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Gone with DeWinds

October 11, 2007

Those of us who’ve spent any time in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and probably even those who haven’t, know about the DeWinds. Like my Grandmother (the reason for my familiarity with Texas), they’re retirees from the Midwest who spend the cold winters living it up down Mexico way, though not technically in Mexico. Why are the DeWinds any better known than any number of similar Snowbirds? Well, it’s the birds of course.

They are the last of several couples who together owned two acres right by the river near the little town of Salineno. South Texas is a phenomenal place for bird in general, but there’s something about what Pat and Gale DeWind put in their feeders (probably the marshmallows and chicken fat… seriously) that brings such Valley specialties as Altamira Orioles, Great Kiskadees and the only three Brown Jays (at left) in the United States last year right up in front of the folks who come from all over the world to sit in their folding chairs.

This past spring I took advantage of the DeWind’s hospitality and what a morning it was. I missed the Brown Jays, but I did get an eyeful of my life Clay-colored Robin. Not to mention the life Red-billed Pigeons and Common Black-Hawk down by the river. I signed my name in the books and looked at the pictures that people send them and laughed at Gale’s jokes. Neither of them are birders, but they enjoy the company and have become experts on their feeder birds. Little did I know that it was the last week they’d spend down on the river. According to the TexBirds listserve the Valley Land Trust, the organization to whom the DeWinds left their property, is looking for a replacement for Pat and Gale. The lucky Snowbird will get free rent in exchange for keeping up the feeders and putting up with the thousands of birders who travel there each year, not to mention the responsibility of chasing away the grackles with a slingshot like Gale did. A fair trade for someone who loves birds, and obviously with the possibility of one kickass yard list. I wish I were closer to retirement, only 39 more years!

BROJAY by bayucca via flickr (CC BY NC-SA-2.0)


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