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The Pommelhouse Birdlist
The following list was compiled over 20 years. Not every bird below has been seen in our yard. The shrike, for example, was on the fence surrounding the Canyon Vista track. This is my list for the house and immediate environs -- what I've seen on walks, nearby and flying overhead. It does not include birds seen elsewhere in Austin.
Baltimore oriole: it has been quite a few years since I have seen one. They used to stop by every couple of years or so. I think we no longer see them because our yard is not as open as it was back then.
Warblers: We rarely saw good warblers when we first moved here, because our oaks were not big enough. Now we see great warblers when we look at the right time of year.
Chickadees: I didn't mark these guys or the titmice as residents, but they blow through the yard very regularly, trailing a kinglet or two.
Grackles: These are a scary occasional presence in recent years. They like Norma's huge live oak. But whenever they come around, we pester them aggressively and they move on. They are amusing birds, but pests when they take up residence.
Original birds: The first birds we saw here were the canyon wren (on the back porch), a chuck will's widow (in the ligustrum by the back door) and a one-legged roadrunner, who ran across the yard every day. All have moved on as the neighborhood has been built up.
Golden-cheeked warbler: A rare bird, but not in Austin. A certain kind of birder travels here to bag this one.
Great Blue Heron: Ever so sadly, I have lost my videotape of the great blue eating all our goldfish. The pond was full of fish. We had one that was a foot long. In the video, you could see the flash of orange as he flicked his long bill skyward and the fish slid down his throat. Wily tried to chase him, but he was too big and scary.
He seemed to have a hard time taking off in the small clearing, but he visited us every time we got a few more fish established, until we gave up. We're going to try again this summer. But he flies from one golf course to another, and his route takes him right over our yard. I know he looks down with his sharp heron eyes and checks to make sure we don't have any worthwhile fish.
Green heron: In the heyday of our pond, the green heron cleaned up what the great blue didn't bother with. Craig says he is going to put a sewerpipe in the bottom when we refurbish the pond (hopefully this year). He says the fish will be able to hide there.
Lincoln sparrow: This is one of a number of birds I could have called a resident but didn't, because although I know they are always around, I don't often see them. Painted buntings are like this, and the Bell's vireo They require lucky timing, binoculars and a little patience to verify. Well, not the painted buntings. When they do come out into the open they are right outside the back door, and so brilliant as to be unmistakeable.
Mourning dove: Interestingly enough, the mourning dove has been replaced by the white wing dove during our time here. I think it happened ten or fifteen years ago. This I attribute to climatic change, as the white wing dove is the dominant dove in South Texas. The mourning dove and the white wing seem to occupy the same niche. The Inca dove, which are much smaller, have been around all along.
Scrub jay: This is one of the birds that has gone away because the neighborhood has changed. In 1983 we were one of only four houses on a cul-de-sac. Now every square foot has a house on it, and a lot of the new houses, twice as big as ours, are on zero lots. The scrub jay has moved on.
Northern waterthrush: I know you won't believe those were whooping cranes we saw migrating one year, but we both saw them, as did our neighbor, and after much deliberation, we decided that was our best guess. If you are a birdwatcher, you are probably skeptical about the northern waterthrush, too. So was I, until my neighbor from across the street, a veteran birder, called me and said, "You'll never guess what I just saw." I said, "A northern waterthrush?" He was bobbing and weaving around the birdbath in the center bed!
Roadrunner: Just when I thought these guys were gone for sure, one turned up in the yard several days in a row. He stood his ground with Wily, so, being somewhat of a chicken herself, she ignored him after that. I think roadrunners must be still living nearby, though we don't see them in the neighborhood anymore.
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