Lately, I've been amusing myself on my commute to and from my home in Fort Bend County by counting the hawks I see along the way.
"Hawks?," you ask with a mixture of confusion and awe (or boredom, depending on whether you're a screen person or a nature person). Yes hawks. The record so far is six on the way home on New Years Eve -- one on Beamer Road between the library and the beltway, four on the beltway, and one at my exit. The one at my exit actually is kind of sad, because before Christmas there were always two there, and my family this week spotted a large pile of feathers on the freeway matching the couple's coloration.
A couple of weeks ago, I opened the back door at the library to investigate a series of squawks and saw a large hawk perched on a pole overlooking the Beamer Ditch (known as Unit A120-00-00 to the Harris County Flood Control District and turtle heaven to me). I decided not to fetch the binoculars from my car because I was sure the hawk would fly away. Then last week I saw a similar hawk overlooking the Beamer Ditch on the way to work, but I did not have a good place to stop for a closer look. This morning, however, the hawk was kindly perched on a pole at the edge of the library parking lot, posing long enough to get a good look at it with binoculars. It even stayed put while I took its picture, although judging by its vocalizations it was none too thrilled about it.
"So," you ask, "what does this have to do with the library?" The library just happens to be an excellent source of information about hawks and all kinds of other wildlife. A quick check of the bird field guides in the 598s of the nonfiction section confirmed my hawk was an osprey, a bird that eats primarily fish (yes, there are fish along with the turtles and occasional snake in the ditch). If you're looking for a way to identify a bird you see in your own urban backyard, I recommend the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region.