Water birds seem to be migrating to the San Antonio River as a result of improvements in water quality. Morning walks bring sitings of comical crested ones wearing pinstripes (Obviously, this post is in need of a bird blogger’s identification comments.); kingfishers; dark broody-looking ones with curved beaks who can hold their breath underwater for an amazingly long time; and tall white egrets who, during daytime hours, seem so territorial over their crawdad-fishing grounds one wonders how they ever manage to preserve their species.
Romance must be carried out at dusk, when three species take the opportunity to get cozier with one another in trees just to the west of the Alamo Street Bridge – the dark divers, the white egrets and kingfishers.* Their “apartment houses” there are carefully segregated, though, with the kingfishers’ tree fronting directly on the bridge.
An unwelcome morning guest, perhaps a Katrina refugee, is a nutria spied rapidly munching his way through several beds of water plants along the King William stretch of the river. Hopefully, that animal has no mate with whom to get cozy every evening. According to www.nutria.com:
Nutria breed year round and are extremely prolific. Males reach sexual maturity between 4 and 9 months, whereas, females reach sexual maturity between 3 and 9 months…. With a gestation period of only 130 days, in one year, an adult nutria can produce two litters and be pregnant for a third. The number of young in a litter ranges from 1-13 with an average of 4.5 young. Females can breed within a day of having a litter.
*Note added on March 15: A San Antonio Audubon Society member, Metha Haggard, has pointed out that my “kingfishers” are actually black crowned night herons. The photo of the heron on Cornell’s All About Birds appears more “combed,” buy maybe mine just have cowlicks.