Embrace your inner caveman

I have always been interested in wildlife, especially birds. It’s easy to see why they are so fascinating. Birds are one of the only animals you are likely to see if you live in the city. They don’t need to hide or skulk around in the shadows like earth-bound creatures. They are indifferent to us because at any time they can take to the air. Birds may come down to visit, but they belong to a world of flight and mobility we can only dream of.

Recently, my interest has increased. I have been reading more and more about birds; observing them more closely than ever before, amazed at the variety of the different species around me and the complexity of their lives and history. My whole perspective has changed. Where before I just saw a bird, I now see individual species, sexes, plumage, behaviors, and lifestyles. Miniature dramas of life: battles for territory and mates, the pursuit of prey, the care of young, and the defenses against predators.


The more I watch, the more I wonder at the economy and handicraft of Nature. Every bird is perfectly adapted to its lifestyle. The shape of the beak shows you what it eats. The shape of the feet and the wings shows you where and how it eats. Some beaks are made for crushing seeds and others for snatching flying insects out of the air. Some feet are designed for perching while others are perfect for swimming.

Sunday I went out to Lake Lewisville where they have a small environmental learning center (Lake Lewisville Environmental Learning Area) and park near the dam with hiking trails into the surrounding countryside. I took a pair of binoculars with the hopes of spotting a few birds.

It was a nice little area. As soon as I passed the gatehouse, I spotted 4-5 wild turkeys just off the road. I drove down to the end of the road near the damn outflow where a couple of people were fishing for large bass that hang out waiting to gobble up the dazed fish coming through the flood gates. One guy had a couple good-sized striped bass (4-5 lbs) on his stringer. His family was waiting in the minivan as he fished, so I gathered he was catching lunch. On the opposite bank of the Trinity River, a flock of white Great Egrets were roosting in the trees along the water’s edge. A good place to live if you eat what you can snatch out of the water, as they do.

I drove back up the road and parked at the head of Cottonwood and Cicada Trails. I only spotted a couple birds that day, but they were pretty nice. I saw two members of the tyrant flycatcher family, the Western Kingbird and the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher which are common in the fields around Dallas. Both are fun to watch and easy to spot as they love sitting on power lines or barbed-wire fences where they wait for flying bugs to wander within reach. When they spot something they launch off their perch and somersault in the air, grab the bug, and land back down on the wire. Tyrant flycatchers derive their name from the tendency to fiercely defend their nests against predators. You will often see them dive bombing hawks and crows that get too close.

Although I heard bird song from within the surrounding trees, the only other bird I got close enough to see was a beautiful Indigo bunting singing from the bare branches at the crest of a tall tree.

It was good to spend time in nature, even for a little while, and it was amazing that such a place could be less than two miles from a major interstate and just a few minutes from my house. If you enjoy wildlife and the outdoors, bird watching is an inexpensive hobby you might enjoy.

The highlight of my hike was walking through a tunnel of trees and looking over my shoulder to see three small butterflies hitchhiking on the back of my shirt. They clapped and unclapped their wings, lapping at the sweaty cotton for precious salt with their curled, hollow tongues. For a moment I felt like St. Francis of Assisi.


  1. hollis baker

    Chris, this is a most interesting blog. We are pleased you have begun searching nature in her own liar. Alice and I live in the country on 12 acres. It has open space but mostly covered with cedar and oak. A delightful place for many birds. We keep our bird feeders full and they attract many kinds of birds. Our son, Greg, lives on the next acres and feeds the birds. He brags about having a often visitor at his feeders… a painted bunting. We haven’t seen one here this year, but they must be the most beautiful bird in this area. And thanks for your comments on my words. It is very encourageing. Hollis

  2. Thank you, Hollis. Many people don’t realize what a wealth of wildlife we have here in Texas. We have more species of bird than any other state in the country. Native birds, migratory birds from the north and south… the whole nine yards.

    It’s hard to believe the painted bunting lives in Texas. It has a coat of many colors and has to be the most colorful bird in North America.