It’s become a Tuesday night ritual for the dogs and I – bringing their boy to the park for soccer practice, then walking the perimeter. I watch the sky, they sniff the ground. We are the guardians of earth and air.
These places don’t belong to us, though. The sky is ruled by the birds, migrant and permanent residents of oak and elm. The earth is ruled by soccer cleats and lawnmowers, little rodents and squirrels. Other dogs try to lay liquid claim to it, like mine, but they all know the temporary nature of such claims.
A wide swath of grass is cut to open up to the rainwater treatment, a riparian oasis. Red winged blackbirds sit singly at tops of small trees, making their pip-pip-pip scree call. A pair of Carolina Wrens fly up and down, in and out of the long grass at the water’s edge looking for food. Mockingbirds fight each other for territory in the trees, screeching at each other in downward dives with outstretched feet.
It’s the black bellied whistling ducks that reign supreme these days, though. Flashes of white undersides of wings mark small flocks of three or four flying overhead, making their distinctive whistle calls that have earned them their name. Seven of them line up along a roof of a nearby house, scooting over by inches to make even spaces between them.
The best part of the fly-overs at the park, though, are the short and frenetic flights of the scissortails. There is a handful of them that have terrible arguments over perching spots in the elm trees closest to the soccer practice. It is easier to hear them than it is to see them, but sometimes a few of them fly out in fierce rages and circle right back around, long forked tails snaking against the sky.
I was so proud of my little son last weekend when he pointed at one of these perched on a wire above a stoplight and correctly identified it. Even this night at the park, a man stopped me to ask me what kind of bird that was, and thought it was very interesting. I explained that they were just starting to come around here. They’ll be here until the fall, as you can see from this occurence range map here:
Last night, we rode our bikes out to the secret place of ducky delight. When I pointed out that my favorite bird was there, my older son said, “that pink flamingo thing?”, and the little one corrected him and said, “No, it’s a spoonbill!” Even though he still thinks he sees hummingbirds everywhere and is not quite sure what a white winged dove is, he’s getting good at the birding thing. He wants to find “legendary” birds, so now we have to look up what birds are the most rare and where they live.
For now, the dogs and I will watch to see what flies over Katy Park this soccer season, and invest more time at the CRNT.