Swan Song

“Cha-cha-lac! chacha-lac!” As I crunched my way down a gravel path bound by an impenetrable thicket of mesquite and cacti, I heard the chicken-like tropical chachalacas raucously squawking a truncated version of their name. Moments later, a dog barked to announce my arrival, precipitating a flurry of beating feathers. By the time I glimpsed the RV around the corner, there were no birds left to see. “Don’t worry,” said Merle Ihne, looking up from a shovel that he was using to clear waist-high invasive guinea grass. Ihne, whose bushy white beard and jolly demeanor couldn’t help but invite Santa comparisons, pulled out a green plastic chair repaired several times over with makeshift plastic thread. He motioned for me to sit in the shade of the RV. “We can talk all we want, but the birds are sensitive to movement,” he said. “If we just sit still, they’ll be back.” Read more in the Texas Observer.

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