Sitting and strutting

A sense that life must be found, discovered, pursued until it succumbs to the whims of a camera lens, or binoculars, or naked eyes.  A headlong rush to see, to scamper hurriedly to the next luscious visual, and the next, and the next.  A flagrant hop from plate to plate whilst consuming only a sample of what each contains, an endless dining without stopping, a meal that satiates only in brief moments of time but always gives way to an empty longing for the next taste, the next morsel, the next bite.

Sometimes I wander about nature’s buffet without pausing to savor, pushed along by a jittery need to move.  Walk, stroll, hike, or whatever name it takes at the time.  These are not bad things.  Yet so much hides in my hurrying.

One of my favorite pastimes is sitting.  Sitting and watching, sitting and listening, sitting and absorbing.  And I’ve learned that nature finds comfort in that stillness, in that silence.

So it was as I recently sat upon a hillside with sunshine blanketing the world that a strutting male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) shared the leisure of the morning with me, shared the warm slope that supported us.

Male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) walking through winter grass (2010_03_06_050577)

All black birds captivate me.  Subtle beauty painted in fine brushstrokes of darkness.  The energy used in the production of bright colors shunted to the production of extra personality instead.  Under appreciated and oft overlooked.

Male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) walking through winter grass (2010_03_06_050580)

That my favorite bird is the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)—and has been since kindergarten—no doubt says a great deal about my adoration for dark avifauna.  No flashy designs and no showy colors; just a sense of simple beauty in which hides a kaleidoscope of awe.

Male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) walking through winter grass (2010_03_06_050592)

I watched the grackle as he strutted through russet grass speckled with spring’s verdant green.  He grabbed an insect here and there, turned this way and that, carried on with his morning as though I did not exist.

Male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) standing and looking around (2010_03_06_050594)

All the while I lost myself in the iridescent rainbow hiding in the black of his plumage.  That people can find these birds anything but beguiling and majestic leaves me speechless.  They are a proud species, and no matter the derision and dislike that surrounds them, they intend to go on being proud.

Male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) walking through winter grass (2010_03_06_050571)

Then, head held high, chest puffed out with pride, he marched by as though in a parade, as though on display for all the world to see.  Then he was gone, wings carrying him to the next plot of land, the next branch, the next sumptuous delight to include in his breakfast menu.

And I remained where I was, still sitting, still observing, waiting for the next encounter.

6 thoughts on “Sitting and strutting”

  1. All too true! I also love the beautiful and eerie sound they make when they are roosting. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos.

    1. Thanks, Marie-Ann! We have three year-round species here who stay in large numbers (even larger when winter residents arrive), so they’re unfortunately considered noisy and bothersome by most. I happen to share your love of their sounds; flocks of common grackles flying overhead, great-tailed grackles displaying, boat-tailed grackles roosting… It’s all music to my ears!

  2. I especially liked this line: “The energy used in the production of bright colors shunted to the production of extra personality instead.” We have “only” “Common” Grackles here and they have loads of personality. I love their crazy yellow eyes, too.

    Yours is an elegant bird.

    1. Elegant is a perfect word, Jain. Of the three grackle species we have down here, they all have that same subtle beauty coupled with loads of personality. And I couldn’t agree more: the bright yellow eyes really complete the picture!

  3. You know what I think is the most amazing thing about grackles – their courtship displays! The way the males stretch their necks upward, pointing their bills to the sky, and wave from side to side and all-around, doing their best to show off the glint of their iridescence. And then, that whole flutter-strutting in circles thing – I’ve been honked at in the road at a traffic signal after the light turns green, still enthralled with the roadside display.

    You’ll have to post a follow up now!

    1. I tried to capture that display in this series of images but failed because I zoomed in too much. So I’ll take your challenge, Amber! I’d love to get some full-view images of their courtship.

      And I’m laughing about you stopping in the road to watch them. It’s something I’ve done as well (if I only had a nickle for every time I’ve stopped traffic to enjoy nature…).

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