Rusty Bend

Cool April mornings at Rusty Bend birth creamy ground fogs. For hours we watch as they drift, slowly swallowing the valley nestled in the river’s bend. Gobbling the high railroad bridge, frosting the freshly leafed mesquites, then rolling down the river bottom to enfold the pecans and cypresses before cozying up against the cliff right below us.
The cool air feeds the fog. Fitting, because April days are filled with feeding. A male Cardinal, in his finest ruby shirt, waits on the railing for his beloved with a perfect sunflower seed. She glides in, he offers, she turns, he offers again, she departs with a tail flick. He does a little wing shrug, then flips it up, and eats it himself.


We spy a tailless titmouse, a favorite snack of Cooper’s Hawks. He must have gotten off easy. We see other raptors carrying food to their nests. As the babies get bigger, so does the cargo. First small birds and lizards, then snakes drape from the undercarriage on the way to raucous, squawking babies.
I get up earlier and earlier so as not to miss anything. Birdsong starts before dawn. It surges and grows until it sounds like not just one, but several orchestras warming up at once. The Canyon Wrens serenade constantly, a slow piccolo. Their nest on the porch rafter is busy as a train station. Mama and Papa run the Bugs for Babies route, ferrying bugs dawn to dusk. As the nestlings get bigger, the parents seem exhausted, panting on the wood pile between shuttles.
One morning a fledging bounces right in front of me on the porch, a parent close behind, keeping watch. Within ten minutes all five Canyon Wren nestlings have fledged onto the porch, then the yard, then the bushes. With no beak or tail to speak of they look like five balls of rust-colored feathers floating hither and yon. Landing skills need work.
That evening an unwelcome raccoon pulls down the empty nest. Hoping for a Canyon Wren omelet to feed her young ones? Ha, no joy.
Essay by Lucy Griffith Copyright 2017
Lucy Griffith, PhD co-manages the Rusty Bend Ranch with her husband, Andy Robinson. She also writes poetry, her muse, a tractor named Ruby. Current projects include a history of Judy Magers, the Burro Lady of West Texas, told in poems. Comments welcome at
Common Raven drawing by Mike Capron 


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