Less than four miles/six kilometers north of downtown Dallas. Nestled within the hospital district with towering university and medical buildings quite literally a stone’s throw away. Surrounded by major thoroughfares and the constant din of automobiles and airplanes. A motte only 3.5 acres/1.4 hectares in size. Yet at the height of summer, it will host more than 70 bird species.
Some species will travel hundreds of miles from their usual nesting territories just to play a part in what can only be described as the most powerful and profound example of opportunism in the whole of North Texas. Thousands of nests will be built, thousands of eggs will be incubated, thousands of chicks will be hatched, and from late winter through early autumn it will be a place of unimaginable beauty and awe such that all those who see it will be left struggling to comprehend how it could be real. And all this will take place in a grove of trees much smaller than your local supermarket.
I’m of course speaking about the colonial wading bird rookery that continues to thrive on the grounds of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center campus. Older than the oldest records, all we know about the rookery is that it hosts a congregation of species so diverse and so vast that it engenders an otherworldly sense of reality, as though one has been transported to the most remote place imaginable where mystic creatures thrive.
Yet this is anything but remote. The rookery lives in an urban jungle. Six lanes of concrete surround it on two sides and multistory buildings and parking garages surround it on the other two. Nevertheless they will come, the birds, and some will travel far outside their usual nesting territories just so they can join thousands of other pairs who will mate, nest, brood and rear young in a place that seems accidental at best.
Already the largest nesters, the great egrets (Ardea alba), vie for prime real estate, these giant birds wandering the still barren woods plucking up twigs and sticks with which to build a home for their newest generation. Soon the black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), little blue herons (Egretta caerulea) and snowy egrets (Egretta thula) will join them. Following quickly behind them will come the anhingas (a.k.a. water turkey or snakebird; Anhinga anhinga), the cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and the tricolored herons (a.k.a. Louisiana heron; Egretta tricolor). And when it all seems too much, white ibises (Eudocimus albus) will arrive.
Meanwhile, flycatchers, cardinals, grackles, woodpeckers, kingbirds, mockingbirds, jays, swallows, wrens, hawks, thrashers, sparrows, robins and a legion vast of species will settle in where space is available. Simultaneously the opossums and woodrats and raccoons and snakes and tree frogs and other animals will begin making appearances. The air will fill with insects, the ground will move with crawling things, and the transformation will be complete: the rookery will once again be alive, will be thriving, will be full of so much life that it boggles the mind.
I will make every effort to visit regularly and document reliably this most fascinating natural wonder. As I did last year, I hope to follow the progress of the rookery and observe its inhabitants as much as possible. I hope you’ll come along for this journey through the wonderland of an urban rookery where life abounds, where magic abides, and where city dwellers can lose themselves in nature’s demonstration of alien life. One cannot say they know birds in North Texas without visiting this place, for this place holds more bird species and more individual birds per square yard/meter than anywhere else in this region.
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 Great egret (Ardea alba)
 Black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
 Snowy egret (Egretta thula)
 Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)
 Tricolored heron (a.k.a. Louisiana heron; Egretta tricolor)
 White ibis (Eudocimus albus)