Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Birds In Review Part lll Two by Two Sometimes Three Sometimes More

When I saw these two Baltimore Orioles engaged in a feather duel, I was stunned. This is not their first appearance on my blog . . . this encounter is from a June or July in 2009 . . . the year I began writing this online journal of my land, gardens and wildlife habitat. As I approach the two year mark, I am wading through thousands of images to create these bird review posts. I cannot help but think of a lovely dancer with fans spread wide . . . flowing fabric around her ankles (even though these are males) as she leaps into the air towards her partner. Mother Nature is a marvelous artist. It is easy to see which male is in charge and pursuit. Every feather on his body is spread out to give him a larger and more threatening appearance. We all have the tendency to defend our homes. These birds were in conflict not far beneath the Baltimore Orioles nest! This photo happened by pure chance . . . well, I was paying attention to what was going on around me and was ready with my camera. It is not great in quality of pixels because they were too far away. Whenever we crop a photo to zoom in closer we lose resolution . . . therefore I could never make very good large prints from this image. Still just seeing this small drama in the garden was a great gift to me . . . having the birds in frightful flight to share . . .  an added joy.

It was truly amazing to me to capture a Cardinal behaving in the same way in that growing season. We cannot see the other male but this one's meaning is clear. I did see another male fly away in haste from the site or sight!

Then there are avifauna that seem to do quite well in each others company. These Cedar Waxwings and American Robins (below) mass together in large flocks. The Waxwings were observing Nate and myself pruning  two days ago . . . we were giving more air and light to the center of one of their favorite shrubs. I have several Viburnums that birds enjoy, planted in a cluster or hedgerow manner. Cedar Waxwings, Catbirds and others love this arrangement for the food and the protective cover the leafy shrubs offer their nests. 

American Robins remain here all winter and feast on the many tart rose hips and crabapples.

Some birds enjoy hanging together by threes in trees. Along the trunks and on the many leaf less branches. These young Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were most likely raised here and might be siblings.

These darling Bluebirds perch together in a Rock Maple, above a wild rosebush wearing hundreds of tiny rose hips. They were happy when I stepped in and asked or insisted that the Robins stop being bullies and that they were not to chase the Bluebirds away. 

I had my camera set up in an open window to get these shots. It was so sweet how they all came down after I had come out to speak firmly with the Robins. You simply cannot please everyone I have learned . . . for the Robins were appalled and just flew away. There is plenty to go around I just asked that they share.  The Bluebirds delighted in the juicy hips.

Oh, there seems to always be something to spar about. 

Just as I was preparing this post . . . yesterday . . .  I caught these two Bluebirds. I believe they might be two males, as they both appear to have a good amount of blue coloring. Then again, it could be a male and a female having a dispute over the accommodations. He might think the box quite good enough, where she finds it far too rustic. 

I have seen this behavior before with a perfectly happy Bluebird couple. These very poor images are taken through glass but do offer yet another glimpse into the daily life within the world of birds, when the peaceable kingdom is not so at peace. Having said all of this, I will add another possibility . . . perhaps it is a type of courtship dance??  Perhaps it is a male and female and the male is so happy that the female has settled on a house that he flies over to her and they dance! Any expert advice would be appreciated.

I have wanted to capture this dance for many years. I believe these are siblings and they are mostly experimenting with the whorl of feelings within. 

We all know how territorial male Hummingbirds can be. I have seen them flying high in a water spout fashion using their bills like swords. I observe them often swimming through the air in large smiles or semi circles over a terrified or perhaps indifferent hummer hiding in a shrub or such. This behavior I believe is both territorial and a form of courtship. Who can keep it all straight! I suppose the birds do. I find them so very precious and I love their plucky spirits. I have even seen a male flying after a hawk!

Now for the most gracious flyers of all. When the Tree Swallows return in the spring . . . I run out and spend time just watching them fly. I traveled in Europe for a year in my youth . . . I bought a guitar in Spain from the man who made it . . . and taught myself to play. One of my favorite songs was 'The Swallow Song' by Mimi & Richard Farina. It is a beautifully haunting song. I love the line ". . . watch the swallows as they fly . . . There is no power like the freedom of their flight."

Tree Swallows are unique in many ways. It is the female here that is chasing the other female away. It seem that way to me at the time. I was very nearby . . . actually that year the couple who settled in this house were very tolerant of me and I got many shots of them throughout the breeding season. 

These two are not being hostile towards another bird . . . they are angry at me. It was very odd that after having been so close all summer they suddenly turned on me. I was certain it was a different female. She looked very different from the one that had been caring for the young ones who reside in the box.  Here I believe she is coaxing the male to dive bomb me and so he did! 

Soaring Vultures always seem to stir up disgust in many. They are truly important birds and play a key role in keeping the world free of carrion. I believe that maggots bring out the same horror to most of us, but they too help keep nature smelling sweet.

This morning I was so blessed to walk out at the right moment and to see these magnificent creatures in their courtship dance. They were pretty far away . . . but I felt sure they saw me. The dance did go on for nearly ten minutes or so. 

Standing perfectly still I took over one hundred fifty shots. It was amazing and I have a post on the side bar sharing more of their choreography. Can you see the second bird's head behind the stump? This one jumped up on the stump a second later. Pileated Woodpeckers mate for life . . . I wonder if they do this dance every year to keep their bond fresh and more alive.

The rock they are standing on had just been placed the day before by an artist with a backhoe. 

I considered their choosing the boulder a blessing for my hiring Phil to dig up from the fields some of these huge rocks so that my friend, who cuts the fields in the fall will not hit them with his machine. 
Creating a habitat that will attract birds and other wondrous wild creatures is really rather simple. I will share my practices with you in a later post. Next time I will offer Nesting Birds! I hear it is National Bird Day today. That is Great! For me everyday is a day to think about how I can help all wildlife both near and far. 
Defenders of Wildlife is one of my favorite advocacy groups. I cannot imagine my life without all the wild beings that share this land with me. 

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