Tag Archives: red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

A day of babies

Before dying early under the garrote of rain, yesterday morning’s walk at White Rock Lake proffered a great deal of the season’s new life.

A mallard duckling (Anas platyrhynchos) swimming alone far out on the lake (20080614_06724)

Plaintive cries drew me toward shore, toward the echoing yet weak sound of a mallard duckling (Anas platyrhynchos) alone, lamenting the dearth of its parents, calling for familiars absent.

I worried for the little bird, wondered about the father and mother nowhere to be seen.  I feared the worst.

For some time I shadowed the duckling as it swam parallel with me.

A mated pair of mallards eventually moved from nearby and headed toward the little one.  I felt at last a happy reunion would ensue, a family would be reunited, and a frightened child would be comforted.

Not so.  When the male adult neared the duckling, he immediately began chasing the small one and threatening it with loud challenges.

At that point, I felt certain the juvenile had lost its parents and had to fend for itself in a world full of threats and dangers.

Further still along the shore, its poor body certainly tired from the endless search, I finally heard the telltale call of a mother seeking her young.  From beneath a cloak of aquatic plants came parents seeking their child, and from far out in the water a young one responded in kind.

A mallard duckling and its mother (Anas platyrhynchos) after they are reuinted (20080614_06740)

I felt better, relieved, so I moved on.

Not too distant a walk from there I chanced upon various plants and insects which caught my eye.  Pausing to snap a photograph or two, I soon found myself the target of two adamant avians who made it clear I had trespassed into sacred territory.

When at last I sought explanation for the assaults, hidden amongst verdant shore cover was yet another baby.

An immature female red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) hiding in the reeds on the shore (20080614_06772)

It stood perched atop a cattail watching me closely and remaining utterly silent.  Its best defense was camouflage and the diversion created by its parents.

As for the mom and dad, they vehemently protested how near I stood to the baby, her from in front and him from behind, and each from their respective perches would complain loudly and make bombing runs toward me.

Had I been a predator intent on consuming their young one, all the commotion undoubtedly would make me think twice—or at least give me a livelier meal to chase.

Only the mother offered a brief pose as she made her way through the brush and reeds to position herself between her child and me.

A female red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) peering at me through the brush (20080614_06758)

Finally the young bird’s appearance made sense.  A red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), and one who happened to take after its mother.  That meant it was female.

I walked away and left them to their morning chores.  Mind you, I also had grown weary of the constant chiding I suffered from two very upset parents.  I wish they could understand that my stumbling upon their child was a testament to how well they keep it hidden, for I likely would not have seen it had I not known from their actions that something important was nearby.

Ominous clouds moved in over the course of hours, the sky growing darker and darker with each step.  I did not remember seeing rain in the forecast; nevertheless, I made my way toward home since what is predicted does not always equal what is made manifest.

Rain began to fall as I leisurely strolled along the shore of Sunset Bay.  The drops large and cool on such a warm and humid morning, I took steps to protect the camera but otherwise did not hurry my pace.

I paused beneath a large maple in response to the machine-gun chirps of a bird high in the branches.  Such excited calls.

An immature orchard oriole (Icterus spurius) hiding in dense foliage (20080614_06779)

There hidden behind dense foliage near the end of a branch was yet another baby, various shades of gold and gray masterfully suited to bedazzle and beguile.

Its perch limited my ability to see it.  Either I had to look directly up at that place where the sun struggled to pierce the deepening cloud cover, or I had to peer through a tiny space between the leaves and hope the wind stopped long enough for me to snap a photo or two.

The first position deemed impossible due to the bright sky and dark leaves causing too much contrast, I moved from beneath the tree and took up station where I had the best view of the small window in the branches, which of course placed me standing in the rain that continued to increase in intensity (although, at that time, still but a sprinkle, yet a sprinkle of large raindrops I might add).

My jockeying for position had not deafened me, however, for I could hear the rain and other wildlife and wind.  What I couldn’t hear was the bird.  It had been so vocal just moments before, so full of spring sound that tickled the ears like harps plucked by master hands.

Then as quickly as it had fallen silent, the juvenile burst into melodious refrains overflowing with anticipation and enthusiasm.

Even with the rain falling onto the lens, I lifted the camera and focused on that tiny hole in the leaves that offered the only view of this hidden perch.

Then she arrived like lightning, appearing from out of nowhere and taking position just above the child.

A female orchard oriole (Icterus spurius) feeding her young (20080614_06782)

An orchard oriole (Icterus spurius).

In response to her approach and arrival, the immature bird sang a tune so magical that I felt childhood welling up within me, a sense of wonder and beauty at the simplest of things.

But the rain came harder, the drops larger, and the wind closed my eye on this family more often than not, so I turned and sought shelter on the trail that skirts the woodlands.  It would carry me all the way home without exposing me to the storm that brewed overhead.

Birds of a feather

Last weekend offered a beautiful opportunity to wander about White Rock Lake like some kind of naturalist vagabond.  Heavy rains from the prior week’s thunderstorms had given way to clear skies, comfortable temperatures and energetic wildlife.

A mated pair of blue-winged teals (Anas discors) watching me carefully (20080412_03185)

The floodplain still under significant amounts of water, this mated pair of blue-winged teals (Anas discors) played coy each time I approached.  I still was able to capture this photograph from a distance as they watched me with suspicion.

Two barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) resting on the bridge over Dixon Branch (20080412_03193)

The bridge across Dixon Branch houses a thriving flight of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica).  While many of their friends flitted to and from the bridge with nesting materials, this pair sat quietly in the shade and watched, almost as though they couldn’t believe the others didn’t stop to enjoy the morning.

A killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) dashing across the floodplain in search of breakfast (20080412_03241)

I spent a great deal of time chasing this killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) across the floodplain.  I only wanted to take a picture, yet it dashed about with abandon, taking flight in brief fits that carried it a bit further away, then a little further, and then further still.  In truth, it wasn’t avoiding me so much as busying itself with finding a meal.

A male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) turning his beak up at me as I try to take his picture (20080412_03262)

This male red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) turned his beak up at me when I stood next to the tree in which he perched.  He’d glance down occasionally, but mostly he just looked away, giving me the snobbish treatment for interfering with his lady chasing.

A spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia) pausing to look at me (20080412_03303)

Along the northern shore of Sunset Bay where I stood watching sailboats fight the strong winds (some of them losing the battle with overturned boats and collisions), a spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia) dashed by me before turning around to see if I would pursue it.  Despite having the sun directly in my face as I captured this moment, I thought this peppy little bird made for a good subject.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) striding through white clover as he hunts for food (20080412_03343)

And what is a bird post without a male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).  Ubiquitous around these parts, he looked rather dashing as he strode through the white clover enjoying breakfast.

The last walk left lonely

Written yesterday before I decided to go offline for the evening.  Yet even now as I post this, the sky has grown dark and forbidding as clouds heavy with rain float by overhead, and already they bring us more of the same…more rain…a tremulous dance performed to the unending beat of heavenly outpourings, one punctuated only by thunderous cymbals clapping to their own rhythm. . .

It has been more than two months since I’ve been able to enjoy a walk at the lake.  As I told Jenny,

I’d really like to start taking walks again! Ugh. At first, I loved the constant rain. I loved the cloudy skies and cool weather. I hated the high humidity levels but was willing to put up with them for the gorgeous storms and torrential downpours. Now I’m over it. Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, and this is the perfect example of that premise. Enough already! I want to take walks again. I want to know what a blue sky looks like, and I don’t just mean via tiny holes in an endless cloud that stretches from horizon to horizon. Occasional rain? Sure, that works. Even infrequent flooding and, of course, severe storms. But give me a break.

This coming from me represents nothing short of a biblical event.  I love rain!  I most assuredly love storms!  Nothing enchants me more than dark clouds and gusty winds and strong rain.  Thunder is music to my ears and lightning art to my eyes.

But not anymore.  At least not right now.  Tempests have become ubiquitous.  When one appears, no longer do I feel the enthralling fascination I once felt.  No, it’s become more noting that it’s still raining, still storming, rather than losing myself in the pleasure of trembling before nature’s power.

What began as a welcome respite from drought in March became a missing friend in April, but then it returned in May and hasn’t left us since.  I’m ready for this to end…at least for now.  Let us recover a bit such that the ground can be walked upon without sinking in mud up to my ankles.  Let the sun shine a bit and the heat settle down on us so that we might look forward to the next refreshing, cooling shower.  Let our ears thirst for the sound of approaching thunder, and let our eyes quiver at the unexpected sight of lightning dancing betwixt earth and heaven.  Let all of this become a joy again, rather than a tedious mess.

It occurred to me today that the one or two readers of this blog might feel the same way.  Because it has rained for two months, torrential rain that seemed as unending as intent on inflicting harm and damage, I realized that much of what I’ve posted here has been wrought of our ad nauseam floods.  Two words: BOR. ING.

Well, perhaps not for me, as I’m living it.  Even now, rumbling and roiling, billowing and boiling, a dangerous thunderstorm swims through the air overhead.  There is more rain, of course.

Yet both Jenny and I have increasingly spoken of the longing we share once again to enjoy walks at the lake, to bathe our bodies in nature’s bounty, to wallow away the time with wanderings free of schedules.

These things are simply not to be, however, for the constant deluge keeps the area one massive mud pit, an example of Texas quicksand wherein shoes are deposited without being returned, where nature takes a holiday to escape storm after storm after storm, where plants swim to keep alive, and where the only clear path is made of concrete, something which removes all but the most mundane discovery and joy from the experience.

So it has been for some time now, and so is the cause of my inability to provide new experiences and photographs from the world around me.

Instead of lamenting it and crying about it, however, today I’m going to revisit the last walk I was able to take, the last walk left lonely for the absence of walks to follow.  It was April 29, the day before the rains came, the day before the world changed into a wet tropical mess.  Visit with me that splendid morning now so long ago. . .

A lone male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) sleeping atop a fallen tree as a few American coots (Fulica americana) swim in the background in front of the water theater (191_9189)

A lone male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) sleeping atop a fallen tree
as a few American coots (Fulica americana) swim in the background
in front of the water theater

The community amphitheater in morning sunlight (191_9199)

The community amphitheater

One of the many communal birdhouses around the lake with male and female purple martins (Progne subis) and a lone male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) (192_9213)

One of the many communal birdhouses around the lake with
male and female purple martins (Progne subis) and
a lone male house sparrow (Passer domesticus)

The tiniest of flowers, blue fieldmadder (Sherardia arvensis), still covered with heavy morning dew (192_9216)

The tiniest of flowers, blue fieldmadder (Sherardia arvensis), still covered with
heavy morning dew

A lone blade of grass held upward (192_9218)

Wielded like a sword, a lone blade of grass points toward
the heavens

A field of Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia pinnatifida) and as yet unidentified white flowers (192_9238)

A field of Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia pinnatifida)
and as yet unidentified white flowers

A field of wildflowers with the lake in the background (192_9275)

A field of wildflowers

A grove of trees near home (192_9292)

Standing amidst a grove of trees near home

Finally, some photos of my favorite bird, the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).  They are common in this area, especially around the lake.  I chanced upon this male perched atop an electrical wire.  Although the photos were taken from some distance, I still find myself entranced by this creature, even by these images, as no other bird captivates me so. . .

A red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) perched atop an electrical wire (192_9278)
A red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) perched atop an electrical wire (192_9279)

[I have but a few photos left from this walk and intend to post them at a later date; perhaps under different circumstances I would claim I’m saving them for a rainy day. . .]