Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘red-winged blackbirds’

Fall sketch of red-winged blackbird at Antelope Island State Park in Utah

“Identity would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self, in which case, it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt, and sometimes, discerned.” James Arthur Baldwin.

One Thing Is Not Like the Other

Female red-winged blackbird — Wikipedia photo

Back in my earlier days of bird watching, I came across a small flock of birds at Green River State Park in Utah that I spent an hour, field guide in hand, trying to identify. They just didn’t quite fit the description of any North American bird, or so I was coming to conclude.

And then a lone male red-winged blackbird flew past – and the light bulb came on. My flock of birds were female red-winged blackbirds. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen them before, I had just forgotten how unlike their mates they look.

You can find red-winged blackbirds anywhere you live here in North America.

Here at Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho, the males flash their scarlet epaulets boldly, saying look at me, look at me. The females, however, mostly stay hidden in the reeds growing on the lake bank, where they build their nests, in hopes they won’t be seen.

The show-off male — Wikipedia photo

It’s a rare day here at the park that I don’t see both birds, the females because I know where to look, and the males everywhere I look.  This morning one was even checking out the fresh supply of sunflower seeds I had put in my bird feeder.

Life doesn’t get much better.

Bean’s Pat: Lady Romp http://tinyurl.com/cekabj8 A message we all need to remember. Blog pick of the day from this wandering wonderer.

Read Full Post »

Egrets
 
Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going. Finally
I could not
save my arms
from thorns; soon
the mosquitoes

This great egret regally watched all the comings and goings from its perch aboard a boat at a Key West, Florida, dock. -- Photo by Pat Bean

smelled me, hot
and wounded, and came
wheeling and whining.
And that’s how I came
to the edge of the pond:
black and empty
except for a spindle
of bleached reeds
at the far shore
which, as I looked,
wrinkled suddenly
into three egrets – – –
a shower
of white fire!
Even half-asleep they had
such faith in the world
that had made them – – –
tilting through the water,
unruffled, sure,
by the laws
of their faith not logic,
they opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.

        — Mary Oliver
 
Snoweys, Greats, and Cattle
 

Snowy egret on left, great egret on right, northern shoveler in the water in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. -- Photo by Pat Bean

When I first became one of those crazy birders, it was easy to identify a snowy egret, which for a long time was the only egret that I saw.  They were these tall, white, graceful birds with a long, slender black bill, and black legs with golden-yellow feet, which I liked to think of as their slippers.  I saw these delightful shorebirds just about anywhere there was water when I lived in Northern Utah.

 
The next egret I saw was a shorter, chunkier one that looked like parts of its body had been dipped in liquid wheat. occasionally I would see one with a wheat-colored crest, which I learned was its breeding cap. These were cattle egret, and wandering around a herd of the four-legged critters were where you almost always found them.
 
It took me a long while before I saw a great egret in Northern Utah, although when I traveled east of the Rockies, this was suddenly the most common egret I started seeing. It’s a tall, lanky bird with a long, slender yellow bill and black legs and feet.
 
Egrets, well the snowy and the great since the cattle egret didn’t migrate to America until the 1950s, were the inspiration for the creation of the Audubon Society. The main purpose of the conservation organization, of which I’m a proud member, when it was first formed was to protect the egrets from extinction. They were being killed by the thousands simply to provide fanciful plumes for women’s hats.
 
Tsk! Tsk! I’d like to think we vain females know better these days. Most of us do, I believe.  
 
Bean’s Pat: Serenity Spell http://tinyurl.com/6wgdtdd Since it’s a bird day, read all about red-winged blackbirds.
 

Read Full Post »

 “Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.” – Albert Schweitzer

Water gushing down into the Snake River during a release at the Minidoka Dam. -- Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

The siren letting people downstream know they are letting water out of the dam here at Lake Walcott has been blaring frequently the past few days.

The lake’s high, the irrigation canals are full and the Snake River is flowing fast and furious.

I watched yesterday as the siren blew and the water gushed down from behind the dam. The white pelicans floating near where the water splashed as it cascaded down a short incline watched, too.

Occasionally I see pelicans in the lake, but sitting below the falls seems to be their favorite hang out, probably because fish like the oxygen rich spot, too. And pelicans like fish dinners.

Red-winged blackbirds build their nest in foilage growing in the shallow waters along Lake Walcott's shoreline. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The Minidoka Dam here that created Lake Walcott has been around since 1906, and a power generating plant added soon after, giving local farmers both water and electricity. Teddy Roosevelt, in 1909, created the 25,000-acre Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge around the lake, and the state park, which came much later and which is full of families, fishermen, RV-ers, tenters and boaters for the memorial weekend,, is within the refuge boundaries.

While too often someone suffers when man interferes with Mother Nature, this time it seems like it’s mostly been a win-win situation for human and wildlife species alike.

This is  all too rare these days.

Read Full Post »

 

 

A view of Antelope Island, which appears moody this day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Antelope Island is a favorite place of birders wanting to add a chukar to their life list.

 Antelope Island is a 28,000-acre bird haven in Utah’s Great Salt Lake accessed by a seven-mile toll causeway. It is home to a thriving herd of bison, playful antelope, sly coyotes and prickly porcupines.

 Migrating warblers visit, as do shorebirds and ducks that feed on the surrounding lake’s tiny brine shrimp and brine flies. California gulls nest each year on the rocky outcrops along the shoreline, bald eagles drop by in winter, and every spring hundreds of western meadowlarks, with their brilliant golden throats and song, nest on the island. The males sit on a high perch to melodiously proclaim their brooding territory while the females sit on nests hidden so well in the grasses below that you can walk within inches of them and not know they are there.

I visited this island almost every single week for two years after I caught bird-watching fever in 1999. It was my birding 101 lab. And every time I go back home to Ogden these days, I make time to once again visit this protected — the entire island is a Utah state park — wonderland.

A buffalo sculture looks out over the lake. Photo by Pat Bean

 

While a live version takes a sandy bath. Photo by Pat Bean

This trip, the drive across the causeway was made with more land than water to the sides of me. Once again, Great Salt Lake is nearing the 1960s record low of 4,191 feet above sea level. In the mid-80s, it was at a record high of 4,212 feet. I was present during this latter period when its high levels and wind-pushed waves tore out the causeway to the island as well as chunks of Highway 80 that stretches across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats to Wendover, Nevada.

Now, 25 years later, I was getting to see it at its lowest. Was it Mother Nature’s drought and warm weather affecting the level, or was it the human diversion of water before it reached the lake driving the lake’s current low level? The question taunted the edges of my brain as I watched a pair of ravens circle overhead where the causeway curved. I wondered if these were the same ravens I had watched raise chicks in a huge nest several years earlier.

Antelope seen on the way to the island's historic Garr Ranch. Photo by Pat Bean

I spent four hours on the island this day. I watched with camera in hand as a buffalo took a sandy bath and kept my eyes glued to rocks for the sight of chukars surveying the landscape. Maggie and I took a hike around the point from the Bridger Bay Campground. Meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds joined their voices to the drum beat of the lakes’s waves against the shoreline. I found the tune calming and marveled at the purepeacefulness of the day.

  While I still had questions and concerns about the lake and the island’s ever-changing future, Mother Nature’s magic was still all around me. I look forward to my next visit, and hope she can still be found.

Read Full Post »