Thursday, June 16, 2016

Songs and silence

grasshopper sparrow
I've discovered the best birding accessory ever: a hybrid car--or a friend with a hybrid car. Yesterday I went with my birding-and-botanizing buddy to creep silently along country roads near The Wilds in search of bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows, henslow's sparrows, and other birds, and nothing makes silent country-road-creeping so successful as a hybrid car.

We didn't see any bobolinks, alas, and we heard but did not see henslow's sparrows. However, the grasshopper sparrows were out in force, perching on fenceposts and singing their little hearts out, and we also saw meadowlarks, common yellowthroats, cedar waxwings, and a flock of at least 30 turkey vultures all gathered together in a parliament of fowls.

The oddest thing we noticed was a pair of brown thrashers perched on the low branches of a bush and looking with obvious distress at something on the ground beneath them. Periodically, one of the thrashers would jump down and peck at something and then hop hastily back up out of reach of whatever it was, but the grass was too tall to allow us to see. We guessed that a snake might be raiding their nest, but who knows? Another of nature's mysteries.

At a roadside park we checked for barn swallow nests where we saw them last year, and sure enough we saw two nests full of juveniles ready to fledge. They opened their mouths wide awaiting feeding, but the adults were reluctant to approach while we were so close, so we went away to let them feed in peace.

All in all, it was a very relaxing and rewarding day, full of long soothing silences punctured by birdsong. But now I keep thinking: those three barn swallows on the nest would make a great plush hand puppet. Someone stop me before I start sewing!

Turkey vultures guard the road

juvenile orchard oriole

some sort of flycatcher--maybe willow?

cedar waxwing


a pair of ospreys on the nest

What is this osprey carrying?

brown thrashers, very concerned

three little barn swallows waiting to be fed

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