The Rincon Del Diablo rang with song when I stepped out of my car there on Sunday morning.
Carolina Wrens called back and forth from the carrizo hedge fringing the San Felipe Creek, Northern Cardinals sang from perches in young trees on the banks, and a flock of Great Kiskadees foraged raucously in the chinaberries on the far bank of the stream.
I walked across a meadow recently mowed by the city’s well-meaning parks crew and once again wished that they would just let some brush grow up.
I also felt sorry for the little trees that were planted here about a year ago in a well-intentioned, but misdirected effort to “improve the San Felipe Creek.”
Most, if not all, of the little trees are dead, of course. I have never seen anyone water them, and little saplings like this must be watered with regularity.
If the city were serious about “improving the creek” there are areas of it they would just leave alone.
As I walked across the meadow, I saw that one of the huisaches, a brushy tree too large for the mowers, was already blooming.
As I drew closer, I could smell its sweet, licorice smell fill the air.
I stopped near the huisache when I noticed some movement in its slender branches.
An Orange-crowned Warbler was foraging in the huisache, moving along at a leisurely pace, often stopping to investigate one of the tree’s little blooms with its thin, pointed beak. The huisache blooms look like little golden puffballs, and the warbler was looking for tiny insects drawn to the flowers.
Orange-crowned Warblers stay with us during the winter, but will soon be on their way north to their nesting grounds in Alaska, Canada, the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest.
I watched and photographed the warbler for a time, then meandered down to the banks of the creek. I watched the kiskadees playing a game of chase-and-harass with each other until I heard a Green Jay calling from the trees on the other side of the stream.
I used my iPhone to play a Green Jay call, a harsh rattling and piping sound, and sure enough, a pair of the brilliantly colored birds crossed the creek to investigate.
Like all corvids, a family that includes jays, crows and ravens, Green Jays are inquisitive and territorial. If there was another Green Jay in their foraging territory, these two wanted to know about it.
Green Jays are a fairly recent addition to our San Felipe Creek birds. Michael G. and I and many other birders believe they are here because of climate change.
These colorful birds, you might guess, are a tropical and neotropical species, living in parts of South and Central America, including Mexico. As the climate north of their range becomes warmer and more hospitable year-round, they are moving slowly north into Texas.
Within the past decade, Green Jays are documented to have nested in south Del Rio (at the home of my friends Sally Anne and Eric Finkelstein, as a matter of fact) and are now year-round residents.
Karen Gleason is the senior staff writer for the Del Rio News-Herald. She loves nature and the outdoors and has been an avid bird watcher since childhood.