Less than a month ago the brush country of Deep South Texas was covered in ice, and the first yucca blooms of the year were frozen.
While the chaparral has yet to fully recover from winter's icy blast, temperatures are now soaring toward 90. The yuccas are beginning to bud, and spring is fast approaching.
Whitetail deer are hard pressed to find much fresh greenery to browse and quail are having a tough time scratching out a meal, but the native plants and animals of southernmost Texas are well adapted to the region's extremes.
Splashes of color are brightening up the wildlands as brilliant red cardinals and colorful green jays dart about the chaparral.
The pyrrhuloxia, a close relative of the cardinal, shares their brushy domain. The soft gray plumage of this handsome bird is suffused with red on its jaunty crest and around it's eyes and beak. Splashes of red adorn its chest as well. The bird is also distinguished by its bright yellow and sharply hooked bill.
The pyrrhuloxia is denizen throughout much of the desert southwest, and was first described in 1837 by Bonaparte, the ornithologist nephew of Emperor Napoleon.
The rather curious name pyrrhuloxia comes form the Greek pyrhinos or "red" and loxos, "crooked"-as in the red bird with the crooked bill.
The scolding call of the black-crested titmouse is also heard throughout the brush, and thrashers are aggressively scouring the ground for seeds and insects.
It is a busy time of year in the South Texas brush country, as creatures begin to recover from a harsh winter, and soon they will be paring up and raising young.