Stephen A. Fuqua (saf)

a Bahá'í, software engineer, and nature lover in Austin, Texas, USA


Winter was once a midly depressing time for me, as it is for most: short, cool days, brown grass, bear branches. Obviously this is Texas not Minnesota, otherwise: shorter, super-cold days, car stuck in snow or sliding on ice (but the grass was still green - under the snow - and the branches would often have a delicate coating of the white stuff). Fractals and birds started changing me some years ago. This winter has only confirmed that.

Red-tailed Hawk, in a pecan tree outside my patio, today.

I recall walking back to my dorm in the mid 90’s and looking up at a large tree in winter. Perhaps a flock of Great-tailed Grackles drew my eye. For the first time, I looked deeply at the trunk, branches, twigs and stems, noticing the beautiful, natural, fractal pattern. I stopped and just admired the creature, and the underlying mathematics of nature (this was probably when I was taking intro physics and mid-level calculus; I was also starting to overlay vectors on objects in motion and slightly in love with Gaussian integral, that shows the deep relationship of exponentials to conics). From then on, I saw winter as a time to appreciate the structural beauty of my surroundings, without the distraction of bright colors and extraneous fluff.

A Great-blue Heron in Florence Branch creek … and a beaver!

Several years of assisting Dr. Homayoun in her fieldwork have turned me into an avid birder. When we were in Minnesota, winter meant no more birding for us. Being back in Texas, it is now an altogether different story: winter means the northern birds have come to us for a few months. Spring means more birds come through on their migration northward, but it also means pesky leaves that obscure your view. Spring is beautiful, I love the heat of summer followed by the crisp feeling of autumn (when we have one - a drawback of Texas), but winter now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the others in my heart.

So its not a bird, but this coyote on Boxing Day excited me.

Finally, a word about organized birding: this year’s Christmas Bird Count (Dallas Morning News), the first in Cedar Hill in many years, was a tremendous success. Personally, I saw 58 different species in one day (New Year’s), in parts of Grand Prairie, Cedar Hill, and Desoto. All told, the volunteer group, based out of Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, saw more than 100 species in the area, including several surprising Bald Eagle sightings. Joining up with some experienced birders is the best way to learn; for those in the Dallas area, the Trinity Bird Count is a great way to meet folks on organized birding trips in the city (currently all within Dallas). Ignore the old dates - the calendar itself is up-to-date.

field sparrow
This little Field Sparrow, at the Cedar Hill Rec Center, was particularly photogenic after a small speaker was hung in a tree, playing their chirps.

Posted with : Life Lived Living, Birds, Nature, Sustainability, Environment, Wildlife