Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

How quickly the time goes! Thanks to all of you for brightening 2006!

Our feathered friends will begin returning by Valentine's day, which is no longer so far away. It would be lovely to tour the rookery and explore its terrain before they get here, so we can learn more about its vales and gullies.

Happy Holidays and warm wishes of friendship, wisdom, love, and health!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Party Pics, Heron and Egret Pamphlet

Thank you for making the send-off party a great success!

Some photos, taken by Diane, our resident artist, are below. Some folks are missing from them. How did you manage to duck the paparazzi, Claudia?

A couple of clean plastic bowls are still waiting around for anyone who wishes to claim them; one is clear with an orange cover, the other is blue-gray with a clear cover.

I have assembled a pamphlet describing the birds who usually nest in the UTSW rookery. The descriptions come from an assortment of places and were the most informative and interesting ones I could find. They are attributed to their original authors, but I have edited them for consistency, clarity, and brevity. The bird photos come from various web sites, especially

The birds we rescued in August and early September were mostly cattle egrets. The others tend to leave earlier in the season.

I will be in touch again soon about plans for the 2007 rookery season.

Please write with suggestions on how to make next year better for the rookery.

Please also consider volunteering (even an hour a week) at the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. This should greatly improve our first-aid skills. Kathy says that their current clients are mostly migrating birds injured by gunshots, fences, electrical wires, etc. Hopefully, others down South are looking after the little guys we just sent off.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Map to Egret Send-Off Party

Thank you for your replies to the RSVP about the party tomorrow evening. I look forward to seeing those of you who can make it.

I have not yet heard from some of you; I hope this means we'll be pleasantly surprised.

A map with the party's location is attached to this mail as a PDF.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Egret Send-Off Party

Have you started designing your costumes?
We caused much laughter yesterday at a Michael's hobby store, trying black and yellow conical objects over our noses as beak substitutes. One employee asked if I was a teacher. What a question!
Last Thursday, we went to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to invite the crew there to the party. After securing a promise that there would be plenty of drink to allay embarassment, they began to imagine their costumes, looked at each other, and burst out laughing. Our friend Bill now suggests a costume competition. So there may prizes involved....
Several of you asked what you might bring with you. Deserts, salads, or beers should be good. We've been having so much fun tasting wines in Texas wineries that we might make this a Texan affair when it comes to wine.
The egrets in the "rookery" at the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center are looking well. Kathy thinks that, except for about three who are still convalescing, they will all manage this Fall migration. She is gearing up to refurbish their current space as a permanent heron and egret exhibit, with waterfall, etc.
The attachments are photos of the last stragglers around dusk the Friday before last. They were on the slope by the faculty parking lot, grooming and waiting. Too bad we did not have a long lens handy.
I look forward to seeing you all next Thursday evening.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Goodbye! Season Officially Over!

I happily declare the 2006 heron-and-egret season to be officially over!
All in all, we directly saved the lives of about 150 young birds by diligently rescuing the weak individuals and delivering them to the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. We probably indirectly saved twice as many by making available a continuous supply of clean water from late July until this week. No need to dwell on the sad parts. We've all known our heartbreaks this Summer. Better to consider how much of this we can prevent next year, with our Society watching the birds as soon as they set their pretty toes into the rookery.
I would like to invite everyone to a celebratory garden party on Thursday October 5, from 6:00 to about 10:00 p.m. A friend who throws gorgeous parties all the time and has got party throwing down to a science has offered to help organize the party.   So this should be goooood.
Please RSVP whether or not you will come to the party. If you are bringing a guest, just let me know so we can plan for enough food and drink to satisfy and loosen up everyone.
One catch: this will be a bird-theme costume party (Chalo's suggestion). Nothing fancy needed: maybe tights the color of your favorite egret or heron's legs, or perhaps a Mardi Gras mask with a colorful feather sticking out of it. The site below, for example, gives simple instructions on how to make such a mask.
If you prefer to dress as a bird from beak to toes, that would be fabulous. If you simply cannot bring yourself to wear silly clothes, come the party anyway. A finer group of folks to share an evening would be hard to find.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cleaning Up

Since the weather has turned cool and wet, Chalo took the liberty of collecting the troughs yesterday evening, cleaning them with bleach, and storing them. We are happy to keep the bird paraphernalia (troughs, buckets, picker uppers, fencing materials, etc.) there until a more permanent place can be found for them.
Kelly wrote to report that she sighted one egret yesterday at around 9:30 a.m. across from building Y, on the periwinkle-covered slope by the parking lot.  We came up empty after touring the rookery perimeter at 10 a.m., 4:00 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. yesterday and at noon today, but it is easy to miss one bird. 
Please keep your eyes peeled for an eccentric, "wading," white-feathered individual.
We'll wait for at least two days without a sighting before declaring egret season formally over.

Monday, September 18, 2006

No Egrets this morning

No egrets this morning!

Last Friday around dusk, we saw four individuals in the periwinkle-covered slope by the parking lot across from building Y.

We actually managed to photograph them. Turns out I was mistaken about just three remaining. There is another one who occasionally joins the tighter group of three. All were shuffling about and tilting their heads horizontally from time to time, as though waiting for a travel party to come along. Finally, they flew over the basketball court and away. For all we know, that was goodbye for this year.

I have noticed throughout the season that the largest drops in bird numbers come with the occasional rains. Perhaps cool and wet weather is ideal for travel if one is a bird. In any case, we'll patrol the rookery perimeter again around dusk today and would be grateful if any of you would to the same for the next two days or so. If we sight no more egrets, a celebration is in order.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Last Three Egrets

Time to say goodbye to our feathered neighbors for the year and pat ourselves on the back a little for helping them through this horrid summer.
Just before dusk yesterday (at around 7:30 p.m.), I counted seven cattle egrets around the Memorial Garden. Today at about the same time there were just three, just outside building Y, looking relaxed, alert, healthy, clean, and air worthy.
If you can make time to stroll around the rookery before the weekend, you might catch them to wish them a safe trip. They tend to graze about in the morning and evenings.
I will wait until the last individual leaves before calling for a celebration.
By the way, Brazil was full of egrets: gracing the backs of $5 bills, walking with cows on the farms, and wading in shallow lakes. Amazing what one sees when one is prepared for it!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cattle Egrets Still Here and Hurting

I wish I could write that we can relax now because the birds are happily flying South.
Sadly, over a hundred cattle egrets are still here, and the mortality is higher than ever. So please, keep up vigilence. Keep refilling the water troughs for a while longer, removing the dead bodies (using picker-uppers) from the watering areas, and making the trips to Rogers.
This week the Society rescued two to three egrets a day and lost about one every other day, on average. The ones who are struggling appear to be those who have trouble feeding themselves. We saw a few broken wings and several severe cases of flukes in the mouths of the birds.
The birds are subsisting on what little insects they can pull out of the grass. These are mostly juveniles who can fly a little but are not yet strong enough for a long-distance trek. They are leaving as they get stronger, because their numbers seem to be dropping every day. So for the cattle egrets this year, the departure from the rookery is looking more like a gradual dwindling rather than the anticipated sudden migration.
We are also finding other bird species in trouble. For example, Valerie rescued a helpless baby dove earlier in the week.
At the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, things are looking better, and the season seems to be winding down. Some of the more adult egrets inadvertantly got out of the rookery area, but they joined the passing migrations, and all is well. The smaller ones stayed and are improving every day.
Kathy found a source of free minnows for the Center. She thinks we might get a special deal if we approach the same supplier in Rockwall and mention that we are helping birds at a rookery. This would be a great help, because the birds will eat small fish, even if dead, but they ignored the bits of beef that Ruth lovingly sliced up for them. Would anyone be willing to contact this supplier?
I am accumulating a treasury of beautiful egret images that should put us in excellent shape for a calendar, greetings cards, T-shirts, and other items for fundraising.
Diane, an artist who paints lovely canvases of egrets and herons likes the idea of becoming our Society's official artist. She sent me several photos of her paintings.
Eveline sent us a CD of egret pictures taken at Rogers. Ruth has been photographing the birds here and at Rogers. I have shot a few photos of my own and particularly like one of Chalo with a little trusting friend, taken a month ago. I am attaching just a few of these images here. Please feel welcome to stop by with a USB key for more of them.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Species in the rookery

Six birds needed rescuing today: three are in quite poor shape, and one is the youngest chick we've seen this year. Some bird parents are in obvious denial about the season's end. Hopefully these are few. It looks like we'll have to keep an eye out for distressed birds for a while yet.
Along these lines, I am attaching to this mail a tentative flyer for posting at the garages and basketball court near the rookery. Claudia will finish it off and post it. Please contact her with any suggestions about the wording and information and let her know whether you would like your name on it and, if so, what telephone number you want next to your name. I recommend that we list two or three first names and accompanying phone numbers.
How about a lunch meeting next Wednesday or Thursday (Aug 9 or 10 at noon) to discuss what we tried, ideas that came up, and how best to proceed? If one of these times won't work for you, let me know.
I have been trying to reach the Grounds Maintenance Supervisor, hoping that a friendly initial meeting (we can send him our more formal letter after that) will help build a good relationship with Physical Plant. So far we're still playing phone tag.
In case some of you are wondering about the species of birds who nest in the rookery, they include, roughly in order of abundance:
  • Cattle egrets
  • Great egrets
  • Little blue herons
  • Snowy egrets
  • Black-crowned night herons
  • Yellow-crowned night herons
  • White ibises
  • Tricolor herons
  • Anhingas
There might be others. These are the ones I've personally seen. Except for two snowy egrets, all the birds we've picked up this year have been the chicks of cattle egrets and great egrets. This is quite puzzling and interesting.