Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bully Boy!!!!!

Watercolor     Ruby-throated Hummingbird      Sally Wickham © 2011  

Nobody but nobody messes with the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  This tiny one-tenth of an ounce package of feathers is a giant among backyard birds.  He thinks nothing of chasing away Crows and Red-tailed Hawks when other bigger birds are left cowering in the trees.  Squirrels and cats that get too close had also better beware.  How is this possible you may ask?  I wondered the same thing and even wondered why I moved my hummingbird feeders off the porch and onto a pergola a little bit farther away. 

The answer to my question is that any bird moving at sixty miles an hour with a lance-like bill is going to do some damage if he hits you.  He is a needle shooting through the air!    It’s possible that he is not ruby-throated at all but blood stained.

Furthermore, the noise that his wings make is sometimes quite frightful.  One buzzed close by my head today and there was even a slight whine to the wing noise that sounded like a passenger jet when it lands.  Other birds have no doubt noticed the same thing and are aware that the Ruby-throat means business. 

Hummingbirds have been reported to the bird police for stalking and  unprovoked threatening behavior towards other birds.  Okay, I made this up, but I have read accounts where hummers will chase other birds just for fun.  I suppose when you are such a fast and accomplished flyer--able to fly forward, reverse, up and down , stop on a dime and hover in mid-air,   every once in a while you want to put the pedal to the metal.  

As for me, I did not think that I would look  good with a hummingbird stuck in my plump rosy cheek so I moved the feeders away from my observation station on the porch.  And believe me, I am keeping those feeders very clean,  very full  and very sweet because I do not want to make this little guy angry.  

Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How I saw a Black -throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler Watercolor by Sally Wickham © 2011
One warm and sunny day in mid-May, I found myself in a section of Stockbridge, Vermont where I had never been. It’s a place called No Town. Yes, there really is such a place. To get there you drive to the spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses Stony Brook Road. In order to hear any birds, I needed to get away from the brook and so I walked westward on the trail. On this day and at this elevation, the leaves are just emerging. No bugs yet.
Finally, one bird song stands out. It is not familiar to me and the bird repeats itself endlessly as if to help me along in my bird watching adventure. Did I mention that I had left my Bushnell Powerview 10 X 25s safely in their case at home?
And then there is the problem that I have remembering bird songs for any length of time. When I get back to where I can listen to recordings, they get all mixed up. New ones I hear interfere with the one that I heard . Today I try something different and lucky for me, this bird is ready to accommodate. 
I listen carefully. Three notes and then another. Three clear notes and the last one is nasal, almost buzzy and trails up. Down\ Down\ Down\ Tsee /// Down\ Down\ Down\ Tsee/// There. I think I’ve got it. I continue to strain my eyes and my neck looking high into the tree tops but see nothing. I take note of my surroundings—mostly hardwoods, eastern slopes of the greens-- and record that information in my field book.
When I return home, I do not go to the recordings. I check my newest bird book, Birdwatching in Vermont by Ted Murin and Bryan Pfeiffer. In it, on page 5, is a table that lists habitats and their birds. With this book, I am able to narrow down my candidate list to a few birds whose songs I don’t recognize. 
Then I listen to those few birds. The system that works for me is the Birding By Ear series. AND THEN I HEAR IT. Down Down Down Tsee...... They identify it as the male Black-throated Blue Warbler. I am sure that is the bird that I heard. After consulting The Sibley Guide to Birds I know what I am going to look for. 
The very next day I find myself in the exact same section of Stockbridge. I stop in several spots along the road and listen. Soon enough I hear the now familiar call. Down Down Down Tsee and today I have my binoculars.

It takes a while, but lucky for me, the Black-throated Blue Warbler moves around a lot.  He also repeats his song frequently.   First I find him with my eyes;  raise the ptics; locate the bird.  I SEE HIM!!!!  I CAN SEE HIS BEAK MOVING AS HE SINGS  “Down, Down, Down, Tsee.”   It’s him!   It is the Black-throated Blue Warbler.   He flits from branch to branch as I watch— a new bird to add to my list. 

Words by Linda Lunna ©2011

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