Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

As I have noted to some of you, the egrets are usually in the UTSW rookery by February 14th. A short while ago I counted 130 individuals, all great egrets.

They came early this year. They began arriving on the afternoon of Wednesday February 6th, shortly after the last major rains. One individual glided by around 4 p.m. A while later, Chalo noticed an egret, perhaps the same one, in an entirely independent sighting.

The next day, their numbers had grown to 20 around lunchtime and 34 by afternoon. We went to the memorial garden area to greet them and found them already displaying their mating feathers and curtsying gracefully to each other.

By Saturday (February 9th) there were 64 birds, and some pairs were already refurbishing their nests and bringing twigs to each other.

This is a wonderfully happy time for the egrets, who are at their most festive and beautiful. I highly recommend a visit to the memorial garden area.

When you do go to the rookery, would you please take along a paper or plastic bag and remove a bit of the trash (mostly pastic bags, and some cans and plastic bottles) scattered around the rookery perimeter? The picked-up trash can be thrown into one the garbage cans at the parking-garage entrances.

I have been meaning to organize a cleaning crew before the birds' arrival. I had also planned to write our news more frequently. Alas, too little time. Still, even without a formal cleaning party, if we share a common intent, we can make the junk vanish in no time.

People are not permitted to wander into the woods once the nesting birds are on site, but a clean-up of the perimeter is fine. Should a friendly interested party or police officer ask what you are doing, tell them that you are with the "Heron and Egret Society."

For those of you who are new to our group, welcome!

Now, I have come to expect to find birds in everything, but The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs  recently surprised even me with its wealth of bird lore. Here are some tidbits I discovered under "St. Valentine".

- On St. Valentine, all the birds of the air in couples do join.

- For this was on seynt Valentynes day, whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make. (1380)

- When you hear the birds call for their mates, ask if it be Saint Valentine, their coupling day. (1621)

- To-morrow is Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird chooses her mate. (1828)

Here's the kicker:

- "There is an old proverb that 'Birds of a feather upon St. Valentine's Day will meet altogether.'" (1673)

As indeed they should! I bet you've probably only heard the botched version.

Happy Valentine's Day!