Friday, April 9, 2010

Little Yellow Frogs

Butter-yellow flowers are blooming in my backyard, sprinkled through the grass. The variety appearing in the subdivision is so short that it escapes the blades of the lawn mower. A friend denounced the sunny blooms as “broad-leafed weeds”.  I pointed out that they are native wildflowers called Buttercups or Ranunculus spp.. Their name is Latin for “little frog”. Perhaps they were dubbed Ranunculus because they tend to grow in wet areas and in ditches.     The Buttercups I see on the prairie are much taller, up two feet. My wildflower book says there are about five species of Ranunculus . They are especially beautiful because in the sun, the yellow petals shine like glazed porcelain. Some people think they look wet. Touch one gently; you will find it smooth and dry.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cedar Waxwings

Flocks of these beautiful birds migrate through our county in the winter.  They like to eat berries and insects.  My photos don't show the eponymous bright red feathers on their wings - like drops of sealing wax.
Two years ago, I drove past a new industrial park.  It was a damp morning, cold by south Texas standards.  In one of the short, bare-limbed landscaping trees there huddled about eighty cedar waxwings.  They were puffed, with their beaks to the wind, clustered only a few feet about the ground in that small tree.  I am sure they were confused because when they visited this same location the previous year, there existed a nice patch of prairie and a scattering of mature trees.  Maybe there had been a mulberry tree or native holly.  Migrating birds have incredible site loyalty.  They will return to the exact location year after year to hunt, feed or nest.  It can be disastrous for them to return to find no habitat and non-native plants. 

This week, I went to a shopping center and parked next to a holly tree covered with red berries.  Nice.  As I got out of the car I heard the impossibly high-pitched, yet very soft "tsee-tsee-tsee" of the cedar waxwings.  Luckily, my little camera was with me.  The birds would not let me get very close before they flew to another tree.  I know the other shoppers wondered what the heck I was doing - walking slowly, slowly snapping pictures while I crossed the parking lot.  Credits to the planners of this center that they DID plant vegetation that was useful to the wildlife.