Tag Archives: rock dove (Columba livia)

Among the missing

The words are forgotten, lost in a drive just three hours long, misplaced somewhere along 170 miles/270 kilometers of road.  Ancient names known for a city lifetime of decades, now the words hide behind months of rural living.  How familiar they were, how missing they have become.

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) standing on a sunny pier (2008_12_27_003660)

My lips tremble when I try to speak them.  It is as if I ask them to verbalize an unfamiliar language, phrases borne of another land, yet I ask only that they remember the words that go with the mind’s pictures, the names once common but now rare.

A fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger) lying atop a tree trunk (2009_02_02_005789)

Dropped into memory’s abyssal hat and plucked out one by one, I read from the mental slips of paper names of the absent, of the once ubiquitous, of those long called neighbors.  What alien text is this?  From what removed existence come these unremembered names?

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched on a limb (2009_02_21_010424)

When a few short weeks ago I journeyed back those three hours, back that long distance, unbidden the words came back to me, names once more as comfortable as the threadbare sweater worn each winter for its personal value rather than its fashion statement.  I knew each name that matched each face, knew the words too quickly lost.

A male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) perched in a tree (2009_03_21_013137)

Yet back to my new world I had to return, and again the names hide among the missing, the faces lonely for the words that call them, the world outside my door barren for their absence yet abundant for their replacements.

An American coot (Fulica americana) swimming toward shore (2009_03_21_013166)

For they have indeed been replaced, the once familiar now forgotten, their collective presence full of new words, words like Texas coral snake, Inca dove, southern black widow, eastern bluebird, white-tailed deer, northern rough-winged swallow, flying squirrel, alligator, cougar, fish crow and black bear, along with many others.  How delightful these new words, how appealing the newfound familiarity of such names.

A male superb cicada (a.k.a. green harvestfly, green cicada or superb green cicada; Tibicen superba) clinging to the side of a tree (2009_07_06_026143)

Nevertheless I miss the old words, the old names, those now among the missing.  In another lifetime they shared my life, found each day right outside my door.  But now they only live in other places, not here, not with me, though near me, short drives away, or once more rediscovered at the end of that three hour journey, at the destination resting 170 miles/270 kilometers away.

Still, now I shall stutter the gibberish that goes with each mental picture, shall feel the unfamiliar words stumble upon my lips, shall pluck the words from memory’s deep hat with hope I shall remember those who remain among the missing.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia)
  2. Fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger)
  3. Male house sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  4. Male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  5. American coot (Fulica americana)
  6. Male superb cicada (a.k.a. green harvestfly, green cicada or superb green cicada; Tibicen superba)

Always fleeting

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
— Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Sometimes they chase their shadows.

A velvet ant (Dasymutilla sp.) in flight (IMG_3659)

Sometimes their shadows chase them.

A giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) in flight (IMG_3537)

And sometimes their shadows hide beneath them, holding them up, providing the foundation upon which they travel.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum or tlacuache; Didelphis virginiana) trotting through a clearing (2009_04_19_016210)

Observing wildlife is one thing, but photographing it is another.  Because life is always fleeting.

A juvenile American robin (Turdus migratorius) in flight (2009_09_06_028805)

Sometimes together.

Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeons; Columba livia) in flight (2008_12_07_000543_ab)

Sometimes alone.

A nutria (a.k.a. coypu; Myocaster coypus) swimming in calm water (2009_06_01_021672)

Sometimes in the city.

A cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) in flight (2009_05_17_019619)

Sometimes in the wild.

A diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer) swimming through a creek (2009_06_06_022472)

Sometimes up close.

A variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) in flight (IMG_3174)

Sometimes at a distance.

A Forster's tern (Sterna forsteri) in flight (2009_12_26_046986)

But always fleeting.

A white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata) in flight (2009_07_18_026922)

Yes, life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Velvet ant (Dasymutilla sp.) flying over open ground in East Texas; this female will lose her wings and become a typical velvet ant as soon as she selects a good hunting-cum-nesting site
  2. Giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes); this is the largest butterfly in Canada and the United States
  3. Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum or tlacuache; Didelphis virginiana); this is the only marsupial found north of Mexico
  4. Juvenile American robin (Turdus migratorius)
  5. Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeons; Columba livia)
  6. Nutria (a.k.a. coypu; Myocaster coypus)
  7. Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) in breeding plumage
  8. Diamondback water snake (Nerodia rhombifer)
  9. Variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
  10. Forster’s tern (Sterna forsteri)
  11. White-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata)

Scooting right along

An American coot (Fulica americana) walking along a creek bank (2010_03_06_050379)

It’s not always easy letting go, to keep life moving, to keep scooting right along, but sometimes we can find something to help.  For me, at least for the past many months, that’s been books.

I’ve been on a real literary tear, in point of fact, reading at least one book each day for about three months.  (Though I admit it took me two days to get through Stephen King’s Under the Dome with its 1000+ pages.)  Usually I read three or four books a week, give or take depending on length and content, but lately it’s been like drinking heavily, only in this case drinking from words, not bottles.

And while I won’t delve into it here since I want to spend more quality time putting into words what I think, I do know consuming some 90-odd books in less than three months has done many things, not the least of which has been to rekindle my writing passion, but also to help me see that I truly despise certain kinds of literary devices that some authors use.  (Let me add that calling some of these “literary devices” is being overly generous.)

But let’s not get bogged down in details right now.  Let’s save that for later, shall we?

For now, since silence becomes exponentially more difficult to break the longer it goes on, I figured I’d post something to say life’s going on and I’ve been occupied in the now too-often-ignored offline world.

That’s right, I’m scooting right along, albeit quietly.

Now back to another book.  Maybe you should try it, stepping away from the internet, I mean, so you can remember what it feels like to have sunshine on your face, the touch of type and paper beneath your fingers, the only images those your mind creates from the words you consume.  It’s quite rewarding if you’ve forgotten what it feels like.

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) walking by (2009_03_07_011976)

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. American coot (Fulica americana)
  2. Rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia)

Pier pressure

A male common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) standing on a pier (2009_05_04_018308)

Despite my better intentions, I’ve been on a forced sabbatical from the web.  This has generated not too small a bit of peer pressure as I’ve been remiss in visiting my online friends, let alone posting anything here.  Poor xenogere began to feel like a kennel with all the dogs gone.

No, emptier even than that.

But whatever impetus I felt to be online was self-imposed at best.  Life moves forward of its own volition with nary a thought for whatever obligations our imagination cooks up for us.

That truth notwithstanding, however, I do feel bad for not being out and about on the web of late.  I’ll try to do better.

Meanwhile, have some photos of “trash birds” perched on my favorite pier at White Rock Lake, the one in Sunset Bay.  Now this is real pier pressure.  And you can obviously see how trashy these bird species really are.

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) standing on a pier (2008_12_27_003613)

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. My apologies to anyone who’s tried to comment recently, most especially to several of you who tried to comment on yesterday’s entry.  Comments were broken due to a fat-fingered mistake I made in the code.  Oops.
  2. I really do have a bur under my saddle about the phrase “trash bird,” most especially when it’s used by those of stature within the naturalist community.  And while I desperately want to beat the drum of that rant, it will have to wait until I have the wherewithal to tackle it.  Just be warned that it’s coming.


  1. Male common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
  2. Rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia)

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The lineup

I began this morning wanting to talk about the vulgar phrase “trash birds,” but unfortunately I have neither the strength nor energy to do so.  I promise to kick the tires of that lousy clunker at a later time—when I feel up to it.

In lieu of what no doubt will start yet another war between me and a portion of the naturalist community, let me instead share a few of the images I came across as I searched for illustrative photos to go with my rant.  Here are some rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeons; Columba livia), one of the top three “trash bird” species in North America.

Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeons; Columba livia) lined up on the pier (20081101_14291_n)

These were taken more than two years ago with a point-and-shoot camera, which I since bequeathed to my mother.  At the time, I was playing with a polarizing filter (along with the ever-present UV filter).  A UV filter is an always thing: put one on each of your lenses and leave them there at all times, putting all other filters on top of the UV filter.

But the polarizer?  Well, when shooting in direct sunlight especially, a polarizing filter works wonders to increase color saturation and contrast, not to mention minimizing reflections.  Yet it’s the former part of that—color saturation and contrast—that matters most.  Because direct sunlight not only causes harsh shadows, but also it’s so potent that it tends to overpower colors, leaving them washed out and lifeless.

You can actually get better colors on a cloudy day.  Still, a polarizing filter does a great deal to fight off sunshine’s overbearing disposition.

Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeons; Columba livia) lined up on the pier (20081101_14290)

Thus, as I sat on the pier in Sunset Bay, my favorite haunt at White Rock Lake, this dule of doves, or flock of pigeons depending on your avian vernacular in this case, came to rest near me.  They all lined up on the edge of the pier, some even getting so close that I could no longer focus on them because they were within the minimum focusing distance of the camera.  I shot many photos of them as they relaxed with me on that warm and sunny November day.

Rock doves (a.k.a. common pigeons; Columba livia) lined up on the pier (20081101_14289)

It seems obvious that the entire lineup would have been perfect had there not been that one outlier: the dimwitted numskull in the background facing the wrong direction.  I remain unclear on whether that particular bird was just being contrary or if it was thicker in the head than this species is known for.  The empty “Who?  Me?” look I received each time I fussed about it makes me believe the latter more than the former.  But who am I to question the synaptic potency of any creature?  I’ve certainly had my share of “Duh!” moments.