Our Southern Winter Wonderland

Spring 2004 CSANews Issue 50  |  Posted date : May 05, 2007.Back to list

We are so fortunate that we live in a country with cozy homes, central heat and comfortable, airtight cars. Perhaps we take them for granted, but we would find survival much more difficult in the northern climate without them. When the north winds blow, we look for insulated clothing and a fireplace, or we get out our maps and start looking southward.

Nature has equipped many of our creature friends with special gifts to help them survive ­ more so than humans! Some thrive in the cold with warm fur coats, some go to sleep for several months (not a bad idea), and some have an instinct that tells them to fly out and away to the sunshine and the warmth if they are to survive.

As we grow older, perhaps this instinct takes hold in some of us. Anyway, here we are in the south, and so are many of the creatures who follow the sun. What a wonderful opportunity to watch some of nature's beauty at work.

We inherited a purple martin house from a former resident, and fixed it up with some paint, a new sturdy pole and a good cleaning. Every year, we welcome our feathered tenants. This year, the first two pairs of martins arrived in late January and others appeared in subsequent weeks. Now we watch about a dozen couples flip back and forth, from dawn to sunset. They are great neighbours, sunning, gossiping and keeping our neighbourhood free of insect pests each day. It is such a pleasure to wake up to their cheery warbles.

We are not birders who go about with field glasses, charts and cameras, up at the crack of dawn. That can be exciting, but we have found that nature is all around us. Have you ever watched green jays in flight or kiskadees as they flash their yellow wings, heard mocking-birds singing their delightful arias, or laughed at the sound of a flock of whistling geese? A sight to behold (and hear) is a flock of noisy green parrots winging their way through a neighbourhood, looking for the succulent blossoms of the orchid tree. These creatures were all new to us and still hold us spellbound. Pelicans are the most interesting ­ they fly over the waves like a line of spy planes in precise military order, or they sit by your fishing line intently waiting for you to get a bite. What looks funnier than a roadrunner starting off after a flying bug or a wild turkey strutting across the road?

Where but in the sunny south can you watch a javelina amble out into the road as if he owns it, or a bobcat cross and then look at you as if you are the intruder? The animals are there and with a little patience, you may see a furry nutria feeding in the marsh grass in the early morning, or late in the evening an armadillo rooting for tender shoots.

A trip through brush country often gives us a glance at white-tailed deer, peacefully eating the sparse grass, while buzzards lazily circle the sky overhead. Or perhaps a trip to the marshy shore leading to the discovery of pink spoonbills eating placidly with all kinds of other water birds, too numerous to name. Farther on, we may be fortunate enough to see porpoises flirting with a returning shrimp boat, hoping for an easy treat.

Yes, we enjoy the winter warmth and magic of the sunbelt and many of us who in the past took our wild creatures for granted at home, have developed a deeper appreciation for life through the opportunity to visit warmer climes in the winter.

We are in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. You may have some interesting experiences where you winter. We would like to hear about them.