Sunday, March 13, 2011

Birds in Review Part XXVI 'A Bird Parade' American Redstart With Surprise Spring Bonus

Continuing on with the promenade of Flower Hill Farm birds captured over the last two years . . .  allow me to introduce our resident American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla). The male American Redstart flashes about the gardens and forest with his brilliantly painted tail fanning out then consuming confused and frightened insects. While working in the gardens, I will often catch a glimmer of his orange tail feathers glinting in nearby trees and shrubs.

Male American Redstart

Here is a good example of why I should go into my Metasequoia and clean out the dried dead twigs.

Male American Redstart

American Redstarts sing high pitched tweets, which are depicted by ornithologists as "Wee-see, wee-see, wee-see" or "tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee, tsway." When I hear and recognize his songs and calls, I will spin in all directions to espy the small black hooded warbler with splashes of reddish-yellow feathers about his body. Sometimes he stretches to espy me too!

Female American Redstart

The female wears a more dull gray coat with yellow trim. 

Female American Redstart

I identify this photo as a female American Redstart but it could be a immature male too. It takes two years for the male to produce his bold patterns of orange and black.  A young male may try to attract a mate but it is most unlikely he will succeed, until his plumage perfects its more colorful presentation during his second fall. He may become polygynous . . . perhaps he feels the need to make up for lost time . . . once his first female has a secure clutch, the American Redstart will find another territory and mate. He is a very energetic little songbird and perhaps it is not too much of a strain, to care for two mates and broods. 

An American Redstart coming so closely, allowing me to capture this portrait, was perhaps amazed and curious about my presence as well. I look forward again to eyeing their quick flashes of yellow-orange flitting by. Gardeners and birders in Florida, Georgia and parts of South and North Carolina may be seeing these songbirds migrating from Central and South America soon. Many neighboring states will have them as residents all through the breeding season. They breed over a wide range, covering a large area of the eastern and middle United States, all the way up into eastern and western parts of Canada.

Here in Western Massachusetts, we have a great way to escape the still chilling mantle of days by visiting  the Smith College Conservatory, where a splash of spring awaits! It was a special treat to step into a carefully assembled garden of spring bulbs simultaneously abloom! 

A glimpse into one section of the Smith College bulb show. These vibrant colors are such a healing tonic for the longing psyche. 

This morning there is a surge of song across the large sweeping sky above and spilling down into the landscape of Flower Hill Farm. Bluebirds are chirping to one another . . . especially the male, Robins are finding bits of bare earth to stealthy stalk, a Cardinal is singing his heart out towards his beloved, Mourning Doves are cooing and many of us are up an hour earlier, as we spring ahead into spring. The river below is raging and rushing over rocks . . . its unbridled roaring music is so alive and invigorating. Several seasonal streams that crisscross my land are churning up debris and layers of leaves of yesteryears. The sounds of gushing and flowing water makes my blood flow faster and energizes my winter tired soul. 

This is surely the most remarkable time of the year, when we stand before burgeoning rivulets and flourishing rebirth within the landscape. Trees are awakening, releasing vital energy via sap that rises from the lower protected cores, defying gravity as the life fluids race upwards towards tips of branches, soon to be swelling and bursting forth in buds and blooms. Our imaginations blossom to meet this renewal. Creative energy soars with the canopy of clouds and takes flight on wings of birds excited for the new season of promise and vigorous growth. Nature does not seem to be always kind and I know that for many there is a great struggle ahead . . .  be it due to natural disaster or inner depths of despair. I hope this coming spring may lighten loads and open new channels of love and creativity for all life. 
Our calendars may not say spring but nature is shouting it in many corners of the globe. The stirrings to our spirits and waking earth are a mid March occurrence that brings about a near smile to the stretching gardener preparing to be set free from frigid fasteners of winters grasp. We in the northeast are nearly free for the birds and waterways are singing so!

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