in the sky. Alike. And not alike.

My eyes spot swallows flitting about up high. I can’t identify them.

“Boeing 737-79P. Southwest Airlines from Austin to Denver.”

A black chinned hummingbird zooms past us. As I follow it, I spot another Mississippi Kite. “Oh look, honey! Did you see it?”

“Yes, that was a Piper PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage…a private prop plane…going from Houston to Ruidoso at 24,000 feet.”

I guess we see what we want to see sometimes…

*(Sky and plane photos by B. McCreary)

April Bathing

Have you ever bathed with family or a dear friend? I had the privilege of bathing with both recently. No, I am not talking about bathing in a tub or a shower. I am talking about Nature bathing, taking long, slow walks outside. Some call it forest bathing. I say it can also be called prairie bathing, riparian bathing, or desert bathing.

In early April I enjoyed such an outing at McKinney Falls State Park, which is on the outskirts of Austin. My husband and our daughter and I had a great time meandering along the creek looking at wildflowers (which are at their peak in early April here), bird watching, and even fish watching. Here are some photos:

Redbud Tree and Bluebonnets

Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)

Cypress Tree Trunk On Onion Creek

Cormorants Convening

Fish In Onion Creek (unknown species)

Towards the end of April a dear friend invited me to go bird watching with her in the same park. Some different plants were now blooming. We saw snowy egrets, great blue herons, and more cormorants flying up and down the creek. Other than birdwatching, we had no agenda. We just walked and enjoyed the fresh Spring air on our skin. The sounds of many different birds teased our ears, from the screeching of red tailed hawks to the sweet songs of cardinals. There was also the recurrent chirping of frogs. We stopped to admire and smell flowers. I enjoyed touching leaves to feel their texture. Here are a few photos from that walk:

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

False Gromwell (Onosmodium bejariense)

Prairie Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum ssp. penardii)

Scarlet Leatherflower (Clematis texensis)

We did not talk about world affairs or gossip about people or our troubles. We talked about nature, that before us, and old encounters. And we met others enjoying the natural wonders of this park. There were the girls from a nature school laughing and having fun while processing yucca leaves into cordage. And a couple visiting from Israel led us to a view of a barred owl up in a cypress tree.

These times nature bathing with others both relaxed and renewed me. Get out there, somewhere green, and just be. Oh, and don’t forget friends and family. Invite someone outside to bathe with you.

Here is a link to more info on McKinney Falls State Park: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls

Plant information from A Field Guide to Wildflowers Trees and Shrubs of Texas (Texas Monthly Field Guide Series) and Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country by Marshall Enquist

Photos by B. McCreary (who is also responsible for any misidentification of plants)

Natural Associations

I have written about certain plants that reminded me of family members (purple spiderworts for my Mom and madrone trees for my Dad). Deciding to follow this line of thought, I made a list of family members and friends. Next to each name I wrote the name of a bird or birds that I most associated with them. For example: Daddy- vultures, ducks, pigeons. My Dad got a kick out of telling a story about a neighborhood boy who lay out on a driveway, motionless, trying to attract vultures. And, when my daughter was young, my dad would enjoy going to Zilker Park with us to feed the ducks and pigeons.

My Dad Feeding The Pigeons

Next to the name of a very dear friend I wrote crows, because of her many recent crow encounters. I also wrote cartoon birds because she draws whimsical birds.

Whimsical Birds Courtesy Of A. B.

My next list was mammals and quite a few people had dog or cat next to their names. Some were more specific, such as hunting dogs for my Grandfather Johnnie and chihuahuas for my Great Grandmother Tee.

Great Grandmother Tee with Palsry, Neva, and Big Shot (1934)

I started a new list, Reptiles and Amphibians. I have not completed that one yet. And I started a list of categories: plants, trees, flowers, insects, fish, rocks, fossils, geographic features, and constellations. I tend to enjoy associations with the natural world. But, the possibilities are endless. It might be fun to see what kind of music or books or cars or art you associate with friends and family. This could be a fun icebreaker at a get together. Or ask people what animal they associate with themselves. It may be very different from what others associate with them.

Have fun with this!