I recall that when the late Cardinal Leger of Canada returned to Montreal after serving in retirement as a chaplain at a leper colony in Cameroon, Africa for five years he was asked by a newspaper reporter what differences he found between the people of Quebec and the people of Cameroon.  The Cardinal said that the biggest difference he noted was that the people in Cameroon, even though they were lepers, were on the whole a very happy people, whereas Canadians, who have everything the people of Cameroon do not have, were on the whole an unhappy people.

Here of late my life has been made happier by the reappearance last month on my little ranch of a small bird, a Vermillion Fly Catcher.  For the past two winters this beautiful little bird has made his home around my ranch house.   I have no idea where he goes in the Spring to find a mate, build a nest and raise a family.
All I know is that he spends his bachelor winters with me, and I am grateful.

One of the scourges of every rancher in South Texas is the horn fly, so named because it likes to congregate around the base of the horns of cattle where the skin in thin and the cow’s blood is close to the surface.  Since most of my cattle do not have horns, the horn flies congregate on the backs and bellies of my cattle.   The horn fly is a parasite that sucks the blood of cattle (Texas A.&M. University estimates that horn flies can suck over a pint of blood from a cow each day); it is a pest that ranchers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat using pesticides.

My solution to the problem is to use natural allies in the battle with the horn fly.
I have erected a number of bird houses on the ranch and every year from March to July I am host to between 150 and 200 Purple Martins, members of the swallow family.  It is said that each Purple Martin consumes hundreds of insects on the wing every day, the majority hopefully are horn flies.  Come July the Purple Martins leave for northern states and then fly virtually non-stop in the Fall to Central and South America for the winter.

Assisting the Purple Martins are our native Texas Scissor-tailed Flycatcher birds.
These beautiful birds do not catch insects on the wing by continuously flying about as do the Purple Martins, but rather perch on fence lines and swoop up and catch an insect in mid-air.

Then a few months after the Purple Martins have left, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher heads south to Mexico to spend the Winter.   That’s when the Vermilion Fly Catcher steps in to fill the gap until the Purple Martins return in the Spring.

The Vermilion Fly Catcher will perch on the top of a tee post or on a branch and will, like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, swoop up and grab a insect in mid-air and then return to its perch to await the next insect’s appearance.

“Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins

To which I humbly add, Glory be to God for Purple Martins, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and VERMILION FLY CATCHERS.



About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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